Fiona Gilston is a Scottish expat living in New Zealand. She moved to Christchurch in search of a change from her life in Scotland, and with no specific plans on where to settle, she met a Kiwi and has now made Christchurch her home. Fiona has come to love Christchurch and the more relaxed lifestyle and various outdoor activities that the city has to offer.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Glasgow in Scotland, UK
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Central Christchurch, New Zealand
Q: When did you move to New Zealand?
A: February 2012
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: No, I moved on my own.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I moved to NZ as I wanted a change from my current life in Scotland. I had no specific plans on where exactly to settle when I got here, but after meeting a Kiwi, I settled in Christchurch to be with him. I work as a vet, filling temporary positions as a locum.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Christchurch; how’s the quality of life?
A: I've come to love Christchurch over this year because of its resilience after the earthquakes, and I love watching the city evolve as time goes by. I love the more relaxed way of life here. I enjoy walking and biking around the various parks and reserves, and it is a handy location for the beautiful Banks Peninsula.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: Due to the need to import a lot of goods, I find many things expensive, especially books, DVDs and electronics.
Q: Is Christchurch safe?
A: I have never felt unsafe whilst out and about; however, my partner's vehicle was broken into last year.
About living in Christchurch
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Christchurch as an expat?
A: I live within the CBD, and there are a few expats living close by. It is close to everything I need: work, shopping, nightlife and entertainment. Riccarton, Papanui, and Sydenham are all locations that are beginning to thrive again after the earthquakes
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation in Christchurch?
A: I rent a lovely two-bedroom flat that I am very happy with. I did, however, spend a few months living in a converted hotel through the winter, and it was deathly cold with no central heating.
Q: What’s the cost of living in Christchurch compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Rental costs are less than back home, but I latterly lived in Aberdeen which was very expensive in relation to the rest of Scotland. I find eating out is delightfully affordable, but yet my supermarket bills are dearer. Petrol is cheaper, but electronics are more expensive.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: Kiwis are very friendly and generally very approachable. As my partner is a Kiwi, I mix mainly with Kiwis outside of work, and mainly with Kiwis within work.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: Everyone I know in New Zealand I have met through my work or my partner. So far, the only social thing I've had time to do outside of these two aspects is attending a Zumba class and there are plenty of them about.
About working in Christchurch
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit for New Zealand?
A: I arrived on a working holiday visa which was granted within three days of applying for it. I extended my visa whilst within New Zealand which was a bit more involved, but this was still issued within three weeks of starting the application process.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Christchurch, is there plenty of work?
A: The situation in Christchurch does not reflect the situation in the country as a whole. There is currently a great need for construction and related occupations, and this will be the case for the foreseeable future. It was recently reported that there was a shortage of people to work in the food services industry as new cafés and restaurants start to (re)open their doors across the city.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: I generally work fewer hours in Christchurch than I did in Scotland, and I get more public holidays here. Having said that, I did not work as a contractor in the UK, so it is not a true comparison.
Family and children
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: My partner is originally from Auckland, and therefore, he is relatively new to Christchurch too, but he has also settled in very well
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in New Zealand?
A: I have used both general and out-of-hours clinics since I've been here, and was seen to promptly and efficiently on all occasions. Despite having to pay for my health care, unlike in the UK, I haven't found it particularly expensive, and my out-of-hours visit was subsidised by the ACC scheme (accident insurance for personal injury).
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: With regards to New Zealand as a whole, expect to be met by a rather friendly bunch of people, full of banter. With regards to Christchurch, come with an open mind – the current state of the city can be a bit of a shock on first arrival, but it is a fantastic place to be once you submerge yourself into all it has to offer.
~ Interviewed February 2013