New Zealand One Year On: What I’ve Learned

If you’ve read my “Travel Tales” series, you’ll know that my move from the UK to New Zealand wasn’t without a few bumps in the road. From the unexpectedly high costs of replacing our furniture to navigating a new tax system – it wasn’t the smoothest of journeys. Now that we’re a year in, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned in the hopes it makes your big move a little easier. 

I’ve not looked back, but some do

A year on, my family are enjoying New Zealand life every bit as much as I had hoped we would. The schools, the food, the atmosphere, the weather – it’s all been given a big thumbs up. That being said, I’ve also met quite a few ex-pats who are disenchanted with New Zealand and starting to miss their home countries – and it’s always the mums. 

Moving to a new country is hard, and understandably, many people miss the emotional and practical support of their extended family. Whilst there are things you can do to stay in touch, this is a reality well worth considering before setting off on your journey.

Comparing costs does more harm than good

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced since moving to New Zealand, and am still struggling with a year on, is the difference in costs. I’m so used to UK pricing that doing the groceries in NZ puts me into a tailspin. The cost of living is definitely higher here, but the currency exchange doesn’t help either – $6 for a coffee is always going to sound worse than £3.

The issue of baulking over pricing is something I’m going to work particularly hard on over the next year, as it can seriously impact how you feel about daily life. Yes, groceries are obscenely expensive, but it is what it is. Either do like the locals and grow your own, or learn to grin and bear it. 

Don’t put off buying leisure gear

By the time we were settled in New Zealand, autumn was on the horizon, so we didn’t bother buying beach equipment and outdoor leisure gear, thinking we wouldn’t see the benefits for another year. How wrong were we! 

The seasons in New Zealand aren’t as stark as they are in England, so there’s no need to wait until summer to make your purchases. Even in autumn, there are plenty of bright, warm days in between the rain when those bikes, kayaks and camping gear would have been earning their keep. 

Renting isn’t always a bad thing

If you’re anything like me, the idea of paying off someone else’s mortgage couldn’t be more disheartening. But when we moved to New Zealand, we didn’t want to jump into anything too quickly. A year on, we’re still happily renting and are only now starting to browse the real estate listings. 

Unlike the UK, where rental costs are exorbitant in comparison to a mortgage, New Zealand prices are fairly level. Between the rise in interest rates and the housing market boom that happened post-Covid, mortgage payments are fairly equitable to what you’d pay to rent. Spoiler alert: both are high. 

Overall, there have been a lot of lessons learned in the last 12-18 months, but none of them impacts how we feel about our decision to make the leap to New Zealand. The land of the long white cloud has been good to us, and we’re proud to call it home. 

Sarah Todhunter is a writer, mother-of-two and a dual citizen of New Zealand and the UK. As the sole proprietor of Fyxen Copywriters, she has navigated the ups and downs of moving a business and family across hemispheres, sharing the lessons she’s learned along the way. Find her on LinkedIn or anywhere good coffee is served.

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