From practising law in Dublin to teaching yoga in Auckland

Paul Gillick moved to New Zealand in 2012 for a new life down under

Paul Gillick - yoga teacher and  lawyer - equipped to provide a remedy to modern life.

Paul Gillick - yoga teacher and lawyer - equipped to provide a remedy to modern life.

 

Each week, Irish Times Abroad meets an Irish person working in an interesting job overseas. Lawyer and yoga teacher Paul Gillick shares his experience of moving to Auckland with his New Zealand-born wife.

When and why did you leave Ireland?

I left in spring 2012 with my Kiwi girlfriend who I met in Dublin. We met in Whelan’s and after four years living in Harold’s Cross, we decided to move down to Auckland for a change of scenery and to give her hometown a try. Ireland was still in the throes of the recession and it felt like the right time to explore.

Did you study in Ireland? 

I studied Law at UCD and spent a fantastic Erasmus year at the University of Salamanca in Spain. I spent a year teaching English in Japan, which coincided with the World Cup. After completing an MA in Legal and Political Theory at University College London, I returned to Dublin and worked for a time at the Mahon Tribunal in Dublin Castle before completing my professional training at Blackhall Place, and working for a large commercial firm in Dublin.

Paul with partner Nicole Sykes, founder of silk scarf brand BESS (bess.studio)
Paul with partner Nicole Sykes, founder of silk scarf brand BESS (bess.studio)

I have started the process of obtaining a practising certificate for law here in NZ this year. This  requires me to sit six exams together with one university course. It has been a challenge to reboot my studying brain. 

What do you do at the moment?

I work for a recruitment company that specialises in sourcing pilots for client airlines throughout Asia, Europe and Africa. As part of the legal team, my work involves reviewing and drafting contracts and encompasses analysis of employment and tax law across many jurisdictions.

You are also yoga teacher?

I was a competitive cyclist, runner and triathlete back in Ireland and initially started yoga to complement my training. I started going to classes with Greg Walsh at Samadhi Yoga in Cows Lane, Dublin in 2002 and was drawn to the physical challenge the practice presented (especially for an inflexible guy) and the positive effect it had on my mental state. 

Yoga works as an effective antidote to many of the common ailments of modern life

I started teacher-training with senior Iyengar yoga teacher Aisling Guirke in 2009. I continued my teacher-training in Auckland once I had found a studio and senior teacher here and qualified as an Iyengar yoga teacher in 2015. I started teaching at Yoga Herne Bay in 2013 and currently teach three classes each week.

What is the yoga scene like in New Zealand?

Yoga is very popular in NZ with over 30 studios in Auckland alone. It can be a challenge to attract new students with all the competing styles on offer. Students tend to appreciate the precision that the Iyengar method is known for as well the use of props to make more challenging poses accessible. More and more people are interested in mindfulness and are conscious of the importance of taking care of their mental health as much as their physical health, and yoga serves as an invaluable tool to manage both.

I have students of all ages in my classes. Yoga works as an effective antidote to many of the common ailments of modern life, whether it’s addressing back, shoulder or neck pain as a result of spending too long sitting at a desk or in a car, or too much screen time, or as a way of reducing stress.

Personally, I find that a regular yoga practice (I try to practice daily - usually in the morning) enables me to be more focussed for the rest of the day and allows me to handles life’s ups and downs with more equanimity.

Kiwis and Irish seem to get along well. Both nations have a larger, louder neighbour next door

What is it like living in Auckland?

Auckland is a great city to live in, particularly because of its proximity to the ocean. After spending the first few years living close to the city centre, I now live out at Piha, a beach town famous for its surf breaks on the west coast, about 40km from the city centre. I couldn’t think of living anywhere else. My drive home is like driving into the Dublin mountains, over Sally Gap and arriving in Lahinch. I can swim before and/or after work, all year round. Auckland is a city surrounded by water and Aucklanders are passionate about getting out to fish, sail, go kayaking or surfing. 

Paul Gillick enjoying the beach in New Zealand
Paul Gillick enjoying the beach in New Zealand

It struck me when I first arrived here how early Kiwis rise in the morning. It’s not uncommon to see people out walking their dogs at 5am, even in winter, and it’s usual for cyclists to set off on a training spin before 6am at the weekend. Cafés are rammed at 8am at the weekend. That would have never pass muster back in Dublin! I have now been converted into a morning person, something that I never thought possible.

I did find Auckland very quiet when I first moved here, particularly in comparison to Dublin, but it has become a much more vibrant and lively city in the past few years, with a great restaurant and music scene. There are lots of music festivals over summer and it is a real pleasure to camp at a festival without having to worry about knee-deep mud and rain and a joy to be able to jump in the sea to clear your head before starting again on day two.

What are the costs like compared to Ireland?

Auckland experienced a  property boom in the years after I moved here, with the house prices skyrocketing and rentals being difficult to secure. Having just come from Dublin, I was expecting the bubble to burst, but that didn’t happen. Things have plateaued somewhat in the past year, but like in Dublin, housing is not affordable and homelessness has become a serious problem in the past few years, with families being forced to sleep in their cars. This has been quite a drastic change for NZ, as homelessness was not visible until quite recently. The Auckland City Mission recently struggled to keep up with demand from families in need for food parcels and gift donations in the run-up to Christmas.

Although there is ongoing investment in public transport, the bus and train network is not great and as a result car is king here. It is a real challenge convincing Aucklanders to get out of their cars and due to the expansive nature of the city, you really do need a car to get around. Like in Dublin, Auckland ripped up their tram lines back in the 1950s and is now paying the price for this lack of foresight.

Piha, where I live, has no public transport options and you have to drive to get around. Auckland is built on a series of volcanoes and so is very hilly and not that suited to cycling if you are not a keen cyclist. When I lived in the city I used to cycle to work which people found unusual, however there has been a big push of late to encourage people to get about by bike and it is working - e-bikes have made commuting a more approachable option for people, particularly those who are not keen on getting kitted out in lycra.

What do you think your future holds?

We bought a house at Piha last year and love living out by the beach. It is a dream come true. We have a lifestyle that we could not hope to replicate back in Dublin, although the pull of home and family is ever-present and undeniable. We will be here for the foreseeable future but I couldn’t say that we will never return to Ireland. Life is an adventure so let’s see what the future holds.

What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing a career abroad?

I would recommend that you check to see what is required to get your qualifications recognised in the country you are planning to move to and how sought after your skill-set is. With hindsight if I had started the requalification process back in Ireland, things would have been easier to start with. In terms of NZ, Kiwi businesses tend to place a premium on “local experience”, so even if you are qualified and experienced in your field at home, you may find that an employer needs some convincing before they decide to hire you.

Housing is not affordable and homelessness has become a serious problem in the past few years, with families being forced to sleep in their cars

Are there any other Irish people in your work/social circles?

I have an Irish neighbour (Irish rugby international Joey Carbery’s aunt!) down the driveway who is often about for a cup of tea and a chat. There are two other Irish people working with me and in my social circle one of my partner’s best friends is married to an Irish guy. 

The Kiwis and Irish seem to get along well, with a similar sense of humour and a down-to-earth attitude. Both nations have a larger, louder neighbour next door and both seem to punch above their weight on the global stage.

Is there anything you miss about living and working in Ireland?

I do miss my family and friends dearly. The first few years after moving here were hard as the reality of being so far removed from family and friends hit home. NZ really is at the opposite end of the world!

In the time we have been away my sister has had two children, only one of whom we have met. We have also missed several weddings of close friends. I have been home three times in six years and was last home three summers ago, but plan on getting back at some stage next year for sure to meet my nephew.

I particularly miss being able to go to the pub for a few pints to catch up with friends or heading to Whelans or The Olympia for a gig. Sometimes all you crave is a few hours to catch up with a good friend and although WhatsApp is invaluable, face-to-face contact is definitely missed.

Equally, I am conscious of my parents getting older and there is a sense of guilt that comes with that, from not being around to spend time with them.

With each year, you become more settled in your adopted home, but as a consequence lose a bit of your connection to Ireland. It is a constant tension, a push and pull.

I am conscious that I wasn’t forced to leave Ireland like many young people. It was a decision we made and we have built a great life here. However, you do sometimes wonder whether you have made the right decision in leaving.

If you work in an interesting career overseas and would like to share your experience with Irish Times Abroad, email abroad@irishtimes.com with a little information about you and what you do.

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