Claire Rouault from France, Acclaimed French Pianist and her Piano on Tour
Be prepared to start from scratch. It is what we have done and if we were asked if we would do it again: we would do it immediately.
Piano on Tour - Watch Claire perform
Migrant Interview with JF R:
What interested you in New Zealand before you had even considered moving here?
It was the result of an equation. I wanted to move out of France before meeting my partner. One thing is that you know you want to leave, but the other is knowing what you want to find. I think this kind of movement should not be made by fear only, but also love. I knew I was not satisfied with France anymore, but I also knew that I wanted to move to a country I would like. I think this is a very important process. So when looking for a new country, I looked at cultural, economic, political and environmental aspects as well.
I went to New Zealand on holiday to check out if it was well suited to us. I travelled to New Zealand every year for 6 to 7 weeks and tried not to be too much of a tourist. I went to clubs to make friends and to escape from the tourist route - going from one park to the next and only seeing the attractions. I realised that New Zealand was definitely the country I was looking for, there is no doubt about that.
When you first got here what were the first two or three things your noticed?
The first thing was, that it was maybe not the country I was looking for. I arrived in Christchurch and my impression was ok. But culturally it didn’t click immediately. I had to see the top of the South Island to really see some affinities between me and the culture and the diversity and to adjust to the climate.
When you came to Nelson what were the initial things you could relate to?
My first experience of Nelson was actually going to Marahau and the Abel Tasman National Park and I really liked this place. New Zealand is a small country, so the density of the population is very different, especially on the South Island.
And eye contact, which is so important, you can have eye contact with people in the streets, saying hello and there is nothing, they are not trying to sell something. You just say hello and it really is hello.
Do you see many cultural differences between New Zealand and France?
Well there obviously are certain cultural differences, but not so many. I found many things I had lost in France. Things that don’t really exist anymore in France, that are still quite alive here. Although the globalisation does not forget New Zealand, it happens here too. It is now 7 years that we know New Zealand and we have already seen some changes, definitely, obvious changes.
What sort of changes?
Trust, maybe. Especially in a city like Nelson, we wouldn’t have locked our car 7 years ago. Or we wouldn’t have heard of burglaries. Well sure, from time to time, but now Clifton Terrace School has been burgled. Nelson is still extremely safe and a very pleasant city compared to all of those we know. But it is still changing and a change of direction we don’t really like, but again definitely not as extreme as in France.
How did you set your life up here?
We must not forget that we came from Paris, so it all seemed incredibly easy for us. I had opened up a bank account years before we moved, because I knew that I wanted to come to New Zealand. But all bureaucratic processes were very simple.
How about finding a house? Did you look online or when you were already here?
We were very lucky with housing in both Nelson and Marahau, but we realise that is not how it always works. Just through meeting people. A good thing is that we are still in the house we arrived in, in Marahau. We arrived there and we are still there.
What was the hardest part about immigrating to NZ?
It is not the family part. You would often hear that the distance between you and your family is a big problem. It is a little problem but not that big. Our family is very small and our families visited us. So no, that was not a problem.
The immigration process was not easy. We did not arrive with a job that was on the skills shortages list. Although Claire is an acclaimed pianist with the most prestigious diplomas in France, it was worth zero points in New Zealand. So although Mr Finlayson, New Zealand's Arts and Culture Minister, says he wants Artists coming to New Zealand and ease the process of residency, in fact it does not work. I could not use my skills and I couldn’t use my direct experience for immigration, so I had to apply for a job as a piano tuner and most of the time I had to shift pianos, not to tune them.
We were reaching the point when I’m saying it was a huge effort. If somebody wants to go that’s great, but they need to be prepared. There is no space for doubt. Be prepared to loose a lot of time and a lot of money. The immigration process cost us a lot of money, on both ends, at the start in Paris and here in New Zealand.
When you went back to France after being in New Zealand, what did you notice that you hadn’t before?
First in the eyes of people. It was much more extreme, much more aggressive. I remember going back to the places in Paris that I had spent 30 years, that’s such a long time, and just not being able to turn left because people wouldn’t have allowed me to turn left. They did not want to loose one minute to let me turn left. This is ridiculous but it is these small things that I wanted to escape from.
How has your life on a daily basis changed?
Well, it is quite radical.
Including the work/life balance, how is it different?
I was self employed, so compared to our work life in Paris it is not a big change. Less stress, although right now it is quite a stressful time because we have invested quite a lot of money and there is stress on us to lead the projects we have decided to lead. So we can't say New Zealand is stress free, that is not true.
Here we have hope that we don’t have in France. The effort we are making here is going into a direction that we believe in. All of the big efforts we made in France were just in fog with closed eyes. We were running like mad people and did not know where we were going. So I hope we are not wrong and that in a few years time it will be working the way we want it to work.
If you could do the whole process again, would you do it?
Yes of course, immediately. Your question does not include the age. I am 40 years old and I think at that age every year is important. I started to think about the process when I was 33 so it takes a long time. But yes, if it was to start again, yes I would without any hesitation.
Would you do anything differently if you did it again?
Your question is impossible to answer because there are many random influences. The only thing to do is to adapt yourself and adapt to random things. When we got onto the plane we did not know what we would be doing in 6 months time. Which is probably the difference between many other applicants who already know what job they will have.
Have you got any advice for other people immigrating?
Yes, if you have any doubt, do not do it. There is no space for doubt. You need to be 100% involved in what you are doing. You have to show at every step that you are genuine and that you like the country and that you want to get residency. Otherwise it won't go well, either for you or for the residency. Be ready to give lots of time, energy and money.
Tell me a bit more about your business?
This is probably related to the previous question. Bring something that New Zealand needs, even if New Zealand doesn’t know they need it yet. You have to find it. Obviously there was a thirst for the kind of concerts we are bringing, because the concerts are all sold out. So it means it works. Find something New Zealand needs.
How did you hear about us initially?
I think we heard of you when we were in Nelson, probably in 2009, probably through word of mouth. But not through advertising media.
What were your first impressions of New Zealand Immigration Concepts?
I would say all of the time a very, very good experience.
Can you describe how you felt when your visas were approved?
Of course. We were just having an interview at home for the North & South magazine, when Julia called. We were just discussing with the journalist our immigration process, so it was a funny moment.
Of course it was a great moment, it was a mixed feeling because we had waited for this moment a bit too long and I was a little bit fed up. And again, that was my problem and I realise that, so it is fine.
PIANO ON TOUR in the Media
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