Topic: Hamilton and I - Beate Jones

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Beate Jones came to Hamilton from Germany in 1986. She describes her first impressions of New Zealand, the differences between Germany and New Zealand, and life in Hamilton.

Beate Jones

Beate was born in Germany, her parents were named Muller. In August 1986 she came to Hamilton because she had met her husband while on a holiday in Scotland. She went to Scotland because she was in a pipe band in Munich and took part in lots of Scottish cultural events. She went with a girlfriend to learn to play the side drums, at a summer school in Glasgow. While there she met a New Zealander who was teaching the side drums at the summer school. They exchanged addresses as he wanted to visit Germany before going back to New Zealand. Beate went back to Germany and about a month later received a letter from him telling her how much he had enjoyed meeting her, and that he was about to go back to New Zealand. She invited him to come to Germany and they started a relationship; she was in Nuremberg at the time for her teacher training. He met her family, they spent Christmas together, and before he left he asked if she would like to come and live in New Zealand and get married. Beate thought that was a good idea but her parents weren't very happy. They decided that she would continue with her teaching degree for a while and that he would go back to New Zealand and find a teaching job and then she would join him. He found a teaching job at Hillcrest High School. He was from the Manawatu and came to Hamilton solely because it had a strong pipe band, the Caledonian Pipe Band.

First impressions of New Zealand

Beate arrived in New Zealand in late August; winter, quite different from winter in Germany. Her mother had asked her if New Zealanders still lived in huts! Her first impression of New Zealand was her husband - he picked her up in a Swandri, with long hair, not like she remembered him. On the drive to Hamilton she could not quite believe the greenness, there were orange orchards, flowers in traffic islands, everything green; winter in Germany was grey, black and white. Hamilton was quite different to what it is now; it looked like a Western town, not like a European town. The main street had low buildings, blockish and bland, not very appealing, but interesting. Their first flat was in Ulster Street. In Germany winter temperatures get very low, freezing, but this was the coldest winter of her life as there wasn't central heating. She lived in a badly insulated flat with only a fan heater, and it was a damp cold because of all the rain. Cold in Germany is dry.

Living in Hamilton

People in Hamilton were friendly. Allan, husband, was also new to Hamilton with not many friends, but they people were all very friendly and his family were lovely though they didn't live in Hamilton. Beate says she still doesn't have a lot of friends that are New Zealanders. Her first friends were from the school, they raised their families together, and they are still close friends. To enlarge her social circle she went to University. She had got her Masters degree in Germany and was halfway through her teaching qualification when she came to New Zealand. She didn't work at first, her English was very good but she didn't feel confident with the new culture. She started with little jobs, working on orchards, a bakery, though didn't like it very much as they were paid pitifully. But they were interesting experiences and she met local people. Then she found a relieving teaching job and later decided to teach German. She approached the University and they allowed her to enrol in a Masters in German and that is how she got to know the staff in the German Department and the members of the Goethe Society, which the University staff had started. She got to know more New Zealanders, staff and students, started to get job offers, and began teaching German there. She also got involved in the German community, including doing document translations for new immigrants.
They lived first in Ulster Street; after two years they went back to Germany as Beate's husband thought they might like to live there. She did miss some things, proper coffee and bread, the wide range of cold cuts and sausages, cheeses. The food range in New Zealand was not as big, but fruit and veggies were much better; beer was not proper beer, but all this has changed now.
The first decent café, Metropolis, opened five or six years after she came here. Pubs were a disaster, drinking troughs, no social skills involved, and there was no night life. In Germany people went to pubs to talk, drinking happened as an aside. But that has changed and now it is good to go out and socialize. The food available is better than in a lot of places in Germany.
They found Germany overcrowded and decided they didn't want to live in a crowded place anymore. New Zealand was freer, you could live your life how you wanted, friends and neighbours were not judgmental if your garden was a bit untidy or windows not cleaned often enough. Beate's husband found language a barrier and he missed his drumming. They came back to New Zealand after a year. Beate was pregnant and actually had her first baby, Benjamin, in Germany in August 1989. They returned to New Zealand in January 1990.
They bought a small flat near the University - this became a bit cramped so they bought a five acre block in Matangi, where they lived for 7 or 8 years until the marriage split up. Beate moved to Flynn Road, also near the University. Second child Jeremy was born while they were living in Matangi.
The children went to Goodwood School which is a great school. New Zealand primary schools are very good, better than German schools. Children are allowed to develop on their own terms. Also Intermediate schools, but high schools lack academic rigour. New Zealand has a great range of outdoor activities for kids, hobbies and sports are cheaper than in Germany. There are walkways, abseiling, kayaking etc. It is easy to learn a musical instrument. Hamilton is very safe for children; her oldest child was very adventurous but always came out alright. The children have friends from a whole lot of different cultures.

Visiting Germany

Beate and the children regularly go back to Germany to visit her parents, every couple of years. The children love going back, they love spending Christmas there, the German baking and cooking, even though they are cooped up inside. Their German language is not that great as they always spoke English at home. They have to speak German with Beate's parents. They have strong family relations with their German family; New Zealand family relations are looser. Family relations are highly valued in Germany. Her husband goes with them sometimes to Germany. The children's only cousins here live in Australia.
Beate says that living in New Zealand has been a wonderful experience for her. She loves Hamilton, it has everything, wonderful festivals, concerts, culture, it is safe, has beautiful green spaces, the river, no traffic jams, it is not all high rise buildings.

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Hamilton and I - Beate Jones

First Names:Beate
Last Name:Jones
Place of Birth:Germany
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
Hamilton and I - Beate Jones by bjones is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License