Wellington, New Zealand Report of what it's like to live there - 08/04/11

Personal Experiences from Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington, New Zealand 08/04/11

Background:

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

We have lived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; Muscat, Oman; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Lusaka, Zambia; Wellington, New Zealand.

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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?

Tulsa, OK. I honestly can't remember how long it took - just that it was way too long.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Since October 2010.

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

Government - US 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?

Standalone houses and apartments. Families are typically assigned to houses - either leased or government owned. Commute times depend on where you live. From Lower Hutt where we live the commute in the morning is about 30 minutes. The evening commute can take anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.

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

Most things you need are available, aside from the vast majority of American brands we are used to. The cost of food however can cause heart failure...

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

Buy towels, blankets, mats, sheets, and such before you come here. Quality is an issue here for the price.

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

MacDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Subway, Denny's, Starbucks and a whole host of good restaurants of all types. Decent restaurants tends to be pretty pricey. Most of us bought the Entertainment book to get a bit of a break from the cost of the better restaurants.

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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?

They are really big on organic and gluten free foods. Those with allergies should have no problem finding products they can used and vegetarians have no problem here either.

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

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Daily Life:

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

Through the embassy. We have DPO here and the traditional pouch. International mail is fairly reliable here as well and courier services are available.

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

Expensive and it is difficult to bring one in.

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

TONS of gyms. Kiwis love their physical activity.

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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?

It is safe to use credit cards and ATMs. We have a special relationship with one bank here so that we can deposit our US checks into a NZ account and be able to access our money immediately (we also get a slightly better exchange rate than the average tourist).

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

All denominations are represented.

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

Yes.

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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?

They speak English! Though at times I swear it must be another language.

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

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Transportation:

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

Very, very safe! A bus or train ride from lower hutt to wellington central business district is NZ$5.Taxis are a bit expensive.

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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?

NZ has very stringent requirements for cars coming into the country. It must pass their inspection or it can't be brought in. Most people buy a car here, or have one shipped from Japan (IBC specializes in cars being shipped to NZ and have a certified inspector in country to make sure the cars can be shipped to NZ with no problem).

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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. It ranges depending on what you want and/or need.

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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?

I use Vodaphone because they had no problem with me using my own phones. I've been happy with them, but there are quite a few companies to choose from.

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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. Usually for about 6 months, though depending on where you are coming from, it could be less.

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

Yes!Vets are very capable and prolific. There are kennels, though we haven't had to use one yet.

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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?

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

Work - Business, business casual. Public - from what I can see you can wear whatever you want especially if it's a throwback from the 80's

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Health & Safety:

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

None that I know of at present.

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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?

Compared to where I've lived, medical care is great here. Just don't expect socialized medical systems to work like the system in the US.

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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?

Air quality is excellent.

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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?

It's pretty windy, especially in Wellington. We've been lucky since we arrived and there hasn't been as much rain as the previous year. Temps stay between 40 and 75 F most of the year.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are no international schools. There are a few private schools that offer the IB program and most are not coed. Our girls attend Queen Margaret College near the embassy. We chose it because at the time it was the only one that offered IB. I know of at least 2 others now that offer it (one that is an all-boys school and one that is coed). We have been pleased with the school so far and have no complaints other than the cost of the school uniform!

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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?

There are plenty of preschools around for anyone that is interested. They range in price and programs, so it's really a matter of personal choice.

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

Yes! Soccer, Rugby, cricket, tennis, swimming, basketball, hiking, climbing, netball, badminton, etc.

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Expat Life:

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

Too big to even guess. No one even bats an eye at the fact that we don't have a kiwi accent.

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2. Morale among expats:

Fairly high.

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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 can have as much or as little of a social life as you want.

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

I believe it's a good city for all types. Singles are typically assigned housing close to the Wellington city center where there are lots of restaurants, pubs and events. For families there are those things plus all sorts of playgrounds, waterparks, lasertag, paintball, hiking opportunities, and sports.

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

Definitely a good place for gays and lesbians.

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

I haven't witnessed any so far.

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

Being able to take photography courses in a gorgeous, photogenic country; Seeing 30+ baby seals playing in the pool of a waterfall on the South Island; Being able to take public transportation around the city and not looking over my shoulder for muggers and pick-pockets.

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

I can't even list all the things to do here.

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

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

The advantage is living in a beautiful country that has endless possibilities for travel and weekend getaways. For us it is also a bonus that this is a first-world city with all the opportunities that has to offer (culture, educational opportunities - I'm taking photography and cooking classes). It's a great break from the developing world.

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11. Can you save money?

Absolutely not!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

yes yes yes!

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

Ethno-plunder made of wood, seeds, animal hides, pine cones and feathers (seriously - they will either take it or you have to pay to have it disinfected).

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3. But don't forget your:

Camera, sense of adventure, and desire to learn new skills

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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?

This is a great post to serve in if you've been too long in the developing world. Kiwis have their quirks to be sure, but aside from the cost of food, I've been able to breathe a sigh of relief since I've been here

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