Close up of an Afghan man sitting on a grey couch in a room with white wallsAtal Safi never thought he would visit New Zealand, until a phone call from his sister in New Zealand seven years ago changed his life.

Answering this call would end up with him moving from Kabul, Afghanistan to Selwyn, New Zealand.

Over the phone he was introduced to his sister’s friend who moved to New Zealand at the same time as Atal’s sister nineteen years ago. After exchanging a couple of emails and video chatting, the pair fell in love.

“It was decided she was the right person for me and I was the right person for her, so she invited me to come and live with her,” he says.

Atal got on a long expensive flight and moved to New Zealand in 2013. Within the first month he felt homesick, but after giving it some time, he had a change of heart.

“In less than a year, I was so attached to this place.”

At first, Atal could not understand how people in New Zealand met at cafes for coffee and cake. As a food lover, he preferred going out for bigger meals, but after a few coffee dates with his wife, he came to love a classic kiwi ‘coffee catch-up’.

After his first year he went back to Afghanistan to see his family. Because of settling in New Zealand, Atal found his visit back to Afghanistan like chalk and cheese.

“Spending one year down here and then going back home it was different, especially with the traffic and traffic rules. I just couldn’t drive,” he laughs. “I was like nah, I think I’m going to have to go back.”

The couple moved from Auckland to Rolleston two years ago because it was a cheap place to build a house, close to their work and a safe, quiet area to bring up their son.

With a fluency in English and a love for talking to people, settling into Selwyn was easy for Atal. He  likes Rolleston because everything is on his doorstep, his sister and brother-in-law’s house is a short drive away, the park, school and swimming pool are in walking distance and there are plenty of cafes.

“Everything is pretty handy here, we made a good choice.”

An avid traveller and hiker, Atal loves to get out and about with his family. One day he would love to move to the hills, but for now, Rolleston is home.