Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wet Wintery Weather and Frustrations.

It is cold. Very cold. OK maybe not as cold as it gets in the UK but still pretty chilly. We have had frosts, hail, bright sunshine and rainbows in the last week. Currently I am watching the rain slowly flood the valley below us and the girls are cycling and scooting round and round in the garage in an effort to expend some energy.

This week has been a somewhat frustrating one. I have been trying to get back to work. In my previous life, pre relocation down under and pre child number two, I was a Geography teacher and Head of Department. That all seems a world away now. I previously, rather naively thought that it would be fairly easy to go back into teaching in New Zealand. It is not, and as with everything else there are a huge number of hoops to jump through.

Firstly I had to obtain a work permit. This was relatively easy but I did not realise that in converting my visitors visa to a work permit I would no longer be able to leave the country without it expiring. Never mind we hopefully will get residency soon!

Then you have to get your qualifications assessed by the New Zealand Qualification Authority (NZQA) who will assess whether or not your qualifications are valid in this country. If they are they then issue you with a certificate. Once this is done you have to register with the Teachers Council of New Zealand. These nice people once again assess you qualifications and check your police record in all the countries in which you have lived. Eventually they will hopefully issue you with your registration which will be provisional to start with. Once you have been teaching in New Zealand for a year (under supervision) you will be granted full registration.

I have completed all the steps in order to begin teaching but I just need to find a job. Being a Mum I was under the delusion that I might be able to return to work part time. Clearly this is not going to happen as unfortunately Geography Teachers are surprisingly not that in demand! There are not even any full time positions advertised at the moment. Supply teaching is an option but do you pay for childcare in advance and hope that you have some work that week? It is a very frustrating position to be in. It was also rather depressing to be informed by the chap at the teaching agency that there was not a lot of supply work about as a lot of the civil servants had been made redundant recently and they were now flooding the supply teaching posts. Short of knocking off a few existing Geography Teachers or encouraging some into early retirement I am not sure what to do!
I am not unique in being frustrated at the difficulties people face when trying to return to work post children. I have been chatting to a lot of my friends over here who are in similar positions. Sitting around my dining room table we had a teacher, IT proffessional, accountant and HR specialist. All of them having taken a break from their careers for a few years to raise children and now facing the difficulties of returning to work. I believe that businesses and organisations should be crying out to employ Mums (and Dads!). The skills you gain as a parent are unique and valuable. The ability to juggle so many needs and wants, the ability to diffuse difficult situations and arguments and the ability to remain calm when faced with a toddler tantrum and nappy explosions in public places are so valuable!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Language Problems

Do you ever have those weeks when it feels like life is hurtling by at such a fast pace and you are just managing to cling on by the tips of your fingers? That is what the past few weeks have been like in the Brunt household. We submitted our Residency application two weeks ago and have been waiting hopefully and somewhat apprehensively for any news from Immigration. This week we get a phone call to say that we can collect our original documents (birth certificates and the like) from Wellington as they have finished with them. Yippee I think, maybe they are going to make a really early decision. No such luck. When I collect the documents there is a letter inside saying that they need the Police Certificate from Belgium translated into English. Fair enough I suppose but I think it was unfair to let me get my hopes up!

Then on arrival home I find a message from our Case Officer with a long list of other documents that they now require. Proof of a stable relationship (marriage certificate and the same surname on all documents is not enough), Academic transcripts (degree certificate not enough) and letters from previous employers stating start dates and finish dates (contracts of employment and staff appraisals not enough!).

Now I can understand they need to be thorough and I suppose none of what they asked for is unreasonable, although it is a repetition of evidence that we already sent. It just makes me feel like they are unwilling to believe the evidence as first presented and that they in fact think we are presenting ourselves as something that we are not. It is not nice to feel that you have to prove who you are and have someone doubt that what you are saying is the truth.
However our Case Officer had ample opportunity to find out all about us when she rang the other day. My three year old answered the phone and had a long conversation with her while I was hanging out the washing. I have no idea what she chatted about but based on previous experience she probably got our life stories. Three year olds like to tell everyone in great embarrassing detail all about their lives and exactly what their Mummies and Daddies have been doing.

Nevermind - I am sure it will all be worth it in the end!

I think Immigration will have a hard time not giving my eldest residency status. She is already sounding so much like a Kiwi I am having trouble understanding what she says. We no longer have fish and chips it "Fush and Chups". Ten is pronounced "tin" and everything is "Awesome!". I am still waiting to hear that things are "sweet as" but I am sure it will not be long before that is added to her reportoire.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Scorching Bay on a Cold Day

We have had a difficult week dealing with building societies, banks, residency applications, flu (well Man flu which is clearly much worse) and nits. So we were all really looking forward to this long Queens Birthday weekend. This morning the sun was shining and the sky was a clear blue so we decided to head out along the marine drive in Wellington to Scorching Bay for lunch.

There is a great cafe there on the beach front and we had lunch huddled inside on one of the fiercely fought over tables. It appears lots of people had the same idea as us and it was simply too chilly today for people to sit outside on the beach front tables.

Oyster catcher. Never seen one of these before and we saw two today, the girls were suitably unimpressed.

Even though the sun was bright it still felt like mid winter.
Pictures in the sand.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Word of Warning for Expats renting out their property in the UK

Just under three years ago we moved to Belgium (before ending up in NZ) and started renting out our property in the UK. This was and still is our family home and we own no other property. We informed our mortgage company (Nationwide) and they said it was fine and would not affect our 10 year fixed rate mortgage. We received no notification that this would alter our mortgage in any way and had to sign no forms or any other correspondence.

We set up the appropriate letting insurance and everything else was organised by our letting agent. We assumed everything was fine and have been lucky enough to rent out our property fairly continually for the past few years.
Now we took out the fixed rate mortgage so that we knew exactly what we would be paying each month and could plan finances accordingly. Everything was going swimmingly until yesterday morning when I received a letter from Nationwide in the post. They are now putting up the rate of interest on our "fixed rate mortgage" by 1.5%.

Apparently as we are letting out our property we are going to cost them more money and are somehow a greater risk. Therefore if we had originally taken out a buy to let mortgage we would be charged a higher rate and be making the company more money. So in order to address this shortfall they are going to put the interest up on our "fixed rate" mortgage.

I do not understand how they can legally do this. Surely they should have informed us when we initially told them we were intended to let our home. If they had we would have reconsidered and may well have sold the property then. Now we are faced with a large increase in our mortgage payments. The rent on our property does not cover our current mortgage payments so there is no way it is going to stretch to this sudden increase.

I realise this is not like my normal blog postings but I feel this issue is something other expats may want to be aware of. Needless to say I am in contact with Nationwide and fighting my corner. I am currently awaiting a copy of the clause in our contract which allows them to change the terms of our 10 year fixed rate mortgage in this way.
A VERY ANGRY EXPAT rant. Thanks for reading :)