Despite being a fairly isolated island country in the southwestern Pacific, expats who are familiar with the USA and Europe are unlikely to experience a significant amount of culture shock in New Zealand.
Maori culture plays an important role in public life and has influenced the dominant culture in the country. However, New Zealand is broadly recognised as a Western country As a former British colony, it still retains the British monarch as its head of state – despite being independent and having its own government.
Open-minded expats who make an effort to learn about the local culture and are realistic about the positives and negatives of living in New Zealand are likely to enjoy life in their new host country.
Socialising in New Zealand
New Zealanders are known to be friendly, helpful and egalitarian. Local residents also tend to be laid back. All of this is reflected in the informal dress code adopted at restaurants and other social occasions.
Children in New Zealand are highly valued and residents take the safety and upbringing of children very seriously. New Zealand societal attitudes focus strongly on the community. Expats are often pleasantly surprised by how helpful strangers can be.
Though locals are generally warm and courteous, they can be reserved which may feel isolating at times. While instances of outright discrimination against foreigners are not frequent, many expats feel, for instance, that the job market is more skewed towards locals. Some expats may also feel that cementing lasting friendships with local residents can be hard.
Aside from feelings of homesickness, however, expats will mostly find themselves adjusting to the culture of the country. Some expats have trouble understanding local slang words. However, this problem is quickly overcome once expats start settling in and mingling with the locals. Expats may be surprised by the drinking culture of New Zealand, as it plays a rather significant role in weekend (and weekday) activities.
Outdoor lifestyle and sports in New Zealand
New Zealanders share a love of the outdoors and staying healthy. Most suburban neighbourhoods have parks where families often take their children in the evenings. There is usually a national park or a range of outdoor activities within driving distance.
As can be seen by the amazing playing fields throughout New Zealand, sport is at the centre of local culture. While sports like cricket, netball and soccer are popular, rugby is decidedly the national sport. The national team, the All Blacks, are one of the strongest sides in the world, having won the Rugby World Cup several times.
Adjusting to life in New Zealand is further influenced by how sparsely populated the country is. This sense of space may take some getting used to. Though many new arrivals end up finding it very enjoyable to have a beach or golf course all to themselves.
Environment and weather in New Zealand
The country's general climate can be a slight culture shock for expats choosing to settle in New Zealand. While rainy and cold weather won’t be unfamiliar for many expats, the standard of insulation in many of the houses in New Zealand is a point of contention for foreigners from countries that are better equipped to deal with the cold.
An accepted part of life for most New Zealanders, and a point of concern for some expats is the constant threat of earthquakes. The country is situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire and New Zealand experiences thousands of earthquakes every year, although the vast majority of them aren’t even felt.
Many residents have an emergency kit in their garage that consists of water, food and medical supplies. This prospect may leave many new arrivals feeling uneasy. However, this is only a safety precaution. Before the tragic earthquake in Christchurch in 2011, the last time that an earthquake caused substantial casualties was in 1931.
Are you an expat living in New Zealand?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to New Zealand. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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