New Zealand Oceania Travel Stories

What’s It Really Like to Live in New Zealand?

Written by Gia Kristel Algie

I feel a bit guilty for not having enough time to update this blog for a while. Although it has been nearly a year since I got back to my engineering career, I just felt like it’s been a really long transition phase. I have pretty much settled back into my work routine and Jon and I travel around New Zealand as much as we can during weekends and holidays but I am still trying to find that block of time to write for my blog. Planning our wedding for the last 6 months also took up a lot of my time (yes, Jon and I finally got married in October). Anyway, I think I’m pretty much back into it and I’m really excited to share some stories. In case you’re wondering what we’ve been up to for the last few months, I though it’s best to give you a quick overview of what it’s been like to live in New Zealand.

RELATED POST: Our Travel-themed Wedding in Central Otago, New Zealand

Moving to New Zealand

Finding a place where Jon can continue to work full time as a travel blogger and for me to get back on my feet as an engineer proved to be difficult. We considered a few different countries including moving back to Singapore but it in the end our best bet was to go back to New Zealand. Jon had been living outside of New Zealand for over 6 years and at first he was reluctant to go back home. It seemed way too early (as we envisioned moving back to New Zealand a lot later). I, on the other hand, took no convincing. I have always loved New Zealand since I first visited a few years ago and the idea of living there earlier than our plans excited me.   The laid back lifestyle that awaits and the chance to explore the country were the upsides of moving back. After we applied for my visa, (which took a lot longer than we thought), we knew we had a new adventure ahead of us.

Do you want to live in New Zealand? I applied a Working Visa under Partnership Category but there are many ways to stay long-term either for work, travel and study in New Zealand. Check out Immigration NZ for more information.

Where is the Best City to Live in New Zealand?

The next big decision was where to live. Auckland is a popular choice among immigrants and it is a very busy city. While we love big cities, it was no comparison Singapore. Public transport and housing are big issues there and the lifestyle didn’t seem as attractive as elsewhere in New Zealand. Outside of Auckland, there are many cities in New Zealand that offer opportunities.  Jon and I originally thought of living near Queenstown, where most tourists would base themselves on the South Island. We figured it would be a great spot to do both travel blogging and working. However, what we didn’t realise was how expensive it would be to live in this area. There were a lot of opportunities with tourism but not so much for engineering (if you don’t have a lot of New Zealand experience) so we had to look at other alternatives. Christchurch seemed like a great option with the spike in construction work due to the earthquake rebuild but having seen the state of the city, Jon and I knew it wasn’t right for us. In a few years, when Christchurch has fully rehabilitated, it will be a great base for many new immigrants. Wellington was another appealing choice but since we wanted to see more of the south island it made sense to look elsewhere. Our final choice was Dunedin, with its beautiful old world charm and its beautiful natural landscapes. Dunedin feels like a small city but it actually covers a large area. With the Otago peninsula alone, Dunedin is a great place to get close to nature with its beautiful beaches and scenic walks. It’s also Jon’s home town!

RELATED POST: Dunedin Street Art Trail: Discovering One of New Zealand’s Best Cities for Street Art

The Cost of Living in New Zealand

One of the biggest things to think about before moving to another country is the cost of living. After getting used to the cheap prices in Vietnam, New Zealand did seem expensive, but in comparison to our living expenses in Singapore it’s relatively similar.

Rent

We stayed with family during our first few months here (which was great for our transition) but we eventually had to find a place of our own. Rates for renting out a house or a room are usually set out on a weekly basis and vary depending on its location and city. In Dunedin, room rental is at about 150 – 200 NZD per week with a year contract. Expect to pay a bit more if you are a couple.

Food

Chocolates, dairy, meat and wine are relatively good value as they are produced locally. Most food essentials like bread, fruit and vegetables (when they are in season) are also reasonably priced. Compare prices of different supermarkets so you know where to get the best deal. It’s also worth getting their loyalty cards (which are free) to get stuff on special.

Drinking and eating out will cost you a bit. A beer or a glass of wine from a bar will be around 8 NZD to 10 NZD and a sit down dinner meal could cost you about 15 NZD and up. There is also a variety of fast food and takeaways, which are quite cheap. Fish and chips will be at about 5 NZD.

RELATED POST: Local Kiwi Eats and Treats: 20 Must-Try New Zealand Food and Drinks

Shopping

What’s the shopping like? It’s not that bad. I struggled a bit for the first few months (mostly because of finances) but also because there are not as many brands available here.  While there aren’t many big shopping malls as in Southeast Asia, you can find most things that you need. There are also a lot of weekend markets where you can find a lot of interesting items.

Travelling around New Zealand

You can get around by bus to most cities in New Zealand but if you rely on this you’ll need to plan your trip ahead since the time and days vary. Most of the intercity buses are also privately owned tour companies (NakedBus, InterCity and Atomic Travel) so it’s worth doing some research to find the best prices and the best route.

If you want to travel at your own pace, the best way to do this is by buying a secondhand car. Cars in New Zealand have to undergo a warrant of fitness before they can go on the road so even if you buy an old car, it’s most likely in good condition (get it checked before buying though). You can also rent a vehicle if you are only here for a short amount of time. Foreigners with a valid driver’s licence from overseas ( in English) can drive around New Zealand for up to a year. After which, you need to get your licence converted. Read more info on how to convert to a New Zealand driver’s licence.

There is so much to see in New Zealand. During the past year, Jon and I have been exploring the country as much as we can. We even started a blog dedicated to the South Island called See the South Island. I will also be writing more about New Zealand in this blog, so keep a look out for that!

What’s the Weather Like?

One of the things that excited me the most about moving to New Zealand was the weather. Growing up in a country where the seasons are either wet or dry, I have always wanted to live in a country with four seasons. Winter in the south can be harsh but there are a lot of crisp and clear winter days and of course, who doesn’t love snow?

Summer, which falls around December to February, is great. It’s warm but not that warm. Think 16 to 25 degrees C at midday. There are also a lot of delicious fruits like fresh cherries, berries and stone fruits during this time of year and that’s always exciting!

What’s are Kiwis / New Zealanders Like?

I’m a bit biased as I am married to one but I genuinely think that Kiwis are some of the nicest people I’ve met. They are more laid back than most and are very sociable. I love how people say “how’s it going?” or “how are you?” for a greeting. This is very similar to Filipinos way of saying hello, which is “kamusta ka?” (how are you?).

New Zealand is also home to a lot of immigrants. I was quite surprised as to how diverse the people are (and we are not even living in Auckland).

Sports is a big thing here and the kiwi accent is actually not that distracting (don’t let the TV shows deceive you).

So far, I’m really loving New Zealand and it has been an amazing year so far for Jon and I.

Do you want to live in New Zealand? Are you currently living in New Zealand as an immigrant? Let us know. 

About the author

Gia Kristel Algie

Currently based in New Zealand, Gia grew up in Manila, lived in Singapore for three years and travelled the world for nearly two years. From watching sunsets to hiking mountains, she loves the outdoors. She enjoys living in big cities but takes pleasure staying in quaint, small towns. An aspiring photographer and budding writer, she is the voice behind Mismatched Passports, a travel blog dedicated to the journey around the world with her husband, Jon.

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