I am part of a FaceBook group for South Africans wanting to live in New Zealand and one of the questions constantly asked by potential immigrants is what is emigrating to New Zealand really like?
Its a big step to uplift your family and move to another country and wanting to know if you will fit in is quite natural.
If you are contemplating emigrating to New Zealand this post – will provide you with insight into what to expect when you get here.
Take into account that it is written from my own experience (and point of view) with my Rhodesian and South African background.
New Zealand is made up of immigrants from many nations – the result is a multi-cultural society with diverse interests, food tastes, religious beliefs, customs and traditions. I love the cosmopolitan feel to the place.
What I have experienced will be different to everyone else but will hopefully give you a better idea of what to expect and soften the surprises you might receive.
I can tell you at the outset that when you meet fellow countrymen the first question will inevitably be “How long have you been here?”
If your answer is less than 6 months expect a loud and collective groan – that’s just to let you know you have a learning curve to go through that is hard to understand at times.
Why is that?
After all this is New Zealand right?
They play rugby, have braais (OK barbies – short for BBQ and “I can adapt to that!”) and speak English – what could be so difficult?
Read on …
Why Choose New Zealand – is it the similarities with “home”?
We all have a different reason for choosing a particular country to settle in.
Our primary reason for choosing New Zealand was because we knew a one couple that lived here and my wife’s sole surviving aunt lives here.
Our secondary reason was that we could get in.
Neither of us had hereditary links to anywhere else, except one rather tenuous link to Scotland through my wife. However, England or Mud Island (as some call it), never appealed to either of us even if it was a remote possibility.
We are 6th or 7th generation Children of Africa, and emigrating to US or Canada (both considered) may well have been more difficult.
Many immigrants arrive in a new country not knowing a soul and that would, I imagine, be pretty tough.
We were fortunately met by our friends and the aunt and taken to the aunt’s home for a couple of days as we overcame the jet lag.
The timing of our move was determined by the children’s ages. They were 12 and 10 at the time and we felt it wise to have them settled before starting high school.
What is similar to home (and what’s not)?
The main language is English.I don’t think I could have moved at age 44 to learn another language and try to find employment. I suppose if you have to you do.
Te Reo Maori is also widely spoken and people are encouraged to learn it.
There are of course pockets of society where a particular group of people may have settled and their language dominates – for example Chinese, Korean, German, Russian etc. You will also find a lot of eastern European Languages in New Zealand.
If you’re longing to hear Afrikaans you won’t need to go far to find it -Browns Bay on Auckland’s north shore is like little Pretoria with its large South African community and SA shops all over the place – biltong and wors are readily available!!
New Zealanders love their sport.Top of the list are the All Blacks, the best rugby side in the word.
Other popular sports here include netball (second only to rugby) cricket, hockey, horse riding and jumping, cycling, rowing, golf, snow-skiing and snow-boarding and a plethora of other sports.
As a golf fanatic I was delighted with the number of golf courses New Zealand has but shocked when I played my first round to learn that they don’t stop after 9 holes for a bite to eat and something to drink.
We thought the food would be the same but, to be honest, got quite a shock.New Zealander’s didn’t eat as well as we did “back home”.
Home meals were very bland and much of it processed. The sausages tasted like cardboard and seemed to be served at every second meal with gallons of tomato ketchup (sauce).
A favourite fundraiser for schools is what is known as a “sausage sizzle” – sausages done on a gas hot-plate and served in a folded slice of bread with fried onions and tomato sauce. Yuk!
Restaurants were equally bland with below average service, compared to what we were used to in Johannesburg with the abundance of top-quality restaurants providing superb cuisine and outstanding service.
I am very pleased to report that things have improved greatly since we arrived – either that or I have adjusted downwards.
I credit this welcome reversal to the diverse cultures that have arrived on our shores in the past 10 to 15 years.While expensive in comparison to South Africa (and most other immigrants say the same thing) the choice is huge and the quality and service are both excellent these days.
The Differences No-One Tells You About …
You will find quite a few unexpected differences – some pleasant and others not so much.
Not that anyone is hiding anything from you – it’s just that these things are taken for granted, they are what they are – the way things are done here.
Remember it is you that has moved and left familiar ways back home
First The Good Stuff
New Zealand is pristine – beyond what you have heard.
You were probably expecting this, but I doubt you realise just how pristine New Zealand is.
The views are out of this world – almost every corner has a view that is drop dead gorgeous and of course the flora and fauna is totally different to the African bush.Evergreen and lush it is hard to believe that we have no snakes or dangerous animals here beyond wild boar.
But that is the bush and landscape.
What truly amazed me is how pristine and clean the cities and country roads are.
Grass verges are well maintained (some by goats tethered to a line, with little goat kennels to keep them dry), fences are ramrod straight, hay bales look like they come out of a factory and everything is spick and span.
I really wish my father, who farmed in Rhodesia, could have seen the farms here.
Cities and their streets are impeccably clean. New Zealand culture is such that any stray rubbish is soon dispensed with by the average citizen. There are litter bins everywhere.And not only litter bins – in designated dog walking areas you can usually get bags for cleaning up after your dog, these bags are supplied by the local council.
So yeah the place is beautiful, clean and things work!
Expect to walk around with a big smile on your face as you gasp at virtually EVERYTHING!
Public Toilets are not only usable … you’ll want to “go” more often.
We’re very proud of our loos in New Zealand, they’re not only well maintained, replenished and cleaned regularly. – they’re a tourist attraction and a source of pride in certain towns.
Ladies you’re not going to have to worry about an uninvited spider nipping you on your Hoohar … seriously how often do you go into a public toilet and worry about this?
Don’t spend too much time casing the loos out – our public and police are an alert bunch and may decide you are creepy (kidding of course, if you want to hang out at the loos feel free).
Public Services in General – Fast and Efficient.
Arriving in New Zealand we were struck by the incredible efficiency of the place – “stuff” works here.
Our new home landline was installed within 24 hours of applying, back home in South Africa it used to be a 6-week wait. Here they even gave us a choice of available numbers.
Move into a new house and there’s inevitably a note from the electricity supplier to say they have left the power on for your convenience, and please to contact them when you are settled! There is no load-shedding here.
The postal and courier services are world-class. In most cases mail or parcels are delivered within 24 hours and seldom take longer than 2 days.
The tax system is simple and efficient – you do not want to fall foul of these guys! Being an efficient and effective tax system goes a long way to explaining why things work. It’s very comforting in New Zealand to see what your tax dollar is spent on. Although our government and local councils (in particular) still have a way to go on prioritising where to spend funds. As an example of money wasted we have the recent “flag referendum” and “capital gains tax’ exercises – you can’t please all the people all the time.
Of course, we recently had that madman, in Christchurch, gun down people while they were at a place of worship but incidents like that are extremely rare.
Children can walk around here and ride their bikes on the street.
Women walk around at night alone in almost any area and walkers, joggers, cyclists, mothers with prams etc. are a dime a dozen. It’s a way of life here.
Yes we do have crime and, with an increasing population comes increased crime. The increase has been quite dramatic since we arrived (not our fault). You do need to use common sense and stay alert – but nothing like in South Africa.
Houses still do not have burglar bars here and most don’t have fences or walls. Cars are parked on streets with no fear of them going missing overnight.Your biggest risk here is from an earthquake – we’ve lost about 453 lives in the past 100 years. Our road toll, which is among the lowest in the world, is worse than that. You can stop worrying about earthquakes!
Silence is GOLDEN.
Suburbs are eerily devoid of the sound of barking dogs. I assume it is because they are taken on daily walks where they mix with other dogs and dog-owners. Not being cooped up behind a fence all day they are socially interactive with their own and other species and don’t feel the need to bark at every passing thing.
That reminds me to another silence that I take for granted these days – the sound of car hooters. I don’t think I have heard a driver toot his horn in over a year – it just doesn’t seem to be a thing here. Imagine living in Johannesburg without hearing a car horn!
Good Education at All Levels.
School fees are low here despite that people complain about paying a small fee for extras for extra-curricular activities.
Schooling is supposed to be free and it is for those who really can’t afford it.
My children are past their school days now so I don’t know all the details but you can read more about schooling in New Zealand here: https://www.newzealandnow.govt.nz/living-in-nz/education/school-system.
We have a lot of excellent universities and post-graduate colleges.
Many of the students that attend our universities come from outside New Zealand, mainly Asian countries, and pay a small fortune to do so. Foreign students studying in New Zealand bring in a lot of revenue – not only in fees but also in supporting local accommodation suppliers and of course general day to day living.
You really cannot possibly write about New Zealand without mentioning the outdoor activities and opportunities that abound in this country – and in almost all cases they are free to use.
We have public BBQ (braai) facilities all over the place. And by “all over the place” I mean the many public beaches and Domains.
“What’s a domain?”
I thought you would never ask – this is another unfamiliar name to immigrants but it is nothing sinister.
A domain is an area set aside for public use and owned by the public.
They are maintained by the local council and are all beautiful places to spend the day. There are thousands of domains in New Zealand. One of the best known is the Auckland Domain.
Then there are the water activities.
Fishing, swimming, yachting, boating, skiing, canoeing, kayaking, snorkeling, wind-surfing, paddle-boarding, jet skiing, trout fishing – the list just goes on and on.
Leaving the water behind we move inland to the many hiking trails.
If you have about 4 months to spare and can cover 25kms a day you can take The Long Pathway – Te Araroa (don’t try to pronounce it till you’ve been here a while) – from the top of the North Island to the very bottom of the South Island. It’s a 3,000 km hike that is probably best tackled in stages unless you really do have 4 months to spare.
Make sure you have a good camera with you. In fact if you’re coming to New Zealand bring a good camera with you.
And of course New Zealand is world-famous for our snow-skiing (not free), bungee jumping, para-sailing, gliding, our glacier rides (expect to pay big bucks) and a host of other things.
We are particularly world famous in our own minds – but that’s ok we can be if we so choose.
Combine all these activities with our extremely long summer days (thanks to daylight saving)
I think you get the picture – this place is Paradise and you really do need to see and experience if for yourself.
The Public Health System is Excellent.
I can speak from personal experience here, having undergone major surgery to remove a lipoma from my left buttock all for free.
That maybe a bit too much information for you but I can tell you that having an expense op, for free, to relieve an uncomfortable and possibly debilitating condition is something I will be eternally grateful for.
Because the public health system is so good the NZ Immigration Authority is very strict on medical conditions for new immigrants.
If you have a condition that is likely to be a drain on the health systems funds you may find it difficult to get accepted. It is what it is and there is no way around this other than to have your own insurance – but then who is to say you will keep up with the premiums?
It’s a tough one and I can only say that I will be eternally grateful that I was healthy when we moved here.
What May Be New To You (and Possibly Uncomfortable)
The Weather and Daylight Saving.
The weather is another subject that can’t be avoided if you are talking about New Zealand.
We have every type of weather here and then some, it can rain horizontally!
People aren’t joking when they say “If you don’t like the weather in New Zealand just wait five minutes” you literally can have all 4 seasons in one day.
But that is probably a bit unfair because you do get used to the long, wet, cold spells.
What you may not know is that we have incredibly stunning summer weather. Long summer days that stretch well into the night with the sun finally taking a well-earned rest as late as 9.30 pm. Coming home from work in summer is like having a whole new day ahead of you before you turn in.
You will find your energy levels high and your children will look at you askance as you tell them to go to bed when the sun still blazing high in the sky.
“Come on kids it’s a school-day tomorrow.”
Many’s the day we teed off for a game of golf after 5.00 pm managing to play 18 holes with ease – golfers will understand.
Conversely, winter can be gloomy with weak sunrises unwillingly appearing at around 7.00 am and rushing through the day to go into hiding as early as 5.30 pm. Winter days can be cold windy and wet and you will hear phrases such as “It’s a good day for washing“. Winter is a great time to catch up with your indoor hobbies and Netflix/Lightbox viewing.
From a golf perspective – if you haven’t teed off by 12.30 pm you will finish in the dark – done that a lot too.
Tipping is Not Expected.
This was rather strange to us coming from South Africa where a gratuity for service, especially in restaurants, is a given.
In NZ it is not usually expected and is often discouraged.
It is changing though but if you do not leave a tip no-one will think badly of you.
In a cashless society where we use EFTPOS for 99% of our transactions tipping is often not even considered.
New Zealand Socialism.
I wrote earlier that New Zealanders are very supportive of the “underdog”- except when that underdog is playing one of their sporting teams, that’s a totally different story.
Here we care about things relating to the planet, conservation, minorities etc.
I don’t think we are a socialist society per se but we do pick up our posters and rally and march against, or in support of, issues we feel strongly about.
Our government is selected using the controversial MMP system where the tail can often wag the dog and smaller political parties with as little as 10% (or less) of the vote can have more sway than a political party with above 40%.
The MMP system seems to work and a recent referendum confirmed it is what the majority of New Zealanders want.
As part of this socialism trait we have a very good Ministry of Social Development that takes care of our sick, elderly and less fortunate citizens.
Although we have them, we don’t like to see the homeless and people in need without food and a roof over their heads.
Is New Zealand Expensive or Cheap?
The short answer to this is both.
Here is a link to a cost of living calculator to give you a better idea. Cost of Living in New Zealand
It all depends on what you are comparing and where you are coming from.
We have some of the most expensive housing in the world with average house prices in Auckland being just over NS$ 900K. To put that in perspective this equates to roughly ZAR8.4 million, £1.6 million or USS1.4 million. As Auckland is the main centre where some 2/3 rds of the population live it distorts the national averages somewhat but not to any great extent.
Expect to pay a lot of money, or high rent, for a very average property when you get here.
A further high expense you need to factor in is maintenance costs of houses. We have some severe and prolonged weather conditions here that take a toll on housing construction material – especially the older cheaper houses.
Your weekends can often be taken up with essential maintenance chores and money gobbled up with updating and upgrading your home. All adds up to making ends hard to meet while taking you away from enjoying the great outdoors that New Zealand has to offer.
Food is expensive by world standards – even locally produced items are more expensive as we have to compete with the export market that is far more attractive to our local farming and dairy industry.
Pretty annoying that avos and fruit grown here are cheaper to buy somewhere else in the world. The price of an avocado can be as high as NS$6.00 in winter.
Can you tell I love avos?
On the other side of the coin insurance is relatively cheap and there’s the free schooling and public-health services I mentioned.
I think the hardest thing for a new immigrant is to accept that the money you saved so hard and long to accumulate can lose up to 90% of its value.
My nephew in South Africa has a beautiful property with a separate income generating flat that he bought for ZAR2 million. If he sold it and converted his Rands to NZ dollars he would have less than $200,000 that wouldn’t buy a shed here.
Work Opportunities in New Zealand.
Following on the subject of costs must come work opportunities and the news is not so good here either.
I am not sure what it is about to New Zealand – I suspect a large part of it is our labor laws that may discourage the business sector from hiring staff.
Legally employers cannot discriminate agains any applicant or employee for any reason. A new employee cannot be dismissed (fired) in the first 90 days for any, but the most severe. I suspect this is a disincentive for small business owners considering expansion.
Add to that our generous maternity leave for both partners and you start to realise that maybe, just maybe, our social concern for our fellow citizen is limiting our opportunities for growth as a country.
When vacancies do occur employers legally have to advertise the position, even though they may have a perfect candidate within the organisation. The very noble reasoning for this is to give everyone an equal opportunity to apply for the position.
But as noble as intended it does not work in real life.
From my own experience and from what I have heard the result is hopeful prospects find themselves applying for a position that has already been allocated to someone else. This is certainly one instance where the law is an ass! (In my opinion that is.)
And before you ask – I do not have an answer to the problem. All I can suggests (and highly recommend) is finding an alternative source of income – see the paragraph entitled “What I Would Do Differently and Why” that follows below.
Everyone seems to have a job and the official unemployment rate is a low at 4.3% – low that is, unless you are one of the unemployed.
Despite this high level of employment, just about everyone seems to be looking for a job, we seem to have a great number of people on social benefits and the homeless numbers are growing.
The net growth in population is driven by new immigrants – all of whom have to find employment.
Many is the story in the media of qualified immigrants only able to secure employment way below their level of expertise.
It’s baffling but New Zealand seems to break immigrants down before allowing them to prosper. It’s almost as if you have to prove yourself to them before they recognise your skills.
Proving yourself is fair enough but having qualification from an international acceptable institution should at least open the door a fraction – I would have thought.
Maybe it’s a way of protecting Kiwis from outsiders.
Or maybe it is because 2/3 rds of the entire population live in Auckland all chasing the same openings; employers can afford to be fussy and negotiate hard.
I just don’t know.
What I do know is that since my arrival the immigration requirements have been changed in favour of those with skills that the country needs at any given time.
In the old days a qualification, such as a law, accounting or medical degrees, carried a lot of weight. These days we may have too many lawyers, accountants and doctors and may need welders, boat builders, horticulturists, arborist etc.
The list changes as needs change and positions are filled.
I understand that the requirements have been further fine-tuned to specific regions that require specific skills. If you have a skill that is listed as “a skill shortage” and are prepared to work out of Auckland and other main centres you are pretty much assured of acceptance.
Click here to see if your particular skill-set, work experience or qualification is in demand.
This is a very touchy subject in certain quarters and seldom spoken about in public.
NZ is a multi-racial, multi-cultural society and we do not tolerate racism in any form – to this extent we have a Race Relations Commissioner.
Or should I say we should have?
At the time of writing this post the position of Race Relations Commissioner has been vacant for 9 months. You can read more about that here.
Suffice to say that the very fact that we have such a position is telling and that racism, in one form or another, does unfortunately still rear its head in New Zealand.
Please do not arrive here with a racist attitude – there is absolutely no place for it and it serves no positive purpose.
A Uniquely Quaint New Zealand Tradition.
On a lighter side and not written in law – Kiwis have a rather strange relationship with ducks.
Once a year for a few weeks during the hunting season they blast them out of the sky for sport and for the pot.
For the rest of the year the ducks are the darlings of our society – we even have duck crossings on our roads.
Beware the motorist who does not yield to the ducks.
Are New Zealanders a Friendly Bunch?
What really surprised us when we first arrived was just how friendly Kiwis are – or are they?
We found that the public is extremely friendly – when out in public.
Getting to know them is a whole new ball game as they are a pretty private lot.
And who can blame them?
You can hardly expect to arrive here and have people flocking to meet you when they have a life-long friends and a life of their own. Not their problem that you decided to move so don’t expect to get invited to dinners or even a BBQ at the drop of a hat – this isn’t Johannesburg.
It’s up to you to make the first move.
Expect some resistance and do not expect a reciprocal invite – seriously you are acting a bit weird to them.
It takes time, a lot of time, Kiwis are seldom in a rush and they value their private space.
But it’s not all doom and gloom – after the first rugby season (2 at most) when they have thumped the Springboks on several occasions they will be ready to be your pal for life.
Just make sure you support the Springboks and they lose.
The former is easy to do and the latter takes care of itself these days.
When a Kiwi refers to you as a “hard case” he doesn’t mean you are an axe-wielding serial killer – he actually means you’re a really good guy or gal – you will have arrived!
In the meanwhile get involved with the numerous groups and associations of your fellow-countrymen, they are everywhere.
What I Would Do Differently and Why
Hindsight gives one 20/20 vision doesn’t it?
Looking back on our experience there are a few things I would change and much that I wouldn’t.
I would still choose New Zealand over any other place. It is a wonderfully peaceful country with very few issues, and those that we have are minor.
I believe that getting here as young as you can is a big plus. Life was very good in South Africa and it was hard enough to tear ourselves away from our beautiful home, family and friends but had we come 10 years earlier life would have been so much easier and more comfortable now – I may even have become an All Blacks supporter!
Family would have been harangued (lovingly of course) to consider joining us – we seriously miss them all and a mass migration with all our siblings and cousins here would have been fantastic. Alas that was not the case.
Thank goodness for WhatsApp, Skype and FaceBook. Not quite the same as the real thing but fantastic to have.
Knowing what I do now about Affiliate Marketing I would have started at least 3 years before we left so that on arrival we would have had an existing online business providing us with a steady income in US dollars. Of course, I knew nothing about it then and Wealthy Affiliate University didn’t exist, but as I said “knowing what I know now”.
My advice to anyone thinking of emigrating anywhere is to start an online business as soon as possible and really knuckle down for 6 months to 2 years. Time goes very quickly and Internet Affiliate Marketing is an ideal way to create a business that can easily provide you with a 6 figure income in a relatively short space of time.
If you want to learn more about Internet affiliate marketing Wealthy Affiliate University, what they offer and how you can benefit read my WA University Review. I’ve been a member since 2006.
I would have saved much more, lived a more frugal life, not bought that fancy Mercedes 2 years before we left, and accumulated as much foreign currency as I could have by saving. To arrive here with some serious money (in a strong currency) and a residual income is the dream – it really is.
A few regrets there but the greatest pleasure I have is seeing my kids settled, married and safe, albeit with ridiculously large mortgages. But I am sure they will cope.
OMG look how I have prattled on!
If you are still with me I want to thank you for your patience and perseverance – you’ll need both if you emigrate.
Let me wind up this article with a quick summary.
- First of all it is a beautiful country with wonderful people – you won’t regret emigrating to New Zealand.
- Expect things to be different and possibly a bit of a struggle at first.
- There are no servants and the whole family will need to chip in with the household chores – mum certainly cannot be expected to do everything.
- DIY becomes part of your life – but it can be fun
- Most of the really good stuff is FREE and can be done as a family. The Best quality time you will ever have.
- Accept that the All Blacks will continue to dominate the Springboks – hey it’s not that bad and eventually you may even tire of rugby as there is so much of it here on TV.
That’s it folks – thanks for reading and please remember to leave me your thoughts. Hope to see you soon.
6 responses to “Emigrating To New Zealand – (What it’s like)”
Can I come live in NZ?
Had to smile – does it sound appealing?
Its a lovely country – and you would love the outdoors.
Why not come for a visit (LSD)?
Look See Decide not not Lets Smoke Dope – not that you do and not that I would encourage it.
It’s a great summary Lawrence. I could say ditto for oz experience.
Wonderful to read real English as it should be written. Well presented and useful x actually you could have mentioned child care and facilities and how good they are x.
Thanks for reading and the comments.
I thought about adding a lot of things (and I might still) but at around 6000 words I decided to cut it off before you the readers fell asleep.
Maybe I should do a second page as I think I could write as much on things that I haven’t mentioned.
Hope you’re enjoying your choice of Oz.
You’re a “hard guy” Lawrence!
Haha – It’s “hard case” Ted.
Thanks for stopping by and commenting I appreciate you taking the time.