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'I cried almost every night': Gen Z woman moves to New Zealand alone, speaks up about loneliness and adapting to a new life

'I cried almost every night': Gen Z woman moves to New Zealand alone, speaks up about loneliness and adapting to a new life
PHOTO: Dinah

"Are you actually insane?"

That was the reaction TikTok user Dee.n4h, who only wants to be known as Dinah, received from some friends and family when she announced her big plan for 2023.

She was moving to New Zealand.

While hardly a novel concept, what's rather unique is that Dinah was not interested in just a short-term visit. She wanted to live in New Zealand on her own for a full year.

When AsiaOne sat down with Dinah for a conversation, the 23-year-old explained that the idea of heading overseas came from a conundrum early in adult life.

She was interested in a mid-career switch programme but there was one big hurdle.

"[One of] the criteria was that individuals had to be graduated for at least two years," Dinah said.

Being a fresh graduate back then, her situation did not fit the criteria.  So her plan was to work for a year before spending the next year out in New Zealand.

Finding purpose

Now, back to the stunned reaction from Dinah's loved ones.

Whenever someone plans to leave the comforts of Singapore, there's every chance they are bombarded with question of "why?".

It was the same for Dinah.

"My friends, my colleagues, my cousins called me 'crazy'," she recalled.

Some might argue that their response was understandable as Dinah had never travelled overseas alone once, not even to neighbouring Malaysia.

People would often remind her that, being a woman, living overseas all alone can be rather dangerous.

But Dinah knew that no one, apart from her parents, would be able to stop her from turning this dream into a reality.

"I felt like there is a sense of purpose for me, beyond just being in Singapore," she said matter-of-factly.

When asked if she was unhappy living in Singapore, Dinah turned contemplative for a moment.

The 23-year-old wanted to make clear that she was grateful with life in Singapore.

But it was nothing more than contentment, and being simply contented didn't sit well with her.

Next stop, New Zealand

"I wanted to see with my own eyes if New Zealand really is the country people portrayed it to be on social media," Dinah said.

After her working holiday visa — which allows young adults from overseas to travel and work in New Zealand for up to 12 months — was approved, Dinah got packing.

Despite all the excitement, there were slight concerns — specifically about how she might be viewed and treated as a practising Muslim in New Zealand.

What if people are against what you believe in? How would they act towards a hijabi?

Those concerns were very real and valid, but Dinah lives by this simple mantra: "I believe that if you're good to people, people are going to be good to you."

And in June, she arrived in Wellington, looking to start a new chapter in life.

There were stumbles in the early days, the first one being adapting to harsh weather conditions.

It was the start of winter and the winds in Wellington took some getting used to.  

"You can see all the poles and traffic lights moving because [the wind] was very strong," Dinah said.

When asked about potential incidents of Islamophobia, Dinah was thankful that she's not faced any so far.

During her time in New Zealand, people have generally been "quite open" to her.

She's aware that individuals holding certain occupations in Singapore would not be allowed to don the hijab.

This seemed to be a non-issue in New Zealand, as Dinah came across hijabi policewomen in Wellington.

Working at a food truck and cafe

As for her income, the 23-year-old works in a cafe most of the week.

But Sundays are a tad more exciting as Dinah is out at a food truck selling Indonesian food like chicken mee goreng.

Not only is the owner Indonesian but so are the staff.

Dinah could communicate with them in Bahasa Indonesia, and she admitted how working at the food truck was extremely enjoyable.

Even if it's just for a few hours a week, finding a community and spending time together fostered a sense of home for her.

Another aspect of this job Dinah did not take for granted is the chance to interact with others.

The nature of her cafe job, in the kitchen, minimised interactions with others, but her job at the food truck was the complete opposite.

Whether it's locals looking to try a different cuisine or those seeking a taste of home, Dinah took every opportunity to interact with them.

Long-distance relationship

While Wellington life looked rosy on the outside, Dinah admitted to having internal struggles where she was "very harsh" with herself.

In between juggling two jobs, at a cafe and food truck, Dinah's homesickness and loneliness kicked in.

Not only did she miss her loved ones, there were moments when she questioned whether it was the right call to live alone in a completely new environment.


"I cried almost every night and really held on to religion a lot during my time here," Dinah said.

Her partner Harith also played his part in ensuring Dinah's loneliness did not become a major problem.

The couple would regularly update each other on life and even scheduled virtual movie dates every Friday night.

Long-distance relationships come with a host of challenges, especially in the case of Dinah and Harith as they only got together in March.

But the couple was clear on laying out the foundation of trust, which Dina feels is vital in a long-distance relationship.

"The biggest struggle are the simple things," she said, referring to seeing other couples being happy in the same physical space.

That is something she and her partner can't enjoy for the time being and it's a compromise they were prepared to take.

"What is one year when you can have that person forever?" Dinah asked aloud.

Goodbye, Wellington

When comparing city life in Wellington to city life in Singapore, a life back home is clearly what she prefers.

But that's mainly because her family are all in Singapore.

Dinah is looking to explore different parts of New Zealand and, after almost half a year in Wellington, she's relocating to Hastings, an inland city with a population of roughly 51,000.

In search of new experiences, Dinah's job will have her out in the fields picking kiwis.

And who knows, a life away from the city could be her calling.

ALSO READ: 'They call me a unicorn': Singaporean moves to Melbourne, colleagues tease him for grinding 5 days a week

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