New Zealand has become quite the hip country lately, thanks to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, two Rugby World Cup titles in a row for the All Blacks, delicious craft beers and wines, and a bursting technology and arts scene that puts countries with far bigger populations to shame. With remarkable scenery, quirky small towns, and interesting people from around the world, New Zealand has a lot to offer.
The country is made up of two main islands – the North and South Islands – and various outlying islands. The Maori people settled these lands only 800 years ago, which has led to unique and rich biodiversity with many indigenous plants and animals. White settlers first arrived in 1642, and in 1840 the country became a British colony. Maori cultural sites can be found throughout the country, highlighting how the land shaped this culture. Nowadays, immigration continues to shape New Zealand culture, with many Asian and Pacific Islanders also making the country home.
The work culture in New Zealand is more relaxed and stress-free than in many other countries. Working weeks are around 40 hours and leisure time is highly valued. It isn’t unusual to see colleagues leaving work a bit early to do something outdoors, like sailing or diving.
Dress, however, is often conservative and formal. New Zealanders are punctual and expect the same. Meetings are set up in advance and most begin with a few minutes of small talk. Trust is important, and negotiations can take time. Much of the business community frowns on haggling or unexpected pressure. As can be expected, the main language of business, and indeed of life, is English.
Life in New Zealand is comparable to other OECD nations. Groceries can seem expensive, especially as many goods must be imported. Most accommodation is rented by the week, and finding a furnished home can be difficult, so expect to spend some money getting your home ready.
GST is 15% and is automatically added to the price of goods. This does not apply to accommodation, financial transactions, or income.
You’re never far from nature in New Zealand, even in the cities. Auckland’s 1.3 million people live among rolling green hills and along a pretty coastline, and Wellington is tucked among staggering views of lush mountains and turquoise sea. Christchurch is still recovering from the harrowing 2011 earthquake, but as infrastructure is being rebuilt, innovative citizens have begun transforming unsafe spaces into public parks, community gardens, and art hubs.
But the spectacular nature is what most expats crave, and New Zealand is a playground for anyone who craves natural beauty. You’re never far from a deserted beach, challenging hill walk, or adventure sport. Combined with some of the friendliest and most helpful people on the planet, life in New Zealand offers a lot for everyone.
Travel in New Zealand is easiest with a car, though local buses are available. Roads are generally in good shape, and expect single-lane roads with passing places in more remote locations. Regular flights carry passengers from the north and south islands.
Nearby places to explore include Australia of course, but other places, such as New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and even Hawaii are a manageable flight away.