The Monocle team is currently touring cities around the world launching our latest book, The Monocle Guide to Good Business. On tour in Malaysia, I met a couple of magazine subscribers who had lived for years in international cities across the globe – from the West coast of the US to central Europe – but who had decided to move back to their home town of Kuala Lumpur. They explained that this is actually a recognisable trend in the Malaysian capital – young people are returning home in droves after years spent in Berlin, London and New York to set up businesses, design studios, galleries and restaurants.
This conversation raised an intriguing question: was this just a local trend or a wider global movement?
This month also sees the launch of the Monocle Auckland & New Zealand Survey, a supplement inside the October issue of the magazine. One of the things that really struck me while I was travelling across New Zealand reporting for this guide was the sheer number of people who had lived abroad but had chosen in recent years to return home and invest – in every sense of the word – in their local market and community. Auckland in particular has blossomed in the past decade thanks to this flood of returnees.
As one particularly eloquent New Zealander put it to me, “It used to be that the interesting people had to leave to be exposed to, and be a part of, global culture but now for the first time we have people working globally from here, which has made Auckland the most interesting it has ever been.”
In the case of Auckland, the internet has been the real driver of this. Before the advent of the connected age, New Zealand was simply too far away – impossibly isolated at the bottom of the world. Businesses and society were insular and anyone who wanted success or a taste of internationalism got out of there as soon as humanly possible. The internet has meant that everything from launching a global company to connecting with a community of artists is possible from anywhere in the world.
At the same time, it seems people have realised that “global culture” is a vague and nebulous concept, if not totally meaningless. The particular, the peculiar and the curiously idiosyncratic are actually far more interesting. This realisation has led to a trend of people returning home – not to mention a recognition that exploration and discovery are things you can do on your own doorstep, too.
Matt Alagiah is a researcher and writer for Monocle.