Return to New Zealand not always heartfelt

18 October 2011

Naomi Pocock

Coming Home: Research by University of Waikato PhD student Naomi Pocock has found that New Zealand may no longer feel like home for Kiwi’s returning from long stints overseas.

People returning to New Zealand after a long time overseas may find it doesn’t feel like home, and they don’t know where or what home is anymore.

Home No More

According to research conducted by University of Waikato PhD student Naomi Pocock, often people return to New Zealand after time overseas and find that life has continued without them, and what they felt was home may now seem unfamiliar and strange.

As a society we need a deeper understanding of what returning travellers go through, says Pocock, who graduates next week.

“Speaking to friends and families of people who have returned, it’s quite difficult for many people to readjust. A lot of people do face challenges when they return, they question their life choices, lifestyle, and some go through depression.”

Pocock interviewed travellers who had been away from the country from between nine months to five years, and returned in the last six months, to see how their concept of what was home had changed.


“Coming back is a unique, individual experience. There’s a range of what people go through, some struggle to get a job, others have difficulty re-engaging with their friends and family - a lot of it is about the expectation that life can go back to how they remember it.

“One thing that struck me is that New Zealand is not necessarily home. Most people overseas do consider that they will return to New Zealand, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is 'home' for them.

“Home to a lot of people isn’t necessarily a place, it's being with what matters to you the most. I see it as more of a feeling than a thing or a place, and it may be represented, for example, by a special relationship or the opportunity to undertake meaningful activities.”

Pocock would like to see support networks for returning long term travellers, to help smooth the transition to settling back in to life in New Zealand.

On October 20 Pocock graduates at a 5pm ceremony at Hamilton’s Founders Theatre. More than 500 University of Waikato students graduate this month at ceremonies held on October 19-20.