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Pacific Consumer Acculturation in New Zealand: Understanding the dynamics of consumption using video diaries

New Zealand, the land of milk and honey, is the „dream‟ of many Pacific people. Expectations of New Zealand were high as Pacific people dreamt of „the better life‟ from migrated family members who retold their experiences confirming their version of life in New Zealand. Many Pacific migrants came with the intention of improving the lives of their families and for themselves. Positioned within the situational context of understanding Pacific migrants isolated from their culture, this thesis aims to understand how island-born Pacific people acculturate to New Zealand society as consumers. The research question centers on understanding how Pacific people living in New Zealand experience consumer acculturation. This research founded on a critical ethnographic stance addresses traditionally unbalanced power relations between researcher and participant and ensures participants are in control of their involvement in the study. Video diaries are used to capture routine, daily experiences of Pacific consumers. Participants narrated and reflected on their lives in New Zealand and considered how this differed from their lives in the islands. Video diaries were conducted with nine participants from two cities in New Zealand; Hamilton and Dunedin. Participants are from; Samoa (3), Tonga (2), Fiji (3) and Cook Islands (1). Each participant is tasked with recording aspects of their lives for the duration of 6 to 8 weeks, meeting regularly with the researcher to discuss progress, change tapes, and, most importantly build a relationship. Upon completion of the diary fieldwork stage, the researcher and participant meet for a final interview to collaborate on themes and clarify any issues outstanding. Participant narratives are expressed within five storylines: premigration expectations; change of the collective; becoming an individual; consumption desires; and, cultural maintenance. These storylines explore themes surrounding the consumer acculturation process in New Zealand. They illustrate that the reality of life in New Zealand varies considerably from participants‟ initial expectations. Participants acknowledged that they needed to become more independent and take on more individualistic values to fit into their new environment. Participants attempted to maintain aspects of their culture, in particular, the "circle of giving" through obligation. However, this was not always possible. Consumer acculturation appeared throughout the everyday experiences of participants. This included; in public and private situations, in the home, work and at social occasions. Individual adaptation of consumption values from Pacific to Western pervaded all areas of participant lives. By looking at contemporary Pacific consumption patterns we learn that there is similarity to previous patterns of Western consumption. Consumption feeds the desires of many Pacific people to want more, have more, own more and replaces more traditional values like community ownership and reciprocity. A process of consumer acculturation developed from these understandings, highlights the movement of participants as they graduate to-and-from different phases of the process, i.e., from the dream, to the reality of life in New Zealand. Understanding individual journeys of Pacific consumers highlights the acculturation processes that Pacific people go through to merge into New Zealand society. Through this insight, the meaning of consumption is considered and in turn how this translates to the wider culture, both in New Zealand and in the Pacific. Through understanding these consumption meanings and experiences, we consider ways to alleviate negative consumer acculturative experience. The bigger picture brings us back to questioning the relevance and structure of a consumer lifestyle. Within a New Zealand context, Pacific consumers would benefit from the integration of their core values into their daily lives and the embracing of their value system by wider societal structures. Seeking solutions from collective methods would encourage the retention of cultural values. Undoubtedly taking the "the best from both worlds" would be the ultimate route to navigating life in New Zealand.
Type of thesis
Brown, C. (2010). Pacific Consumer Acculturation in New Zealand: Understanding the dynamics of consumption using video diaries (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/4221
University of Waikato
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