New Zealand is one of the best countries in the world to live in. It's one of the most peaceful countries as per the World Peace Index. One group which evidently takes this seriously is the Indian community which is today the fastest growing ethnicity in New Zealand. As anywhere else in the world, the Indian Diaspora in this country too is in the constant process of negotiating a unique cultural identity, a significant part of which informs the community’s dating and marriage practices.
The history of Indian immigration to New Zealand can be mapped in three distinctive phases. The earliest Indians to settle in this island country were men from the Indian states of Punjab and Gujarat. They arrived in New Zealand in the late 1800s and worked mainly as temporary laborers. Migration continued till 1920 when the New Zealand government imposed restrictions under the ‘permit system’. The next phase of immigration picked up after the Second World War when more liberal attitudes allowed for easier entry of Indians into New Zealand. During this time more families began joining the earlier settlers and the Fijian coup of 1987 saw a large influx of Fijian-born Indians arriving in New Zealand due to the latter’s more stable political and economic conditions. In the last couple of decades, Indian migrants have been predominantly skilled workers involved in professional as well as managerial positions in the country.
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Today Indian-origin residents of New Zealand number more than one million and make up almost two percent of the total population of the country. Indians are also the fourth largest ethnic group after the Europeans, Maoris and the Chinese. Statistics from the 2007 New Zealand Census reveal that the number of Indians in the country is 105,000, second only to the Chinese who remain the biggest Asian group with 148,000. Besides this, Indians in New Zealand are the fastest expanding ethnic population with a growth rate of 68 percent between 2001 and 2006. The importance of the Indian-origin community in mainstream New Zealand life can be gauged from the fact that in August 2006, New Zealand-born Anand Satyanathan of Indian ancestry was appointed the Governor General of the island nation by Queen Elizabeth II who holds the title of monarch of New Zealand.
An overwhelming 98 percent majority of the Indian population lives in urban New Zealand which is probably more accessible to their places of work and where they probably feel much safer as compared to the rural areas. The North Island continues to be the most favored destination for Indian settlers with a huge 95 percent residing there as compared to only 5 percent who live in South Island. Almost two-thirds of Indians and Indian-origin Kiwis live in Auckland which is the country’s most ethnically diverse city. Wellington is the second most preferred residential city with around 14 percent of the Indian community living here. Other cities with pockets of Indian-origin population are Waikato, Canterbury, Bay of Plenty and Manawatu-Wanganiu.
Around half of the Indian population in New Zealand is relatively new, arriving only in the last five years. Perhaps this is why they are, by large, still conscious of their cultural identity which in turn significantly influences dating and marriage practices in the community. An important cultural carry-over from the home country is the tradition of arranged marriages according to specifications of religious, caste and linguistic group. Indians in New Zealand thus tend to look within their own racial, ethnic and even religious group for a dating partner. The process is further facilitated by the large number of Indian associations like Indian Association of Auckland and Indian Association of Wellington as well as places of worship which serve a variety of practical and cultural purposes. Besides helping the members to deal with the problems of living and working in a foreign country, these associations, many of which are found on linguistic and religious lines like Hamilton Sikh Society and the Hindu Council of New Zealand, also keep alive the cultural traditions of the community. These places are an ideal meeting point for young Indian people in New Zealand because of the similarity in ethnic and cultural background which they afford. The Bharat Bhavan in Wellington is one such hub of Indian cultural activities while some of the most-frequented Hindu temples in the country are the Kurinji Kumaran Temple in Wellington and the Radha Krishna temple in Auckland.
However the generation of Indian-origin Kiwis which has been born in the country is as likely to look for partners from within their peers while dating as the rest of the mainstream New Zealand society. Dating and social networking websites are a popular option for young Indo-Kiwis to get in touch with like-minded members within their own ethnic community. New Zealand dating sites like Lavaplace.com have significant number of Indian-origin members. Moreover there are a large number of websites focusing on Indian life in New Zealand like nzindia.com, theindian.co.nz and desinetwork.co.nz. All these sites have their own personal and social networking sections where young members can get to know more about each other.
The Indian student population in New Zealand is not as significant as in its bigger northern neighbor Australia. Most of the Indians who migrate to New Zealand do so as professionals and very few as students. The campus therefore is not as popular a venue for social interaction among young Indian immigrants as in other countries like USA, UK and Australia. However the New Zealand-born Indians are likely to find campus life a regular part of growing up and making new relationships.
Dating among Indians in New Zealand thus depends on how long they have been in the country and from where they have arrived. Ways of forging relationships for instance will vary among Indians who have directly arrived from India and those who have migrated for the second time from places like Fiji. All these demographical, social and economic factors come into play while determining cultural practices which also include how people date and marry.