14 Things You Need to Know Before Moving to New Zealand
If you’re moving from Australia to New Zealand, you might be thinking “it’s just a short hop across the Tasman, how different can life be?” In fact, you’re probably just looking forward to soaking up that Lord of the Rings scenery, breathing in the clean air and enjoying the laid-back Kiwi lifestyle.
That’s OK, the scenery really is that good. And while there’s undoubtedly plenty these two neighbouring countries share, there’s also some things you need to know before moving to New Zealand.
1. New Zealand is relatively small
The entire population of New Zealand is just 4.5 million. That’s less than the population of Greater Melbourne. Australia has five times as many residents as New Zealand, which means that moving to New Zealand can be a bit of a shock to the system. You might love being able to walk around the compact cities and revel in the amount of wild countryside there is to enjoy – or you might find things a little on the quiet side.
2. Indigenous culture is an integral part of life
New Zealand’s indigenous Maori culture is much more prominent than Australia’s Aboriginal one. Maori is an official language and many signs are written in both Maori and English. You can’t have missed the infamous Haka war dance, performed by new Zealand’s All Blacks before rugby matches, but there’s so much more to this ancient culture. For a glimpse into traditional Maori life, head to a marae (tribal meeting ground) to experience organised Maori welcomes with singing, dancing, crafts, storytelling and feasting. The marae at Rotorua and Canterbury are among the most popular.
3. The weather is cooler
New Zealand has a more temperate climate than Australia. That means lower temperatures and more rain. If you’re moving from the hottest, driest parts of Australia this can be a pleasant relief but you will need to prepare yourself for colder winters.
4. Your money might not go as far
You may find yourself with less disposable income in New Zealand. That’s down to lower wages on average, combined with a higher cost of living and higher housing costs (especially in Wellington and Auckland). You might also see more visible signs of poverty, although in general the economy is relatively strong. As in Australia, rent is advertised weekly not monthly.
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5. Women’s sport is celebrated
New Zealand is pretty progressive when it comes to women’s sport. You can watch women’s netball, golf, athletics, rugby and cricket on TV and its stars are regularly featured in newspapers and magazines for their sporting achievements rather than their personal lives.
6. And so is golf
For golf lovers, New Zealand is a dream destination. With more golf courses per capita than anywhere else in the world – and some very scenic ones at that – golf is everywhere. Tara Iti outside Auckland, Jack’s Point near Queenstown and Cape Kidnappers in Hawkes Bay all offer world-class golf and spectacular views. And that really is just to get you started.
7. Thrill-seeking is part of the national identity
As a nation, Kiwis are a bunch of adrenaline junkies. Popular extreme activities include flying foxes, bungee jumping, white water rafting, glacier hiking, jet boating and canyoning. All approached with that characteristic laid-back attitude!
8. Vowels have a unique pronunciation
You’ll know that the accents are different in New Zealand, but the completely switched around vowels can take your ears some getting used to. The ‘a’ sound becomes ‘e’, while the ‘e’ sound becomes ‘i’, and so on, and so on.
9. You’ll need to get used to earthquakes
New Zealand’s islands straddle the border between the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates – and that makes for regular earthquakes and tremors. In fact, there’s on average around 14,000 tremors a year. Waking up in the night to feel the ground shaking beneath you can be pretty disconcerting to begin with, but you’ll soon get used to it and develop the same blasé attitude as the New Zealanders. Most episodes tend to be mildly alarming at worst, but do brush up on your earthquake emergency action plan just in case. We all remember the devastation of those Christchurch earthquakes back in 2011.
10. But the wildlife is much less scary
To make up for the shock of feeling the earth shake beneath your feet, New Zealand’s wildlife have kindly evolved to be as non-threatening as they come. There are none of the venomous snakes, scorpions and insects you might be used to back home. There is just one poisonous spider, the katipo, and that’s so rare it’s hardly ever seen. The worst wildlife encounter you’re likely to have is with the kea bird. These cheeky birds love to peck out the rubber from around your car windows and windscreen wipers.
11. New Zealand sweet treats are in a league of their own
New Zealand is a nation with a seriously sweet tooth so you’re in for a treat when it comes to sampling the local favourites. Lamingtons, sponge cake coated in raspberry jam and shaved coconut, and Afghans, chocolate cornflake cookies, are among the most popular baked goods. Look out for chocolate fish, peanut slab, goody goody gum drops ice cream and colourful fairy bread as well. Of course, you’ll also find amazing seafood, lamb, dairy, wine and fresh produce but everyone loves some sugar, right?
12. They have two national anthems
New Zealand is one of just three countries worldwide to have two national anthems. God Defend New Zealand is the more commonplace song, but the familiar God Save the Queen is also used.
13. The wind is a major topic of conversation
Get used to chatting about the wind, it’s a big deal in New Zealand. Specifically, the direction it’s blowing from. A ‘southerly’ wind blowing in from Antarctica in the south will have people scrambling for the woollies, especially in the famous ‘Windy City’, Wellington.
14. You need to handle your drink
Kiwis love to have a good time, but disorderly behaviour in bars is not tolerated. Expect to be escorted out by security staff if things get remotely rowdy. On the plus side, this makes for safe, pleasant nights out.