The good and bad things about living in New Zealand.

I see that New Zealand needs people, not quite in the same way that Mars Needs Women which is probably good. For people, not Martians. According to their immigration site, I could almost certainly get in and it looks like I could get hired to do more or less the same thing I do now.

Anybody care to share opinions on the country? Particularly how life there compares to the USA, although any opinion would be helpful. I’m intrigued by New Zealand’s high rankings with regard to freedom (individual and economic), quality of life, prosperity, and environmental preservation/sustainability. How do these translate into everyday life? The official website makes it seem so nice, but how can you tell for sure? Everything I know about it comes from Lord of the Rings, Flight of the Conchords, and nature documentaries. Thanks.

It seems a great place from my holidays there but I have to wonder, because the reason New Zealand needs people is that most young New Zealanders seem to live in Australia. So maybe you should just bypass the middleman.

I lived there for three years and enjoyed it immensely. I can’t comment on how it compares with the US.

My name probably indicates my bias. :wink:

I used to work with an American in Auckland, and she told me that the big changes for her were:
(a) Kiwi’s are quietly friendly people, they take a while to get to know you and can seem quite distant at first
(b) There is a much smaller range of products available and shopping centres close around 8/9pm
(c) There is a much smaller range of food available at the supermarket

Like any country, New Zealand is incredibly diverse and you will find a different culture depending on where you are.

You have the biggest city of Auckland which is very cosmopolitan and a melting pot of Caucasians, Maori, Pacific Islanders, Indian, Asian and more. I lived here for ten years and it’s a particularly fantastic place if you are in to water sports. This is also a place where you can be a bit alternative and it has a thriving arts and music scene.

Then you have the capital city Wellington which has a huge arts and culture scene. It’s known as the Windy City, which will give you an insight into its climate! This is where parliament is situated (naturally, it’s the capital city) and there are also a lot of head offices here. So it’s an interesting mix of professionals and arty types.

In the South Island, the largest city is Christchurch which is the most English of NZ’s cities. I was raised here and lived here for twenty years. I only went back for a couple of weeks each year at the most so I can’t really comment on what it’s like to live there now. Except one thing hasn’t changed - Christchurch drivers are the most bloody-minded drivers around.

Then you have smaller towns dotted around the North and South Island, but mostly around the North. A large portion of the South Island is taken up with the Southern Alps and national parks.

Any thoughts on where you’d be likely to live? Because that would help me (and the other kiwis on this board) give you more information.

To be fair, this topic is kind of a trick question, because it’s been well established that no-one actually lives in New Zealand.

OK, OK - the Kiwi jokes are cheap and easy, but 350-400,000 enzedders have emigrated to Australia - about 10% of the country’s population. The problem is that the highly-educated and skilled tend to be overrrepresented in that proportion, leading to quite valid concerns about a brain drain.

Nevertheless, the OP is right when it says that the land of the long, flat vowel ranks highly for freedom and ecological sustainability. This may not continue for long, however, because Terry from Albert Town has just discovered crop rotation and they’re fairly sure that they can work out some way to make use of the idea.

Terry’s a thinker, you see.

Other than this, the economic collapse in Australia is threatening the largest market for Kiwistan’s chief export - maori bouncers - whereas the nation’s major import (polynesians to play for the All Blacks) continues to increase in price.

As someone who moved from New Zealand to USA almost ten long years ago it’s difficult for me to give an unbiased answer because I can only really see things from my own little world and thoughts. Of course, some things might have changed since I left.

Depending on where you are now and where in NZ you might be going and what sort of job you do, it’s very likely to be a easy, pleasant move. Living in Auckland suburbia and working at a “normal” sort of job, whatever that might mean, is not dramatically different to living in the US. You would have much the same sort of things in your home that you have now, shop at a similar sort of supermarket and if you ever want to go to McDonalds, Wendys, Burger King, KFC, Dunkin Donuts, Dennys, Pizza Hutt and others, they’re all there too. No WalMart but we have our equivalent called The Warehouse.

There are contrasting / conflicting things about NZ that make it difficult to define. On one hand it might seem like a very socialist place. There are several things that aim towards sharing life’s ups and downs among everyone. We have universal healthcare which is not unusual in the world but some other things are unusual.

In general you cannot sue someone in NZ for personal injury. Everyone pays what is effectively a tax to the government owned Accident Compensation Corporation. If you’re injured at work or elsewhere then you can make a claim to ACC and potentially receive compensation. If a person or company is found to have caused the injury then they could be fined or criminally charged if laws were broken but you still couldn’t sue them like you can in the US.

Social security payment (called superannuation) for retirees is the same amount for everyone. It doesn’t matter what you earned or paid in taxes during your working years. You don’t pay into it separately at all. That’s true of most taxes including healthcare. Tax mostly all goes into one big government bucket. Unemployment benefit is similar. Everyone gets the same amount.

On the other hand NZ is very “capitalist” in that it is strong on free and open markets for business which is the extreme opposite of how we were thirty years ago. I think there are no or very few import tariffs on anything. There are no farm subsidies. Business survives or fails on international merit and competition. There seems to be less rules and restrictions than I hear about here. Anyone can deliver mail, NZ Post does not have a monopoly on mailboxes like USPS does.

Not all business competition has had a positive effect. You can choose to get your electricity from several different power companies but that didn’t seem to lower prices. In my town there were at least four kerbside trash collection companies. You would choose which one by buying different coloured bags at the supermarket. That resulted in four trucks driving down the street looking for just their bags.

Life is kind of simpler and more relaxed in NZ in ways that I find hard to put my finger on. It’s hard to give concrete examples but in general there is a good attitude of live and let live, do what you like, if it’s not affecting me then I don’t care. One silly thing (unimportant, I know) that hit me when I arrived in the US here in summer was not being able to enter a shop or fast food restaurant barefoot. Maybe it’s just me but it honestly never occurred to me that people would object.

I guess this is a New England comparison but the NZ climate is pretty good. It doesn’t get really hot or really cold although it can be humid. It means that a lot of houses don’t have heating. I’ve heard (probably valid) complaints from foreigners that NZ houses are cold in winter. Certainly in the colder climates as you go south they have proper heating.

Some say that there are really two New Zealands. Auckland and the rest of the country. I don’t know much about Wellington and Christchurch but Auckland is much more diverse in it’s culture and population than elsewhere (certainly more than here in New Hampshire). The greater Auckland area has a third of the population so there is good chance you’ll end up there. It’s very spread out and public transport is not great so unless you live and work in the central city, life in Auckland is very dependent on cars. Aucklanders complain a lot about traffic. It is bad but I don’t know that it’s worst than other sizable city. I’d probably still prefer driving in Auckland than Boston.

There’s a perception that property crime is quite high. No way would I leave a house or car unlocked like I’ve noticed people often do here in NH. Although a few tragic cases hit the news, there is not that much violent crime. Gangs are a bit of a problem but they tend to be fighting each other and handguns are almost non-existent. From the news I read, meth, known locally as “P” is a problem. The police in general are highly professional and honest but hopelessly overworked and under resourced. I hear that if your house is broken into and the bad guys have long gone then you probably won’t get an officer to visit. They’ll take the details over the phone or maybe send a civilian employee to take details.

If you have a well paid professional job, you’ll live very well in NZ but you probably won’t earn as much as in the US. The gap between rich and poor in NZ is not as big as in the US but (unfortunately IMO) it is widening. Many consumer products tend to be more expensive than elsewhere.

As for lots of people moving to Australia. Being in a small isolated country makes it quite tempting to want to “escape” and try your luck elsewhere especially when you’re young and want to see bigger cities and countries. Australia is an obvious and easy place to go. Kiwis can freely live and work in Australia without a visa. One of our Prime Ministers long ago had a classic comment on TV about the migration from NZ to Australia at the time. “It raises the average IQ of both countries”. :slight_smile:

The culture is definitely different often in subtle ways that are hard to explain. You should probably visit before you move.

I’m happy to answer questions.


Probably not the info you’re really looking for and it might not apply to a foreigner but something that came to mind as I’m starting to work on my US tax return this afternoon …

Taxation in New Zealand is much simpler than in the US. There are really only two income tax rates for residents. The higher rate is about 33%. The returns are really quite simple and I think I’m right when I say that if you’re a normal salary or wage earner with nothing special going on then there’s a good chance these days that you don’t need to do a tax return at all because withholding is done correctly each month. From what I remember, there doesn’t seem to be the married / single tax status significance that there is in the US and if you’re doing some part time moonlighting work or whatever, it all gets added together. There is no separate rate for self employed or secondary income or whatever. Self employed do have to pay into the ACC that I described in my other post.

Goods and Services Tax (sales tax) is 12.5% on everything. Prices are usually labeled and advertised inclusive of tax so we tend not to think about it much.

I totally empathize with this BBC reporter I listened to on my internet radio the other day.

Come for a visit. Half the people I know who came from overseas started out as tourists and just stayed - you can probably check with your stateside embassy for details on your eligibility for immigration or long term working visa.

In these days of global crisis, Kiwis can always go to the beach, nothing’s quite so bad at the beach.

Except for sunburn.

And sunburn is quite a lot worse here in NZ than most other places. The legacy of the world’s obsession with CFCs during the '80s.

Ah, but you don’t notice the sunburn till you’ve *left *the beach!

But, yeah, fair point. Bring sunscreen.

Hey thanks tetranz for giving a local analogue to Walmart.

My brother lived in the US for a couple of years. I think his major comment was how hopeless the internet is here. I don’t think there’s any sort of legal movie download sites here and I gather US based companies won’t allow out of border customers. And it’s more expensive. I’ve just changed to VOIP for $70 month with unlimited DSL speeds and $1/GB data transfer. Remember we’re at the end of a long thin expensive glass tube.

And roundabouts. I gather US based people aren’t used to them. They’re everywhere here, I think there’s a critical mass point, then they start replicating.

And the barefoot thing. Just had a long weekend. Went barefoot 4 days. Driving, shopping, 2 parties. Only problem as the roads went soft due to the heat and tar stuck to my feet. And it was a bit cool for them in the beer chiller too.

There was some discussion about ex-pats returning home due the the economic recession. Whether it’s a valid point, it’s a bit early to say.

Perhaps to get some feeling for things here, start reading our papers and watching the news online. There’s Tv One These are the traditional big evil media outfits, perhaps someone can point out some independent online outlets?

I know a UK family that’s just done all their paperwork to stay. If you want, I’ll ask if you can contact them about the process.

Another two cents from a New Zealander living abroad.

IM(H)O - most New Zealanders leave for more money, wages / salary definitely won’t be what you are used to. Having said this, a good life in New Zealand is relatively cheap, and if you are well established now you will have a good life in New Zealand.

Personally I came to Singapore to follow my wife, that I got away from high tax rates was a bit of a bonus but not any sort of real motivating factor.

We are planning on going back in the medium term if that makes a difference.

Don’t go to New Zealand expecting it to be some sort of laid back paradise, we do work hard, and you are expected to NOT show stress in any way. The big thing that I miss about home are the weekends - when you are away form work you can truely kick back and relax. Friends are much more “easy going” and anything goes. Come round for a barbie and throw a coupla snags on the barbie, grab a lettuce from countdown and away you go.

When we have visitors around, no general preparation is (generally) expected, its a lot more come as you are, and don’t expect me to go to special effort for you.

There’s tonnes of political freedom and freedom of speech - sports are SUPER CHEAP - I can remember around 12 years ago looking serioulsy t a road legal holden race car (that came second in the previous season) that was going for around $7,000 NZD, a golf club membership at a GOOD club (in Christchurch) may only sting you for $1,500 - $2,000 (this may be a little out of date). When I was growing up I played at a rural course - the adult membership then (early 90s) was around $400 per year.

I grew up in Christchurch, and have never really been to great amounts of the rest of the country. But there’s a real plethora of holiday options nearby if you like local holidays - and outside of super-peak season the prices are pretty reasonable, drive yourself holidays are really common.

New Zealand tends to punch above its weight in many areas - the list of famous New Zealanders is looong. If I’m not wrong we were the first country to institute universal suffrage (if not first we were second), Lord Rutherford was the first to split the atom (is on the $50 note), climbed Mnt Everest First, the NewZealand economy is ALWAYS in the top three least protected in the world, and we rank VERY highly for ease of setting up a new business.

One thing you will need to get used to is that we drive on the “wrong” side of the road :slight_smile:

Hope this helps, I will pop back and offer more thoughts if they come to me…

The other thing to remember is that NZ (while a wonderful place to live) is a seriously long way from anywhere you would want to visit.

This is the thing that puts me off from going back. From the UK, I can fly anywhere in Europe in less than two or three hours. I can drive with the whole family and a caravan. From NZ, 4 hours on a plane get you to … Australia. You need to be on a plane for 10 hours to make LA, 12 hours for SE Asia, 28 to the UK/Europe. And the relative cost of long distance travel compared with earnings is higher in NZ, too.


tetranz’s post is great.

I lived in Wellington for a while. The weather is fine if you are coming from Seattle, but coming from Nevada and Dubai it was a bit too wet and windy for me. While the standard of living is high, the availability of goods is limited and generally more expensive (anything imported has to come a looong way).

We tried to immigrate, but “because I am self employed”, they told me I would need to get a job earning more than $45,000 NZD. This is a bit odd, because I earn more than that already and would also be employing New Zealanders in my business. Makes no sense. This was in 2004, so we may try again at some point.

I think it would be a bit limiting tho - there is a definite brain drain and the low population makes it hard to get any sort of economy of scale for things like internet access and other intensive infrastructure.

It appears that those effects extended to some other parts of the globe. The difference in NZ has to do with very clear air and the fact that the earth is closer to the sun during the southern summer.

I’m originally from NZ and lived in Christchurch until I moved to Australia at age 18. I’ve been all over NZ and still find myself back there periodically despite promising myself I’ve seen the last of the place. :wink:

New Zealand (and more specifically Christchurch) always felt a little backwards to me, but generally in a good way- the sort of place where you know your neighbours but they have the good sense to mind their own business, where the local supermarket hires kids from the local high school to work there, thus ensuring jobs for the locals and that the community will shop there, and that sort of thing.

Christchurch is a very English city; in that quaint Edwardian way. There’s a functioning Electric Tram line running around the central city and you can go punting on the Avon river.

There’s also a lot of interest near Christchurch- Hanmer Springs and Mount Hutt are both about a 90 minute drive.

As other people have said, it’s a long way from NZ to anywhere. Australia is the nearest country and that’s a 3 hour flight, and if you want to head back to the US it’s a 15 hour flight from Christchurch and there’s 10 hours on top of that to get to the UK.

My family and I left NZ because the job market at the time was crap, we were sick of the cold weather, and we were concerned the country was turning into a Touchy-Feely-Greenie-Lefty circle-wank. Things aren’t as bad as they used to be but there’s still no way I’d voluntarily move back to NZ unless one of my friends staged a Coup and wanted me to be the figurehead El Presidente. :wink:

Get used to stuff costing more, not being available, or taking a long time to show up when you order it.

It gets REALLY cold in the South Island, and houses almost never have central heating- it’s fireplaces (hello Smog!), electric blankets, hot water bottles, and radiators all round for most of the year.

If you like shooting, New Zealand has some of the most sensible gun laws on the planet, IMHO- once you’ve got a licence you can own pretty much whatever you like (although it is hard to get handguns and Military-Style Semi-auto centrefire rifles), it’s legal to hunt in National Parks, and there’s a very active Outdoor Sports culture who are only too happy to help you get involved.

The scenery in the South Island is very impressive, too. But if you’re an LOTR fan* you’ll have a permanent sense of Deja Vu. :wink:

One other thing: Do NOT use the word “Pakeha” to describe European New Zealanders unless you hear them self-identify as such; it can be quite an offensive term to some NZers (such as myself).

Otherwise, I’m sure you’ll have a great time in NZ; it’s totally unlike the US and a great place to visit. Just don’t say in Auckland too long or you’ll become a JAFA** should you deign to venture south of the Bombay Hills. :wink:

*And for the record I hate Lord of the Rings.
**Just Another Fucking Aucklander; mildly derogatory term for Aucklanders who fail to realise that there is civilisation (ie, four major cities and several sizeable regional centres) outside Auckland (colloquially, “South of the Bombay Hills”.)

Wow, lots of information here, thanks.

Overall it sounds like an improvement over Oklahoma, which is dry, hot, 5+ hours from everywhere, and full of busybodies.

For the record, most of the jobs look like they are in Auckland or Wellington, and I would be working in an office. Very little geology takes place in the field nowadays. Any idea where the main geothermal energy jobs are located?

The money may not be much of a problem, it sounds like taxes would balance out pretty much equal, but employers never want to talk about salary until after an interview, so it’s probably a crap shoot.

The big problem could be the isolation you all have mentioned. I just took a look at a globe-holy cow that’s a long way from everything. I’m used to driving 300-1500 miles for holidays, and that would require a long plane ride if I wanted to see anything but NZ. I’m also used to ordering stuff online and waiting a week for it, if the waits were more like a month, well, I’d probably just buy less stuff. Which might not be a bad thing.

I couldn’t move without visiting first, so I’ll probably start planning a vacation. When are the off-peak times?

A few other questions. What are the schools like? Can kids get a good education without having to pay for private school, which is sadly becoming the norm in parts of the US? How much waiting/rationing is there in the health system? How much does relgion affect daily life? Around here, it’s at center of most politics, and the first or second thing people ask about when introduced. Any ideas about housing costs? I can look at listings, but I have no idea how different parts of metro areas compare to each other. Are there any common dangerous pests? It seems like Australia (different place, I know) has a dozen things named for how far you can walk before you die after being bitten.

IIRC, Hilary revealed on his deathbed that Norgay was the first one up.

Best thing about New Zealand: not actually beset by Orcs.

There’s a huge variety of places to visit in NZ so you might not feel quite the need that you might think to go overseas for a holiday .

I don’t really know the current situation since I went to school long ago but anecdotally, public schools seem pretty good compared to the comments I hear about US schools. I don’t remember there being many private schools.

One difference with public services like schools, police, fire etc (at least compared to New England) is that they are not run by local cities or towns. They are central government departments. They have local regions etc but the cities and therefore property taxes (called “rates”) are not paying for those.

A lot. The NZ health system is pretty good for urgent, life threatening stuff but you will wait in line for non-urgent stuff. It’s not totally “free” by a long way. I think the amount you pay to visit a doctor depends on your income. Someone else can report more accurately. It’s probably more than the co-pay you pay now if you have typical employer based coverage in the US. There is no dental coverage for adults. You can get private insurance. I used be a member of Southern Cross. The premiums were very cheap at the time, probably not so cheap now. Even though it’s far from perfect, at the end of the day I’d still prefer it to what the US has but that’s a whole other contentious topic.

If you’re not a religious person then religion has no real affect on daily life. There are plenty of churches, mostly mainstream Christian but it’s nothing like as prominent as in the US. It’s easy to get the wrong idea because NZ observes more Christian holidays than the US. Easter is a four day weekend, Friday and Monday are holidays and I think the law still prohibits businesses opening on Easter Friday and Monday. Christmas is two days. It’s not that we’re religious, we just like protecting employees’ time off. It’s a delicate balancing act between that and personal / business freedoms. The national anthem, “God Defend New Zealand” sounds kind of religious but … it’s just a song.

I think Auckland is most expensive. They’ve been through a boom and are falling like everywhere else right now.

No, almost nothing. Utterly insignificant compared to Australia. There’s one poisonous spider, the Katipo which I’ve never seen and it seems like nobody has died from since the 18th century. I remember a news item a few years ago about a poisonous sea snake that showed up on a beach but that was unusual enough to make the news. Maybe some jelly fish are not that nice but they’re not really bad in NZ. Nothing remotely like Australia. There are no snakes on land.

Wow, that’s awesome.

:eek: Are you sure? Is that the longest flight between major urban areas? I’ve never heard of anything over the 18-20 hour range.

I don’t think so. I guess it’s possible but I think I would have heard about this. Everything Norgay and Hillary ever said was either both together or Hillary first. There’s been “deathbed confession” rumors ever since Tenzing’s death 20+ years ago, but they’re only urban legends, as far as I know.