Migrant Tales – Californian Says Goodbye Windy Welly, Hello Sunny Sydney

Sydney doesn't lack culture

Sydney – sun and culture

Welcome to our latest Migrant Tale – part of our very popular series of first hand accounts of the migrant experience of New Zealand

Today’s tale was sent in by a Californian, who says New Zealand is beautiful but lacks so many things, not least good weather and culture. Here’s why this Californian is dreaming of different shores.

I’m a native Californian, now living in NZ since 2012. There is NO comparison between the two. Wellington is lovely, but the weather in NZ is extremely volatile compared to California, Wellington is both cold and extremely windy, and expensive.

My honest opinion after living in NZ for three years, is that if I could do the move over again, I simply wouldn’t (I say this as a Californian, not an American). The country is truly beautiful, but it is very cold and rainy in comparison (generally speaking — average summer temps in Wellington are about the same as average winter temps in SB!). Of all the things I underestimated the most (and there were many!), was how much I would miss the fantastic California weather.

Most consumer goods are inferior in quality, but significantly more expensive than what we’re used to in the US. If you are young, with little to no possessions of value, no big deal, but if you are well-established (I was 40 when I moved here), you will likely be very underwhelmed and disappointed with what money buys you in terms of quality and value. The other issue is that NZ houses are shockingly bad for a country that KNOWS its climate is cold, damp, and humid (year-round). Every year I have to literally scrub the mold from the house walls at least twice a year (more if it has been especially wet and rainy); they do not have central heating here, so your warmth will be relegated to “heat pumps” which are little more than large sized space heaters attached to one wall in order to heat that one room (usually the communal living room). However, the above is not necessarily true if you are lucky enough to find accommodations in a relatively new build … they still won’t have central heat, but they’re more likely to have dual pane windows, and be more insulated, and weather tight.

By NZ standards I live upper middle class, as I did in the US, but the standard of living — in some areas — is grossly inadequate when comparing the standards of living from place to place. It is likely that in the next few years my husband and I will immigrate to Australia (Sydney area), as it greatly fulfills our need for culture and arts, in addition to having a much warmer climate. We also found that as a bi-cultural couple (American and a Kiwi), we fit in much more anonymously in Australia, where in NZ it seems to be constant source of either curiosity, suspicion, or wariness. People are friendly, but it feels superficial, and, honestly–often awkward. Kiwis aren’t very emotionally warm or open (or especially talkative), but ARE courteous, and helpful. Your neighbors and social friends will be quite helpful if you’re in need, but you’ll find yourself wondering just what you really know about them, personality wise. I would do a lot of homework before you decide where to resettle, you need to ask yourself what specifically you are looking for. I can tell you that NZ in all areas (compared to California), is like a glorified farm town (even Welly and Auckland, though not as much as the rest of greater NZ). Culture and Arts are here, but are more centered around gardening, and kiwi history/icons, sheep/wool history, the outdoors, and its most famous citizens.

Maori culture is heavily integrated into mainstream culture here, which I LOVE, but can be a sore spot, if you believe what the media reports. Generally for “big” cultural things, you’ll need to fly to Auckland–nearly all premier concerts and art events are held (only) there. We are going to Paul Simon/Sting later this month, and The Eagles in March — both concerts in Auckland only. Went to Cirque du Soleil this past winter, again had to fly into Auckland… Also, forget the foodie culture that California (and the US is famous for), it just doesn’t exist. No fresh bread warm in the bag at 5pm in the supermarket, no sandwich and soup bars with fresh ingredients to grab a quick lunch or dinner… On the go food here is pretty much meat pies–heavy, calorie laden meat pies.

I would suggest a one year trial, if you really want to live here–meaning, put your things in storage in the US, rent out your home (do NOT sell), and come for a year (if you can procure a Visa for it). You will know after one year whether the cultural and climate differences are something you can handle for whatever period you live in NZ. Best of luck!

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5 thoughts on “Migrant Tales – Californian Says Goodbye Windy Welly, Hello Sunny Sydney

  1. I have nothing else to add to the above comments, and I agree with what the above posters say. I would just like to ask those who are moving to Sydney, how they can afford to rent/ buy a home there if they think NZ housing is too expensive? (which it is). I was under the impression one had to be a millionaire to afford a home in central Melbourne or Sydney these days! I have been back in NZ for nearly four months and we are talking about moving back to the UK. Sod the rubbish weather- I am beyond caring about weather issues…and that’s a big deal for most brits as you all know 😉

  2. I,too, would like weigh in…
    New Zealand used to be the best kept secret in the world. Alas, with the thousands of immigrants now allowed to come and live here, this is changing and with it, the amazing Kiwi culture. This saddens me. Let me sober you up and bring some reality to your door.
    You have read about New Zealand? – sounds amazing, right?
    You have holidayed here? – it is amazing, right?
    Are there jobs here? – No there are not enough jobs for everyone. There are qualified medical doctors, pharmacists and scientists who are driving taxi cabs to make a living.
    There are engineers who cannot get jobs who tough it out for the 2 years minimum so that they can then get accepted for jobs into Australia.
    New Zealanders by the thousand have crossed the ditch to Australia to find work opportunities because they lived a life of unemployment here.
    Housing is expensive here. Renting is expensive here. Taxes are exorbitant.
    Do your homework on New Zealand and don’t be seduced by the glossy magazines and shallow stories.
    And lastly, the New Zealand government wants your money to help balance it’s disastrously high overspend borrowing which currently sits at 92billion.
    Just keeping it real!

  3. G’day Mates,

    I’m from the UK and I left New Zealand after 8 months living there this year and would never go back. While it is a beautiful country, especially the South Island, there is not much else to it. I don’t have figures but a lot of young New Zealanders are leaving because of the lack of opportunities. It’s very much the small village of the world (which is fine for some of course). It’s probably a good place to retire.
    Wellington and Queenstown are great places to visit for a week or two, but they’re both tiny. Auckland is the worst city in the world, nothing to do, not a drop of culture, and if you don’t drive you’re fucked. Aucklanders seem to be really proud of their beaches but they’re not even that great. 90% of non-New Zealanders I met all disliked it too.
    New Zealanders are also, on the whole, very reserved people and in my experience weren’t very friendly. I thought people in the UK were reserved.
    I don’t understand why they call themselves ‘Kiwis’ either. I’ve never been to another country where people identify with a national bird. A bird that most people never see.
    I live in Sydney now and just wish I had come here sooner. A far superior city, much friendlier people and the beaches are much nicer.
    Sorry if this comes across as a tirade against NZ, use it more as a warning and do your research before committing to anything.

  4. I just wanted to discuss something that’s been weighing on my mind a lot lately.

    I left NZ in 2001 when I was 11yo and moved to Asia with my parents. I’ve always been proud of my country, I talked it up whenever possible overseas and always thought I was lucky to claim to be kiwi. We used to be awesome in the Americas cup & cricket, still awesome at rugby and rowing. Beautiful scenery, in a remote part of the world. We have smart ambitious people, for such a small population. And I always noticed we were regarded as hard working and honest people by nearly every other nationality. Having a kiwi passport makes getting visas a breeze, people love us.

    When I graduated in 2009 I was warned not to move here, so I moved to Aussie. Once I got there I found out there was a shitload of kiwis living and moving there. And from my experience they were all the ambitious ones. I was a supervisor of bars at a casino for a while, and I can tell you more than 50% of the management roles were kiwis, including the director running the show, we work hard. It made me think that NZ was losing the talented young people though.

    Last year I finally moved home so I could go to uni. After being away for 15 years moving home was amazing. I spent a lot of time being outdoors and just driving around. Being home feels amazing. I really quickly started to see the bad side to this country though. It’s only my view, and I hope I’m wrong or out of touch, but I feel like this country is heading towards a bad future.

    It’s my first time living in Auckland. First thing is the cost of living. Rent here is insane, I lived in an apartment in the center of Brisbane for 200$ a week, and that was paying a lot. $200 a week is average here. Beyond that, there was an abundance of rooms for rent in Brisbane, it’s a struggle to secure something here. With wages, I’m a bartender and could earn $25 an hour in aus and am lucky to earn $18 an hour here. The venues I work at have to watch their wage costs aswell and can’t afford to offer lots of hours. Again finding a job in bris could take 5 minutes, and here it’s a struggle again. I’m on study link and study full time. So weekly living is a struggle. The cost of living here is just nuts, and wages are really poor.

    The thing I’ve noticed while working in hospitality here also is that there aren’t people out spending. I don’t think bars or restaurants are essential to life, but I think you can judge how well a city is doing by how their cultural, arts and restaurant scene and if people can afford to go out and indulge. New bars are opening weekly in Aussie and are always packed out. Young people are trying new things and following trends. There’s a huge amount of people making that industry their career and pushing the envelope also. There is a small scene here, and I know of a few very important talents to come out of this country. But on the whole, the bars are quiet, very few people pursue a career in hospitality here and the trends are a few years behind the rest of the world. Or we don’t see them at all.

    All this is fine though, I was prepared to be poor and don’t think bars or restaurants are vital so I don’t mind. The thing that worries me though is the lack of push to strengthen the country. The people I chat with in class and what I see people say online is all the same. No one can afford a life here and their waiting to leave. It’s a small world nowdays, and it’s easy to get a job overseas. We’re going to lose our talented people and they’re going to find easier lives overseas. How long before they come back, if ever? I did my travelling and am aiming to buy a house here and set up base before I leave, but so many kids are growing up ready to travel. And from my experience they can easily build lives overseas. It’s a new generation of people bought up with technology, who have new skills that could benefit this country. The most determined to leave that I’ve talked to at uni are also the most down to earth and smartest kids. We need them here, but they know they can’t afford to build a life.

    The last thing that bugs me is the govt. They don’t seem to care. The flag issue is comical, we can’t afford to be worrying about that. Same with the no license fines for maoris. No matter which country you’re in, people are going to abuse that. And while it would be nice to gather some research into why it’s happening. The resources and money could be better spent elsewhere. I couldn’t get a wof cause my car was broken into and needed repairing, was then fined $200 and paid it. Surely people with no license can take responsibility and face the consequences for no license.

    And to beat a dead horse. The house prices. Im sure it would be nice to make bank from selling your house. But I lived in China, I love Chinese people and can speak Mandarin. I know they’re interested in money though. That money they invested to NZ buying property. When they sell for a profit that money is going straight back to China. In the meantime our citizens can’t afford rents and won’t start families cause they can’t secure a house.

    I feel like I need to stop the rant now. But I really hope you don’t think I’m coming across as hating on New Zealand. I love this country a lot, and just want to be able to have pride in it and see a future. I want to see the same community events and culture that I see in Brisbane. The only thing I can’t fault is our environment, in all my travelling the only place that I think is just as beautiful is rural france. We will never be a major power and we can’t print money like Aussie with their mines. But we have great foreign relations, we’re the only country with a free trade agreement with China. We have driven ambitious citizens, and ones who don’t aim for fame, just a challenge. I just wish we had a govt with a hard stance, who could make living affordable, make wages better, who was genuinely out to ensure we were in a country worth living in.

    I hope I can get stable in life after uni quick. Because I’ve always done volunteering throughout life and my next step is to start working in local govt and trying to see if I can make some attempt at change. We need to start giving our people an easier place to live. We should be proud of our country. I just worry we’re too far gone sometimes.

    Sorry for the rant. It’s been weighing on my mind a lot and I wanted to share my view, having been away for a while. I know there’s a lot of hate lately, especially in this sub. But what’s everyone else’s outlook as a whole, and for the future of this country?

  5. I would seriously consider moving back to California if I were you. Frankly it is cheaper to buy a house here and the economy is good.

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