Working in New Zealand can be a fantastic way to see a special part of the world and add deeper experience and colour to your resume. But be aware. Many expat executives find this little country has some unique lifestyle quirks and challenges.
A well-designed relocation package can help address these. Knowing what to ask for is critical.
Assess the offer
How do you know if you’re being given a good deal?
First off, your package offer should include all or most of the basic items: accommodation allowance, relocation costs, resettlement support, healthcare cover, an annual trip home and an education allowance for children.
But seeing those in your offer is just the start. You’ll need to dig deeper to figure out what’s really going to add value in the New Zealand context.
A realistic housing budget
Renting quality housing is expensive in New Zealand. And the supply is often limited. As a result, official house price data can be misleading. For example the median rental for a 4 bedroom house in a nice central Auckland suburb is NZ$1000 per week yet Mobile’s executive expat clients are paying closer to $NZ2000, with top properties renting for up to NZ$5000 per week.
Ask expat colleagues what they are paying for rentals. Or contact us for a copy of The Mobile Expat Insider Report on Expat Housing Costs in New Zealand’s Major Cities.
Investigate other costs
As well as housing, it’s a good idea to estimate all your living costs before agreeing an overall financial package. Depending on where they come from, expats can find food and clothing more expensive in New Zealand. Yet other items like childcare and utilities can be cheaper. In all cases, knowledge is power. Check out this cost of living calculator tool for everything from haircuts to groceries.
The private school option
Many expats value the experiences and education their kids have in the New Zealand public school system. Others prefer private for reasons of continuity with schooling in their home country.
But transferring teenagers into NZ is more complicated. They’ll be working towards qualifications that directly influence their future, particularly if they need to transfer back into a school system in another country. New Zealand’s national secondary school qualification (National Certificate in Educational Achievement – NCEA) is recognized internationally, but may not align exactly with curricula elsewhere. The International Baccalaureate (IB) and International Cambridge systems are available at many private schools, and a very small number of public schools.
Private schools cost up to NZ$20,000 per annum so it’s prudent to ensure your package can cover this, if that’s what’s going to be best for your kids.
Trips home, and the time to do them
A feeling of geographical isolation is often a problem for expats and their families in New Zealand – it takes up to 28 hours to fly to some parts of the Northern Hemisphere and airfares are expensive. Standard holidays are 3 weeks a year, so you might need to negotiate further on this to consider travel (and recovery) time, kids school holidays etc.
A family onboarding programme
Research shows that 37% of international assignment failure is due to family issues, spouse dissatisfaction or inability to settle into their new country. It can be hard for families in New Zealand where there is just not the level of expat infrastructure they may have relied on in other places, such as national clubs, international schools and a large expat community. Newcomers are expected to integrate
Incoming expat executives know they will have an onboarding programme organized for them at the office. There’s value (and peace of mind) in knowing your family is also being upskilled and equipped for life in New Zealand in a structured way – finding schooling, housing, connecting to local communities, and enabling spouses to re-establish their careers and/or pursue their interests. Here’s a list of the type of resettlement services available for families.
What benefits do executives give away?
Clubs are not an entrenched part of business life in New Zealand. Some of the major cities do have them. But ask your local colleagues if there’s value for people in your industry before accepting this as part of your package.
New Zealand has a good public health system, and private health insurance is much cheaper than many countries. So, especially if you’ve come from the US, your employer may well be making savings which could be applied elsewhere in you package
Closing the deal
The most important aspect of negotiating the best expat package is research.
Before you make requests, ask other expats in your company about what they were able to obtain. And more importantly what they wish they’d asked for! You can also check out our blog or contact us directly for more information about costs and lifestyle in New Zealand.
These data points can strengthen your position when arguing for changes to your package.
But, when you do get to the final signature, just remember you're going to New Zealand to broaden your horizons, have some fun and build your career. Not only to make as much money as possible.
By sharing our knowledge through this blog we hope to help newcomers prepare and accelerate their adjustment to life in NZ.
Mobile designs and delivers expat onboarding programmes – finding housing and schooling, community connection, cultural awareness training, coaching, spousal support. We get expats (and their families) settled and focused on their new jobs and lives. Mobile’s mission is to connect newcomers with what they need to thrive in New Zealand.