Monday, December 24, 2007
Emigrating to New Zealand
I emigrated to New Zealand from England 11 years ago. Over the years I have seen families come and go, and recently have met a lot of people who have come to work at the new corrections facility that has opened just down the road from Dunedin. So here are a few words of advice resulting from my own personal experience as well as that of friends and colleagues.
Do your homework
The first big piece of advice is....do your home work before you commit yourself to anything!!
Make sure you know about the region you are going to - is it rural or urban? What facilities and resources does it have? What is the population size? Is a geographically isolated area? There are a lot of geographically isolated rural communities in New Zealand which can come as quite a shock if you are usually a city dweller.
What is the weather like? For some reasons people think New Zealand has a tropical climate - that is not so. The weather varies from region to region and if you live in the Dunedin area, you need to be prepared for weather that is very similar to Scotland. This is all well and good but the houses here do not have the same level of insulation or heating that they do in the UK or Europe. We are hardy folk here - if we're cold, we just put another jumper on!
What is the social make up of the local population? Be mindful that some areas have 'troubled' communities which is why it is difficult to recruit people to work there. We do have problems with gangs in some areas as well as high domestic violence and youth suicide, so think about that when you are looking to settle. However, working in the less privileged areas of New Zealand provides wonderful opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Do not burn your bridges
My other big piece of advice is not to burn all your bridges before you come ie if you have a house in your mother country, do not sell it until you have lived here a while and are confident that you want to settle here. It is very easy and acceptable to rent here, so try renting for a while until you are sure what you want to do in the long run.
Cost of living
Do not automatically assume that the cost of living is a lot cheaper than it is in Europe and the UK. Whilst housing is cheaper, I would say that the cost of living is on par when you take earnings into consideration. Depending on where you live, the cost of food, gas and electricity is climbing as is petrol. Cars are cheap to buy and people make do with extremely old dilapidated cars that would not be deemed to be road worthy in other countries. This is particularly good news for teenage boys buying their first car.
Do not expect to get a job that is on par with what you had in your mother country. This rings particularly true for men who come over on their wives' points/qualifications. It can be hard for men to get jobs and that in itself can cause huge pressures for families, especially if the wife does have a job. I have known a number of families who have returned to the UK because the man has not been able to get a 'decent' job. Chaps, you have to be prepared to be flexible and versatile, and may have to take a drop in employment status whilst you look for a job that really suits you.
If you are made a job offer, be extremely clear about the expectations and have it in writing. Again, I have known a number of people who have found that their jobs have not lived up to expectation which has caused undue stress and conflict.
Be mindful that we have a different culture here in New Zealand. Whilst we are predominantly 'white', speak English and even drive on the 'proper' side of the road, we think and do things differently from Europeans. I won't go into the differences too much here but I would suggest the main thing to be aware of is that some things are not done to quite the same level as they are in the UK. By that, I mean that the prevailing attitude can be 'it will be alright, mate' but in some cases, they aren't 'alright'. This is especially true with buying a house - there is no where near the same level of checking carried out on a potential purchase that is carried out in the UK. On one hand that makes buying a house a lot easier, but on the other hand it can mean that it is easier to end up with a bad buy.
At the end of the world
Remember that New Zealand is a long way from anywhere (apart from Australia) and it is time consuming and expensive to travel. Whilst it may only take 24 hours to fly to the UK or Europe, it can be difficult and expensive to return especially if you have to make the trip, say, because of a family emergency. Family and friends say they will come out and visit, but often are unable to do so because of the expense. The same goes for return trips back home. So although getting away from the family can be a great appeal for emigration, in the long run it can be very stressful. This is especially true if you have sick, elderly family members at home, or you are bringing a young family here to grow up away from their grandparents, aunts, uncles etc.
Advice for Poms
My last piece of major advice is for those of you who are English. Us Poms are generally not well liked here. When it comes to rugby, cricket or any kind of sport, or anything at all, there's nothing a Kiwi loves more than the Poms being taken down. New Zealanders will even support Australia over us! Now this can be very hurtful but the way to tackle it is to remind Kiwis who got further in the last World Rugby Cup - England or New Zealand!?! This is bound to make you a friend for life.......NOT!
Now this all sounds extremely negative and I know that Kiwis may be thinking that I would be better off back in the UK, but there are some wonderful things about living in New Zealand which I will talk about in my next post.
If you are interested in moving to Australia, have a look at Bill Hampton's web site.