Travel Tales: “5 Avoidable Mistakes I Made When Moving To New Zealand”

When packing up your family and moving halfway around the world, it stands to reason that a few mistakes will be made. Hindsight is bittersweet – there are definitely more than just five things I’d do differently if I were to have my chance again. But the upside is that I can share my mistakes with those of you planning your own move.

So, without further ado, here are the biggest mistakes I made when moving from England to New Zealand (in no particular order). 

1. Didn’t Amend Our Details
As part of wanting to hold on to some aspects of our old life, “just in case”, there were some things I didn’t cancel or amend before leaving. Namely, our bank accounts and our enrollment with our local GP. 

It turns out there are some things that can’t be changed by email. Banks and medical centres require you to ring or come into the branch, which is rather difficult when you’re 11,500 miles away. Do as much admin as you can before leaving to save yourself stress.

2. Unrealistic Expectations
Be prepared for the downsides of living abroad. Yes, even in the paradise of New Zealand. Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many upsides to life on a pacific island, but not everything is peachy keen. 

The more realistic you can be when moving, the more likely you are to avoid any nasty shocks when life isn’t all sunshine and kiwifruit. I’ll cover this point in more detail in upcoming article, “Life In New Zealand, What To Expect”

3. Didn’t Book A Shipping Container
Leaving the UK in December 2021, the shipping industry had been impacted by the pandemic and prices were at an all-time high. For that reason, we decided to sell our furniture and bring nothing but suitcases. 

Well, fast forward six months and what I wouldn’t give to have all our belongings back! From that pair of wellies that fit perfectly, to my trusty DFS sofa, I wish I had brought it all with us. 

I’ll cover this in more detail in “5 Things I Wish I Had Brought To NZ”.

4. Didn’t Sell The House
This is a tricky point as, for some people, it makes perfect sense to hold onto their property until they’re ready to buy in New Zealand. However, in my experience, although the security of holding onto an asset is nice, it has been nothing but a weight on our shoulders.

We’re not currently in a position to buy in NZ as house prices have tripled in our region in the last few years, but even so, I’d rather have money in the bank than the potential of a leaking roof, broken boiler or dodgy tenant. How easy is it to sell a house from the other side of the world? I’ll let you know when the time comes, but I dare say it’s a tad more difficult. 

5. Didn’t Say Goodbye
When we left England, we had a plan to come to New Zealand for a year and see what happened. In retrospect, we always hoped that it would be permanent, but that seemed like a much bigger decision than just “going out to see family for a while”. “See you soon” is a lot easier than “I guess this is goodbye”. And because we weren’t honest with ourselves, we missed the chance to say a proper farewell to our friends, neighbours and family. 

Now that we’re here with no plans of returning, I do wish we had taken the opportunity to feel those big feelings, say the hard goodbyes and be at peace with finishing that chapter of our lives. 

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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