Auckland, New Zealand Report of what it's like to live there - 03/04/10

Personal Experiences from Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand 03/04/10

Background:

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

Yes, I lived in the States for the first 45 years of my life.

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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?

Tampa, Florida is my home base. I can generally make the trip in approximately 23-28 hours. It varies. I usually fly from Auckland to Los Angeles, then I catch a flight from L.A. to Tampa via Denver, Chicago or Atlanta.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Since March 1st, 2002. I've now been living in NZ for eight years.

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

Married to a New Zealander.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing design varies dramatically on every street. You can have what appears to be a castle on a street right next to a 2BR flat. Again, zoning laws seems to be non-existent. Commute time can be anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour, depending on where you live. Traffic on Auckland's motorways is horrible during peak hours. There are trains but they are very unreliable.

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

Loaf of bread - ranges from $2-$4.50. Whole chicken - $15-$19. No iced tea. Sirloin steak - btw $9-$10 each (300grams = 3/4pound).

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

1. Krispy Kreme doughnuts. 2. Grits. 3. Miller High Life beer. 4. To be continued...

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

McDonald's, Pizza Hutt, Dominos, KFC, Denny's. I think that about covers it. Beware, Denny's NZ has almost the same menu as Denny's as in America, but at twice the price.

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

Mosquitoes (NZ lingo = Mozzies) are here, just like anyplace else.the mosquitos are huge here, but the bites don't appear to be any larger than what I experienced back home. The biggest problem I have with insects here is that window screens appear to not have been introduced here yet. I called a company that said they would install them, but the price was incredibly steep!The few neighbors I've spoken to said they "don't want 'screen mesh' because I like to see outside".That was fairly baffling, considering you can see right through a window screen. Oh, well...

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Daily Life:

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

Well, you get a mailbox at your residence...but it's for receiving mail only. You must send mail at the post shop. Someone here asked me about the flags on American mail boxes. I advised it was to notify the mailman of outgoing mail. The response:"Oh, I thought it was a patriotic thing."

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

I've seen no truly professional domestic help. I saw a handwritten ad pinned up on the bulletin board at the supermarket and tore the number off. The quote was for $20 p/h. Fair enough, she was an okay cleaner. The problem arose about two weeks into the deal. She began stealing from me. The first time I noticed it, I thought...well, it's only a half case of local beer. Then she stole my new phone, still in the box and food from the fridge. To be fair, I told her in the beginning that she could make herself a sandwich or something if she wished. She apparently though that meant she could take food home to feed her family, because she did!I buy in bulk when possible, but for the savings...not so my maid can steal it. I told her I no longer required her services.

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

Yes, There are gyms everywhere!That is something I can appreciate!Prices are also inexpensive at the gyms and swimming pools. A one-off visit will only cost something like $7 including gym, pool, hot tub and sauna.

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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?

ATM cards are the rage. Debit cards have been introduced for about two years and they (retailers) seem to have difficulty with them. If I see a frustrated retailer (about half the time) I usually just hand them my ATM card instead. Credit cards accepted in chain stores and petrol stations.

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

Yes, in many places. Churches here hold both English language services and other languages, such as Samoan, Tongan, Maori, Filipino and Chinese.

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

Yes, most channels are broadcast in English. Others are Chinese, Maori, Tongan, Samoan. There is Sky (cable TV) here, but you can get the three local channels for free if you have antenna.

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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?

Well, it's an English speaking country, so no problem there. There are words they use that are different than we use in America, but you learn the quickly enough. At work I was asked if I needed a rubber. I was fairly shocked until it was explained that a rubber is an eraser. We all had a good laugh over that.

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

Well, there are few wheelchair ramps in New Zealand's largest city. Their are stairs on almost every building in the city and the dwellings in the suburban areas. it's a hilly area, so they have stairs everyplace. Commercial buildings do have elevators, at least.

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Transportation:

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

Safe, yes. Cheap, not exactly. For prices see: www.maxx.co.nz

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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?

Anything small, a Volkwagen for example. Parking spaces and streets are notoriously small here. It doesn't help that they allow cars to park on the side of the street here, either.oh yeah, and cars turning left have the right of way, even if you're driving straight through on a major roadway!Gas costs averages $6.66 per gallon.

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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, but is isn't cheap or fast. it does beat dial-up, though!Cost is typically around $70+ per month for little more than basic service.

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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?

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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?

I'm told they do for 30 days.

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

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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?

No, unemployment is at an all time high. If you have a job in NZ, stick with it until the economy turns around, please.

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

Typical of any back home. Dress casual, I believe it's called. No jeans, shirt with collar and images or wording that could be considered objectionable...by a nun.

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Health & Safety:

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

Well, there can be but I've had no issues so far. The typical holdup (usually dairies or car theft) always involves local Maori/Pacific Island youth who are on some drug called, "P".They are known to use both guns and machetes in these crimes. Oh yeah, taxi drivers are also a prime target.

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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?

Well, there was a Meningitis scare around a few years ago. That's one deadly disease!My brother-in-law contracted it and damn near died!Apparently it turns your skin black before it kills you.

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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?

Listed as moderate. I'm happy with that result.

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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?

The locals say they love it because you can experience four seasons in one day. They aren't kidding!Try planning any sunny day activity. I'm guessing there is an 80% chance of rain most days. Locals, affectionately known as 'Kiwis' will tell you that this is why their country is so green. Possibly. I know the farmers love it. Don;t be surprised to see sheep on the hills in the city. It seems farming is allowed anyplace. Zoning laws are pretty much non-existent. You will find dairies (kind've like a small general store) alongside homes in the various neighborhoods.

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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

Yes, plenty of sports programs for kids and adults alike. Sports is a NZ institution and something New Zealanders do well.

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Expat Life:

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

Well, I've met a few Americans, but certainly more than 6 or 7.I'm told most Americans live in Christchurch. There is an American Club here in Auckland, but there always meeting during the week and it's difficult for me to get down there during those hours.

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2. Morale among expats:

Copasetic.

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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?

You've got 3 types of bars. 1. RSA (Returned Services Administration) This is primarily for ex-vets, but if you pay the dues...you can join. Almost as exciting as the VFWs back home.2. Bars for the 18-25 age set. They're okay, if you are in the right age group. Mostly really fast dancing while on Ecstasy or P, while drinking.

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

It's alright, depending on your interests. Again, it is an expensive city to live in.

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

Lesbians and gays are very welcome in New Zealand.i have a lesbian sister and I work with plenty of homosexuals in NZ.

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

There is an American bias, but they're aren't a violent people, which is good. The typical New Zealander is very meek and mild. The Pacific Islanders and Maoris (in particular, the Maori) can be violent, so it's best to avoid the bad neighborhoods at night.

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

Taking the round trip Trans-Alpine Express train from Christchurch to Greymouth. Spectacular scenery!

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

A few. You can do all the fun activities in one day and still have enough time for a good nap. But I'm biased being from Florida which is designed around the tourist's desires.

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

Hamburgers with sliced beets rather than sliced pickles. Strange.

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

No special advantage as far as I can tell.it's a nice country to visit, but there are no diners and almost no hot rod culture. The weather is tolerable, but winters can be a bit too cold for this Florida native. it's an expensive country to live in. Locals tell me that's because NZ cannot import on a scale large enough to keep costs down. I've been able to save next to nothing, which is one of the reasons I'm still in NZ.

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11. Can you save money?

Haven't been able to yet...but still trying.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No.

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

wife, mother-in-law and sister-in-law.

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3. But don't forget your:

Grandfather's personal Bible. He was a Cherokee Indian, Lumbee tribe.

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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?

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