Experiencing life in New Zealand: Q & A

7 05 2008

I thought it may be good to have a Q&A session, just to get my friend to share his experience in NZ. He did so it his earlier entries on why he moved, first festive seasons in a new land.

I got more out of him, so here you go:

Q: Would you continue staying in NZ for the long term?

I have not decided on this yet, given a choice, I would want to stay for a longer period, because I basically like the environment, but on the other hand, living away from family and friends for an extended period of time does not sound like a good idea to me.

Q: After staying NZ for awhile, what are the plus points and not so great points that you think of that place as somewhere worth migrating to?

Plus points:

a) Extremely family friendly work environment, personal time is greatly respected and work schedule are planned with minimum overtime expected. Flexible working hours, as long as one clocks the agreed number of hours per week (usually 40).

b) Space, a population density of 15/sqkm makes a difference (Spore is 6000/sqkm). Although some places like shopping malls can be “crowded” at times, but one can still be around and be at ease and doesn’t feel suffocated.

c) The climate, Auckland’s climate is considered mild (not necessarily true for all parts of NZ), so it’s quite pleasant most time of the year, and plenty of sunshine throughout.

d) The landscape, natural surroundings, heaps of parks no matter where one is, beaches, mountains, etc.

Not so great points:

a) Cost, I’m not sure if this is still a problem now, with the global rising cost of living, things are definitely not cheap here, but I’m not sure if they are expensive compared to other parts of the world with similar living conditions.

b) High tax rates, every single dollar earned is taxed, saving interest is taxed, etc. About 30% of my gross income goes to taxes.

c) Weak law system, which led to higher crime rate, although generally NZ is still quite a safe place.

a) The people, people are mostly friendly, but there have been cases of racism around (I have no personal experience with this), I believe are driven by xenophobic, which exist almost everywhere.

Q: Are there certain jobs that have more demand there?

Yes, there is a list of skill shortage that’s put up on the immigration website, for people possessing those skills, they will be able to apply to come to NZ under the skill migrant category.

Although I must emphasise that looking for a job here is not as simple as possessing the required skills, I have not personally experienced great difficulties in getting my skills or experience recognised, but I have read about people with skills who can’t find suitable employment. One common reason cited is the lack of “Kiwi Experience”, though nobody can explain what that is.

Q: Can you survive without a car in NZ?

I have been surviving without a car all the time I’m here. Public transport is not excellent, but is still accessible, it’s a matter of planning your trip around the timetable, which is readily available online.

Living in the CBD helps because almost everything is within walking distance. On the other hand, parking in the CDB is extremely expensive, between NZ$3 to NZ$10 per hour. So owning a car is not a good idea.

I do miss out on things like outings to the remote beaches, plantations, orchards, vineyards, some tourist spots, etc, which are not accessible by public transport. Maybe not because I don’t own a car, but because I do not really drive, because rental cars are readily available if the need arises.

Q: What do you do during the weekends and week nights?

On week nights I would usually cook and have my dinner, after which I’ll laze around, watching TV and to catch up on things on the Internet. Weekends are for grocery shopping, household chores, trips to the parks, or library. I would sometimes take a walk around my neighbourhood, or to the malls. Other than those activities, it’s more lazing around.

Q: With the high income tax, would one still be able to cope with rental, expenses, and still manage to save?

I guess this mainly boils down to how far one is willing to go in cutting expenses and living frugally. I noticed that many people are willing to pay for convenience, eg. eating out, buying things in just one supermarket (different supermarkets have different things on sale each week).

If one plans ahead and shops carefully, it’s actually not very hard to keep to a certain budget. Sales are good opportunities to bag good bargains, if one is patient enough to wait for them.

Besides my rental and expenses here, I’m also sending money home for my mother’s expenses and to pay for the mortgage of the flat. After all these, I’m able to save about 20% – 30% of my take home pay. With careful planning on the recurrence expenses, eg. Rental, groceries, etc.

Q: Does living abroad make you more inclined to check out the news back home more frequently?

Yes, for various reasons:

a) To evaluate the situation in each place, which may help in my decision on where to live in the coming years.

b) Can be great conversation topics with friends. Because most of the friends I talk to nowadays still pretty much back home, ironically.

Q: Would you think about moving to other countries to stay there after this experience?

Definitely yes, the experience is not one can get from being a tourist. Every country is unique , especially multi cultural countries.

Q: Do you miss home often? What are the things that you miss back home?

Until now (1.5 years) I do not miss home at all. As much as I would like to have my family and friends with me often, I appreciate the time to be away and be on my own. Although I can’t tell what’s the effect in the long run.

Besides the family and friends, I think the next thing that I miss most is the food back home. It’s not very difficult to find similar food here, but the taste can be different and they are more expensive (generally the case when eating out), so they are more like occasional treats. Being able to cook or learn to cook helps a lot, and it’s healthier.

A few things that have got me thinking:
1) Why is it that having live in domestic helpers (aka maids) is not a norm here?

2) What are the government policies that enables the elderly people to choose whether to continue working into their old age or to retire comfortably? I don’t see many old people who are working not because they choose to.

3) A multi party government, is it a good system? With the whole system under the close scrutiny of all the parties, there seem to be self regulation within the system such that bad things don’t happen, because if they do, the other parties will start jumping on the culprit

— If you are thinking of moving overseas, getting out of the country, do drop your comments here 🙂