It's a long journey from the Czech Republic to Masterton, and for Petr Tobias, it was one that was a long time coming.
To live and work overseas was a dream that Petr and his wife Ximena shared as medical students finishing their basic training in Germany. When son Number One (Sven) came along, their travel plans were put on hold. They decided to stay in Germany and start their specialist training (Petr is an anaesthetist and Ximena is a GP), but their dream to work in a different country remained alive.
Shortly before they finished their training, son Number Two (Mika) was born. Petr says that it was around this time they heard about New Zealand, “a beautiful country with a high demand for qualified doctors.” They liked the sound of it and looked into it. “My wife, trained as a GP, even applied for a job in Waihi Beach, close to Tauranga. Anxious to see this country and the health system, we booked a flight to this place and spent 3 weeks in this area, exploring the nature, the people and talking to surgeries and hospitals about our chances.”
Unfortunately they struck a hitch. “A setback was when we realised that the biggest hurdle is the Medical Council with all the paperwork, and the rules about an equivalent training, and our language barrier, and what we didn't expect, the immigration process in New Zealand,” explains Petr.
So the couple headed back to Europe where they spent four years gaining experience in a similar health system to New Zealand’s and to improve their English. They waited for another opportunity to come and live in New Zealand. Eventually their patience was rewarded.
They opted to live in Masterton and Petr says there were several very good reasons for this. “The urban area of the Wairarapa, the moderate population, attracted us because we were fed up with all this traffic, these millions of people around London. But Masterton was still close to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, still having the opportunity to get to a big city, to musical events, to museums and to be close to airport and city life if we wanted to,” he explains.
“And we are enjoying it, this space, this nature. No high fences to block views like in the UK, no private - private - private - signs. I have a view from our house to the Tararua Ranges on one side, and to the coast on the other side.
“Obviously I have to work, and the pace is, as expected, slower. It is annoying if you are used to things happening straight away. But on the other hand everybody is more relaxed. I think it is not for everybody, especially for some energetic people, who are used to rushing through their work or who want to do lots of scientific work.
I was surprised how modern and well equipped this hospital is. We don’t want to go back at this point. But, there is a big BUT - my professional registration is not finished. This means, I am allowed to work here for the next two years, provided I have appropriate supervision. And our visas are for two years as well, this is limiting any plans of getting some properties - and we have to think about our pensions.
Petr says that, looking back, it was a long process to get the professional provisional registration and the visas - in fact it took twelve months from the first contact to their eventual arrival in Wellington. And it wasn’t without its hassles – with references, medical assessments, certified copies, a whole host of other documents, and then there were the fees. Fees for this and fees for that.................
Petr has some firm advice. "Sort all your paperwork first, try to talk to people who have done this before, and look for some problems which are very likely to delay your application,” he warns.
Notwithstanding the trials and tribulations of moving from central Europe to provincial New Zealand, Petr is optimistic about the future. “Now we are here, already 8 months, and if things go according to our plans, we are going to be happy, happy, happy here. We’ve got a rabbit here, a guinea pig, three chickens, two cats, and six sheep. It is like a farm and it is like a paradise for the kids. We couldn't have dreamt of this in Europe. I must admit, the schools do not have the high European standard. They are slower and not so scientific, but maybe this is just the first impression. We will see............”