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!