Auckland, New Zealand Report of what it's like to live there - 02/19/15
Personal Experiences from Auckland, New Zealand
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
Auckland is my first expat experience.
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?
My home base is Boston and my original intention was to just be here to study but the climate is much better in New Zealand!
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Moved to study but stayed when I found work.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
The central city is dominated by apartments, although houses start within 20 minutes' walk of the city centre. The majority of Auckland is low rise - one- or two-storey detached houses. Newer developments have seen terraced housing and high density housing developed.
Traffic can be quite severe if you are driving into the city from the North Shore or South Auckland. There is only one harbour bridge from the North Shore. There are many ferries, though.
It's worth noting that it is very difficult to live anywhere other than the city centre without your own car.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The quality of fruit and vegetables is excellent. There are many supermarkets and local markets.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
You don't need to bring anything over. Everything can be bought quite cheaply on Trade Me (the local version of Ebay).
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Most of the major fast food restaurants are here.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
In Auckland there are a few mosquitoes. None carry diseases. Some other areas of New Zealand have sand flies which bite during the day.
Ants are a problem in some places.
1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Domestic help runs about NZ$20/hour.
2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
A gym costs between NZ$500-2000 per year, depending on the facilities, with it typically being around NZ$1200.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Very easy - you can use a credit card almost everywhere, and if not, an EFTPOS card.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are lots of churches offering various languages: English, Pacific Island languages (Tongan, Samoan), Korean, Chinese, etc.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
If you are from China or India you could exist in pockets of Auckland without having to learn English. However, knowing English is very important for the rest of New Zealand as, even though NZ is full of immigrants, you don't hear many other languages on the street other than in the city centre.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Legislation exists to assist people with physical disabilities and therefore most modern places have access ramps for wheelchairs.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Trains only run in some regions. Buses are reasonably good, but can be sporadic in some areas at night. Taxis are fairly expensive. It's best to have your own transport options unless you live close to the city or close to a major transport corridor.
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?
It's not worth bringing your own car unless you have a special relationship with it (e.g. it's a classic). NZ drives on the left, so you will need to make sure you know the road rules. This website http://www.drivingtests.co.nz is the main free source of practice.
Cars are cheap and you will reasonable quality Japanese imports from around NZ$5000. You can purchase second hand private cars via Trade Me (http://www.trademe.co.nz) or Autotrader, or go through a dealer.
Insurance is not compulsory, but is recommended.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
High speed internet is available almost everywhere (some very rural places can't get it). It's not as cheap as in the USA.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
They're a bit pricey here, but I'm not sure whether it's possible to bring yours over.
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?
There are shortages in some areas - check Immigration NZ's website. If you have skills you'll generally be welcomed as long as your English is good.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Huge numbers of volunteer opportunities especially in environmental stuff like native tree planting.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
NZ is quite casual. Unless you're working in the financial sector, most jobs are smart-casual dress. The general vibe of NZ is informal.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
NZ has strict gun laws. Violent crime is low.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is excellent. Health insurance is not necessary, but is recommended.
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?
With the exception of the main commercial area in Auckland (Queen St, Karangahape Road), air quality is excellent. In only 20 minutes you can be well away from the city centre in a bush-clad rural setting, or at a beach.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Those suffering hay fever will find it difficult in some areas at certain times.
The water is safe to drink.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The seasons are reversed: summer starts in December, so if you like snow at Xmas, you'll find it weird. It's warm from mid-November though to late March. July/August can be cold and damp with a lot of rain, but rarely below freezing. Usual daytime temperatures in winter are around 15 degrees Celsius, and in summer around 24C degrees.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are a huge number of good quality language and business schools aim predominantly at the Asian and Indian market.
2. 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?
Before- and after-school care is available in most places for working parents at around NZ$16/hour.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Most of NZ's population either is an expat or is one or two generations from an expat.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There's a lot to do. Sites like http://www.eventfinder.co.nz list a lot of attractions and activities.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Auckland is excellent for families, singles or couples. Singles would most likely prefer the lifestyle closer to the city, whereas families perhaps would prefer suburbs.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes. There's a yearly Pride Parade and a bustling LGBT scene in Karangahape Road. New Zealanders tend to be tolerant.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There are tensions between the indigenous Maori and other settlers although these are gradually being worked through with treaty settlements that return land or money. There's very little religious persecution; most NZers are secular.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
There's so much stunning scenery, and if you like watersports, it's the place to be.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There's a multitude of bush walks and scenic lookouts in Auckland city, many of which are hardly used and all of which are free.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Certain types of seafood e.g. paua, kina. Greenstone carvings.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
There are some incredible features of New Zealand. For one, it's relatively safe. Secondly, even within 20 minutes of the city, there are stunning beaches you can go to and often you'll be one of a handful of people there. The climate is excellent - temperate winters, warm summers (although humidity can be high on some days).
10. Can you save money?
If you are in a good job or a relationship, yes. If you're single on a low wage, no.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
There's nothing onerous about NZ except that the wages are relatively low compared to other developed countries in relation to house price costs.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen - you'll burn quickly here if you are fair-skinned.