Auckland, New Zealand Report of what it's like to live there - 06/21/19
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?
No, I've also lived in cities in South America, Europe, and China.
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?
Auckland has direct flights to LA (about 11 hours), San Francisco, Houston, Chicago and Honolulu.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We have a very nice, sunny apartment in Parnell, about 30 minutes walk or 15 minutes direct bus to the US Consulate. People without kids are usually in apartments a little closer in, while families will be in larger houses slightly farther out. The post is small, and therefore, the Consulate often has to find a new housing for arriving officers if they don't match up to the household size as those departing. The housing pool changes often but the local staff do a great job of finding nice places with public transit options to work (there's a decent network of buses and trains and the Consulate is right across from the city's main transit hub). There is limited parking at the office that is allocated by a parking pool sign up so those who want to drive will usually get a spot a few times a month. One quirk of housing in Auckland is that it often does not have any kind of central heating or cooling so you'll be using portable units for both, which are not terribly effective. Expect your house to be colder than you're used to in winter and hotter in summer. Post has very little storage so they won't remove embassy-provided furniture from your house and storage in apartments is somewhat limited. Otherwise, housing is very nice.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get most anything here you'd find at home.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I've brought a few specialty items like pumpkin pie spice and some Mexican spices but overall this isn't a big issue.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Auckland has a wide range of restaurants and food delivery from fast food (McDonalds, KFC, Dominos, plus local chains like Burger Fuel) to very nice, trendy restaurants. Auckland is also a very multicultural city with large Asian, Indian and Pacific populations so there is a wide range of different ethnic foods available. Prices are no worse than DC.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We've had no issues.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and it's a bit slow. We've mailed letter mail and postcards through local mail and it's more expensive but perhaps a bit faster.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We pay someone $100NZD/week (about $68 USD) to clean.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Lots of gyms and some specialty fitness places (yoga, crossfit, pilates, etc). Les Mills is a chain with a nice facility near the consulate. Prices are what you'd expect in a big city. I found tennis groups through Meet Up. My husband joined a local soccer league. There is a TON of amazing hiking within an easy drive from the city, as well as kayaking or other outdoor activities. It's a very active place.
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?
Credit cards are widely accepted but local bank cards (EFTPOS) is the easiest. We almost never use cash.
5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Maybe some difficulties but probably no worse than places in the US.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
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 left-hand drive here so it's easiest to buy locally. We have a small Honda and rarely drive within the city but it's great for road trips. Though New Zealand roads are often narrow/windy it is a great place to see by road trip.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Plenty of options for internet with various companies and speeds are fine. It took a couple weeks to get installed and the company we chose gave us a temporary router to use until our full service was available. It's about $90NZD/a month (about $60USD).
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Several options for local mobile phone companies with prices no worse than the US.
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?
Don't have a pet but this can be tricky here because of quarantines and difficulty finding housing that allows pets. Nonetheless some people do bring in pets so talk to GSO/CLO.
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 a couple of EFM jobs at the Consulate but I think more people work locally. Being an English speaking country with a strong economy people have not had much trouble finding pretty good jobs quickly once they arrive (universities, health care, IT, etc.)
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Good opportunities since this is an English-speaking country.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business attire at work, but not overly formal; people don't typically wear suits and mean overall rarely wear ties. Auckland in general isn't very formal. No Marines at post so no Marine Corps ball unless you fly down to Wellington.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
No. New Zealand consistently ranks as one of the safest countries in the world. Traffic deaths are the most serious concern. Road speeds are often too high for the condition of roads but I understand they'll be lowering them soon.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Local medical care is pretty good. We just go to a local doctor and get reimbursed by our insurance.
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?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Auckland climate is very comfortable; summers get into the low 80s with mild humidity, winter lows are in the 40s, no snow, but lots of rain in the winter. If you want snow you can drive to a ski area on a volcano on the North Island or fly to ski fields on South Island in the winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
No personal experience, but there seems to be a pretty wide range of good private and public schools.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There are a lot of expats here from all over the world. I think morale is very high.
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?
Pretty much anything and everything is available: theater, movies, restaurants, karaoke, wineries, lots of outdoor activities. It's not too hard to meet people through EFM jobs, kids' schools, Meet-up groups for just about any interest, etc.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
I've found locals to be friendly but because the city is so international most of our friends are expats who live here now. I think Auckland was recently rated one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, but that doesn't mean there isn't some prejudice here as anywhere.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
No worse problems than any progressive country.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
This place is amazing. It's beautiful just about everywhere you go and there's something for everyone - Northland beaches, mountains and glaciers on the South Island, wineries scattered everywhere, volcanoes, forests, mountain biking, hiking, Hobbiton is magical. We've only left the country twice because there is so much to see in New Zealand. Just get out and explore every corner of this special country.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Waiheke Island wineries are a 30 minute ferry from Auckland and it's beautiful there. Tawharanui Regional Park is about an hour drive and has a lovely beach and hiking tracks. Spending a weekend on Great Barrier Island is really special. There are a number of multi-day hiking and biking adventures if you're into that (look for Great Walks, Otago Rail Trail).
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There are Maori crafts and artwork, lots of cool Kiwiana art and items, possum wool sweaters, blankets, etc., and of course, wine.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's a nice size city with plenty to do and good food, while you can get out into nature very easily.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
That I'd never want to leave. Also Auckland is built on a series of volcanoes so it is VERY hilly; walking places within the city can be a real workout and I don't ride my bike around town because of the combination of hills and drivers that don't seem terribly considerate of cyclists (though there are a number of cycling trails and lanes in town)
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Fear of snakes and wild animals, as there are none here!
4. But don't forget your:
Hiking shoes, camping gear, sunscreen, sense of adventure.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Taika Waititi's movies are great: check out Boy or Hunt for the Wilderpeople.