Moving to New Zealand
An Accessible Country for the First-Time Expatriate
My first experience of living abroad was in New Zealand. I had planned on living there for one year but ended up staying for nearly two. The beautiful beaches, sunshine, friendly people, and the diverse landscape combined to be an ideal setting for exploration. But most of the resources I had for finding information on moving there were from couples, or were designed for holiday travel. Here are a few tips from my experience moving solo to New Zealand.
This country is a wonderful place for the solo female traveler to live either for a short-time while on a working holiday or for a few years on a working visa. Thankfully, it is a relatively easy place to find good employment. The New Zealand Immigration website (www.immigration.govt.nz) is a fantastic resource. The website has virtually all the information you need, from specific forms and procedures to an overview of what life is like in New Zealand. Be sure to check out the “Skill Shortage List.” The website has a list of all of the job categories for which there is a shortage, and finding yourself a job on the list can make all of the paperwork much easier for entering the country.
For solo travelers, I highly recommend searching for a job prior to moving to New Zealand. There are numerous ways to find job listings. Many of New Zealand’s major newspapers are available online, including the New Zealand Herald (for Auckland and the northern areas of the country). For a complete list of New Zealand newspapers available online, check out www.onlinenewspapers.com/nz.htm. I would recommend looking at all these newspapers, especially the weekend editions.
There are other job hunting resources available in addition to the newspapers. The New Zealand immigration website has a link on the right-hand side of the home page with job resources. If you are a member of a professional group, you can also do a Google search to see if there is a New Zealand professional association, which may advertise vacancies in your field.
The location of a job will be a major factor in your decision. Some people choose to live in smaller towns in order to get to know the local community. In a bigger city there is the risk of getting lost in the crowd, but there is the big advantage of having a more diverse range of social opportunities. As a solo traveler, I chose to live in Auckland, where I knew there were a number of other foreigners working in my field. The benefit of having a large number of foreign workers is that you meet people from a variety of cultural backgrounds who don’t know many other people and who are looking for social connections. It’s a ready-made social circle.
Once you’ve accepted a job, be sure to give yourself enough time to get your paperwork through before your start date. I had about two months before I was due to move to New Zealand and it took me that long to get my paperwork sorted. Gathering the necessary documents is what takes the most time; if possible, start gathering documents such as your birth certificate, transcripts, letters of reference, FBI clearance, and local police clearance as soon as you decide that you are going to move abroad.
You may also want to ask if someone from your work will be able to meet you at the airport, if you feel uncomfortable arriving on your own. When choosing the location of your initial accommodation, I would suggest staying close to the city center, so you are able to easily access shops and public transport. Unless you rent or purchase a car in your first few days in New Zealand, good public transport is essential for your search for permanent accommodation.
Sometimes you can rent an apartment for a week or two before you get settled, but one of the most economical ways is to rent a private room in a hostel (known as a “backpackers” in New Zealand). Staying your first few weeks in a backpackers provides a number of advantages: it’s cheaper than staying in a hotel or motel, you have a built-in social element with common rooms, Internet services are usually available, and many of them have bulletin boards advertising cars and accommodations. You can also talk with the staff about the best local neighborhoods to live. I’ve found New Zealand’s backpackers to be of very good quality overall, and there are some great online resources to research which one meets your needs: www.bugpacific.com, www.backpack.co.nz, and www.yha.co.nz.
When I arrived in Auckland I found that getting an apartment on my own was out of the question. The areas where I wanted to live were too expensive for one person; therefore I was forced to house-share (referred to as “flatting”). It turned out to be the best decision I could have made. In New Zealand, especially in Auckland, flatting is very common for people of all ages. Having flat-mates is economical, provides a ready-made social group, and adds a built-in safety net in case of emergencies.
When looking for flat-mates, the newspapers are a good bet. In Auckland, the New Zealand Herald’s Wednesday and Saturday papers are the big ones. Trade and Exchange is also a good resource. It is a weekly paper you can find at most dairies (corner shops) and you can also access it online. And www.trademe.co.nz is another great online resource, not only when looking for a flat, but also when looking for furniture. It is important to be able to budget for buying furniture in your initial expenses, as most rooms and apartments are rented unfurnished.
Finally, once you’re settled you can explore other social opportunities. New Zealanders are very into sport, and joining a local touch-rugby team or netball team can be a great way of meeting other people. Often there are local tramping (hiking) clubs, climbing clubs, triathlon clubs, and skiing clubs. Taking surf lessons, flax weaving, or a Maori language class are also good options for experiencing the culture and meeting new people. The local libraries often list community education courses and just asking your co-workers or flat-mates will often lead to good opportunities.
After the initial stress of getting my job and paperwork sorted, I had thought that the actual process of settling into my new life in New Zealand would be fairly easy; however, it took me a few months before I really started to feel established. If you go prepared to give yourself some time to get adjusted to a new lifestyle, you’ll find the rewards of moving to New Zealand far outweigh the initial hassles.