Wendy is a British expat who has moved home with her family several times in the last decade.
Read more about New Zealand in the Expat Arrivals New Zealand country guide or read more expat experiences in New Zealand.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I was born and raised on the outskirts of London. Most of my family is still there, so it’s still the place I think of as my roots, my original home, even though I don’t get back there very often.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: I live in Wellington, New Zealand.
Q: How long have you lived in Wellington?
A: I’ve lived in Wellington since May 2011, although I actually left the UK back in January 2004.
I originally emigrated from the UK to Auckland, but after four years there my husband’s job took us overseas for three years (first to the Falkland Islands and then to Central Australia). When the time came for us to return to New Zealand the best job opportunities were in Wellington, so fate brought us here instead of back to Auckland.
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: I originally left the UK with my husband (who was then just a boyfriend!). Both of my children were born overseas (one in New Zealand and one in the Falkland Islands), and we got married here in NZ.
Q: Why did you move to New Zealand; what do you do?
A: Back in London we had both been working in tourism for a number of years, mostly in the Australia/New Zealand holiday sector. We’d travelled here countless times and lived and breathed it while we were in the office. We knew we loved New Zealand and always dreamt of living here one day – time went on, and we knew we had to give it a go before it was too late, so we booked our tickets, originally planning a 12-month trial, but three weeks after we arrived we knew we’d be staying and have never looked back!
Q: What do you enjoy most about Wellington, how’s the quality of life?
A: I am still getting to know Wellington, but the longer I live here the more I love it. It’s a fantastic city because it’s so small (less than half a million population) but still has all the facilities you’d expect in a capital. It’s quick and easy to get around, and has easy access to some of the world’s best wilderness areas as well as all the theatres, restaurants and culture you could ask for.
Q: Any negatives?
A: Wellington is built on a major tectonic fault line, and the risk of earthquakes is always at the back of my mind. The kids regularly practise “drop, cover, hold” drills at school, and we have emergency kits at home in case the worst should happen.
Q: Is Wellington safe? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: Apart from the risk of natural disasters, Wellington is a very safe city by international standards. Apply common sense and you should be fine.
Q: How would you rate the public transport in Wellington? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car in Wellington?
A: The public transport system around the city is awesome! There’s an extensive, regular and affordable train and bus network that takes you to most suburbs. I’d say it’s best to have a car as well though as it helps in exploring the region – there’s so much to do around Wellington that you really don’t want to miss out on!
Q: How would you rate the healthcare?
A: It’s not free like it was back in the UK. Each time I go to the GP I have to pay $70 for a 15-minute appointment, which can put you off going. However, it’s a good service and you feel well looked after. And luckily there is no charge for under 6s.
About living in New Zealand
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Wellington as an expat?
A: Most suburbs are great, so it really just depends on what sort of lifestyle you’re looking for and what your budget is – e.g. beach-side, mountains, central city, etc.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Wellington?
A: Houses in New Zealand have their own distinct character, which is very different to what I was used to in the UK – the rows of Victorian/Edwardian, brick, semi-detached and terraced housing doesn’t exist here. Instead, there’s a real eclectic mix including rustic weatherboard villas clinging to the hillsides and architecturally designed modern homes with beautiful harbour views. The only downside is it’s not so common to find central heating or double glazing here. You need to put a bit of money and work in to stop your house from getting cold and damp in the winter.
Q: What’s the cost of living in New Zealand compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Compared to London it’s much cheaper. Our home in London was a one-bedroom flat, and for roughly the same budget here you’d get a 3-bedroom/2-bathroom house.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: In Auckland we mainly mixed with other expats because we already had a lot of connections there who had also moved from the UK. Here in Wellington we have become good friends with one British expat family, but other than that we are just enjoying spending time with local people. Most of them have spent time in London in their younger days, so we have lots in common!
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in Wellington?
A: The beauty of having school-aged children is that there are so many opportunities for meeting other parents. It takes a while, but the more people you make an effort to meet, the more people you find who you have something in common with. We have met some fantastic people – some who’ve lived in Wellington their whole lives and others who’ve moved here from other parts of New Zealand.
~ Interviewed in August 2012