I won’t sugar coat it. The first year of our New Zealand living experience was hard.
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In 2009, we moved to New Zealand from the other side of the world (the UK) with our two young kids, $25,000 NZD in our pockets and a longing to say that we were, at last, living the kiwi dream.
But things don’t always turn out the way you plan.
For a start, I didn’t count on it pouring with rain for weeks (New Zealand in winter isn’t the best time to visit New Zealand to start a new life) or our car being broken into in Auckland.
Neither did I envisage us having to shack up in a motel because we couldn’t find a place to rent.
I don’t want you to think that our moving to New Zealand was a mistake— far from it, I’m just letting you know how it was. That the reality of turning up in a foreign country to start a new life was harder than both my husband or I had ever anticipated.
Living in New Zealand. The First Year. What to Expect.
No country is perfect but I think New Zealand comes pretty close.
Last year we travelled the world with our kids and all of us agreed that New Zealand is not only one of the worlds most unique travel destinations, but is a hard country to beat when it comes to living standards.
And contrary to popular belief, the cost of living in New Zealand may pleasantly surprise you.
When we moved out here in 2009 we were expecting the wages to be bad and the bills to be high and yes, some things are more expensive than the UK or the US, but you will find proportionate saving in other areas so it pretty much evens out.
(*Listen to our podcast is New Zealand expensive? The costs. Of everything, if you want to learn more.)
1. The Pace of Life
The pace of life in New Zealand is sooo much slower than the UK ever was.
No matter how much homework you do before arriving down under, nothing prepares you for this pace change.
I remember vividly, after only having been in New Zealand for a month, shopping in town one afternoon and I lost track of time.
I looked at my watch and it was 2.45 pm.
It was a school day. Gulp.
I knew that my kids (then aged 8 and 5 ) needed picking up and I literally began having heart palpitations at the thought of my not being there at the gates for them when they came out of school.
This was what the UK had instilled into me.
The woman who I was with (an American who had emigrated to New Zealand two years earlier) turned to me and said “honey, why are you panicking? The kids will play in the playground with the others for hours before they notice you aren’t there. Relax! You live in New Zealand now!”.
And it was true.
I turned up at ten past three and both of my kids were playing happily with their new friends on the monkey bars— oblivious to the sweaty, panicky woman who had shown up late and was calling herself their mummy.
It takes some getting used to, but the relaxed attitude of the kiwis makes living in New Zealand tremendously easy.
And for that, you will be grateful.
2. The Ex-Pats (Who, Funny Enough) Are Also Living in New Zealand
Something that I had never considered when thinking of living in New Zealand was that other Brits would be doing the same.
And I certainly wasn’t expecting those ex-pats to stick together like glue.
Maybe I was a little (or a lot) oblivious to the fact that I wasn’t the only person to move to New Zealand from the UK. It turns out that other people had the same idea— but unlike me, these people were content to replicate their old life (and ways) in their new country.
And I won’t lie. I found that a bit odd.
Who wants to join a load of Brits for a coffee on a Wednesday afternoon and discuss the fact that you can’t get decent bacon (which you very much can by the way) or the cost of healthcare?
I suppose if you are the kind of person that needs familiarity then surrounding yourself with ex-pats and talking about what life was like in ‘the old days when you were all back home’ would give you comfort. But this wasn’t the case for me and I certainly didn’t want to be constantly reminded of a country that I had chosen to leave.
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3. Work/Life Balance in New Zealand
Within the first year of living in New Zealand, my husband and I discovered that no one talks constantly about their job.
Life comes first, the other stuff comes second.
Actually no; that’s not true. Talking about the weather and what the cows are eating comes second.
The job bit comes after that.
Which I embrace completely.
There is nothing more tedious than having to pretend you are interested in other peoples jobs (unless they do something cool like rescuing gorillas in the rain forest whilst wearing a grey tank top). New Zealand living is just that. Living and having fun.
Talking about fishing and the weather and the rugby results; all while throwing into the conversation a million alien New Zealand slang words (which you will eventually get the hang of, I promise!).
4. Quiet Roads
Outside of the main cities, the traffic in New Zealand is pretty non-existent (we came from Bath in the UK where you could sit for hours in a traffic jam). The roads are quiet meaning you get more time to admire the gorgeous scenery.
But I am afraid it is not all good news.
The attitude of New Zealand drivers really surprised me…
5. But Not So Courteous Drivers!
For such a laid back race of people the kiwi’s turn into a bunch of grumpy pants when they get behind the wheel.
Maybe it’s because they would rather be outside in the fresh air or at home watching rugby than stuck inside their cars; I don’t know.
All I know is this. When we first moved to New Zealand we found it unbelievable that drivers wouldn’t give way to pedestrians.
In the UK (and we noticed the same pedestrian right of way seemed to apply in California) if you are standing within ten feet of a road crossing ( a zebra crossing as they are known in the UK), every car grinds to a halt to let you walk across.
In New Zealand, it’s the opposite.
The only way you can hope to cross the road in a New Zealand town is to find a red light and wait for the green flashing man.
If you plan on standing at a zebra crossing in the hope that cars will stop to let you cross then you might want to ring home and let your partner know that you’ll be late for dinner.
Don’t expect drivers to stop to let you cross the road or wave you out at a junction or let you go first into the carpark…they just don’t!
Of course, there are always going to be pros and cons of living in New Zealand and I suppose this must be one of my personal cons.
Why Not Listen To Our Podcast- The First Year of Living in New Zealand (what nobody warned us about)
If you haven’t done so already why not hop over and listen to our podcast on what the first year of New Zealand living was really like. In this episode, you will hear loads more home truths on what you can expect in your new life down under!
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Thank you so much for reading, and remember! if you know of anyone who loves NZ and wants to know what New Zealand living is really like (and what to expect) then please be kind and share this post with them!