Nats Subramanian and Uma Natarajan were both working as IT professionals in India when a friend suggested to Nats that he should apply for a Group IT Manager role in Palmerston North.
“We never expected things to move so quickly,” laughs Nats, who within a month of applying and being offered the job, found himself in New Zealand with his wife Uma and four-year-old son, Sai. When they first arrived in Auckland with a sleepy son in tow, New Zealanders’ friendliness and willingness to help them navigate through the airport was unexpected and overwhelming.
“When we got off the bus everyone helped with our luggage and it made me tear up. We never had a chance to do any research on New Zealand and we just landed here. Our first experience was a fantastic feeling.”
Nats was born in Tenkasi, a small town in India, but his career took him to some of the largest cities in the world – Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore, with populations exceeding 25 million.
“When we first arrived in Palmerston North in 2004 the first feeling was one of déjà vu and I immediately felt an emotional connection to the city because of its size and feeling. It reminded me of home.”
A quick visit back to India in 2006 and the culture shock they said they experienced reinforced to them that New Zealand was now home.
Living in Palmerston North for the past 15 years has meant many life changing opportunities for the couple and their two sons.
“In New Zealand you have the freedom to be yourself.”
The family are practising Hindus and enjoy having friends from all around the world in Palmerston North with different backgrounds, beliefs and traditions. He says Palmerston North’s diverse and supportive community is ideal for families looking for a place to move.
“Everybody can retain their own culture and at the same time embrace life here,” says Nats. “We love interacting with people here and learning new things.”
In 2013 Nats and Uma found themselves at a crossroad, reflecting on what they really wanted out of life. This spurred a career change and led them to starting their own business, Take Me 2 The World, a company specialising in customised and personalised tours to exotic locations like India, Sri Lanka, Morocco, South America, the Adriatic, Spain and Portugal, and around New Zealand.
“If I wanted to change my career in India, I would have had a lot of pressure from friends, family and my peers. My confidence would have been completely robbed. India is a hierarchical country and people can be very judgemental. In New Zealand, and particularly in Palmerston North, the support from our friends and the wider community when we began the businesses was phenomenal.”
The quality schools and education available in Palmerston North, and the difference in education systems here compared to India, means their sons, aged 18 and 11, are thriving and excelling in areas they are interested in. Their youngest son, Aniruth, is at Ross Intermediate and their eldest Sai is pursuing a Bachelor of Music at Victoria University specialising in film music composition.
“In India our son might not have been able to pursue a career in music, we probably would have encouraged him to be a doctor or engineer. In New Zealand we are free to pursue our passion and we are free to encourage our children’s passion too. This is something we have learnt here.”
The learning goes both ways though, and Uma finds happiness in sharing their culture, heritage and traditions with the local community through her Indian vegetarian cooking classes.
“I use these classes as a chance to talk about the vegetarian options and culture aspects of why we are vegetarian. We use a lot of spices and food is huge in India, each area and region have their own unique cooking styles and flavours and I love being able to showcase that.”
Palmerston North’s Festival of Cultures in March is a favourite of the family’s, offering week-long festivities and events celebrating different cultures’ cuisines, dance and traditions. For anyone new to the city, their advice is to get involved in the community – and they highly recommend a visit to the Palmerston North City Library.
“It is such an amazing facility, which most of us take for granted. The sheer number of books and the ease of access is fantastic. In fact, Uma taught herself baking and cake decoration mostly through books taken from the library!”
“Our belief is that what you give to others is what they’ll give back to you – if you embrace the wider community, they will embrace you – there has to be openness.
“Palmerston North is the land of opportunities and it has everything – it’s not too big and its central location means you’re able to travel to other places easily. We are fortunate and blessed to be living here.”
Your favourite spots to grab a bite to eat?
“We’re vegetarian and head to China Town and China Inn, both of which have great veggie options.”
Boho Cafe, Awapuni