Lots of good and interesting advice here. New Zealand is a great country, we’ve travelled there a few times and love it. That said, our opinion is that we find it incredibly like Canada.
A close friend’s son and daughter-in-law (mid-20s) moved to New Zealand about 2 years ago for no specific reason other than they wanted to live and work somewhere new for a change.
I’m very close with the son and talk to them very frequently. I have a couple of bits of advice based on their experience that no one else seems to have touched on.
On a scale of difficult transitions, places like New Zealand, Australia, Canada etc. are on the extreme easy end of the scale. Everyone speaks English, and while the culture is not the same as the UK or America, the reality is there’s about 90% overlap so there’s no big culture shock. (As opposed to saying moving to Vietnam)
Definitely look into visas and working options. They’re “20 something free spirits” and have only been able to get low level/entry level jobs (I believe certain jobs don’t require special work visas) but if you’re hoping for any sort of a higher level job then the employer has to sponsor you. Like most countries that involves a lot of paperwork and isn’t easy for the employer, so it’s hard to do.
They’ve had no problem getting their temporary work visa extended, but the fact that they are having so much trouble finding a higher level (wage) job has really made them question their plan to stay long-term.
As others note, they found the cost of living to be very high. Their jobs are able to just cover their cost of living, but they’ve burned through all the savings they brought with them to survive between jobs plus do things like travel and see New Zealand.
This was an area that really surprised them, they’ve found it difficult to make friends. They attribute it to the fact that they’re living in a small apartment in a big city plus lot they’re pretty transient between jobs.
That said, they’ve made a massive effort to develop a social group. They made a deliberate effort to do a lot of recreational team sports (i.e. beach volleyball etc) that generally involve going to the pub afterwards. After about 18 months of deliberate effort they’re making some good friends. The point is if you’re social and like having friends you may need to make an effort.
New Zealand is a long long way away, making it both expensive and time consuming to visit. In spite of what your friends and family say to you, the reality is you will get virtually no one to come visit you. You need to be mentally prepared to say goodbye to your family and friends until you can afford to visit them. Last I spoke to them, they were privately telling me how disappointed they were that only one person has come to visit them in two years (in spite of promises by their parents, siblings, friends etc.)
Lastly, be aware that New Zealand itself is pretty isolated. Although there are tons of things to see and do there, doing anything off island is much more expensive. Australia is an expensive +3hr flight as are the islands in the South Pacific. Southeast Asia is both far, roughly 10 to 12 hours away and expensive. You’re not zipping off to Bali for the weekend. Bottom line: New Zealand is not a jumping off point to see to easily see Australasia and Polynesia.