Migrant Tales “NZ vs UK – not all it’s cracked up to be. Is it just me?”

many people have a poorer work life balance in New Zealand

Welcome to our Migrant Tales series – first hand accounts of the migrant experience of New Zealand taken from places around the net.

Today’s tale was first published on a British expats immigration forum. The author and his wife moved from Scotland to New Zealand, he works in engineering and moved to Christchurch to work in the reconstruction.

He found that the work life balance in New Zealand isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, this is something that many people are saying and he’s not alone in this.

He says the cost of living in NZ is very high, his living accommodation is worse than in Scotland and life isn’t too good even though he’s earning a bigger salary than in Scotland and his wife no longer works.

His wife (ex cabin crew) has struggled to find work, with a baby on the way is it worth staying in NZ so far away from family back home?

NZ vs UK – not all it’s cracked up to be. Is it just me?


I wanted to get other people’s opinions on their new life in New Zealand  vs their old life’s in the UK. Before I begin, this is my opinion. Everyone is different and I don’t want to offend anyone. I am just wondering if my experience is the same as other people’s or are we alone.

My wife and I moved here 14 months ago from Scotland. I had an engineering job in Scotland and was earning around $60,000. My wife was cabin crew for a local airline and was earning around $28,000. We had a 3  bed victorian terrace in Dundee on the east coast of Scotland. I worked around 37.5 hours per week. My wife worked around 30 hours per week.  Our family lives in Dundee and we used to see them regularly.

Due to the economic climate I felt my job wasn’t very secure and we began to explore options about moving overseas. A friend of mine had emmigrated to New Zealand a few years before and he was living in Christchurch and I had obviously heard about all the work going on as part of the rebuild so I contacted him to enquire if there was work out here. There was and after a few months and a couple of interviews I was offered a job and we moved out here.

I am working in a similar engineering role as I was back home, although I  am working 45 hours a week. I am being paid around $90,000 though so with more hours comes more money. The thing is though, I was always told  the work life balance in New Zealand was better than in the UK. I am working a day extra every week more than I was working back in the UK. I  also get less holidays than I did in Scotland and more of my holidays here are determined by the company. I have to take 2 weeks at Christmas here whereas I only had to take 4 days leave at Christmas when I was at
home. That only leaves 2 weeks leave for the rest of the year which isn’t that much.

The cost of living here in Christchurch seems to be very high in comparison to Scotland. We are living in a 1 bed flat in the city which is only 25% cheaper than our 3 bed victorian terrace in Dundee. The quality of housing here is poor and a lot of houses don’t have double glazing or any sort of heating. They are also lacking in insulation which causes damp in the properties.

Fuel is only around 10% cheaper here than in Scotland. Second hand cars are a lot more expensive, although they do seem to last longer because they don’t salt the roads.

Food and alcohol is a lot more expensive than in Scotland. A 15 pack of beer will cost around $35 compared to around $20 in the UK. Food prices are very dependant on what’s in season. Recently tomatoes were $12/kg! Peppers (capsicums) are around $3 each. You can pick up a 3 pack in Tesco for $4!

If you want to go for a pint you are looking at paying around $8-$10 a pint. In Scotland I would be paying around $5-$6 a pint.

New Zealand is a beautiful country and I can see why people move here. It is a giant playground and because of the better weather people spend more time outdoors than they would back in Scotland. The thing is though, all the things we do here, we could do back home. Tramping, mountain biking etc. We feel that having more sunshine just isn’t enough to want us to stay here. Scotland is also a beautiful country with lots of beautiful places to visit. It does rain more often but you just learn to deal with the rain.

We are also starting to feel that it is just too far from home to stay permanently. We went home for a friends wedding in May and it cost us $10,000 for 3 weeks. There is no way we could afford to do that every year so we would maybe only manage to get home every 2 or 3 years. We would love for some of our family to move here but everyone is settled there and not everyone is earning enough money to be able to come out here every year.

We also miss having concerts or plays or shows to go and see. There isn’t a lot coming to the south island. We did go and see mumford and sons last week and it was amazing. It would be nice to have more things like that here.

My wife has struggled to pick up work since coming here and that has also been difficult. We have met some new friends but that has also been more difficult than we first thought. All our friends are expats. We find Kiwis, as friendly as they are when you initially meet them, are very reserved and private. Maybe this is just our experience or maybe this is just Christchurch, I don’t know.

My wife is now 4 months pregnant and we are at the point where we are not sure whether to stay here or go home and be closer to our family so we have support for the baby coming. We would love for our baby to get citizenship here so it had options when it was older but we don’t want
to sacrifice our happiness in the process.

Are we the only people who feel like this? Have other people been through similar feelings/emotions when moving here? How did you get through it or did you decide that it wasn’t for you? We were just surprised because we had heard so many wonderful things about NZ before we came and when we got here it wasn’t the same as we thought it would be.

Thank you in advance for your comments. I look forward to hearing all of  your experiences and how you dealt with the massive changes involved in moving overseas.

A Selection from our Migrant Tales

Adele’s Story – Kids falling light years behind – A British mother’s tale

How resilient are we?  a New Zealand immigrants perspective

House buying and divorce laws – A British woman’s Tale

An insiders view of the tertiary education sector in New Zealand  – An American’s Tale

I Want Out : An American’s Tale

Immigrant Kid: A Hong Kong Chinese Tale (Chinese)

NZ, What’s To Miss? : A Canadian’s Tale

This Is Why I Didn’t Like New Zealand: A British Tale

Why We Left New Zealand: An American Couple’s Tale

Chinese Student @ Otago

Civil Engineer Now Cleaning Ovens in NZ: A Filipino’s Tale

New Zealand Is Draining The “Me” Out Of Me: An American’s Tale

Expat In Christchurch Post Quake

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