- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals New Zealand Guide (PDF)
New Zealand has long been a destination of choice for expats and shows no sign of slowing down. After all, the emerald expanses of New Zealand have much to offer those lured by its natural beauty, high quality of life and excellent safety record.
Still, it's not all sunshine and roses, and new arrivals will inevitably experience both benefits and drawbacks. Expats should prepare themselves for the reality of the transition to ensure that their stay in New Zealand is as fulfilling and comfortable as possible.
We've put together a list of pros and cons of moving to New Zealand.
Government and policies in New Zealand
+ PRO: Swift and successful action against Covid-19
With consistently low rates of transmission, New Zealand's largely successful response to Covid-19 has influenced countless policies around the world. The country acted quickly and decisively at the beginning of the pandemic, putting a hard lockdown in place and closing borders. This helped slow and in some cases entirely halt the spread of Covid-19 in New Zealand – at times, the country has been completely Covid-free, a feat few other countries around the world can claim.
+ PRO: Progressive government
The New Zealand government has been praised for its progressive policies focused on the wellbeing of its citizens. Five major priorities have been put forward by the government: reducing child poverty, improving mental health, addressing inequalities experienced by the Maori and Pacific Islanders, transitioning to a green economy and thriving in a digital age. The national budget will be spent only on furthering progress in these areas, while many other countries around the world operate from a less 'people-based' perspective, opting to put funds into economics rather than improving the wellbeing of citizens.
+ PRO: It’s one of the least corrupt places in the world
New Zealand was ranked first, tying with Denmark, on the 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index. Some of the political scandals are laughable, purely because they’re so minor compared with those of other countries.
Environment and weather in New Zealand
+ PRO: It has an astonishing amount of beautiful scenery
In terms of natural scenery, New Zealand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. For such a small country, it has an amazing range of landscapes, including rainforests, glaciers, mountains, deserts, plains, fjords and a variety of coastlines.
+ PRO: New Zealand has great weather
New Zealand’s climate is a temperate one. It rarely gets too cold or too hot, although it definitely has more sunshine than rain. Winters are warm on the North Island, but the South Island can experience some snow. New Zealand is about the only country in the world where one could, theoretically, swim at the beach and ski down a mountain on the same day.
- CON: There are a lot of mosquitos and sandflies
When moving to New Zealand, prepare to deal with itchy mosquito and sandfly bites. The first summer is always the worst, and expats should make sure to use insect repellent when enjoying the warm evenings. It may also be a good idea to take insect repellent to the beach.
- CON: Skin cancer is a concern
New Zealand is a gloriously sunny country. Unfortunately, it’s right under a hole in the ozone layer. This means that New Zealand experiences higher amounts of UV rays, increasing the prevalence of sunburn and skin cancer. The strong sunshine also means that anything placed next to a window at home will lose its colour very quickly.
Safety and location in New Zealand
+ PRO: It’s one of the safest places in the world
New Zealand was ranked second on the 2021 Global Peace Index. The crime rate is extremely low and religious tolerance is high.
- CON: It’s rather isolated from the rest of the world
New Zealand is a small island country at the bottom of the world. This means that New Zealanders have to fly a long way if they want to visit any other country that isn’t Australia or one of the Pacific Islands. This makes overseas holidays very expensive and many expats find that they cannot afford to visit relatives back home as often as they’d like to. New Zealand's distance from the rest of the world also increases the cost of imported goods.
Lifestyle in New Zealand
+ PRO: It’s a laid-back country
New Zealand is the place to go for a relaxed lifestyle. People don’t expect too much, so the work-life balance emphatically favours life. The same is true within the schooling system.
+ PRO: It’s uncrowded
New Zealand is just slightly larger than Britain, yet it has only about 5 million people in it. Auckland is the only place in the country where one needs to worry about traffic. The beaches are peaceful and people tend to be easy going.
+ PRO: New Zealand has good food
New Zealand has world-class seafood, lamb, wines and cheeses. In some parts, it would be difficult to find a bad restaurant, and the cafe culture is booming. There's plenty of delicious Asian food around, as well as the best of European cuisine presented in a range of fresh Kiwi styles.
- CON: Life in New Zealand can be rather quiet
While there is plenty to do outdoors, and the larger cities do have a limited but thriving nightlife, New Zealand does not compare to the busy and bustling streets of cities in the UK and US. While this may suit expats who are looking for a quieter life, young adults and students may find themselves longing for more to occupy their evenings.
Population of New Zealand
+ PRO: Really friendly people
Everyone who’s ever been to New Zealand seems to gush about how friendly Kiwis are. This has a lot to do with their relaxed attitude towards life in general.
+ PRO: It’s very multicultural
New Zealand is a society of immigrants. Even its native inhabitants, the Maori, have only been in the country for about 800 years. Most of the population is of (relatively recent) European descent, and there are also a lot of people from Asia and the Pacific Islands. While the country still bears the scars of colonisation, racism is minimal, and many cultures are joyously evident.
- CON: The population suffers from Tall Poppy Syndrome
New Zealanders are very down-to-earth people who despise pretentiousness. As the proverb goes, tall poppies will be cut down – meaning that equality is prized and individual achievements aren't something to be boasted about.
Cost of living in New Zealand
- CON: Dental treatment is very expensive
While healthcare is subsidised in New Zealand, dental treatment is not. Although it’s free for people under 18, the cost of both appointments and treatments for adults is alarmingly high. Because of this, just over half the population of New Zealand does not see a dentist regularly, if ever – it’s simply too expensive for lower- and even middle-income people.
- CON: House prices in Auckland are extremely high
Auckland is New Zealand’s biggest city, with half of the total population of the country living in or around it. It’s also about the only place where jobs are available, and it’s where nearly all New Zealand immigrants go. It's no wonder there’s a housing crisis. Rent continues to go up, with some people having to pay nearly half their income towards it. That said, once moving outside of Auckland, although still costly, reasonable rent can be found.
Work opportunities in New Zealand
+ PRO: Workplaces are egalitarian
New Zealand society is socially fluid. There is little or no talk of ‘class’ and old-fashioned ideas of ‘dressing to impress’ are largely frowned upon. The wage gap has widened significantly since the 1980s, but the Kiwi attitude that wealth has nothing to do with a person’s value is still alive.
- CON: New Zealand has limited career options
Because of the aforementioned small population, jobs in a specific field can be hard to come by. Many Kiwis who dream big are forced to leave New Zealand upon the completion of their studies. Artists also tend to struggle more here, as the opportunities are fewer.
►Read Culture Shock in New Zealand in order to better understand life in the country.
►Frequently Asked Questions about New Zealand provides insight about moving to the country.
"I’d say one of the things I enjoy most about Wellington is feeling so much safer walking alone. I can go for a run at night and not fear for my life. That freedom is something I’ll never take for granted. The quality of life is vastly different to South Africa, but in terms of healthcare, safety, job support etc. it's far better." Read more about Savannah, a South African expat, and her life in New Zealand.
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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