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Happy holidays, from all four corners of the globe

There’s no doubt that Auckland is a multicultural city. Which is why it’s important, when you’re part of the community here, to embrace values like diversity, inclusion and equality. At Barfoot & Thompson, these are at the top of our list. We love the fact that our team is made up of a fabulous, melting-pot mix of ethnicities – people from all over the world, who bring a cross-cultural richness and wealth of tradition to our days!

Many of the conversations we have at work are fascinating; they serve to broaden our minds, grow our knowledge and expand our experience. On the topic of traditional holidays, for example, not everyone celebrates a Kiwi-style Christmas. Here we talk to a few of our expat colleagues, to find out what their favourite ‘back home’ festivities are, and what the upcoming holiday season has in store.


Vikas Vij, India

“My favourite holiday is Diwali as it gives us hope for a new beginning, and brings us together in the spirit of celebration, joy and happiness.”

“I was born in Delhi, India to a Hindu family. My mother, father and older sister still live there. When I came to New Zealand in 2007, I had to start from scratch but knew it was only a matter of time before I created a successful story here. I married in 2009 to my long-time friend from India, she’s my rock and greatest support.
Our favourite home country holiday is Diwali. It’s usually in October or November, and it’s the biggest Hindu festival, with people from all over the world taking part.
Over Diwali, we tell the legend of the Hindu god, Lord Rama, who had to fight the demon king Ravana to rescue his wife, Sita. This signifies good triumphing over evil, and people light their lamps to celebrate Lord Rama’s victory.
We celebrate Diwali by lighting our own candles and lamps (called divas) at home, and displaying them in our windows. We dress in our best clothes and do Diwali Pooja (Hindu act of worship). Our friends come over and it’s a very special time for families. There are delicious sweets to eat. We exchange presents and we eat lots of good Indian food!
Decorations for Diwali can be found in any Indian grocery store, like the Lotus Supermarket in Mt Roskill and your local Kwality Mini Bazaar. If you are looking for sweets for Diwali Pooja, you’ll find them at Novelty Sweets, Bikeanerwala and Lyallpur Sweets. Delhi Heights in Botany is our favourite place to go for an authentic Indian meal with family and friends.”


Gené Cilliers, South Africa

“The 24th September is Heritage Day, or as some South Africans call it ‘National Braai Day’, which is celebrated with family and friends, having lots of meat on the barbeque.”

“I’m an Afrikaans-speaking South African, with a husband and two daughters, aged 15 and 11. We came to New Zealand four years ago, and are permanent residents on our way to obtaining citizenship here.
Being Christian, Christmas is a very much celebrated holiday in our family. We decorate the house with lots and lots of decorations, attend church on Christmas morning, and celebrate the day with friends who have now become family in New Zealand. We feel very fortunate that our parents are joining us for Christmas this year, and that they will get to see our beautiful new country.
Back in South Africa, a big public holiday is the 24th September, which is known as Heritage Day, or as some call it, National Braai (BBQ) Day. The festivities always include celebrating with family and friends, having lots of meat on the barbeque, cooking on an open fire and eating the traditional ‘Boerewors’ (which is a spiced beef sausage curled up into a circle, and eaten with hot dog buns and tomato relish). Any meat is always welcome, and the more the better!
Here in New Zealand there are social media groups that post gatherings for this annual celebration. There are also several shops across the country that provide South African produce, my local shop is in Wellington Street, Howick where the owners are South African and make the best ‘Boerewors’ and ‘Biltong’ (beef jerky).”


Yasu Ka, Japan

“My favourite celebration would have to be Japanese New Year (正月, Shōgatsu) when family relatives get together to eat big Japanese-style meals.”

“I moved to New Zealand 20 years ago, in 2003, and have a wife and two small children here. As a family we like to celebrate New Zealand holidays by going camping near a beach. Back in Japan, the coastline is also beautiful, and camping is definitely a popular thing to do.
My favourite home country holiday would have to be Japanese New Year (正月, Shōgatsu), which is celebrated on 1st January, with all family relatives getting together and eating big Japanese-style meals. It can be a hard to find traditional Shōgatsu food - which includes Zoni (a type of soup), Yakizakana (grilled fish) Toshikoshi soba (which literally means ‘year-passing noodle’) and Toso (spiced sake) - here in New Zealand. But I do know that Japanese Bistro Zen and Daikoku collaborate to offer Shōgatsu boxes.”


Ina Murphy, Germany

“White Christmas to me means warmth, togetherness within my family, making others smile by being thoughtful with homemade gifts and putting the brakes on daily routines.”

“I have been living in New Zealand for around 22 years now. I have a nearly 16-year old daughter here, and my elderly parents are back in Germany.
Without question, a White Christmas is my favourite holiday, as it brings back wonderful childhood memories of snow crunching underfoot, ice skating, sleigh riding, the tree being put up secretly on the 24th, twinkling lights, brightly lit shop windows displaying festive goods, board games, the smell of mulled wine, gingerbread and Christmas cookies – and so much more. In short, a White Christmas to me means warmth, togetherness within my family, making others smile by being thoughtful with
homemade gifts and putting the brakes on daily routines.
I quickly realised that I wouldn’t be able to recreate my fairytale White Christmas here in New Zealand. So I had to reinvent myself, and develop new traditions for the sake of my daughter Ella. Now we drag in a real tree, clad in shorts and t-shirt, have picnics on the beach and devour oodles of strawberries drizzled in chocolate. We still bake a lot of my Mum's original biscuits. We make presents too, not just buy them. We also choose one day before Christmas where all the blinds in the house go down, the candles are lit and we pretend we are in the deepest, darkest winter with lots of snow. On that day we make and wrap presents or bake cookies, watch a Christmas movie or
listen to Christmas music.
I've adapted my way of living so much that I don’t really feel the need to seek out traditional German fare at Christmas time. My parents send us a parcel from Germany every year though, with essential goods to compliment the season. Ella and I decorate using a mix of Kiwi paraphernalia and antique German bits, passed down to me from family members. Some of these decorations date back to the 19th Century and come with their own precious stories. It’s important to me to pass these on to my daughter, in the hope she will continue this side of my history to make it part of her own.”


Lunar Zhang, China

“Favourite holidays from my home country are the Moon Festival (the best weather) and the Lunar New Year (all about ‘reunion’) – probably because they relate to my name!”

“I was born on the North East coast of China, ‘Shandong’ Province, which is also the hometown of Confucius. I came to New Zealand by myself in 2001 (aged 17) to study. I married my husband here and we have three kids together. We've been living on the North Shore for many years. Time flies by, now my first daughter Yoyo turns 18 and is going to Auckland university soon, just the same age as me when I first arrived in New Zealand.
My favourite holidays from my home country are the Moon Festival and the Lunar New Year - probably because they relate to my name! It’s always the best weather at home for the Moon Festival, as it’s in the middle of Autumn which is perfect for picnics and outdoor sports with friends and family. For the upcoming Lunar New Year, it's all about the "reunion", everyone returns home, we make lots of dumplings and gather with the family.
For traditional food, we love the Chinese town centre on Corinthian Drive in Albany. There are so many amazing restaurants there, where the owners have come from different parts of China and you get to taste a variety of food in their special hometown style. We feel very fortunate to live in this big city with multiple cultures, people are learning and understanding and respecting our own ways to celebrate our festivals or holidays.”