An American’s Take On “Rip-Off New Zealand”
Continuing in our series of Migrant Tales – first hand immigrant stories about life in New Zealand, taken from locations around the net.
Today’s tale is taken from the City Data forum. In it the poser, an American married to a Kiwi, gives her opinion on how expensive New Zealand is, the thread was discussing the recent newspaper article “NZ: 100% Pure Rip Off” written by journalist Peter Bills (see here for our blog about it):
I’m American and my husband is a Kiwi. We lived on and off in West Auckland, NZ for the past five years. At this point we have given up and are staying stateside for now.
NZ is beautiful and the people are super friendly and it’s very fun to live there. It is just like the postcards. We really do love it there…
BUT it’s different when you’re not there on vacation.
It is very expensive and difficult to make real money there in order to save up or get ahead. Anyone looking to relocate there needs to do a lot of research and have a huge nest egg. NZ is a fantastic place to raise a family or retire…. if you’ve already got money. But nowhere is a fantastic place if you’re struggling.
The rents and housing prices in Auckland are astronomical compared to wages. Our rental in Glen Eden was $400NZD/week for a small 3 BR. The quality of the rentals there is very poor. I don’t know how people working on average wage do it. Wellington and Christchurch aren’t much better and these three areas are pretty much where all of the actual professional jobs are located.
We’re not the only ones that had to leave NZ to make a living. A lot of younger kiwis leave to go to the UK or the US to work and travel. A lot of them don’t come back. My husband’s family members and close friends are scattered all around the globe from Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Scotland, Canada and here. Very few are actually in Auckland. We have to coordinate our vacations so that we all meet up there.
Most of the problem is that it’s very isolated, so it’s very expensive to get cargo shipped, and there’s not a lot of competition there. It’s such a small population. There’s more people in Nassau and Suffolk County in Long Island, New York than the whole country of New Zealand.
Also I noticed while I was there that there just isn’t the energy or drive to innovate or “do more” there. I didn’t feel like there was any spark there. Kiwis are perfectly happy to make do. “Whatever bro”…chill out, drink some Steinies, and watch the rugby. They are ingenious in their own way, to make things work for them personally. But few have any interest in making any kind of business, investing or becoming entrepreneurs. All the dairies and small shops in Auckland are owned by immigrants. (The immigrants from India are having a field day there.) Kiwis are very easy going and friendly, but overall are not a bunch of go-getters. It’s just not valued in their culture. They like everyone to be on the same level, they don’t reward achievement. Anyone who’s a “tall poppy” get cut down one way or another. I don’t know how it got to be like that, but it’s a shame because it’s what is going to hold them back.
It forces the ones that actually do go into business to squeeze every penny out of every customer. I have never been so nickle and dimed in my life.
This is also partly because Kiwis are very cheap as buyers. They have no interest in buying quality, only what’s cheap and will do the job for now. If an item is better quality and will last twice as long but it’s 20% more expensive, it won’t compete with the cheaper alternative. Part of this is that Kiwis don’t have money to spend, part of it is just the mentality there. Consequently it’s very difficult to do business there, the chinese make out like bandits exporting there.
Just Google “Kiwi” and “No. 8 wire” and you get a better idea of what I’m talking about.
It’s very difficult for Americans and Europeans to relocate and be happy over there without having a good idea of the sacrifices involved with living in such an isolated country. Not only will you take a 50% pay cut, the retail there is *god awful*- just a bunch of cheap stuff imported from China that breaks in a few months. And then has to be duct taped together. With cheap chinese duct tape. Sheets and clothes are polyester, towels are thin and scratchy, everything’s plastic, kid’s mattresses are foam. Seriously, yellow foam like you’d get in outdoor furniture cushions. Furniture is particleboard, appliances are 10 years behind, and nothing comes with any kind of warranty. It’s horrendous. And what they charge for this stuff is insane. It often costs me less to buy quality stuff in America and import it than to buy it in NZ (if I can even get something of similar quality – which is rare.). Electronics are a hassle because they’re on 220V there. I haven’t figured a way around that one yet. It would probably be cheaper to buy an appliance and have it re-wired in the US and shipped. It’s crazy.
The average housing in Auckland was of very poor, cheap quality. Nothing’s insulated, no central or baseboard heat, single pane windows, cheap carpet and linoleum, mold all over the place from condensation from LPG heaters, cracked and warped sheetrock/gypboard from moisture damage, no such thing as a dehumidifier. Even the newer houses were super-inefficient, wasteful, environmental nightmares. They might not get snow in Auckland, and it rarely gets below 40 degrees for long, but the rain and the humidity is unrelenting. Yet nobody builds for that. What passes here for adequate is like 5 star accommodation there. The lots are small because everyone has subdivided the place to death so you’re right on top of your neighbors. Honestly, I didn’t like Auckland at all. And all the other urban areas are just the same. Once you get out in the country where you could breathe a bit, it’s a different world.
The taxes there are also high, but not really much higher than in NY or VT (not that that’s saying much) but you get full socialized (OMG the horror) health care and a lot more social services there. (You can also get private insurance there, and the situation is completely adequate. Don’t believe the FOX news hype.) Maternity leave is paid, and there are child subsidies and all that. But the bad thing about having such good social services is that it attracts people who game the system. There is a large percentage of the population that is on the dole there- the majority of them are rural people and some of the native Maori population who have fallen behind socially and are having health, social and education problems… and then go and have 5 kids to make it even better. It’s a very difficult unique situation. Although I do believe that there is existing prejudice against the Maori population, a lot of the troubled ones don’t avail themselves of the massive amount of programs available to get an education and do better for themselves and their whanau (family/tribe/group). And there is really no excuse because there are plenty of upstanding, motivated, super-bright Maoris there that have done really well. The lazy ones give the good ones a bad rap.
**** is right. We pulled all our money out of NZ when the US dollar was weak and the NZ dollar was .81 USD a few months back. We won’t be sending any money back until the Kiwi dollar goes below 0.60 cents American. And we certainly won’t be going back for more than visits until we can afford to semi-retire there.
Rip-off indeed. Unfortunately it probably means RIP for the economy there at some point, unless they do something to promote massive investment and economic development.
Sure a lot of this is my opinion based on my personal experience there, but I don’t think I’m far off the mark in most aspects. Anyone who is thinking about moving there, do your research and crunch the numbers.”