New Zealand is a unique place. Americans expect amazing scenery, sheep and friendly people. More surprising are the quirks and nuances of the Kiwi lifestyle. In the words of one of our US clients - ‘it looks the same on the surface, but the infrastructure underneath is completely different’.
Knowing what to expect makes for a successful international relocation. Here’s our guide to the challenges Americans face when they move to New Zealand:
Renting property, but not as you know it. US clients can find relationships with NZ property letting agents quite transactional, compared to the level of support they are used to. Agents will show you only the properties they are personally letting or managing. And these may be dispersed throughout the city. So, if you want a certain area that means dealing with multiple agents. Viewings can be at set times and you’ll need to drive yourself between appointments.
Heating, what heating? By northern hemisphere standards, NZ properties are cold during winter. Recent regulatory changes mean newer properties and apartments are likely to be better insulated and double-glazed, keeping heat in and reducing your power bills.
Summer at Christmas. This can really throw Americans who’ve only ever experienced a snowy celebration. It helps to find some traditions from your past to keep or adapt. Like getting a real pine tree or sharing your seasonal food with Kiwi neighbours/workmates. And then embrace the novelty of Christmas Day at the beach!
Hogwarts rather than High School Musical. American teens moving to New Zealand find the education system’s expectations around appearance at school quite different. Most schools have a compulsory uniform, hair must be tied up and make up and jewelry are discouraged.
More holidays. 4 weeks annual leave is standard, and it’s often said that New Zealand goes away to the beach for the month of January. Many businesses have an extended shut-down over Christmas/New Year. This requires quite a change in mindset when you come from the US. Planning is key to making the most of these opportunities to get out and explore NZ. At peak times there’s pressure from Kiwis and tourists on accommodation, rental cars and activities so book ahead.
What did you say? – Yes, English is spoken but it’s peppered with words from the UK, the Maori language and unique Kiwi-isms. Expect not to understand what people are saying to begin with. Hiking is tramping. Trash is rubbish. And kia ora means hello. Spelling uses British not American conventions. Just ask if you’re not sure!
The author of this post, Bridget Romanes, is Principal at Mobile Relocation Ltd. Working in partnership with HR and executive teams, Mobile helps bring expat talent into key roles in companies and organisations throughout New Zealand
By sharing our knowledge through this blog we hope to help expats, migrants and their families prepare well for the challenges of relocating to a new country, so they can make the most of the experience that lies ahead.
Our goal is to connect newcomers with what they need to thrive in New Zealand.