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New Zealand

Travel Tales: “Life In New Zealand, What To Expect”

Any expat will tell you that life in New Zealand is both comfortingly familiar and jarringly different to life in the rest of the world. As an island nation, life is more laid back, people are more friendly, and there’s an emphasis on enjoying the day-to-day as opposed to being part of the rat race. 

While you can’t fully prepare for what life in New Zealand will be like, here are a few of the most significant differences I’ve noted as a kiwi returning after ten years in England.  

Modern School System

The NZ school system has changed dramatically over the last few decades, embracing the ethos of learning through play, which was first championed in Te Whariki, the early years’ curriculum. Schools here tend to focus more on building resilience and encouraging risk-taking over test scores. 

As a parent, I wholeheartedly support New Zealand’s style of learning. I can see my children thriving as they sing, dance, climb, build and tinker – a stark contrast to schools in many parts of the world, but in my opinion, a good change. 

High Cost Of Living

Nothing will prepare you for how expensive it is to live in New Zealand, and the currency exchange doesn’t help. Imagine my shock when a cabbage at the national chain supermarket Pak ‘n’ Save was $8. Yes, eight dollars – four British pounds. From food to furniture, things cost more in New Zealand.

All that being said, you will get used to shopping seasonally and sharing what you have with neighbours and friends. And, come harvest season, when avocados are sold roadside “5 for $2”, and sweetcorn is sold by the dozen, you’ll appreciate this island’s abundance. 

Rentals Are Few And Far Between

Depending on what area of New Zealand you want to move to, you should be prepared that rental properties can be incredibly hard to find. As I come from the Bay of Plenty, a very popular coastal area, rentals are particularly sought after. It took two months and a very helpful estate agent before we secured a property, and that was only because we had a viewing before it was listed online. 

If you don’t have family you can stay with while you get yourself sorted, try to secure a rental property before you arrive or have a few months of AirBnB costs in your budget.

Houses Are Generally A Poor Standard

If you’ve come from a country with central heating and double glazing, you’re in for a shock. Houses in New Zealand are generally built from wood and have single glazing and no central heating. Damp, cold homes have long been an issue here, and it’s certainly an adjustment if you’re used to European standard homes. 

New measures brought in by the government now require all rental properties to have a heat pump installed, which is certainly a move in the right direction. 

The Sun Really Is Always Shining

Let’s finish on a positive note, shall we? You’ll see so much more sunshine in New Zealand than you would ever have experienced in the UK. That low-lying cloud cover that coats old blighty has a lot to answer for. 


Even on cold winter days, you can be treated to bright, clear skies. Here’s a shot of the local beach. Cold? Absolutely. Beautiful? You betcha. 

Like any country, New Zealand has its ups and downs, but it’s fair to say the benefits outweigh the negatives. 

Do you have any questions about life in NZ? Pop them in the comments. 

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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