Familia . . . Argentinian couple Natalia Garbe and Fernando Boris moved to Oamaru in March with their sons Julian (7, left) and Francis Boris Garbe (10). PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD

Sometimes communication goes beyond words.

For Fernando Boris and Natalia Garbe, their language is working with animals.

Originally from Cordoba, Argentina, Mr Boris and Mrs Garbe worked as vets at the Universidad Catolica de Santa Fe, where Mr Boris was the dean, before moving to New Zealand.

“Some people like to climb a mountain or go swimming, but we like to read about vets,” Mr Boris said.

“It’s a passion.”

Now living in Richmond, north of Oamaru, the couple and their sons, Julian (7) and Francis (10), are in their second year living in New Zealand

However, despite their qualifications and experience, they had been unable to work as vets when they arrived. First, they had to pass an English test and the Australasian Veterinary Examination. The latter consisted of a $3000 written test, and a $7000 five-day practical test in Sydney, Mr Boris said.

But that did not stop them from working with animals.

In fact, they were transferring their skills across new fields – literally and figuratively for Mr Boris.

Before moving to Richmond in March, he worked on farms in Franz Josef and Omarama. Mrs Garbe worked on a salmon farm.

In Franz Josef, Mr Boris would be called between the farm owner’s seven properties if anything happened with the animals.

Now, he manages 465 cows for Summer Fields Ltd and Mrs Garbe is a vet nurse at the Veterinary Centre Oamaru.

Although he owned a farm in Argentina, it was uncommon for owners to work on the land themselves, so it was his first time milking the cows and working hands-on.

“In New Zealand, you can work hard and get a good result.”

This was not always guaranteed in South America, he said. The economy could be very unstable, undermining hard work and due diligence.

Without those barriers when moving to New Zealand, they were met with another. Mr Boris and his children could not speak English, and although Mrs Garbe had studied the language, speaking it fluently was another story.

The boys picked it up very quickly while at Papakaio School, and continued to help their parents.

“They are my teachers,” Mr Boris said.

But animals were the same across the world, he said.

Before working at the Veterinary Centre, Mrs Garbe was as a vet nurse at the Dunedin SPCA – living between Dunedin and Oamaru.

She was happy to work with animals and had the added benefit of practising vet terminology in English – something that would come in handy when registering in New Zealand.

The couple understood why the test was in place and how important communication was, though Mr Boris wished there was more support.

Residents could access government-funded English classes, but those applying for residency could not.

“I want to live here for a long time, but I don’t know what will happen in the future. For now I’ll enjoy this moment,” Mr Boris said.

Their plan was to apply for permanent residency and work towards both registering as vets in New Zealand.