Migrant Stories – "Don’t Move To New Zealand"

Continuing in our series of Migrant Stories: first hand accounts of migrant life in New Zealand, taken from locations around the net.

This recent story is from the discussion forum Expatexposed. It tells how grinding penny pinching becomes a way of life in NZ with nothing to compensate it, rather than a short term measure to get ahead. The poster also tells of how carefully ‘Brand New Zealand’ is manipulated to attract people who turn out to be unsuitable migrants:

I am so tired of Kiwis making a virtue of necessity. They should be honest that THAT is what it is – making do on a cute remote island. Nothing more than that. Not an arcane “lifestyle” to be aspired to (cue: clink wineglass of Sauvignon Blanc, look out to blue water, flash impossibly white teeth at partner that you would never see on a Kiwi because most of them don’t do dental).

There’s nothing here to compensate for the forced pennypinching – little opportunity, no rich culture, you can’t easily travel to other places for a change – nothing. The government and migration agencies are dressing New Zealand up and not being honest about what it is really like here – THAT is my biggest gripe.

If you are rich, boaty and/or fetishize nature, you will LOVE it here, and you won’t have to make sacrifices, or the sacrifices may well be worth it. I am not rich, boaty and do not fetishize nature.

I DO wear woolly socks and jumpers inside, and I did that before I came here. I shop secondhand “just because it is sensible”. I make food from scratch. I totally agree – it’s sensible and no less, regardless. I have NEVER had central heating or double-glazed windows in any house I have lived in, though I aspired to such back home where I was able to afford to buy my own house. I used to put thermal plastic sheeting on my windows to keep warm in winter. I will hunt that stuff down for this year in NZ if I haven’t been able to leave by winter. At home, I had a gas furnace (not a standalone heater) and my heating was, under a special distributive program where they spread the money out for winter heating to summer months so you don’t get these big lumps to pay in winter) about 80 a month USD (that’s about, what, 100 NZD?). Just to give you a comparison.

The difference is that back there, I lived this same way and was able to save money and get ahead by being frugal. I could afford better food and I didn’t have to darn big holes in socks. I’d darn a little hole or two and then when the socks persisted in developing more holes, I would give them away to the local animal shelter inside a pillowcase for the animals to use. I had money to travel and visit people.

I’ve lived frugally before – and was able to GET AHEAD by doing so. I was able to save thousands a year doing that. Here, you are FORCED to live that way just to keep your head above water, and you are lucky if you can save anything. Maybe some year upward mobility will pull you into its wake if you can catch the wave at the right time…you can only climb the rungs of the ladder with great difficulty in New Zealand, and just hope you don’t have a setback that sends you back to START. It’s easy to have that happen to you if you have no family here to cushion your setbacks for you.

I do not consider that the people of New Zealand are beneath me. I perceive that they “make do” valiantly with what they have. I have seen them be amazingly creative making good useful things out of nothing. The housewives use everything but the squeal. Jesus, do I have to want to live like that, though? This is admirable, and I’d do it if I had to, but why pay out the nose to do that? Kiwis are both shaped and limited by having to live that way. They don’t have time for intellectual pursuits? Just LIVING here occupies enough of their effort, so ok, it’s understandable (Google “culture of New Zealand”, “anti-intellectualism” if you think I am being a snob). People have crafted the Wiki entry to reflect reality, better, I think, since I came over some years ago, and I think prospective migrants should read it:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_New_Zealand#Anti-intellectualism (See below*)
I don’t think you’re aware of how carefully they manipulate Brand New Zealand to attract people who in actuality turn out to be highly unsuitable migrants. That’s where I perceive my fight to be on EE, is representing the reality of New Zealand as I personally experienced it, as one of those unsuitable migrants, so I can prevent other people from making the same mistake I did. It’s the only way I can make lemonade out of my own lemons! That’s why many of the members post here – they are either venting or making sure the downside gets “out there”, hoping that googlers will be able to find and read it through all the net-bombing by “paradise”-mongers who are trying to represent New Zealand as a place that it is NOT.”

*Anti-intellectualism in NZ (Wikipedia)

Unlike many European countries, but in common with other ‘Anglo’ countries such as Britain, the United States and Australia, New Zealanders do not have a particularly high regard for intellectual activity, particularly if it is more theoretical than practical. This is linked with the idea of ‘kiwi ingenuity’ (see above), which supposes that all problems are better solved by seeing what works than by applying a theory.

This distrust of theory manifested itself in social policy of the early and mid twentieth century, which historian Michael Bassett described as ‘socialism without doctrines’: although the policies of the first Labour and other governments pursued traditionally socialist goals, they were not based on any coherent theory. A major break with this tradition came in the 1980s when the fourth Labour and fourth National governments enacted a series of reforms based on free market ideology.

This reinforced many New Zealanders’ distrust of intellectual theory, as many consider that the reforms increased poverty and inequality in New Zealand. Despite the prevailing mood of anti-intellectualism, New Zealand has reasonably high rates of participation in tertiary education and has produced a number of internationally renowned scholars and scientists, including Ernest Rutherford, J.G.A. Pocock and Alan MacDiarmid. It should be noted that both Rutherford and Pocock spent most of their professional lives in Britain. For many years this was a common occurrence, and a consequence both of New Zealanders’ attitudes and the low population which made it hard to support major research.


Because New Zealanders often have to relocate to achieve worldwide fame and fortune, New Zealanders are keen to claim famous people as being New Zealanders, however short their residency in New Zealand might have been.

While people born in New Zealand are certainly identified as New Zealanders, those who attended a New Zealand school or resided in New Zealand also qualify, irrespective of national origin. This sometimes leads to famous people and innovations being identified as coming from both New Zealand and another country—such as the pop group Crowded House, the race horse Phar Lap and the actor Russell Crowe, all of whom have been associated with Australia and New Zealand.

Because the measure of New Zealand success was often how well a person did internationally, anything from ‘Overseas’ is seen as holding more cultural capital than the local equivalent, regardless of its quality.

This means that New Zealanders are often lured to the performances of “international acts”. This is exacerbated by New Zealand’s isolation and small population causing it to be skipped by the international tours of all but the most commercially successful musicians and performers. The flipside to this phenomenon is that famous people from overseas can be quickly embraced by New Zealanders if they visit regularly or for an extended period or claim an affinity with the country.”

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9 thoughts on “Migrant Stories – "Don’t Move To New Zealand"

  1. I hear ya on ALL that, Steve. Same here where I live, between the loud hoon cars and bad rap music, tagging, gouging, defensive attitudes, drinking+depression, crap cold houses, these are not peaceful little sheep hobbit villages full of cheerful smiling people

  2. What a dump the houses are little better than badly made sheds, the car fleet date back too the last century the pay is about half that of the UK if they pay you. Once here your trapped you just can;t save enough money to return.
    Kiwi’s know everything and can do nothing except make noise with those very silly
    exhaust pipes I’m typing this a 10.43 pm having to listen to some kiwi playing very loud music a couple of streets away this is normal when stops enough starts.
    The place is a shit hole.

  3. In its 2009 report on global competitiveness, the World Economic Forum identified lack of innovation as one of the key weaknesses in the New Zealand economy.
    I was surprised and not surprised to read this. People tend to think Kiwis “innovate”. That’s one of their big boasts, anyway.

    Actually, they do not innovate at all in a big-picture and forward-looking sense. What they do is tweak and repurpose tiny scrap type things within the scope of their very limited resources and for very limited purposes. They take duct tape and wire and use it ingeniously to keep some very old machine thing going, much like children in underdeveloped areas who use whatever is in their environment to fashion handmade toys for themselves. It is uplifting and heartwarming to see the children doing this, but to see an entire nation doing it… and then claiming that they are looking for bic-picture imported brains to dance hand-in-hand with them into the future, when really they intend to take the immigration money and just keep on with the duct tape…it’s disheartening to see migrant after migrant lured here and then beginning to suffocate, champ at the bit, for lack of stimulation and opportunity.

  4. P Ray a perfect example to illustrate what you said is the recent announcement by John Key

    “Many skills and qualifications gained in migrant countries of origin are not transferable in New Zealand, and therefore it is vital new migrants undertake study here to achieve qualifications that are recognised.”

    In one speech he has undermined the status of immigrants in New Zealand and created demand for courses that are likely to attract high paying international students, who are charged a lot more than domestic students.

    Besides the obvious pressure this is going to put on places there is also likely to be an additional problem in the future – the re-imposition of interest on student loans. Migrants and refugees will suffer the worst if that is the case.

    The obvious solution for many migrants will be to simply dismiss New Zealand as an emigration destination and to focus on countries where their qualifications will be recognised.

  5. “Because the measure of New Zealand success was often how well a person did internationally, anything from ‘Overseas’ is seen as holding more cultural capital than the local equivalent, regardless of its quality.”

    Ironically, a large proportion of people from overseas getting a degree in New Zealand are having to cope with the stigma of having “bought their degree”, meaning they in some way used fraud and money to leapfrog the New Zealanders…

    So you’re either not educated enough, and if you are, your knowledge is of no practical use,

    And since you’re from overseas and paying the international rate, you didn’t get through the course on your own merit, you exchanged your cash for credentials, rather than worked your a..se off like the domestic students.

  6. Hi Trevor, thank you for your comments.

    Sorry that this has happened to you too, so many people are saying exactly the same. It’s hard to fathom why employers are rejecting people with PR as there is no pressure on them to appoint Kiwis but we think we may know why.

    A massive de-skilling of the NZ workforce has been underway for some years due to a variety of factors:
    1. Skilled immigrants are seen as a threat by New Zealanders because they challenge and question NZ working practices and procedures.
    2. Skilled and well qualified New Zealanders are leaving the country for destinations where they are better rewarded for their efforts.
    3. Unemployed people are being told to dumb down CVs. so that they can get un-skilled work and be taken off dole payments.
    4. Many jobs in New Zealand are filled on a ‘who you know’ basis rather than on merit.

  7. I wish I knew this sooner.
    I have permanent residence for NZ and moved here. The only problem it seems that the NZ workforce does not want me here, I just can’t find work. I came here with quite a lot of money, and that is running out fast as this country is really very expensive to live in. Apparently I am over qualified for most jobs, what crap is that?
    I too was painted a pretty picture of New Zealand, I feel very betrayed. The New Zealanders are very happy to take my money and give nothing in return.

    • That is all they want out of you, is your money. When it’s gone, you’ll really feel the cold. You will be a dry husk. Leave while you still have enough to fund your departure, Trevor.

  8. I am fully agree with the guy who shared his personal experience about how it is hard to live in New Zealand. My advocate too mispresented new zealand as the bestest country to move and were moved there 10 years ago. We both husband and wife worked our a..se up day and night but still been never able to save money and instead we borrowed from all the corners to live, support back home extended family. Cant remember if we left any bank to borrow ANZ, National B, West pack, G Finance, one of the friends, and even there was a time when we had to approach local Food Bank. Man it sucks more when u see bloody beneficiaries have their own homes and you rent a long time inspite being a professionals and skilled. Finally, we decided to move to OZ last year. We hardly work here, (3 days a week each) and it seems quite satisfactory. Had I moved to OZ 10 years ago, thing could be different M8.

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