Relocating to New Zealand: Your First Steps
Whether it’s on your own, or with family, relocating to New Zealand can be difficult. With the challenges you’re bound to face, both inside and outside of the workplace, planning ahead is critical. Although there will definitely be an adjustment period, be patient, and I assure you, the move will be worth it!
Being Prepared: A Relocation Checklist
You’ve secured a job and your visa has come through but the preparation doesn’t stop there. It can be easy to gloss over what needs to be organised in those critical first few weeks, so we’ve put together a quick checklist, along with a few handy links.
Finding somewhere to live
Trade Me is the best place to start when it comes to accommodation (and furniture once you move in). You’ll find rental listings for entire homes/apartments as well as others looking for flatmates. I’ve also found Facebook Marketplace to be a great alternative to finding rentals and furniture.
Most of New Zealand’s cities are easily accessible, but it’s still important to consider commute times (and school zoning for kids) before committing. I moved to Auckland, a large city with well-publicised traffic problems, so knowing this really made my life easier when picking out certain areas to live!
In New Zealand, a few of the major banks include ANZ, ASB, BNZ, Westpac and Kiwibank. It’s wise to check out a bank satisfaction survey including all of the options before settling on one simply for convenience. Generally, to set up an account in New Zealand, you’ll need a few things:
- Photo ID
- Proof of your IRD number
- A residential address
Your bank will issue an EFTPOS (Debit) card on the spot, which can be used straight away.
Getting around and buying a car
If you’re relying on public transport, you’ll find most of New Zealand’s cities have established networks of buses. In Auckland, we have access to a network of trains and buses to get commuters to and from most major work hubs. However, most people find they need a car to get around with ease.
Like finding somewhere to live, Trade Me is also your best bet when it comes to searching for used cars. Although you can drive on your existing licence for up to 12 months, it’s easy to convert it to a New Zealand licence at a local AA Centre.
Insurance and healthcare
Some of the large insurance companies include AA, State, AMI and Tower. They’ll be able to help you with everything you need, from car insurance, to home and contents and even renters insurance. Ask around and do some research as quotes can vary quite substantially from company to company. One major difference I noticed (coming from Germany) was the different levels of car insurance that were available. Whilst Comprehensive car insurance offers full cover, there are more cost-effective alternatives available. For example, Third Party insurance covers damage to someone else’s vehicle when you’re at fault.
Depending on your work visa, it’s most likely that you’ll be covered by the public health system but it’s definitely worth looking into additional private health insurance too. There are plenty of options (in terms of the cover you’d like to receive) and most healthcare providers here have affordable starter plans. Don’t forget to ask your employer if they offer healthcare insurance (or discounts) as part of your benefits package!
Whether you’ll be covered by health insurance (or through the public health system), it’s still important to find a local GP. Doctor visits and prescriptions are both subsidised in New Zealand, whilst hospital visits are free of charge.
Adjusting to Life in New Zealand
Even if it was your idea to leave home in the first place, it doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges as you adjust. You will likely be on your own (or perhaps with your family) but your usual support network will now be a long-haul flight away.
With Facetime and other communication tools/apps, it’s a lot easier than it used to be when it comes to keeping in touch with loved ones back home. However, life still goes on without you and it can be easy to feel left out. It’s normal to struggle and doubt your decision to move Down Under. If you do struggle, remind yourself why you wanted to move here in the first place and remember that you’re not the only one that might be feeling left out. Your family most likely feels the same – just on the other side of the world. Remember, this feeling is natural (and also temporary). It’s easy to re-think your decision while settling in, but I know from experience that it only takes a little time and effort before you start to feel at home.
The most difficult thing for me was finding friends and building a social life here in New Zealand. I was lucky enough to know a few people, but they lived far from Auckland. A good (and probably the most obvious) place to meet people is at work. Workplaces in NZ are fairly social, so look for opportunities to get involved in social occasions, team building and workplace sports teams. Friday drinks are standard practice and a good way to get to know your colleagues better and maybe even make some friends.
Outside of work, the biggest factor that helped me settle was joining a gym. Kiwis are a very active bunch of people and there are tons of activities to get involved in. Gym, yoga, water sports, mountain biking, rugby, walking groups etc. The options are endless! If you have children, it can be easy to meet other parents, whether that’s at school pickups, or getting involved with school committees. Facebook groups for immigrants are also a great way to get out and meet people who have experienced what you’re going through – you’ll be surprised how many people are out there going through exactly the same transition.
When adjusting to life in New Zealand, you’ll also have to get used to a new job, and most probably, a different working environment than you’re used to. The culture will be fresh, and the people different, which makes settling into a new team trickier than it would be back home. However, in saying that, the country has quite a diverse population with cultures from all over the world, which certainly helps newcomers feel comfortable in their new surroundings.
Like relocating to other countries, without having local experience, people often need to take a step back in their career initially. If you find yourself accepting a role at a lower level than you’re used to, my advice would be to stick with it – you’ll have a good chance of stepping up after getting some NZ experience under your belt.
Making the move to New Zealand is a life-changing decision, one that will bring big changes and even bigger possibilities. Even if it is out of your comfort zone, thorough preparation, keeping an open-mind and being proactive whilst you adjust will only help you settle in faster. Remember, Kiwis are a nice bunch of people and always happy to lend a helping hand, so don’t be shy and ask for advice! Also, New Zealand is home to a large community of expats, so there are plenty of others looking to form new connections too.
If you’re looking for advice on New Zealand’s Construction & Engineering jobs market or would like to have a chat about relocating to NZ, get in touch with me – I’d love to help!