New Zealand is one of the best places I’ve ever lived (and I’ve lived in a fair few places). When living in New Zealand, we lived in Queenstown – a town in the South Island mainly known for it’s mountains, lakes and um, tourists.
All I can say is, if you’re contemplating whether or not to make the move over to New Zealand, just do it. It’s one of the best decisions my partner and I ever made and it’s a country we miss every single day now we’re back living in London.
But let me go into a little more depth… here’s what to expect when moving to New Zealand as an expat…
There are some good things, some bad things on this list – but for me it all balanced out. Queenstown is the most beautiful place I have EVER lived – and that was definitely worth paying a bit extra for my weekly shopping.
1. It’s safe (like no big deal to walk home at 2am, kinda safe)
I can only speak for my own personal experiences here, but I never felt unsafe in Queenstown. Not once. Not ever. I like to think of myself as pretty street-smart (oh cringe!) so it does take a lot to spook me, and as a general rule I’m always on my guard. New Zealand is one of the only places that made me drop that guard, because I never felt at risk, I never felt threatened and I never felt intimidated.
Now, I know the story may be different in some of the country’s cities – but I did visit most of New Zealand whilst living there, and this feeling of safety was a constant wherever we went. New Zealand is the kind of place I’d want to raise my children, because it’s somewhere I know they could grow up exploring, playing and having fun – without worrying about all the things I’d fret about in London or a UK city.
For me, Queenstown had that sense of community which ushers in a sense of safety too. It’s a lovely place to be
2. The people will welcome you with open arms
It didn’t matter who we met, whether they were locals, other New Zealand expats or tourists – everyone was just lovely and always welcoming. Our landlord in New Zealand remains the nicest landlord we’ve ever had, and it was a refreshing change to deal with a landlord who was a real genuine guy – and not a scary property shark with a contract.
3. It’s not just a new version of the UK (and don’t move there expecting it to be)
I think a lot of British people move to New Zealand in the hopes it will be a new and improved version of the UK. I didn’t find this to be true. I didn’t actually draw many comparisons between UK culture and New Zealand culture. This country has it’s own identity and it is it’s own entity.
Don’t move there if all you want is Manchester with mountains. Or London with lakes.
If anything I found the culture more similar to that of the USA. The streets are usually set out in blocks, the postal service is a bit like the US, and the traditions are more similar to the US than they are the UK. BUT even saying those things, NZ is completely its own. It has it’s own history, it’s story and that what makes it so magical and such a wonderful place to live. It’s not just Eastenders with an extra dash of Milford Sound.
4. It’s more expensive than you expect (and I’m a Londoner who know about high prices!)
Of all the amazing things, I have to say this – NZ is expensive and having been a New Zealand Expat, this was one of our hardest realisations. In London (and bear in mind – London is about as expensive as the UK gets) we would pay about £70 for a weekly shop for two people (this doesn’t include alcohol). In New Zealand a comfortable shop, with the same items, would cost us the equivalent of £120-£150.
This would go up big time if we wanted any luxuries like alcohol, etc.
It is expensive – so make sure you’re ready for that! Why is it expensive? I think it’s because nearly everything is imported. Oh – and don’t even dream of buying anything off the ‘special imports’ shelves…. £10 for a bottle of Robinson’s Squash? No thanks!
Which brings me onto my next point…
5. THEY DON’T HAVE NORMAL SQUASH
During an average week in London I go through about 2 bottles of fruit squash. You know, the no added sugar, Robinson’s kinda goodness. In New Zealand (and this is random and weird) but they just don’t sell it (except from on the expensive import shelf). They don’t have any local / less expensive alternative.
They have this weird powered stuff, but it confused me and freaked me out a bit (“juice from powder?! I don’t understand!”) and they had sugar-loaded Ribena / syrup drinks – but no low-sugar cordial. Anyway, rant over.
6. Medical care might not always be accessible
During my time in NZ I was luck not to become seriously ill, or injured – except this one time when I nearly severed off my fingers whilst zip-lining. I was hastily rushed off to the ‘medical centre’ (basically a big doctors surgery) and told I had very nearly severed the tendon of my two fingers.
Luckily – I hadn’t. But if I had (and I came very close) I would have had to be helicoptered to the nearest hospital to get myself into surgery. THAT’S A LOT OF INSURANCE MONEY – or normal money if you don’t got no insurance. It was then I realised that we were quite literally living in the middle of nowhere, and should something serious happen, the medical care might not have been that easy to get hold of or access.
7. It’s remote. And a bit isolated.
This kind of leads on from the previous point, but I’m talking on a larger scale. If you’re moving from the UK, NZ does feel very far away. It can be hard to get hold of family and friends (because you’re always either 11 or 12 hours apart). Basically the only times you can talk to home is early morning or late at night – which works fine, until you realise you like having lie-ins! 😉
Keep it in mind, that you may struggle at times with the time difference. It does make you feel a long way from home.
8. Internet is slower (I know you don’t think this is a big deal right now – but just wait until your buffering the next episode of Breaking Bad).
The internet is slow. Saying that though, as we were leaving NZ, there were improvements being put in (our whole street was being dug up to make room for faster cables) so maybe it’s getting better. It is slow though.
HOWEVER you’ll have way better things to be doing than being on the internet anyway. You know, like climbing those mountains right outside your front door.
9. Rent is expensive
I’m not sure how this fares around the rest of the New Zealand – but rent in Queenstown was a lot of money. I guess this is inline with the sheer demand there is on properties there though. We splashed out and lived somewhere incredible, because we’d saved so hard beforehand – but not everyone has that advantage. So remember to do your research before landing.
Also keep in mind it’s calculated by week (not per month – which is the norm in the UK).
10. I forgot to put this above – but eating out is affordable (even is grocery shopping isn’t)
Eating out in NZ is actually (surprisingly) affordable. More so than cooking at home at times. You have the cheap prices of the USA – but without the obligation to leave a 20% tip. We usually left between 10-15% tip but I think some people wouldn’t have even left that (we are self confessed generous tippers having both worked in hospitality when we were younger).
On a side note – Queenstown has some of the best restaurants EVER. It’s crazy that so many amazing food places exist in such a small town.
11. There are so many amazing places to see and so many things to to do
New Zealand isn’t just mountains and lakes, there are beautiful beaches – incredible coastlines and quirky, fun cities too. There are so many places to go and see – and I didn’t realise quite how varied the country was until I arrived there and started exploring. It really is a beautiful country. You could spend years exploring and still not scratch the surface.
Are you a New Zealand expat? What things have you learnt about life there so far?