Essential Tips for Settling in New Zealand
Moving to New Zealand is a dream come true. However, there are some practical considerations to take into account to keep the dream alive, rather than turn into a logistical nightmare when you arrive in the country. So we’ve put together this quick list of some things to think about and do before moving to New Zealand.
Whether you’re moving to New Zealand permanently, or crossing to the other side of the world for a gap year or two, these tips for moving to New Zealand will remind you of some things to add to your “to-do” list before moving overseas.
1. Moving for the Long-Term? Visit First
We can’t stress this point enough: visit New Zealand before you make the life-changing decision of moving here! If you’re only planning to be in New Zealand for a year, for a working holiday for example, then checking out the country first before moving isn’t really necessary. However, if you plan to spend a significant portion of your life here, then it’s really worth checking out the area first. Even if you think you’ve done all the research possible, you will never understand the vibe of a place until you visit – that goes for the individual towns in New Zealand too.
2. Talk to Someone Who Has Already Gone Through the Journey
Whether you need reassurance, have a million questions or just want to hear the stories of those who have done it before; talking to someone who has already been through the process of moving to New Zealand can be extremely enlightening. And there are people out there to help! Tara, who runs Kiwiamericans, offers an invaluable online consultation service to help migrants settle in New Zealand. There are three tiers of consults available, which you can check out on Kiwiamericans.com.
3. Understand the Cost of Living
Can you afford to live in New Zealand? Compared to some countries, New Zealand is considered an “expensive” country to live in. Although the wages are relatively high to match the high cost of living, you may find that you may need to change some lifestyle habits or go through your initial savings quicker than anticipated when you first move to the country. Check out the standard cost of living in New Zealand in our guide, How Expensive is New Zealand?
4. Check Your Immigration Path on Immigration.Govt.NZ
Before you go seeking out any immigration advice from third parties, it’s best to begin your path to migrating to New Zealand through the government agency, Immigration New Zealand – they are the ones that sort out the visas. Why go through Immigration New Zealand? Not only are there immigration advisors taking information as a straight copy-and-paste from the Immigration New Zealand website and charging you for it, but there are also a lot of scammers out there taking personal information and distributing fake visas. Start your journey for finding the right visa for living in New Zealand through immigration.govt.nz. If you find you still need immigration advice after researching your options on the Immigration New Zealand website, at least you can choose an immigration advisor with more knowledge behind you.
5. Get Yourself Ready for the New Zealand Job Market
Although there are opportunities to apply for highly skilled jobs in New Zealand from overseas, most New Zealand employers prefer to meet potential employees face-to-face. Having the right skills and experience is only part of what New Zealand employers are looking for; they want someone who will gel well with their working culture and workforce. With that in mind, you’ll need to curate a CV and attend interviews with the right approach. Consulting agencies like Kiwiamericans offer online interviewing preparation and cultural competence training to help you get ready even before you’ve landed in New Zealand.
6. Understand How You’ll Be Taxed
Paying taxes is always the “fun” part of living anywhere, right?! Yes, you’ll be taxed in New Zealand too, not only council tax if you’re buying a house, but especially for your work income. All wages are displayed before tax, then you’re wage will be paid to you through a “pay-as-you-earn” scheme with the income tax deducted. We go through all of that in detail in our guide to the New Zealand Work Tax System.
7. Get Yourself an IRD Number
Speaking of taxes, you will need to get yourself an IRD number before you start looking for a job in New Zealand. An IRD (Inland Revenue Department) Number is your unique tax number that allows you to be taxed correctly for your income (not to mention, the ability to file for a tax return). Find out more about getting an IRD number in What is an IRD Number? as well as how to choose a tax code in What is Your New Zealand Tax Code? Note that you won’t be able to apply for an IRD number until you arrive in New Zealand, but it’s a good idea to wise up on it before settling in New Zealand.
8. Know How to Find a Job
Jobs can be found through a mixture of job listing websites, job agencies, newspaper ads and – the classic Kiwi way – simply asking if there’s a job going! While the New Zealand Government has plenty of advice on the New Zealand Now website, we also have a few nifty job-finding tricks in How to Quickly Find a Job in New Zealand.
9. Find Somewhere to Live
Well, duh. You’re going to need to find a roof to go over your head. We recommend finding somewhere to rent first before you consider buying a home. That way, you’ll come to grips with what New Zealand housing is like and what likely problems you need to look out for if you were to buy a house, e.g. poor ventilation and insulation are some of the two major issues with New Zealand housing. We have tips on how to find places to rent, more directed at working holidaymakers looking for houseshares but much of the advice applies to house rentals too, in our guides How to Find a Flat in New Zealand and What Are Your Rights as a Tenant or Flatmate in New Zealand.
10. Check Out the Shopping, Services and Healthcare
Never assume that you can get in New Zealand what you are able to get at home. If there are services that you rely on in your everyday life, see if something similar is available in New Zealand. If you’re on medication, can you get it in New Zealand? Check out our How to Get a Medical Prescription in New Zealand for more details.
11. Get Your Essential Personal Paperwork Together
When living somewhere for a long time, you’re likely to come across a few situations where you’ll need some personal paperwork. Your passport and driver’s license are obvious things to have with you, but if you are, for instance, thinking of applying for residency or other visas while away from home, you will need original copies of your birth certificate. Extra tip: make copies of all your important paperwork and keep them in separate locations to the originals. If you feel uneasy about travelling with original paperwork, then keep them with a trusted person at home.
12. Open a New Zealand Bank Account (But Keep Your Old One Open at Home for a Little While)
To avoid expensive exchange rates and to make paying for things easier, it’s best to set up your own bank account in New Zealand. Check out how to do that in How to Set Up a New Bank Account in New Zealand. Plus, learn the best ways to transfer money with our How to Transfer Money to Your New Zealand Bank Account – you can get started now by registering with Wise or XE Money for free. Just as a back-up, we recommend keeping your old bank account open in your home country while you are settling into New Zealand. However, let your bank at home know that you will be overseas for the long-term, as they may flag activity on your account as suspicious and lock your account.
13. Want to Bring a Pet? Check Out the Regulations First
That’s right, New Zealand has strict biosecurity rules where bringing pets from overseas is not only a drawn-out process but also very expensive. We would consider very seriously whether you want to put your beloved pet through the whole flight and quarantine process of moving to New Zealand. You also need to be aware that some areas in New Zealand have restrictions on dogs and cats due to the threat they pose to native birds. For instance, you can’t take dogs into national parks and some towns in the South Island have even banned bringing new cats into the neighbourhood! Learn more about bringing animals to the country in our guide, Bringing Pets into New Zealand.
14. Get Up to Speed on the Kiwi Slang
Nothing makes you feel more like an outsider than not knowing the local lingo! New Zealanders have a few quirky slang terms and different words used for commonplace things. Brush up on the Kiwi slang by using our guide, Talk Like a New Zealander: Talk Like a Kiwi.
15. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Cultural Competence
Not just the lingo, but there will be other customs and traditions that you might not be used to in New Zealand. New Zealand has a mix of English and Maori culture, which has its own unique quirks. When it comes to learning about the New Zealand culture from an immigrant’s perspective, the Kiwiamericans YouTube Channel is an excellent resource (especially if you’re moving to New Zealand from the US)! Kiwiamericans also offer online cultural competency training at Kiwiamericans.com.
16. Work Out How You’re Going to Meet New People
Meeting new people, making new friends and leaving the old ones behind is often the scariest part of moving to a new country. And, honestly, it’s going to probably take a while until you feel like you’re fully settled in with a new group of people – especially if you leave it to New Zealanders to do the heavy lifting. New Zealanders tend to take a little while to warm up to new people unless you share similar passions, such as sports, hobbies and jobs (yes, some people are passionate about their job). With that in mind, we recommend joining clubs for anything you might be interested in, attending community events and generally putting yourself out there!
18. Learn About Hazards Specific to New Zealand
Never a fun topic to think about; what are all the things that could kill you in a new country?! Although New Zealand doesn’t have any dangerous animals, it’s not a bad idea to know what to do in an earthquake, for example. With harsh UV rays, pests like sandflies that leave an itchy bite, and parts of the country having extreme outdoor environments that you need to be prepared for if venturing “into the bush”, there are a few hazards that apply more to New Zealand than they may do back home. You can start your research with our guide to Outdoor Safety When Hiking in New Zealand. Oh and here is a classic Kiwi traffic jam, be aware!
19. Clear Out Your Old Life
Moving house is a great opportunity to clear out unwanted things, but moving abroad… This is a chance to really start again, as shipping vast quantities of things can be pretty darn expensive. Alternatively, if you are only going away on a gap year and intend to return home, then guess what? You’ll probably realise how little you needed all your things once you have lived a year without them. Have a clearout, sell some of your stuff, and you’ll probably benefit a lot more from the money you earn.
20. Don’t Forget to Explore!
What’s the fun of living in a new country if you don’t explore it? Surprisingly, a lot of people live in New Zealand to grind for a few years before returning to their home country. But you’re in one of the most stunning countries on earth and it doesn’t even cost much to scout out the amazing hiking trails and hit the scenic natural attractions. Don’t forget to do some research on amazing places to explore in New Zealand.
- A Beginner’s Guide to Getting to New Zealand
- 10 Things You Did Not Know About the Maori Culture
- The New Zealand Working Holiday Visa: Everything You Need to Know!
- How to Prepare to Study in New Zealand
- Studying English in New Zealand
Finally, don’t forget to check out Kiwi Americans for more advice on moving to New Zealand and book a consult!