What it’s like to move to New Zealand

So, you want to move to New Zealand huh?

You’re not alone. Last year over 173,000 applications for work visas came through Immigration New Zealand. But how do you make the final decision? What experiences did others have? After talking to 20 of our team who’ve relocated here, I’ve put together a few thoughts about what they like, and don’t like, about New Zealand.

For many people who want to move to New Zealand, a common thread runs through their stories.

Back in 2001 it seems a lot of people around the world saw a little film trilogy featuring Frodo, Sam and Gollum. Not only is it a timeless adventure tale with millions of fans it has collected for almost a century, but the films showcased our beautiful country like nothing else had before. Time and time again, as we meet potential candidates for our software company Propellerhead, we hear the same thing — “I fell in love with New Zealand after watching the Lord of the Rings.”

While this isn’t really the #1 reason people move, it seems to have played a large part in positively influencing how the world sees us. We entered people's psyche’s. I recently spoke to 20 people who had learned about New Zealand, found an opportunity to join our company, and moved here. What were their real experiences outside of Hobbits and Gandalf?

What surprised you about New Zealand?

Auckland Sky Towers SkyWalk, with Devonport and Rangiototo Island in the background.

“People walking without shoes on the street. People are surprisingly welcoming, helpful, and approachable. The city was smaller as I expected, but feels huge when using public transport. Almost everything is closed after 7 pm. Biodiversity, the beauty of the country and outdoor activities are a huge plus. In general, I like the system here, coming from a third world country make a huge difference, things feel well organised and planned. Though food and rent are really expensive, houses are old, noisy and cold.”

Frank — Colombia

“Daylight saving time is really surprised me. So many beautiful beaches. Strangers will talk to you and will throw you compliments when you are walking. Vegetables are really expensive, meat and milk are so inexpensive. The size of companies, it’s a big company if there are more than 50 people.”

Yuchun — China

“Positives: People smile to you on the street and greet you even if you don’t know them (latter especially in rural areas), it is accepted to walk barefoot. Negatives: Shops close very early and no cafes are open at acceptable times. Public transport is not as good as in other countries.”

Adam — Hungary

“Lots of parks and outdoor places. Auckland’s hilly roads. Access to lots of beaches. How intense the sun can be during summer. Bike lanes. “4 seasons” in 1 day. How big the moon looks (especially during full moon).”

Stell — Philippines

“The people here are amazingly friendly and seem to care about each other. The first day I was here I was looking at my phone and trying to decide which way I wanted to walk home from Auckland Domain, and someone came over and asked “Do you need help? Is everything OK? Do you know where you’re going?”

I got my chance to pay it forward last month when I noticed a woman by University of Auckland looking at a map and trying to get her bearings. I stopped and helped her find her way to her dormitory. It turns out that she had just arrived from the UK that morning!”

Kris — USA

“Rent is expensive, NZ has more Asians that I thought, and people don’t use cash.”

Malcolm — China

“That the prices for food (especially vegetable and fruits) vary a lot. People love small talk (they randomly talk to you in the streets). Don’t say something (critical) direct to a person. First have a decent conversation and the try to say in nicely. That everyone is using a car. Cycling is not a big thing.”

Mitch — Germany

“Road rage is surprisingly normalized and defended by locals. Highways are often poorly marked and speed limits are not to be trusted.”

Alex — Canada

“Good surprise: How friendly and nice people are on the street and how chilled everyone is. Bad Surprise: How bad the public transport and infrastructure is for such a big modern city with a good economy.”

Hesam — Iran

“I am surprised by the fact that people here are really very friendly, helpful and communal, Kiwis are some of the nicest people I encountered anywhere else. People are very casual about starting a conversation with strangers. The living environment is also something that brings a pleasing change — it is very green here. I also find it straightforward to get settled in, people are not new to seeing a new migrant popping up and assistance is oftenly available for you. If you come from somewhere with a Commonwealth heritage, then rules and regulations here are pretty familiar too. Auckland is a city with a very diverse culture you should probably don’t find it difficult to locate your homesick food.”

Cheonghang — Hong Kong

“People are so nice. Everyone says “Hi, how are you?” and “bye/have a nice day!” and they even say “thank you!” when they get off the bus.”

Matias — Argentina

“Cost of living is expensive (knew before-hand, but still a shock), especially in the city. NZ is very strict about not bringing in potential biological hazards to the environment. They will, at least, question bringing in items such as hiking boots, tents, backpacking packs, etc. Both me (Talent Work Visa) and my wife (Partner of a Working Visa Work Visa) had visa approvals very quickly, less than 2 months. However, that is with us being from the US, having no criminal history, and being healthy adults with no kids.”

Trevor — USA

“Houses here are 1/5 the size of an average third world country house, and 5x the price.”

Stefano — Paraguay

“We did a very good research before we start thinking about relocation to NZ so we were very well prepared but there is one thing which surprises me from time to time. There are actually two of them. First one is left-handed traffic. I knew this before, but it still surprises me from time to time when, crossing the street, the memory of my muscles struggles with the old habit. Secondly, unexpected heavy rains which last from a few mins to a random time. My partner forces me that we should mention very good and cheap coffee on every corner and the size of lemons. Some of them are huge, especially from trees from private gardens.”

Mateusz — Poland

“How quickly, almost instantly, it could feel like home. It’s an astoundingly beautiful country and people are progressive & peaceful. The first few months were tough because I missed my friends in Hong Kong (but then I got a tax rebate so went to see them, so all n all, it worked out).”

Sophia — United Kingdom

It was so peaceful, even during the busiest holiday like christmas. Very beautiful nature, like you got benefits of living in the province/rural nature and the city center modernity. People really like to sunbathe even though UV here is so strong, eating in the park is the norm, and having a chill atmosphere. Everything is small, you can walk the whole CBD in half day. Also turns out I am not really a small guy so much for a surprise.

Jordan — Philippines

“A large portion of stores in the street are closed when you want go shopping in Saturday after lunch.”

Pu — China

What have you learned?

Auckland Harbour on dusk, by Chris-McLennan

“The tech community here is large but surprisingly small at the same time (and the information security community especially so). It is easy to make a big impact if you take part in meetups and organizations. People talk about NZ “punching above their weight”, and it really is true.”

Kris — USA

“English definitely. To trust more in people and to be more tolerant. A huge amount of interesting information and fun facts about different cultures, food, customs, and languages tips. When Auckland is a small city it feels like a big metropolis due to the big amount of foreign people, travelling or living here.”

Frank — Colombia

“It’s a very culture-diverse country, especially IT, sometimes the members of a team come from all over the world. New Zealand is actually a more socialist country than a capitalist one.”

Ivy — China

“NZ is a wonderful place to live in.”

Stell — Philippines

“The landscape is amazing! And everything is nearby when you live in CBD. Unfortunately also all the noisy people, but so many things to do and explore here and you meet people from all these different countries and cultures.”

Sebastian — Germany

“The resurgence of Maori culture and the use of Te Reo is something to be admired. Other countries like Canada can learn a few lessons on overcoming cultural differences and embracing aboriginal peoples. There is widespread conservation efforts over a huge area of NZ. It is also frustratingly countered by locals not wanting to be inconvenienced.”

Alex — Canada

“No, Kiwi accent is not difficult to understand. Yes, this country is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Put on sunscreen, the sun here has to be taken seriously. Always have an umbrella ready in your fetch, weather can be unpredictable. Internet connection is slow here. You will need a car to get to places. Houses may not be properly insulated. The tech industry here is small and is just starting. Utility cost can be more expensive than what you are used to. This country has a low population to share the cost of running the infrastructure.”

Cheonghang — Hong Kong

“There’s so many people from different countries that I’ve learnt a lot of curious things I didn’t know before. Every culture has something interesting to learn.”

Matias — Argentina

“Real estate companies acting as property managers of a rental property seem to not really care about the tenant, only about the money (my unfortunate experience with Impression Real Estate thus far). Kiwis love their passionfruit. Kiwis like weird stuff on pizza, like seafood and pineapple. (Still learning) To look right, first, when crossing the street. Waiheke has some amazing vineyards/wineries to check out.”

Trevor — USA

“Having more time, and a peaceful environment should be enjoyed by everyone on their daily life. Caring more about the environment.”

Jordan — Philippines

“Small talk :) To see some things more relaxed.”

Mitch — Germany

“Patience which is good actually. I have learnt that most of the issues/cases need to have a bit more time to solve. We expected that but it’s still a bit more comparing to I’m used to. I find it as a big “+” because my live slowed down and now I have more time to enjoy it.”

Mateusz — Poland

“That it’s not too much to expect work/ life balance.I’ve also learnt to always pack an umbrella, a down jacket and a swimsuit in my bag so I’m prepared for whatever Mother Mother throws at us on any given day (she changes her mind on an hourly basis here). Oh. Also, there’s an imposter Marmite here which is bad and wrong and bad.”

Sophia — United Kingdom

“Don’t hurry and don’t worry.”

Pu — China

What advice would you give to someone else who’s thinking of relocating?

Auckland Harbour, by Matthew Crawford

“Keep an open mind, enjoy, be prepared to go out of you comfort zone, be ready to hike and go to beautiful beaches close to you, get a good jacket for winter and get ready to be randomly wet on winter, also use sunscreen. It’s easy to get involved with communities of your interest as people here are really easy going. Rent a house could be dramatically stressing, take a careful look since they do not look at all like in the pictures of the add.”

Frank — Colombia

“Keep in mind that NZ is a small country and even though Auckland seems big, it is still a small city. That means there are less activities available and goods can be more expensive. If one likes the calm, this is definitely a place to go.”

Adam — Hungary

“Terrific efforts are needed to be a local here: language, the way of thinking, socialising, etc., especially for people from a completely different culture. A lot of things start from zero. If you are someone loving challenges, this is a place to start.”

Ivy — China

“Be prepared for all kinds of weather, to use lots of sunblock, and to walk a lot.”

Stell — Philippines

“Forget about old lifestyle and be prepared to change for the good things.”

Bauyrzhan — Kazakhstan

“Definitely visit and get a feel for the culture here. Compared to the US, it is much more open, compassionate and progressive. Also do some planning on what you will do to get out into the community when you arrive. Meetups, Facebook groups and professional associations are easy places to get started. NZ is also a very active country, so if you like outdoors sports you’ll feel right at home.”

Kris — USA

“Take it easy! It’ll all work out! Don’t spend money on an immigration advisor if it’s not really necessary. Walk on the left side of the sidewalk when you’re here. Bring sunscreen! Not the normal stuff, but the good one with at least SPF50. No need to bring Winter clothes as it’s not snowing or freezing in Winter.”

Sebastian — Germany

Prepare for a sticker shock at accommodation prices and the quality of the home. Fresh foods are often expensive, especially if they are out of season, take advantage of in season produce. The weather is basically never bad and most travel/tourism can be done at any point in the year.

Alex — Canada

Everything will be fine, even if it doesn’t seem possible at that moment and you can do more things than you ever thought possible. Despite all the problems and costs, it is one of the best things I have ever done. Even if we would decide to go back to Germany in the future, I would never want to miss this time.

The roads in New Zealand are often too bad for a sports car, and the traffic is terrible with many jams. An e-bike is the best way to get around Auckland city. Never have all your money and credit cards in your wallet when you are alone in NZ. You will have severe problems if you lose your wallet. As a German, keep your driver’s license very safe as it is costly and time-consuming to get a new one.

If you need a house for a larger family (4 bedrooms), you should plan a little more time, as it is challenging to find something affordable that is not too far away from CBD.

Dirk — Germany

“Before coming here, try to find a nice place to stay for the first 2–3 weeks so they can relax and have a good first impression and have enough time to search for an apartment, bank account and a sim card.”

Hesam — Iran

“Find a house with heat pump. Find a good and affordable GP.”

Peter — Korea

“Visa for you and your family can be tricky to get sorted, and visa delay is not uncommon. Immigration policy can change very quickly, act quick to grab your chance. Finding a place to rent in Auckland will take time and persistence. Be patient and things will work out, don’t be pushy and stressed out. NZ may not be the best place to make money but you will be rewarded with one of the best living places on earth for you and your family. Nowhere is perfect. There are good and bad for every place. Think what’s more important to you, the choice is yours.”

Cheonghang — Hong Kong

“Take your adventure gear when you go here (just make sure to let the immigration officer know if you are bringing something that needs to be declared) as you are definitely gonna need it. For people that are not used to seasonal weather, you will now need skincare routine, and also a trusty UV lotion if plan to go out for more than 15 mins at high noon (check uv2Day for accurate guide).”

Jordan — Philippines

“Finding a nice place to rent might not be easy. Search hard and if you find something you like apply for it quickly.”

Matias — Argentina

“Get an NZ bank account as soon as possible. You can start the process from overseas. The account is needed to get your IRD number and in turn to get paid! Apartments are often not what they look like on trademe. So, if possible live in a temporary place for a while in order to be able to look at apartments in person. Make sure to get out and meet/hang out with people. There are tons of outdoor activities to be able to do so (I enjoy Ultimate Frisbee). Make sure you are prepared for the weather…supposedly it rains a lot here. Using the public transportation system here is great. Get an AT Hop card to help facilitate this.”

Trevor — USA

“Plan upfront: how you want to live (house, apartment, flatting), how do you want to get to work (bus, car, cycle), research for Meetup Groups for your hobbies.”

Mitch — Germany

“Clothes for a typical European winter are not needed here but it would be useful to remember about good raincoats. In addition, a good sun protection is rather mandatory as New Zealand sunlight can have high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and can cause skin and eye damage. Apart of that it’s a very beautiful country with a lot of friendly people. I highly recommended.”

Mateusz — Poland

“Moving to a new company, a new culture and a new country; then finding a new place to live, new friends and a new normal — it all sounds like a lot to take in. But we’re all capable of doing it and I can’t think of a better way to enrich your life with new experiences and perspectives. This is the third country I’ve relocated to and it’s a charm.”

Sophia — United Kingdom

“Relocating is not a personal decision, it’s a family decision. Yes you have thousands of reasons to relocate, but do count in the effort people surrounding you have to pay when weighting it as a trade off.”

Pu — China

Do you want to move to New Zealand? Here’s some resources from Immigration New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand that might be helpful for you. For jobs, keep an eye on sites like Seek and LookSee.

@PropellerheadNZ

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