Auckland, New Zealand Report of what it's like to live there - 07/06/11

Personal Experiences from Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand 07/06/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Northa Carolina. It takes 34 hours from Asheville to Wellington with a 3-hour layover in Sydney.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Very varied. I've seem some huge ones with spectacular views of the harbor, and I've seen moderately sized ones with views of their neighbor's back yard. Yards are very small and houseing is poorly insulated.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Everything is exensive. Very expensive. Milk is $8 per gallon, bread is $5 a loaf, eggs are $5 a dozen, gas is @ $8 per gallon.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Peanut butter, coffee filters, more sweaters, Legos, kids' toys.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, KFC & Subway. Lots of fast food sushi restaurants & cafes. It seems to be a take-out society.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Everything is available. I've met many gluten-free, all organic families and scores of vegetarians.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not too may. You get the odd spider now and then.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Diplomatic pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Too expensive @ $25 per hour. Nobody I know uses domestic help.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Safe and easily available. If you use Bank Of America, they won't charge you ATM fees at one local bank, so we use it for all our cash needs. Capital One also offers a no-fee credit card for NZ.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

All.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

All.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English. The Maori language is interesting, and knowing a few words will endear you to the local Maori -- though I've not met many Kiwis who can speak it.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

None.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Safe, yes. Affordable, no. Taxis are expensive, but buses and trains are cheap: usually 2 dollars per ride.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any, the roads are fine.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, very reliable but @ $75 per month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

They are safe and inexpensive if you get a pay-as-you-go plan. The embassy also issues phones, but they are for work calls only.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes, I've heard it was just reduced but it used to be 30 days. It is very expensive to get a pet into NZ.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not really, but there are occasional jobs available at the embassy

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business for work, casual for public. NZ is seriously stuck in the late 80's when it comes to fashion.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Not really, though like in most capital cities, I wouldn't walk downtown alone at night when the bars close. Earthquakes are a very real and present danger here, as well as landslides. I was unfortunate enough to be in Christchurch during the February 22nd earthquake that killed two hundred people. It was by far, the most firghtening experience of my life. I saw buildings fall on people and the ground open up spurting liquefaction. It is not a joke or something to be taken lightly. We have earthquakes every single day in New Zealand, some are unnoriceable and some are horrendous.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No concerns. Health care is adequate but don't expecxt any handholding. There is a definite toughness about the Kiwis, and they expect you to buck up.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Very clean.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Cool, WINDY, and rainy in the winter months (June, July, August) with temperatures ranging in the 40 to 55 degree F range. Summer months are glorious, not too hot -- but the sun is very strong due to the thin ozone layer so one must wear sunscreen at all times.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Very good. My children have thrived at their school. I've heard nothing but good things.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Not as good as in the USA but they do look after the kids.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Yes, plenty -- but it is costly.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

All you can imagine including underwater hockey, I'm not kidding.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge.

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2. Morale among expats:

For embassy folks: medium. For the general expat public: great.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Everything you can think of.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Both.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Seems ok. There are a lot of gay-friendly events downtown and never any trouble.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

None that I've seen. The Kiwis are pretty tolerant.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Gorgeous hiking trails. The Maori culture is fascinating. My children have learned the Haka and how to play Rugby.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Hiking, biking, skiing, swimming...any outdoor activity that you can imagine. We've seen whales, seals, penguins, birds, deer, sheep. If you can think it, you can do it in New Zealand.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Apparently not much. There was just a big investigation into NZ-made products and most were found to be made in China. I think the sheepskins are authentic but they are not cheap.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great schools, low rate of violent crime, beautiful scenery, wildlife, no dangerous animals or deadly bugs.

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11. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No. It was nice for a one-time deal but the earthquakes killed it for me.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

expectations that it is paradise.

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3. But don't forget your:

extra money.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It is truely an amazingly beautiful first-world country.

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