You can, for instance, look forward to meeting real Kiwis! No, we are not talking about the fruit, nor do we mean the bird, even if the latter is certainly fascinating and only found in New Zealand. It is due to this bird and its (unofficial) status as THE national symbol, however, that the locals have taken to calling themselves Kiwis.
Regardless of names, though, New Zealanders are famous for their easy-going, welcoming, and friendly nature. Expats can also attest to this: In the Expat Insider 2014 survey, nine out of ten considered the locals friendly. More than half of all respondents living in New Zealand even went so far as to state they find the Kiwis very friendly. The country’s third rank in our Ease of Settling In Index is no surprise then!
Getting settled is about more than your new neighbors’ friendliness, though. The local culture often also plays a major role in how well expatriates feel “at home” abroad. Luckily, this does not seem to pose much of a problem for expats in Aoteoroa (as New Zealand is called by the Maori, its indigenous people): More than three-fourths found it easy to get used to the local culture.
In part, this might be explained by the country’s past as a former British colony and the subsequent European influence. But don’t fear, it’s not all tea time and stiff upper lip down in the south! Expats can, for example, also look forward to learning about the Maori and Polynesian influences on the local culture. The haka, a traditional Maori warriors’ dance, being performed by the national rugby team before each game is a prime example for this unique blend of cultures!
Speaking of sports, there’s plenty to do in one’s free time in New Zealand. Next to the usual suspects, rugby and cricket, expatriates have their pick of a variety of popular sporting opportunities, from surfing and sailing to hiking through beautiful scenery, to name but a few. Fans of the more extreme can also rejoice, as they’ll be living in the country that gave birth to commercial bungee jumping. As such, it is hardly surprising that our survey results showed a great satisfaction with the local socializing and leisure activities: 33% reported being very happy in this regard. Only Hungary and Spain received higher percentages here.
While we may have started out this article by saying that this island nation has more to offer than just beautiful landscapes, this does not make the scenery any less of a highlight. From sprawling glaciers that end in the odd rainforest to active volcanos, alpine ranges, glowworm-filled caves, miles of beaches, stunning fjords and sounds, and much more, there is something for everybody.
What is even better, expats in New Zealand will be able to enjoy all this beautiful nature in relative peace and quiet. With around 4.2 million people (and an estimated 60 million sheep), the country only has a population density of around 17 people per square kilometer. For comparison, population densities in the UK and the USA are 265 and 35 respectively. In addition, more than half of the population is living in the top three cities (Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington) and their metropolitan areas. As such, you may well feel like you’re the only person alive after only a short drive out of town and into nature – if you manage to avoid the tourist hotspots, that is.
Of course, being an expat is about more than just visiting black sand beaches, jumping off bridges, and hiking across volcanoes. Perfect as it might seem at first glance, New Zealand is not necessarily the best fit for everybody and as with every expat stay, you should never forget to take off your rose-colored glasses.
You love the hustle and bustle of a metropolis that never sleeps and have big plans for your career? Then locations like New York, Singapore, or Hong Kong might be the better choice for you; Kiwis are generally used to a slower pace of life and you’ll find an easy-going atmosphere even in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city.
You can also expect comparatively low wages and at times high costs (the bane of a geographically isolated island nation that needs to import many things). Unsurprising then, that one-fourth of survey respondents in New Zealand were not particularly satisfied with their financial situation, even if they were generally happy with their lot.
And last but not least in our non-comprehensive list of things you might not enjoy about New Zealand, we would like to pass on this nugget of wisdom that recommended expat blogger Rhonda has shared with us: “You are not really moving to a tropical island in the South Pacific, it's cold here in the winter, with poor insulation. Bring your woolies!”