Wellington, New Zealand Report of what it's like to live there - 01/31/21
Personal Experiences from Wellington, New Zealand
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, but first as an adult with children.
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?
East coast. We traveled through California, and then through Sydney. If you can avoid flying through Australia, do it. If you can fly Air New Zealand, do it.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
One and a half years.
5. 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?
Houses are built extremely close to each other, so prepare to see into your neighbor's windows and vice-versa. Views can be tremendous of the mountains or harbor. No screens on windows, and you'll want your windows open. Our home has plenty of heat pumps, but NZ houses typically don't have central heat or air.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get almost everything! There are even stores which specifically sell US products, but for a premium. Turkey meat is almost non-existent or very expensive. Food and goods are expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I often use the DPO for household cleaners, powdered Tide, trash bags etc... because US products are better quality and cheaper. Pack your favorite sunscreen. You will need tons of it.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
All types of food are available, but a whole lot of fish and chips. In the city there are tons of delicious places to eat of all types of cuisines.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No, but there's no screens on windows so flies will come in during the summer.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Typical cost of the US. I use a biweekly (or fortnightly!) housekeeping service that costs approx $145NZD per session for our four bedroom three bath house. Babysitters cost around 15-20 NZD per hour.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
All kinds of fitness opportunities, similar to the states. Unusual to find gyms with childcare. Affordable.
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?
Yes, although EFTPOS is their preferred way to pay. It is a debit card through one of their local banks. Places often prefer EFTPOS over credit or will charge a fee for credit. Many businesses or people will accept being paid through internet banking, which requires a local bank account.
5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Possibly. Many buildings and houses have stairs only. Many buildings are older and outdated, and don't have ramps or easy ways to get in and around without using the stairs.
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?
Buy a car in NZ.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Kept our phones, changed the sim cards to Vodafone.
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?
Jobs for expats can be a bit hard to find, but diplomat spouses are able to work on the local economy, no problem.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
People are pretty casual, but for work it would be business casual.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
If you are pregnant or planning to be, OBGYNs are only available for high-risk pregnancies, otherwise it's midwives. Must find a midwife early on as they book up. Lots of general practitioners, and because they have universal healthcare, you must register with a GP and need referrals. Long waits for specialists. Care is fairly good, but not quite up to US standards. There is no med at post.
2. 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 great!
3. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Gluten free products are readily available as kiwis have a high rate of celiac/gluten intolerance. Also, lots of vegan options.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It's very mild, temperature-wise. It is extremely windy.
Schools & Children:
1. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
NZ is a bit behind the times on teaching special-needs students. You can probably find luck with private schools.
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?
Preschool if subsidized for all children aged 3-5, 20 days a week. Day care is quite expensive. Many schools have before and after school programs, but they are expensive.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, lots of activities and sports galore.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There are tons of expatriates. Kiwis are often expats at some point in their own lives, so it's very common.
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 are all kinds of groups, and its very easy to make friends with kiwis. They're friendly people and Wellington is a vibrant city.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
For all. I would imagine singles and couples would have a blast with the nightlife, concerts, festivals, sports etc...Families have all kinds of incredible parks to visit, festivals to attend, and hikes, camping etc... There is so much to do, something for everyone.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Yes. Most of my friends here are locals. New Zealand is certainly not free from racism, but I'm sure anyone could find a solid friend group here.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Absolutely. Very gay friendly.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Again, New Zealand is not free from racism, and there is an undercurrent of tension between the European-decent and native Maori. Overall, NZ tries to be pretty progressive, but it still exists.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
So much breathtaking scenery. I never knew I liked hiking until I moved here. The travel within the country is unbelievable.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Currently Covid- free.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How much I would learn to love it.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. But don't forget your:
Rain gear and quality shoes.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Flight of the Conchords.