As the largest and de facto capital city of the South Island, Christchurch is a major cultural center. Christchurch has a distinctly English feel, as demonstrated by its many examples of classic English architecture, but there is still a significant Maori influence on the cultural life of the city. In addition to its green areas, parks, and open spaces, expatriates living in Christchurch will be able to enjoy its many art galleries and museums, including the world famous Christchurch Art Gallery, and its thriving restaurant scene.
As it is the location of a number of university campuses, Christchurch also has a large student population, which contributes to its bustling atmosphere and cultural scene. The city is also known for its love of film, due to its many art-house and independent cinemas. Christchurch is also a key part of the New Zealand music scene, and is home to many bands, artists, and performers.
The public healthcare system in New Zealand is funded through general taxation, and is free to any expatriates with a work permit or permanent residency permit. However, expatriates should be aware that you must have been living in Christchurch on your work permit for two years before it will allow you to access the public healthcare system for free.
Some services, like prescription medicines and consultations, may be subject to fees, regardless of your residency status. There is also a government funded program in New Zealand called the Primary Health Organization (PHO), which subsidizes some costs for its members. Expatriates living in Christchurch are advised to sign up to the PHO as soon as possible upon arrival. Expatriates living in Christchurch also have the option of taking out private medical insurance if they wish.
New Zealand has one of the best public education systems in the world, and provides free education for children between the ages of six and 16. However, as only citizens and permanent residents are able to attend state or public schools free of charge, most expatriates living in Christchurch will have to pay some fees if they are to send their children to a public school; but these fees are significantly cheaper than the fees charged by private and international schools.
Some expatriates still choose to send their children to an international school, as these are also amongst some of the best in the world. Christchurch also has an excellent higher education system, and over two thirds of the population has some kind of tertiary education. The main universities in the city are the University of Canterbury, Lincoln University, and the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology.