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An interview with Dawn and Isaac – two British expats living in New Zealand

Updated 11 Dec 2015

Isaac and Dawn left England to start their new lives in Auckland, in 2014. Here they share their experiences of life in New Zealand, and how it differs to England. Dawn's blog Going NZ is a useful resource for expats looking to move or already living in the land of the Kiwis, and the Twitter account is definitely worth a follow too.

About Isaac and DawnAn interview with British expats living in New Zealand

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Falmouth, Cornwall, England

Q: Where are you living now?
A: Auckland, New Zealand

Q: When did you move here?
A: December 2014

Q: Did you move to New Zealand alone or with a spouse/family?
A: Together

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: My long term partner moved to Auckland to set up the New Zealand office of 3WhiteHats, a digital marketing agency. I work in luxury travel helping visitors enjoy the very best of New Zealand.

Living abroad

Q: What do you enjoy most about Auckland? How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country?
A: We both come from a small corner of England (Cornwall) so we were not used to ‘city life’ as such. Once we’d settled in we really started to enjoy having everything on our doorstep and not having to drive 4 hours to get to our nearest airport (just an example!). The weather is undeniably a plus, we live more of an outdoor lifestyle now spending our evenings on our balcony having a BBQ or in the park watching the sunset. Gone are the evenings of sitting watching the box! I am not saying those evenings don’t happen, but they are few and far between.

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: We miss our friends and family, the distance is hard at times. However, technology is so amazing, and we have fibre internet making it really easy to stay in touch, we just have to remember whether we are plus 11,12 or 13 hours!

We also miss Cornish pasties – we have to drive all the way to Cambridge for a decent Cornish pasty.

Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in New Zealand? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: Kiwis are so chilled out compared to Brits, it’s taken a while to get used too!

Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: We haven’t had a chance to compare this properly but without a doubt food (more so in the winter), electricity/Internet and rent is more expensive here. But then we don’t have to pay for council tax or a TV licence, and fuel is cheaper in New Zealand. In fact so is car insurance considering we are living in the busiest and largest city in New Zealand it is still cheaper than back home!

Q: How would you rate the public transport? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?
A: We do need a car still, although we do have everything on our door step – but we do like to escape the city at least once a week, we usually head out west where there are some beautiful beaches like Piha and Bethall’s Beach – we are from a beachside town, so we miss the sand in between our toes! Generally we both cycle to work as we’re just outside of the CBD and the cycle network we think is excellent!

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in your city? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences regarding doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: No experiences yet, fingers crossed.

Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in the city? What different options are available for expats?
A: We were surprised to hear on the news about the low quality of rentals, but have not personally experienced issues as we live in a modern apartment. The only issue we faced when we moved here is related to references and credit checks, we found agents to be a bit wary of us as we technically had no NZ history. With such high demand for housing in Auckland, we applied for 5 or more apartments and only one got in touch with us, we suspect this was related to us being new to the country.

Q: Any areas/suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Auckland has some really great funky suburbs that we have discovered whilst living here. Ponsonby and Kingsland are our favourites. But they are one of the most expensive areas to live in Auckland. We are fortunate enough to live in walking distance of these areas and for young twenty-something expats it is a great place to meet new people and explore some trendy bars and cafés.

Meeting people and making friends

Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there any obvious discrimination against particular religions or women etc.?
A: We haven’t experienced any problems other than the slight teasing about our accent and the way we say things! We’ve yet to be called a bunch of miserable poms!!

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: This has been our biggest challenge moving here. Getting work and finding a flat was in fact the easy part. We have joined a few clubs (tennis & mountain biking) and been to a few social gatherings via ‘Meet Up’ but mainly we have made friends through other Brits, work and an old school friend from Cornwall.

Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends? Any social/expat groups you can recommend?
A: We have predominantly British friends who are expats also living in New Zealand. However, we’ve a growing group of Kiwi friends and expats of other nationalities.

About working in New Zealand

Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: I got a partnership visa as my partner is a NZ citizen. I applied for my visa around 3 months prior to coming here, I did it myself, and I was surprised how easy it was. The immigration department of NZ has one of the best immigration websites around, even with handy check lists to ensure you don’t miss a document.

Q: What’s the economic climate like in Auckland? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job there? Which resources did you find most useful?
A: We’d recommend researching your job before you head out here, or try to ‘move’ your job with you. Wages and living costs in Auckland where we are particularly uneven!

Q: How does the work culture differ from home? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in Auckland?
A: I’d say it’s pretty much the same, though there is an awful lot of high tea here!

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Be realistic, put on your friendliest smile and save for the unexpected. We don’t regret anything we’ve done in our lives together in New Zealand.

Lastly New Zealand is a world away and if you are moving from the UK or Europe, you need to be prepared not to see family as often and to make long trips if loved ones need you.

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