Moving to New Zealand
Expats moving to New Zealand have to make a distinct life choice. The island country is remote, sparsely populated and income levels are low relative to countries such as the USA and the UK.
At the same time, people who live in New Zealand are surrounded by awe-inspiring natural splendour and enjoy a high quality of life. Auckland achieved third place in the 2014 Mercer Quality of Living Survey, while Wellington came 12th out of 221 cities across the world.
Around a fifth of the people living and working in the country were born overseas, and it hosts large communities from the UK, North America, South Africa, the South Pacific, India and China.
Moving to New Zealand with family is especially popular with expats who generally want a fresh start and a better balance between work and life. New arrivals are especially attracted by good state-sponsored healthcare, low crime rates, a society that values children and the environment, and high quality public education.
The country lacks the economic might of larger countries and faces challenges such as a growing income gap and high levels of debt. Nonetheless, to the joy of Kiwis everywhere, the New Zealand economy was recently described as “the envy of the world” by the Australian Treasurer.
The government has made impressive efforts in recent years to address these challenges, resulting in a growing economy and a positive outlook. As a result, there is plenty of opportunity for expats with initiative, energy and optimism.
This is helped by the fact that the country has been experiencing an outflow of young, qualified people moving overseas for quite some time.
As a result, the New Zealand government welcomes prospective expats in a range of industries, provided they have the skills and experience to benefit the local economy. Major sectors and sources of employment include agriculture, finance, tourism and manufacturing.
As a result of the earthquake that struck Christchurch in 2011 and a housing boom around Auckland, there have especially been opportunities for expats from construction-related fields to work in New Zealand.
Seismic activity is a reality of life in the country, and residents experience around 200 felt quakes a year and thousands of earthquakes that are not felt. Thankfully, only two quakes in the last century have caused significant losses; residents usually have emergency plans for their family and schools regularly practice earthquake drills.
Houses in New Zealand are often built out of materials such as wood and plasterboard, which are more flexible and able to cope better with earthquakes than traditional bricks and mortar.
Local accommodation does, however, have a reputation for poor insulation and residents tend to dress warmly rather than warm their homes, which takes some adjustment for many expats.
Despite the population being fairly spread out on average, high demand and shortage of housing, especially in Auckland, means that many residents cannot afford to buy property. As such, many expats prefer to rent property in the country, at least until they get a better understanding of the local market.
Despite its low population density, expats are sometimes surprised to learn that New Zealand’s transport infrastructure is well developed and easily used. Most cities have a public bus network, all of its major cities are linked by rail, and a regular ferry service connects the North and South Islands.
Known to its Māori inhabitants as Aoteoroa, which means “Land of the Long White Cloud”, the country gets its share of cold and rainy weather. Expats will be relieved to know that the country usually does get more sunshine than most European countries.
Expats who commit to their new home and are suited to the laid-back, outdoors lifestyle it offers will find that New Zealand has the potential to be an ideal expat destination.