Updated October 2020
Donald Trump is President of the United States, Covid is running rampant and Google is seeing a surge in queries about moving to New Zealand.
As a New Zealander, I’ve put this little post together to give you an idea about what life in New Zealand is really like. For Kiwis that is – and more on what a Kiwi is in a bit.
For years New Zealand has been that country that no one knew quite where to put on the map. Or at least people in the northern hemisphere didn’t. We were tucked away in a quiet little corner of the planet that no one had heard much about.
I spent a year in an American high school in the 80s and I was asked, ok by a 13-year old freshman, how we managed not to fall off the globe since we were underneath it. Not even joking!
I replied that we all wear suction cups on our shoes and the sound of New Zealand is squelching. His eyes nearly popped out of his head. I still wonder if he told that to anyone else!
But even last year my husband and I were in America and were asked if everyone speaks English here and another had us pegged next to Greenland.
And try telling an American that we have Christmas in summer and their brains nearly explode.
What with Brexit and ISIS (actually, what IS happening on the ISIS front?) Trump and now Coronavirus, global fear has been the best marketing for New Zealand since Lord of the Rings.
And not only are people looking to visit New Zealand, but the stats show that they’re also searching for information on moving here.
So this post is for those who plan to move to New Zealand.
It is packed with helpful guidelines for assimilating into our country…
• We have a total population of 5 million people in a country the size of the state of California (which has a population of 40 million) or Great Britain (with a population of 66 million).
Consequently things are quite expensive here as we don’t have the tax base to pay for infrastructure or the power of bulk buying for imported goods.
• We are Kiwis. Kiwis are birds. We are not birds. A kiwi is not a kiwifruit. That’s about as silly as saying passion and passionfruit or grape and grapefruit are the same.
• We have three official languages but most Kiwis only know one: English. Maori and sign language are the other two.
There is a huge interest in learning Te Reo (Maori language) from us Pakeha (people of European descent). It would pay you to learn a few Maori words before you get here as we do throw them into our every day speak without realising.
Look up haka, mana, puku, whanau, kia ora, ka pai and if you learn the little ditty about how to to pronounce Maori vowel sounds, you’ll be a leap ahead of most when trying to say Tauranga…
• We also have rugby. Rugby is about as important as language and the All Blacks are super heroes. Don’t even question that. They always start their international matches off with the haka. A Maori war dance. You can read the lyrics to the haka here.
• We drive – and walk – on the left. In fact when I walk into a shop I begin browsing to the left. I wonder if we all do that?
• Our cops are not armed. Well not routinely. They have guns locked in the boot (trunk) of their cars, and we have armed cops called the Armed Offenders Squad (AOS) who we ring when we need them, but our normal run-of-the-mill copper is not holstered and bolstered and the chances of being shot in New Zealand is about the last way you will die. If you do indeed die here. Which I hope you don’t.
• We eat fresh food. Right now citrus is lying on the back lawns of most of my neighbours. We eat grass-fed beef because we have a lot of grass. The only beef that eat grain are ones that get massaged and called wagyu. We catch fish, or buy it fresh. My cousins get so many crayfish (rock lobster) in Hawkes Bay that by the end of summer my aunty longs for a barbecued sausage rather than another lobster meal.
• We drink coffee. Espresso coffee none of that drip or Starbucks stuff. Oh don’t get me wrong, Starbucks is here, but if I go in there it’s for a frappacino. We like our coffee beans roasted locally and the flat white is a New Zealand institution. I have tried countless times to explain to an American barista how to thicken the milk and shake it through my coffee. Pffft *rolls eyes.
• We make wine. Lots of wine. New Zealand is blanketed in 10 wine regions and a gazillion rows of vines. We drink the wine. But not until 5 o’clock. Unless it’s the weekend. Or 5 o’clock somewhere else in the world.
• We merge like a zip when we enter the motorway. But then we treat the rest of the journey like a race and don’t let other cars in.
• We rarely discuss our political allegiance. We do not turn up to huge public rallies. Never not ever. Maybe a few people will head along to a local town hall, but never by the stadium full. We get out and vote, sure, but we don’t discuss it at dinner parties. You will be safe here. Until someone brings it up!
There, that’s it for starters. Feel free to add more helpful tips in the comments for our wannabe immigrants!
If you’re planning on coming for a holiday, you might like to read my Ultimate New Zealand Itinerary!