Managers Abroad

What prompted you to seek work out of New Zealand?
When I left New Zealand in 1990 I originally planned to spend couple of years studying Chinese, and then enrol at the Chinese University of Hong Kong to complete doctorate in ethnomusicology, which was my major at Victoria University. However, after three years studying in Beijing and Yunnan I realised I’d become deeply attracted to the culture and the people and wanted to find job that would enable me to work in China rather than study in Hong Kong. I took the first position I could find that offered me the opportunity to be based in Beijing. That was in 1994, and I’ve been working here ever since.

How are your experiences overseas shaping your understanding of New Zealand?
Living and working in China over the past two decades has definitely changed my perceptions of New Zealand. While there is no denying that there is much that is attractive about life in New Zealand, there are also elements of our culture that hold us back. Many New Zealanders don’t fully appreciate how insignificant we are as country in global context.
Greater recognition of this limitation would actually help us focus on those things that make New Zealand truly special and which we should be leveraging as our key points of differentiation. New Zealand also suffers from an entitlement mentality which leads many people to believe that they are owed living without having to make much of an effort for it.
By contrast, Chinese citizens generally don’t expect the government to provide much for them at all. Consequently they take responsibility for themselves and their families and work incredibly hard to save money for their children’s education, medical expenses, old age etc.

How can offshore Kiwis contribute to New Zealand?
Offshore Kiwis can best contribute to New Zealand by leveraging their entrepreneurial spirit and social networks to build bridges between New Zealand and the culture in which they live. Even more importantly, perhaps they will also accept that there are better ways of doing things or organising society simply by learning from the experience of other countries. M

Nick Wheeler is member of Kea, New Zealand’s global talent community.

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