Breaking away from tradition, leaving family behind, pushing boundaries and definitely rejecting stereotypes is what this story is about. Berlin and Nav’s story is one worth telling. I met Berlin while training for Qantas and became very good friends, later meeting Nav. I was a part of their wedding and saw them take off on their remarkable journey together to the other side of the world. An example of what’s truly possible, they’ve proven time and time again that you aren’t limited by circumstance or cultural expectations. I believe that if more people knew about this couple the more people would realise opportunities and experiences are obtainable and possible.
First of all, I think you should tell people where you live and how long you’ve been there?
We are currently living in London and have been here a month shy of a year. Six of those months were spent living in Cork, Ireland!
Tell us about how this opportunity came about and your thoughts and feelings as you found yourself taking a chance on this move?
I was flying for Jetconnect in Auckland when the opportunity to move abroad presented itself. Qantas has a base out of Heathrow Airport in London and were taking applications for a secondment. This basically means temporary work (2 years in my case) for an employee to work in a different area from which they are already working.
When we found out Qanats UK were hiring it was pretty much a no brainer for us. Nav and I spoke about it and decided instantaneously to go for it. Most importantly we wanted to confirm that this was the direction God wanted us to follow and, in the end, we believed it was truly His plan for us to make the move because we felt at peace with the decision.
We were of course extremely nervous to jump out into the unknown, away from everything that was comfortable for us.
Had either of you wanted to live in another country?
Yes definitely. We both wanted to live overseas but hadn’t really decided where. It was all hypothetical chat. All we knew for certain was that we wanted to travel and explore the world.
Living overseas, however, has always been a temporary plan for us. Auckland is home so wherever we ended up, returning home to nest and start a family has always been the final part of the plan. Honestly if it wasn’t for Nav we probably wouldn’t have moved. He’s the one who really pushed for me to apply and people are really surprised when they hear this. He’s always been a risk taker and opportunist so that was a natural reaction for him.
Did you have any second thoughts? What helped you to overcome these?
I don’t recall having second thoughts. I do recall being nervous though. I was scared to be leaving my family, my church family and my friends. I was also really worried we wouldn’t be able to afford living in London. I overcame these thoughts because of my faith in God. He reminded me that He was with us every step of the way and He truly has been faithful to His promises.
When did you tell your family and how did they react?
The funniest thing was I received the job offer the week I was due to get married. As you know the week leading up to a wedding can be very emotional, so I decided to only tell my mum and siblings, they were sad but also very excited. I knew my dad would take it the hardest, so I wanted to wait until the wedding was over to tell him. I told him the following Monday and I was already sobbing while trying to break it to him. He cried of course but asked me if it’s what I wanted and if I had prayed about it. I said yes, and he said that he was happy and that such an opportunity was a blessing. After the initial shock my family were just as excited as we were!
Traditionally would you say that it’s typical for Polynesian families to remain close, how did it feel to break tradition and move to the other side of the world?
I would say that while yes, it is typical for Pacific families to stay close by, I don’t think there is a correlation with tradition in this sense. I believe it’s more of an innate desire, a core value of the Pacific is family. Where family is a base of support in all aspects; spiritual, emotional, financial etc, leaving in general is hard as the only thing you know growing up is being surrounded by family. Personally, support of a family extends beyond quality time spent together. I believe it incorporates extending out as a person and expanding your territory for your family. Like our grandparents leaving their home in Samoa for example. If it wasn’t for their move then we’d probably be in Samoa and wouldn’t have even made it to New Zealand, to live the privileged life that we do. So, I think family is more than time spent in the nest, but more so supporting the development of individual members even if it requires one to move. For me, moving half way around the world has given me a sense of pure adulthood. It has matured me and definitely felt like there was a freeing of this in-depth independence that I didn’t realise I could attain. I have never felt more independent than when I left the nest and headed into the unknown. For this I thank my grandparents for leaving their nest when they did because their strength, bravery and resilience paved the way for me to branch out without fear.
It can’t have been easy to leave family, routine and community behind. How did you find or recreate these experiences in London to remain grounded within your roots?
That was the hardest part about leaving. At first, we really struggled trying to find a new routine because we tried to recreate the life we had in New Zealand. We compared every experience to that of our Auckland life, not necessarily in a bad way but still comparison, nonetheless. It was very eye opening to see the cultural and life differences in general. We quickly came to realise they were completely different places and we needed to embrace this new place as it presented itself to us, while remembering everything we’ve learnt up until this point to help us get through. To help us remain grounded. Honestly, we’ve learnt amazing life lessons while living in London that we could never have learnt back home. And visa versa, we’ve got valuable life lessons we’ve learnt from home that we carry with us, that has equipped us for life abroad. So yes, it was very hard but has benefited us in the most amazing way that I can’t even explain. To take every new experience as they come without expectation or comparison enabled us to create a new way of life but still ground within our roots.
Can you talk about your thoughts about traditional Polynesian expectations? Do you view these as limitations for generations to come?
I believe the next generation of our Polynesian/ Pacifica people are so ‘woke’ (excuse the post-millennial terminology lol). As a majority we are known for our humility, humour, servanthood and warmth to name a few. Unfortunately, to this day there are still racial stereotypes and presumptuous attitudes that categorise us negatively. The next generation will definitely be the ones who will break every single boundary, lift stereotypes and defy statistics. As a collective, our people have always been secure in ourselves; our culture, who we are, what we stand for and where we come from. Limitations are bondages from post-colonialism. Our ancestors were wise, powerful and bold. So why do we allow the stigma cast upon us from our oppressors to continue to cast shadows on us? It ends with us. The next generation will be the one to broadcast to the world; our hearts, our talent and our precious Pacific. We are evolving and have so much ambition that I highly doubt there will be any limitations for the younger generation. The Pacific is our home, but the world is our oyster.
Your ancestors did not survive everything that nearly ended them for you to shrink yourself to make someone else comfortable.
This sacrifice is your war cry,
And make them proud.Nikita Gill
Do you have any thoughts of how we could encourage the Polynesian community to be courageous and follow goals and dreams?
This is an encouragement that I live by daily. My hope is that someone else will be encouraged by it to pursue their calling in life, find their true passion and achieve their wildest dreams.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”Joshua 1:9
Finally! How has your experience been?
This experience has been nothing short of euphoric. I can’t explain just how amazing it’s been for us here; we are so blessed. We have learnt how to truly adult by being thrown into the real world, without our families who are our biggest support system and I think that was the hardest part. Not being able to drive home to see our parents left at first a bewildered feeling. That was a lowlight for sure, but I am so grateful for technology, it definitely lessened the homesickness because we are able to video call every day. A lowlight for Nav would be the people and pace here in London. Coming from New Zealand and now having travelled around Europe we can definitely confirm that it is true, Kiwis are one of the nicest people in the world. I think it’s just a bit of a culture shock for him. London is such a big place, everyone’s in a rush and you get that ‘every man for themselves’ vibe. Not everyone is like that though, we’ve met some lifelong friends that are from the UK and they are amazing and some of the kindest people we know. That’s a highlight, the people we’ve met and gotten to know here. We’ve met people from all around the globe, even Kiwis and Aussies and we consider some of them family now. It’s just the best feeling. Another highlight would be witnessing with our own eyes things we’ve only ever seen on tv. We’ve seen places we’ve only ever dreamt of and being able to see it in real life is unbelievable. Words can’t even explain just how phenomenal that feeling is.
Bonus Question: They say the first year of marriage is the hardest, not only did you get married but you also left all familiarity behind and moved to London. How has it been as a young married couple coping together on the other side of the world?
We were newlyweds when we moved, and we had never lived together before. Even if you’re in love with someone, you truly don’t know them until you live with them. At first that was difficult. We were figuring each other out but had nowhere to escape because it was just the two of us. We didn’t know anyone when we first got here, and we were so far away from home that we couldn’t say “oh I’m going to go to see mum and dad” to get a break from the other. We had to stick it out and just be in each other’s faces which at times was frustrating. There was a lot of compromise though, we learnt that early on and definitely thrived in that area. That helped a lot and a few months in, we were like bread and butter as Nav puts it. We had been the closest we’ve ever been and were inseparable. You’re with someone on the other side of the world, you’re all each other knows and you’re all you have and that’s bound to have a positive effect. In our case it did, it’s what strengthened us, and I believe that move was the best thing for our very new marriage. We had to face it all without any help, without running to our family to hide from the other. We were strong for one another and had to figure everything out by each other’s side. It’s been a beautiful journey reflecting on it all. The best year of my life to date. I married my soul mate, we moved 18,000 kilometres away from home, we’ve travelled to new places and are living on our own. We have been together going on six years and this past year is the most in love we’ve ever been. When you’re growing with someone your capacity to love them grows as well because you’re changing together. It’s just been a humbling year of learning, loving and growing and with one year left here in London, I’m excited to see what we’ll get up to.
If the first year of marriage is the hardest then it seems like we have a pretty breezy married life to look forward to and we can’t wait.