So you’re thinking about moving to New Zealand. You have definitely picked a great country to settle into but, as you’re probably well aware, a life-changing decision like this calls for a lot of planning. Here are 11 practical pieces of knowledge that will hopefully make every stage of the transition that much easier.
Obviously you need to know what kind of visa you’re eligible for and the entitlements it will give you. It will be easier to get a resident visa if your work experience and qualifications match the criteria for the points-based Skilled Migrant category. For those who don’t qualify, your options include getting a work visa first, and later upgrading to residency (which calls for employer sponsorship), or coming on a student visa and applying for residency after you graduate. Families also need to remember to check the visa requirements for their children.
New Zealand, being an island nation far away from everywhere else, can be quite an expensive place to live. Depending on where you’re coming from, the prices for food, alcohol, clothing and consumer goods are going to shock you. The New Zealand Immigration site has a Cost of Living calculator that will give you a proper breakdown of all your everyday expenses and how much you can expect to earn in various cities and industries.
It is recommended that you set up a New Zealand bank account and get an IRD tax number before you arrive. Here’s a list of the major banks operating in the country to get the ball rolling. Also make sure you know your tax obligations, not just in New Zealand but in your home country too, before you venture abroad.
The more paperwork you have on hand, the easier it will be to apply for jobs, set up a bank account, secure a home and breeze your way through any other piece of bureaucracy that you might be faced with. Make sure you have certified copies of all the important documents too, just in case something gets lost in transition. Common items you might need include birth certificate, international drivers’ licence/permit, academic qualifications, credit references, an updated CV and contact information for work referees.
Having a job lined up before you move will help greatly with your visa application. Naturally, securing a job from a faraway distance will be harder if your skills aren’t in high demand — but it is doable. Just be flexible, and don’t be put off by the idea of starting from the bottom and working your way up, or even shifting careers if need be. The main sites to look for and apply for jobs in New Zealand are Seek and TradeMe.
As with work, finding a place to live before you arrive will make life so much easier. New Zealand house prices are among the highest in the OECD, so you might want to consider renting for a while before you commit to buying a home. Rent prices will depend entirely on where you’re living, and whether you’ve got children in tow — for the latter, enrollment zones will play an important role in a child’s schooling. Also keep in mind that rent payments in New Zealand are weekly, while utilities like power and phone bills are paid monthly. TradeMe is again where people list and find property.
All countries take their biosecurity hazards seriously. If you’re keen on bringing your pet with you, there are various rules and restrictions to take into account. Reptiles, mice, rats, guinea pigs and ferrets will not be given clearance to enter the country, period. Check the Ministry of Primary Industries website for more details on specific animals that are allowed in New Zealand.
New Zealand English has its quirks. The accent, slang terms and the integration of Maori words into everyday conversation can trip you up if you’re not prepared for it. Try spending some time reading up on commonly used phrases, and try to watch some local movies and TV shows to get used to the way New Zealanders speak.
Every culture has its special customs and taboos. Generally, Kiwi culture is quite similar to the English, with some Maori traditions thrown into the mix. As with everything else, a little bit of research goes a long way. A few pointers to get you started are the following: always take your shoes off before entering someone’s home, don’t ever sit on tables and if someone invites you to a dinner ask them if they’d like you to bring a plate of food to share.
New Zealanders generally take a little while to warm up to strangers — but it will be easier to make friends if you put yourself out there right from the outset. If you like your sports, join a community team. Also look out for volunteer opportunities in the town or city that you’re moving to, and see if there are any Meetups around the area. Other ideas would be to take up a new hobby or join a few community classes to pick up a new skill while you’re making new friends.
Adapting to life in a new country, with a different culture that has its own way of doing things, takes time. Even if you’ve travelled to New Zealand before — and maybe even spent some time doing the one-year working holiday stint — the reality is, you won’t really know what makes the society ‘tick’ until you’ve lived there. Everyone will face some obstacles and barriers along the way, but patience and perseverance will help you find your feet in the end. As the years go by and the country becomes a familiar place, you’ll eventually find yourself feeling like a true Kiwi.