Guide to living like a local for expats in New Zealand

New Zealand has long been one of the top locations for British expats, and it’s even more popular in the wake of Brexit. It’s no surprise really; the glorious landscape, laid-back lifestyle and high quality of life are very attractive. It’s also a great option for those moving with children, with a low crime rate, good schools and plenty of outdoor spaces.
New Zealand ranks second in the world in the HSBC Expat Explore Survey, with high scores across the board but particularly in work/life balance and family matters. With over 200,000 British expats on the two small islands, it’s easy to build a social network with other foreign nationals. However, it’s also worth integrating with the local community and adopting their way of life, especially as it’s so appealing.

Balancing work and life

There are many familiarities when first moving to New Zealand. For example, the main language spoken is English, cars drive on the left and Kiwis are generally friendly and welcoming to newcomers. Being a former British colony has certainly left its mark. This all makes the transition easy, both from a business and social perspective.
Moving from a busy city like London, the relaxed and slower pace of day-to-day life can take some getting used to. Family, the great outdoors, and staying fit and healthy, tend to take a bigger priority over work, finances or career progression. That’s not to say that it’s not possible to make huge leaps in a career in the country; just that business is dealt with in business hours, and evenings and weekends are leisure times. There is a strong work ethic in the country, and it’s all about working hard and playing hard. This distinct work/life balance is one of the key advantages for expats, particularly those moving with children.
The generally more relaxed approach to life extends to clothing as well. Dress code tends to be informal, even when going out to restaurants and other social events. Business attire is more formal, but day-to-day is all about comfort and practicality.

Practical concerns

In order to help children adopt the local lifestyle and customs, it is worth considering the public schools – a large proportion of expats do. The quality of education is excellent and a public school gives more opportunity to mingle with neighbours. However, these schools are only free for permanent residents, and those on a temporary visa would have to pay fees.
Finances are likely to be significantly different in New Zealand, and that can take some getting used to. The cost of living is on the higher side, while incomes are generally lower. Salaries are paid fortnightly, rather than monthly, with the main bills following suit. Having less disposable income means adapting to a different lifestyle, but in keeping with the local preference, outdoor activities are generally free or low cost. Make the most of the recreational parks, sports centres and national parks.

Enjoy the outdoors

To really gel with the local culture, take the time to find out about local walks, hikes, running and cycling routes, and other leisure facilities, as these are often great places to meet like-minded locals. The temperate climate means that trips to the beach are a popular pastime, and it’s often possible to find empty stretches due to the sparse population spread across the country.
Local Kiwis love sports, particularly rugby, so it’s worth trying to catch a game to see what all the fuss is about and get caught up in a bit of national pride. Grab a ticket to an All Blacks game to really get the local seal of approval. However, any sport is appreciated, both through watching and playing, particularly anything that involves getting outdoors.
Information correct at the time of publication.