Two cultures, one love

Standing in the backyard of their Mt Barker property are John, Antonia (6 months) and Flavia...
Standing in the backyard of their Mt Barker property are John, Antonia (6 months) and Flavia Skilton.
Spanish language week

This week is Spanish Language Week, so to highlight Wānaka’s growing Latino community, the Wānaka Sun commissioned Chilean journalist Daniela Diaz Soto, of Queenstown, to write the same story in English and Spanish.

According to a Cervantes Institute report last year, there are about 500million native Spanish speakers in the world, making it the second-largest mother-tongue behind Mandarin Chinese (about 1.3billion native speakers).

How Spanish is Wānaka?

Very, if you heard Argentinian world cup football team fans sing and dance in Ardmore St in the early hours of November 19, 2022.

But unfortunately, we don’t have a clear answer yet about how many of the 500million or so have settled in Wānaka and Queenstown in recent times.

Stats NZ will be releasing 2023 Census data from Wednesday, May 29, so we will check those reports as they come out.

For now, we have to use pre-Covid data from 2018, which reported there were 38,823 Spanish speakers in New Zealand on that census night, up from from 26,979 in 2013.

It also reported about 3.3% of the QLDC population could speak Spanish in 2018, when the district population was just 39,153 (1292 people).


Flavia Bustos and John Skilton’s journey traces back to two completely different starting points, which eventually converged in a country distant from their roots but had, over time, become their home. 

Flavia’s journey to New Zealand began in 2009 when obtaining a working holiday visa from Argentina was an unusual opportunity. 

Despite holding a significant position as a bank manager, Flavia, an educational psychologist by profession, felt trapped in her country due to difficulties in the job market. 

However, stories shared by a friend from the picturesque town of Arrowtown in Queenstown planted a seed of possibility in her mind, an opportunity for a better life outside Buenos Aires. 

She applied for her visa and embarked on an adventure that would change her life forever. 

"I came knowing I wasn’t going to return; for me, a door had opened," she shares. 

Upon arriving in Queenstown, Flavia decided to live in a house with British friends, determined to learn the language. 

She also began working as a housekeeper at Novotel, where she stayed for three years, and later at Pinewood Lodge. 

Despite the opportunity to apply for residency, she decided not to proceed as she no longer enjoyed her job. 

She then travelled to Asia, where she lived for 11 months, before returning to New Zealand to work a season at Milford Sound in 2014. 

That same year and in the same place, John began the most important journey of his life in New Zealand after receiving an invitation from a friend to work on one of the cruises in the area. 

"Going directly from Brighton (UK) to Milford Sound was a big shock. Not just the environment but also the willingness to live with people from many different places. It was great, an amazing place," he recalls. 

Flavia and John met that year, but romance blossomed during the second season of working together at Milford Sound. 

And after navigating seasonal jobs and visa requirements, they finally settled in Wānaka. 

Flavia started working at Kai Pai Bakery, where she stayed for six years, before working as a teacher at Mount Aspiring College. 

Meanwhile, John got a job in construction, similar to what he did in the United Kingdom, and he still does it to this day. 

The couple obtained residency in 2019, and after the pandemic ruined their travel plans to Europe, they decided in 2020 to embark on the exciting adventure of parenthood.  

They welcomed their daughter Antonia three years later, and the beginning of a new future as a family. 

Despite the challenges and cultural differences, Flavia and John found support and happiness in their community. 

They value the diversity of their friendships and Wānaka’s supportive environment. 

And while they acknowledge that sometimes it feels like living in a bubble, they are committed to ensuring that  Antonia explores the world beyond their borders, just as they did. 



La travesía de Flavia Bustos y John Skilton se remonta a dos puntos de partida completamente diferentes, que finalmente convergen en un país distante de sus raíces, pero que, con el tiempo, se ha convertido en su hogar. 

El viaje de Flavia a Nueva Zelanda comenzó en 2009, cuando la Working Holiday Visa desde Argentina era una oportunidad inusual. 

Pese a tener un importante cargo como gerente en un banco, Flavia, sicopedagoga de profesión, se sentía atrapada en su país por las dificultades en el mercado laboral. Sin embargo, las historias compartidas por una amiga desde la pintoresca localidad de Arrowtown, en Queenstown, sembraron una semilla de posibilidad en su mente, una oportunidad para una mejor vida fuera de Buenos Aires. 

Fue así como aplicó para su visa y se embarcó en una aventura que cambiaría su vida para siempre. "Vine sabiendo que no iba a volver, para mí se había abierto una puerta", asegura. 

Tras llegar a Queenstown, decidió vivir en una casa con amigos británicos, determinada a aprender el idioma. Además, comenzó a trabajar como housekeeper en Novotel, donde permaneció durante tres años, y luego en Pinewood Lodge. A pesar de la oportunidad de residencia, decidió no seguir adelante dado que ya no disfrutaba de su trabajo. 

Fue entonces cuando viajó a Asia, donde vivió durante 11 meses, para luego regresar a tierras neozelandesas y trabajar una temporada en Milford Sound en 2014. 

Ese mismo año y en el mismo lugar, John comenzó la travesía más importante de su vida en Nueva Zelanda, tras recibir una invitación de un amigo para trabajar en uno de los cruceros de la zona. "Ir de Brighton (Reino Unido) directamente a Milford Sound es un gran shock. No solo el ambiente, sino también la posibilidad de vivir con personas de muchos lugares diferentes. Fue genial, un lugar impresionante", afirma. 

Flavia y John se conocieron ese año, pero el romance no floreció hasta la segunda temporada del trabajo de ambos en Milford Sound. Y después de navegar entre distintos empleos y requisitos de visa, finalmente decidieron establecerse en Wanaka. 

Flavia comenzó a trabajar en Kai Pai Bakery, donde permaneció durante seis años, para luego trabajar como profesora en Mount Aspiring College. Mientras tanto, John consiguió un trabajo en construcción, que era lo que hacía en el Reino Unido, y en el que aún sigue hasta hoy. 

La pareja obtuvo la residencia en 2019 y, después de que la pandemia arruinara sus planes de viaje a Europa, en 2020 decidieron embarcarse en la emocionante aventura de la paternidad, dando la bienvenida a Antonia tres años después, quien llegó para comenzar a construir un nuevo futuro juntos. 

A pesar de los desafíos y las diferencias culturales, Flavia y John encontraron apoyo y felicidad en su comunidad. Valoran la diversidad de sus amistades y el entorno solidario de Wanaka. 

Y aunque reconocen que a veces es como vivir en una burbuja, están comprometidos a asegurar que la pequeña Antonia explore el mundo más allá de sus fronteras, tal como ellos lo hicieron. 

— Daniela Diaz Soto is a freelance journalist from Chile, who now lives in Queenstown. Spanish is her first language. She has provided Flavia and John’s story in English and Spanish for Welcoming Communities to celebrate Spanish Language Week. The Welcoming Communities initiative aims to bring the Queenstown Lakes District Council and local communities together to make the places we love more welcoming for everyone and to provide support for newcomers choosing to make the district their home.