Getting Ahead in NZ – Not for the Smart or Able, You’d Do Better Elsewhere

Today’s post was taken from a reader comment.

In it he talks about New Zealand’s tall poppy culture, another manifestation of its culture of

Leaving NZ? share your exit interviews here

Want to get ahead and a decent chance of success? NZ may not be the place for you

. if you want to get a job or get ahead, dumb down. Or better still go somewhere that values your skills and abilities more.

“You made a very good observation about management not having degrees. When I lived in NZ I worked in a call centre because it was the only kind of job I could get at the time. I had a bachelors degree at the time, nothing amazing just a Politics/Philosphy major but I did get good grades. I do believe that all other things being equal that having a degree – any degree – is better than not having one.

Pretty soon I realised that 80% of the 40 people people working on the phones in the call centre also had degrees. Guess how many of the supervisors (there were 4 of them) had degrees? That’s right, zero.

I stayed in that job 5 years and during that time was told the path to success and promotion was to become a “telecommunications industry expert.” So I studied and learned everything I could and soon became known as the most knowledgeable person in the department.

Over those 5 years I saw several supervisor positions become vacant and applied for them. Each time the job was given to someone who didn’t have a degree and wasn’t particularly knowledgeable about the industry. One of these new supervisors then gave me a poor performance review and when I rattled off all the reasons with facts and figures which I had prepared why he was wrong he completely lost it and started yelling at me. This was the most laid back Kiwi guy you would ever meet who was soft spoken, of NZ born Pacific Island extraction & completely Kiwi in his attitudes and regarded by all as a truly lovely guy. Yet here he was yelling at me, his whole face contorted with rage, as he told me it was going to be hard for me to hear this but I was regarded as a smart arse by everyone in management and that I would never be promoted in that company.

He e eventually calmed down and apologised for losing his cool and behaving “like people did in the caveman days” and looking back he was probably right that I needed to hear what he told me. But not in the way he thought.

It’s not just a “Tall Poppy” syndrome. Many Kiwis really do think of anyone with superior knowledge and skills to them as “smart asses” instead of respecting their hard work and scholarship. They will never promote a person who they think of as a “smart arse.”

5 years wasted at that company doing what I was told to do to get promoted and then because I actually did it being regarded as a “smart arse.” I quit the next day and moved to Australia where I converted my degree into a new career and rose througb the ranks steadily on merit and tenure and now a few years later earn over $100,000 Per Annum $AU. People working in the call centre in NZ are still earning what they were back then, probably about 1/3rd of that.

I find Aussies are far more willing to give someone a “fair go” than Kiwis are. Kiwis may think Australians are rednecks and racists but from my experience it is Kiwis who are far less likely to give someone a fair go who is different to them. Especially if you are also better educated than they are. And in case you are wondering I am also a NZ citizen so technically a “Kiwi” although I wasn’t born there.”

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12 thoughts on “Getting Ahead in NZ – Not for the Smart or Able, You’d Do Better Elsewhere

  1. Perhaps we should ask James Cameron why he left his miljon dollar property in new Zealand ? 4 years .. Was apparently enough for him. The isolation made him an vegan just like me now. Isolation can be an positive when you are forced to rethink about your life and what really matters.

  2. I wander how the Matt Damon , Miley Cyrus and other celebs will enjoy living in NZ… I hope the 50000 Americans that are about to move here realize that there are not to many jobs available and if there are those will be the shitty hardest jobs..

    The only time you can enjoy the fantasy shire paradise would be in your time of and certainly not during the week !


    New Zealand sure knows how to manipulate the media and make some good money out of those poor immigrants..

    NEW ZEALAND WILL PAY YOU 165000 NZ DOLLAR TO MOVE THERE…ENOUGH JOBS AND HOUSING….WTF ! SO MUCH CRAP OUT THERE. please do your research before moving here folks.


    behold the nz money machine in action…


    Does anybody see more lies here ?


    • I’d rather live in the USA with Trump, than in New Zealand with John Key.

      At least it is clear what Trump stands for and where he is coming from. He might be brash and over the top, but at least he isn’t deceptive.

      • Absolutely I was just thinking that today ! I wish I did go there instead of nz. I am pretty sure I would have had the time of my life and would have had a lot more money in my pocket guaranteed. The friendly loving people , cheap living and so many fun things to do. I ‘d go in a second.. Hopefully this year for a nice break !

  3. I was born in New Zealand to British parents, and have never got a fair go in the entire time I have lived in this horrible country. Working in retail, cleaning, and the fast food industry, because I couldn’t get any work elsewhere I got well and truly fed up with the minimum wage, unsafe conditions, incompetent co-workers, and the abusive nature of Kiwi employers.

    In 2007 I started my tertiary education, and from then until 2014 I earned: two certificates (one of which involved 24 assignments), followed by two one year diplomas, a degree with double majors, a certificate which was the equivalent of a third major AT THE SAME TIME as earning my degree, and a post grad diploma. Without sounding like I am showing off, I have so many qualifications I don’t have the wall space to display them all.

    Has any of this helped me get work in New Zealand? Short answer: The industry I am trained for is so close-knit in New Zealand that I have a snowballs chance in hell of getting anywhere at all. However, I knew this when I trained, and always kept self-employment in the front of my mind. I am now work on contract for an Australian company, who immediately snapped me up for my skills. I am also producing work online outside of my contract as well.

    During my studies I was bullied out of studying on-site, and I did all but six months of my training via correspondence (Kiwis hate capable people, even in a training situation). I was also bullied out of the part-time work I had, and I haven’t had a single interview with a Kiwi company since.

    My focus is now on creating enough online generated income to get out of this hell hole once and for all.

  4. Damn straight. In my own experience for what it’s worth, working in New Zealand I have always found that it’s not just who you know but also how long you known them for that gets you top jobs in this country. Any outside knowledge, expertise or experience you can bring to a job will always be considered secondary when they place work loyalty above all else. You may be more qualified than them but don’t begin to question them or try to offer them any suggestions or solutions. They have to know you long enough first before your opinion is even valued by somebody. Yes I know there is skill shortage in New Zealand so you’re going get these sort of behaviour but really this is not way to react as this sort of thing only encourages your most talented people to leave.

    For myself, maybe there was some kind of arrogance on my part, when you’re young you can get sucked into your own self importance but having to speak about my last job I had here, having gone from being the head senior manager of small chain of stores in South Auckland to being hand picked to work for a large retail shop in Downtown Auckland, I was not physically prepared for the way I was treated by people there for no other reason that they simply didn’t know me long enough for them to trust me enough even though I came with better creditials than anybody there including the shop manager. It’s why I left and have been looking for jobs overseas ever since as I knew I was just being taken advantage of since I wasn’t being taken seriously. Being an American with slight accent also didn’t help or my appearance. One thing I learnt living here is never give people here an opportunity to hate you because once they find one, they really will judge you on it ! Being fat is such a bastard …

    Honestly, I know that there are probably a myriad of reasons behind why they feel need act like this towards someone they work with but basically I feel this comes down to general ignorance on their part. That simply put because they don’t know anything they then think anybody can do it ! They don’t appreciate or really care what somebody with excess knowledge or skills can bring to the job because how can they if people there they don’t have it themselves ? They can’t. I know I keep saying it but this place really is pathetic … 😦

  5. Bsc, DipSci, Msc, DipSci and PhD …. and I have serious trouble finding work in medical research and cell biology. PhD is in Medicine, and there are no jobs.

    I have serious skills in cell function – specifically good for cancer research. …. no work

    • nice for an try but why waste your precious time any longer then ? The world is at your feet.. I should have left 3 years ago . one year in nz trying to find an job is enough. I still can’t believe how much time I wasted here ! And if I would have went anywhere else I could have had my own home by now and an good high quality of life ! At this point I am looking to do another immigration which of course will cost another fortune. Now I see my money being dredged away every day..just by being an vegan !

  6. I am glad that it worked out for you by going to Australia. My impressions from three years of living in New Zealand were the same. New Zealand is not a meritocratic society and Kiwis resent anyone who is smart and capable.

  7. This is how I see it too. I even had an opportunity to promote my career. But yet I regret any time spending here. The ignorant aND cranky faces on the job are just not worth it. Besides most money made in nz is just being flushed through the toilet. .

    For sure your position and paycheck today has made up for the suppressing years in new Zealand. Glad you made it there. Good luck

  8. Coming to New Zealand, and being in New Zealand for any length of time, is a WASTE of time. You will go nowhere.

    If you have the chance to go anywhere else in the world to study or work, go there!!!! You are signing your own death warrant entering this backward shithole.

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