Migrant Tales – “New Zealanders have got to be the best marketeers in the world! Life is so different compared to how it is portrayed!”

Nation branding is very powerful in New Zealand, stronger and more subtle than you realise

Today’s migrant tale was left as a response to another E2NZ.org reader.

The author is a British migrant who moved to New Zealand with her Kiwi husband in late 2016.

She writes about how E2NZ.org  has helped her and why so many aspects of NZ life that are a struggle for her. She admits to having an unrealistic view of the country despite visiting many times, and (like many others before her) was taken in by the slick, and very powerful, marketing hype.

“Hi *****,

Like you and many others here, I stumbled across this site, and have found it to be of great help. As George has mentioned above, this site made me realise that it wasn’t just me being on a “downer”, and feeling homesick (we moved here with my two kids and Kiwi husband in December 2016), and that I wasn’t concocting reasons for not wanting to be here. Before we moved here, I had been many times on holiday so I thought I knew what I was letting myself in for, and I thought I had a realistic view of the country. At the same time I knew it wouldn’t be 100% perfect, that settling would have it’s difficulties but even with this “less-than-rose-tinted” view of what life would be like here, I have been overwhelmed at how different life actually is here.

I am really struggling – to the extent that I have needed medication to help me get through! – and I just hope that I can very soon persuade my husband that we should go back to the UK. New Zealanders have got to be the best marketeers in the world! Life is so different compared to how it is portrayed! Here’s what I struggle with on a daily basis (not in any particular order):

  1. The cost of living. Food, clothes, travel, rent….. we moved from London and life was much cheaper / better value. I’ve been to the supermarket this morning and paid $4.49 for a single red pepper (which was grown here!). I could buy this in Tesco’s for 52p (I checked on their website). An NZ grown cucumber set me back $5.49 – 45p in Tescos! A 2l bottle of semi-skimmed milk (Value brand!) cost $6.69 compared to £1.50 in the UK… I even saw 125g of NZ grown blueberries on sale in Countdown the other day for $9.99!!! People are having an absolute laugh here!!! I could understand if these were prices for imported goods but they are home-grown!
  2. Availability of products – such a poor choice of goods. So many people shop online from the UK as a result but I just think this is taking the whole “No. 8 wire fence” mentality to the extreme… why live like that when the benefits don’t outweigh the negatives??

  3. Media (another case of “No. 8 wire fence” living)…. I’ve got to the stage where I don’t turn the TV or radio on such is the quality of the content…. mundane, badly communicated, uniformative, trashy and to put it very bluntly, extremely crude. One example heard on ZM radio on a Tuesday morning whilst sorting breakie for the kids – a jingle saying “It’s Tuesday! Who gives an F? Let’s just get through it!” Why???????? I now listen to UK radio online and subscribe to a UK newspaper.

  4. Education system… lack of safeguarding (my son suffered a severe injury which required hospitalisation with possible life-long implications and the school’s response has been nothing short of shocking! They would have been chewed up and spat out in the UK – I know as I used to work in a school), lack of breadth in the school curriculum (my son in Year 7 doesn’t learn history or geography now… his teacher’s reason being that it’s “hard to get something for them to get interested in”!), Very NZ centric teaching, poor teaching of the basic building blocks of a primary education – my daughter’s Year 4 teacher said that they don’t bother teaching timestables in themselves and quite happily said that some kids leave Year 8 not even knowing their timestables! But rather they focus on “strategies” to help kids calculate things like 72 x 6…. “cart before horse” springs to mind! Run-down schools badly in need of a funding injection – my kids have commented since starting school here that their state school in the UK was more like a private school by comparison! Lack of respect and poor behaviour – witnessed while taking part in a school trip – the kids don’t know how to keep quiet and listen, and no-one seems to give a toss!

  5. Health system – widely experienced due to my son’s injury mentioned above – he had to wait over 30hrs for his operation as he was injured on a Friday. The hospital (in Lower Hutt which services Wellington so not anywhere completely in the sticks!) only had one operating theatre open on the weekend – this was also being used for C-section births… don’t those in authority appreciate that babies are born as much on weekends as on a weekday, and that probably more injuriies happen on weekends requiring plastic surgery??? Also numerous cock-ups as a result of under-funded, over-worked staff.

  6. Housing…. poor quality, lack of heating, mouldy, built on top of one another with not much outdoor space (I’m talking about Wellington) – we saw so many properties in our rental search which had less outdoor space than our 3 bed semi in London!

  7. Activities… if you’re in to tramping and mountain-biking you’ll be fine but if you want something more then you’ll struggle. I moved to Wellington thinking I’d have more choice in terms of entertainment seeing as it’s the capital but that was clearly a huge misjudgment. If there’s anything going on (and it’s limited anyway!), it’s more likely to be happening in Auckland or even Christchurch rather than here.

  8. 100% Crude New Zealand (rather than 100% Pure New Zealand)… if you want to shield your kids’ ears from bad language and prejudices don’t come here!! Foul language is really commonplace and no-one seems to care much about reining it in in front of kids (see also comment above about Media). How people speak about people with special needs or different races is staggering. I have heard the word “retard” used in numerous places (in front of my kids, in fact directed at my kids as a joke!, in the workplace…) And they say travel broadens the mind!?!?!?!?

  9. Haves and Have Nots…. NZers are very proud of their apparently classless society but it’s just divided up differently into those that can afford to eek out a relatively decent lifestyle here and those that can’t! But don’t dare suggest it’s anything similar to a class-based society (see point 11 below)

  10. Green, 100% Pure New Zealand image…. people in the UK are more environmentally aware and proactive than here! Yes, the air does feel cleaner and fresher but simple things like plastic shopping bags are still being handed out left, right and centre in supermarkets.

  11. And perhaps the point which winds me up the most given all of the above…. God forbid anyone criticises a Kiwi, or dares to suggest that perhaps an aspect of life might be better elsewhere!! Kiwis do not take criticism well nor deal with confrontation. And I think this is probably the biggest hurdle for anyone trying to settle here. Like so many of you have mentioned, you don’t feel able to speak freely about how you feel. I am from the UK, I know it is far from perfect but as a nation I think we will freely admit that. I am sick to death of being told that I am so much better off here… and sometimes this is even from people who’ve never been to the UK, or at most, have spent a few weeks there on holiday!

Anyway, I feel better now for getting that all off my chest so thank you for providing this forum. New Zealand is not going to change, at least not in a hurry. People think they are forward-thinking and progressive here but that is without them delving too deeply. People talk about it taking a few years to settle here… I reckon that’s because it would take that long to “switch off” from being annoyed by the likes of the above and to allow yourself to get used to it. I don’t want to become the type of person who is prepared to put up with this…. not when I can have a fulfilling, exciting, fun life elsewhere. I am mid 40s and do not want to feel like I’ve moved to a retirement home just yet! Nor do I want for my kids to grow up in a country with so many issues. People say it’s a great place to raise kids…. but what happens when they become teenagers, and they can see more for themselves what they’re missing out on, and what life is really like here? Luckily we can afford the ridiculously high priced food for now but how could they afford it (and housing or some sort or another) when they leave school and are in their first job? NZ has the highest suicide rate in the world for 15 – 24yr olds and I suspect the issues I’ve listed here are all part and parcel of that…. I don’t want that for my kids!”

33 thoughts on “Migrant Tales – “New Zealanders have got to be the best marketeers in the world! Life is so different compared to how it is portrayed!”

  1. I’ve been lurking here (e2nz) for a while. I largely agree with everything posted on here, especially the above post. I moved here last year with my (Kiwi) wife and 2 children. The first thing that blew me away is the price of food. Although I’d been here on holiday to see my wife’s family a few years back, I didn’t really venture much into the supermarkets. My pre-move google research told me it was more expensive, but nothing could have prepared me for the shock. It’s horrendous! As mentioned above, if you needed a few green peppers for a stir fry, you’d be making one incredibly expensive stir fry! I paid $3.99 for 1 tiny red chilli a few days ago. It’s crazy!!!! Pop to the shop for a few staples and prepare to part with $30 min.

    You mention this to the natives though…wow, you’ll wish you hadn’t. I still do anyway. I love winding them up by bad-mouthing NZ, it’s become something of a sport for me. They are such a sensitive bunch! This brings me on to the sense of humour…I don’t know if it’s different or just odd, I can’t put my finger on it. The art of banter certainly hasn’t landed here. You end up with your sparring partner looking like they want to punch you. On that note, has anyone noticed there is zero homegrown comedy on their TV stations?

    That said these guys are the masters of small talk, but they rarely seem to take a genuine interest in you. No one has ever asked about my interests/hobbies etc. I spent hours in a car with a new colleague last week, never once did he ask me a question about myself.

    All in all I regret moving here. I earn a lot less money and where my rent is cheaper than London, the cost of living is off the chart. I used to dress well, not too OTT, but I could afford to buy nice shirts and a couple of nice items a month or as the seasons changed. Here I have to seriously consider and budget, especially if it’s a brand, before buying clothes. I used to love taking my 2 kids shopping on a Saturday morning and getting them some funky new clothes, but here I rely on my mum to send parcels. The cheaper ranges of clothes here are utter crap. They last a month at best and just look like tat. In the U.K. you could go to H&M kids or Asda and get some really nice items.

    Where I am at least the sun shines a lot, but it’s going to have to shine a hella lot more for me to stop regretting this move…

    • Dan favour,

      The ability for kiwis to laugh at their own vices, accent, way of life, cost of living, and general ‘way of doing things’ is practically non-existent. There have been few instances when on-screen humour has been attempted – although some may remember Ginette McDonald’s late 1970s-early 80s television character ‘Lynn of Tawa’.


      This depiction of a typical kiwi (young woman) however seemed to strike a raw nerve with a lot of people – perhaps because they saw their own reflection in the mirror! I can remember people going on and on about her – and MacDonald was even brought to task for supposedly affecting real estate prices in Tawa. How dare it be exposed to the world that New Zealand women spoke and behaved this way! (McDonald pulled it off extremely well).

      On the one-hand kiwis claim to abhor all the snobberies associated with European high culture and yet so many of them absolutely detested Lynn of Tawa for her accent and supposed lack of ‘refinement’. I guess since that time nothing so bold (on-screen) has been attempted to expose kiwi insecurities.

  2. I think everyone coming to NZ should be made to watch Once Were Warriors as it is the only film that accurately portrays NZ life. Another one for people planning to live in Christchurch is Snakeskin which shows the Neo Nazi bootboys of the area!

    Apart from the possibility of your husband going “native” (happened to my ex who married a NZer and became an experienced alcoholic and druggie) you run the risk of your children becoming indoctrinated and having the kiwi mindset as it is the only way to not be bullied. I spent 7 years there and was glad to get away, stupidly after 3 years back in London I had a stupid moment and put rose tinted glasses on and returned to NZ|. I lasted 4 months, I even told the freighting company to hold my stuff in port for immediate return as after two weeks of arriving in NZ, I realised I had made a big mistake. The only reason I stayed as long as I did was because I was working for a friend and didn’t want to let him down (one of the few decent kiwis there, even he understood)

    It won’t get better, in fact it will get worse. I moved over there on 2001 with a strong pound and $250,000 in the bank but that soon dwindled as wages were low. Over those 7 years I saw crime escalate and the cost of living skyrocket (brimming full trolley in pak n save $200 in 2001, half a handbasket $95 in 2010!). I would hate to think what the country would be like if a major earthquake hit, it is not either prepared or has the resources and infrastructure to cope. You certainly do not want to be there in that situation (not a matter of if but when!)

  3. Right from my childhood (I live and was born in New Zealand) I have continually heard about the kiwi utopia – as well as being bombarded with images of it (on paper, postcards, and film) – yet I have never ever experienced it.

    While I know it to be a complete myth – at times (rather naively I must admit) I still believe it simply ‘has’ to be out there somewhere as you see it so often on local television and in New Zealand-made films and you read about it in New Zealand literature and in the New Zealand press; and you constantly hear about it from your fellow countrymen and women. It’s that amazing place of blue skies, endless sunshine, beaches, barbecues, boating, pohutukawa trees in flower, bellbirds singing in the bush, of liberalism and social tolerance, of affluence, of owning your own home, of a great work-life balance, of walks along tranquil country roads and of outdoor adventure, sports, cultural enlightenment, good food, and good wine.

    In reality nothing could however be further from the truth though – for the majority of us living here. In my opinion 2017 New Zealand is more akin to a combination of Orwell’s 1984 and Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange than it is of More’s Utopia

    Here on the South Island we are currently coming out of a cold and miserable winter and I have neighbours who go on and on about how they wish they were in the ‘winterless north’ aka the upper North Island (where incidentally they have never ever been but which they constantly ‘quote’ because they watch the weather forecast 10 times a day) – that sub-tropical enclave which is supposedly our very own slice of Hawaii or the Caribbean.

    The other day when I however laid a few facts on the table about the weather in northern New Zealand they looked at me with total bewilderment – especially while I told them it actually rains a whole lot more in Auckland than it does in either Dunedin or Invercargill. Clearly they did not believe me. I could tell what I told them ‘hurt’ them! They simply wanted to keep that dream alive – having been exposed to so much utopian propaganda for so many years.

    On the other side of the coin they just couldn’t wait to tell me about this past weekend’s white supremacist ‘terrorist’ incident in Charlottesville, Virginia (proudly playing that ‘aren’t we lucky we don’t live in America’ card) but ultimately they said absolutely nothing about the individual who fired on the police in the Waikato with a military-style weapon (to me this was a terrorist act – despite the apparent lack of a political or religious motive). But hey this is New Zealand and they – like so many other kiwis (when it comes to crime in their own country) just dismiss it as being a ‘one-off incident’.

    Again – like so many other kiwis – my neighbours constantly (annoyingly) proclaim they are so glad they live in New Zealand. The fact they cannot actually tell me why is however another story!

    To end my rant: my advice to you would be to get out while you still can!

    • The anti-Americanism in this country is palpable. I can see peoples’ faces sour up when they hear me talk (and I don’t have a particularly annoying-style US accent). Repeatedly turned down for promotions while ‘real’ Kiwis get sent up the ranks…

    • My parents moved to NZ when I was 18 months old from the UK in 1964. My Father worked at the Airport for Air New Zealand and built a house in Mangere. It was the only life I knew until my parents divorced and I moved to Australia when I was 18 with my mother and sister. Fast forward to 2017 and after an awesome life in OZ and looking back on my early years growing up in South Auckland it really is quite sad to read these posts. Everyone worked when I was growing up even in South Auckland, everyone one I knew and went to school with had parents who worked in factories or had some kind of job. Mangere College was not for the faint hearted that’s for sure, but I was a pakeha kid who was part of the neighborhood, and like I said it was the only life I knew. Never had a problem everyone knew each other and White, Maori, and Island families got along with no dramas that I knew about. My first trip back in 2015 to farewell my Father at his funeral was a huge shock and blew those early memories right away. The place is a complete shit hole, and any thoughts of leaving Perth to bring my family over to experience this mystical Kiwi way of life ended during that month long tour of both islands. What successive governments have done to the country is truly a crime and I am extremely sad about that. It totally makes a lot of sense now when I talk to younger Kiwis here in Perth who tell me they will never move back.

  4. Your comments are 110% of what I have experienced here and I’ve been here 10 years and it doesn’t get any better, it actually gets worse. I’m also from the UK and have been discriminated against and forced out of every job I’ve had here. I’m 45 years old from the North East of England, went to a rough as shit comprehensive school there and also did a significant stint in the Army and you know the first time I ever experienced bullying?
    At 35 years old and days within arriving in NZ and starting my first job here. I know your husband is Kiwi but in my experience the Kiwi Male is a lazy, insecure,immature, egotistical waste of space. I haven’t made one friend here in ten years!
    We are planning to move back next year because I see no future for myself in the NZ Job Market and no future for my kids, I don’t want them turning into suicidal P Addicts and I already see the education system failing them. The ‘She’ll Be Right’ attitude which roughly translates as ‘I Don’t Give A Shit About Anyone But Myself’ has created a third world nation masqurading as some kind of Utopia where kids are actually being murdered by their parents and everyone just turns their back on it. Making them just as guilty.
    Take my advice, leave now.

    • You have the option of leaving, I feel sick to be trapped here because of my ex’s selfishness and ‘I’m alright Jack’ attitude, as you said.

      I have been advised by numerous lawyers that the Family Court will balk at any case I put together to take my children back to England, because the judges are full of Kiwi Kool-Aid. Best country in the world, Godzone……then bugger off to their weekend beach bach and their ‘I’m alright Jack’ wealthy lifestyle. Leaving myself and my children struggling along.

      Wise words – leave now!

  5. You have to get out NOW while your husband is still a willing participant. The longer he is here, the more he will revert back to being a ‘proper Kiwi bloke’ and you are then stuck if you want to leave. You should know that your children are now ‘owned’ by New Zealand and you will not be able to take them back to the UK if your husband says no. Get out of here RIGHT NOW. Come over for holidays and enjoy the place as a tourist, but never come back to live, it’s not worth your sanity or risking your children’s future. Speaking from experience as a trapped single parent who cannot leave New Zealand unless I am willing to leave my children here.

  6. As a response to point 11.

    LOL.. Telling a KIWI that something basic can be done in another (better) way, is like placing a Four Year Old behind a Steering wheel of a car and tell him to start the car and drive to ChCh Airport.

    • This is so true! I got on well with my boss until I once disagreed with her. Ever since then I’ve always been at the bottom of her list. In fact I recall the first time I met her. When I spoke she kind of soured and said “Ohhhh you’re from the UK”.

  7. I’ve seen 1 kg. Cayenne Peppers (we call them Spaanse Pepers in Holland), you know the ones you use to spice up a dish , for… are you ready??… $129.50…. Yes you read it correct: ONE HUNDRED TWENTYNINE DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS. In New World… Are you F….kidding me!! It’s like you pay for food which is grown on Mars and sent beck to earth….

  8. I don’t want to have to get into the nuts and bolts of your relationship with your partner but the cold harsh truth is that New Zealand does not want foreigners of any ethnicity. You are simply not wanted in New Zealand. Even if you are or appear to be of European ancestry. This is something both you and your Kiwi husband have to confront head on. The racism you will face as the foreigner will eventually destroy your marriage which will in turn damage your children’s lives. The 2 of you have to ask your respective selves and together whether or not that is what you want. Denial will not make Kiwi racism go away. Similarly, the other issues you raised in your piece are very real too. Neither you nor your Kiwi husband can change any of it.

    A Kiwi upbringing will not prepare your children for the modern world. New Zealand’s insular nationalism belongs to Europe’s colonial past which, by contemporary European standards is considered long dead, end of.

    No one should tell you guys what to do but I will. Get the hell out of New Zealand!! For your children’s sake if nothing else.

  9. God….you are so bang on. I could have written it myself even down to the details about the red peppers and cucumbers, the worries I have about bringing up my children here and the medication lol The only thing you missed from my point of view is the isolation that I feel from the rest of the world at large. A very well written peice . Well done. We actually have loads in common. I’m in Wellington , moved here with my 3 (now 4) year old twins Feb 2016 with my kiwi husband. God I wish he’d stopped us moving here and told me I wouldnt like it. We are from London too. Planning to go back next year as my husband doesn’t care where we live , well I certainly do and it ain’t here. If you ever wanna catch up for an idealised conversation about London I’m in. Sanity would be good for the soul.

    • Hi George,

      It would be good to meet for a coffee at some point.

      Admin – could you please pass my email address to George so that we can make contact?

      Thanks too for everyone else’s comments – it’s good to know it’s just not me going crazy!


  10. DISCRIMINATION of the highest order – please support by signing this petition – https://our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/stop-discriminating-by-nationality
    The NZ Immigration enticed us to come to NZ with their brochures – “NZ the Right Choice” .
    After paying high taxes here and employing their Kiwis, the Ministry of Social Development steals our CPF savings while exempting their millionaire ex-PM from surrendering his CPF savings he collected – both are CPF savings from the same pot; but Sir John Key’s CPF savings are tax-free.

  11. On Point 11: Kiwis can’t take criticism or even feedback; it bruises their egos, which leads to a well indoctrinated cycle of no one bothering at all and the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude. And don’t even talk about the amount of censorship that goes on in NZ – The media operates almost like North Korean propaganda and will only publish what they want you to read about the country – things like ‘We are better than other countries in so many ways because we have (fill in the blanks)’, are just some of the lines you’ll read and hear… Such an insecure little rock at the bottom of the world.

    • You are spot on. I am Dutch, my husband is a New-Zealander and we live in Europe. I always tell him that New Zealand is so chauvinistic it could teach North Korea a thing or two about propaganda, which he of course vehemently denies because it is simply the greatest nation on earth. Yeah. Right…

      • I’ve long stopped visiting NZ, but the last time I was there I forbade my husband to watch the ‘news’, and I use the term lightly, because I couldn’t bear the blatant chauvinism. Again, it would give North Korea a run for its money.

  12. Truer words were never spoken. Your post really, really spoke to me. Especially point #11. But be careful not to try to leave without the husband — if he’s like mine (now ex), he’ll use his native legal system to entrap you via your kids. In other words, get out with hubby and kids while you can. I’m now serving a sentence in NZ.

  13. It’s really really cold and damp here ,most of the year you’ll wear long underpants thermal tops a jacket and a hat,when you go outside you’ll want to put on some more clothing .

  14. Leave your husband if he won’t go with you ,get out of this strange place as quickly as you can ,everything mentioned on this site (previously hidden by government and state owned media) is now coming to fruition including immigration corruption but pretty much every part of this tiny shithole is corrupt weird and unsafe for humans ,get out of here while you can.

  15. Hi, not sure what your name is.

    Every point you have mentioned is so accurate. I was one of those fools to believe the marketing of New Zealand and really thought living here would be great.

    I applaud you for listing each point which is vital. I lost a job after the “90 day” period because I was told I have to much cultural differences and I kept comparing NZ to how things are done back home. I even said that they do things backward. Guess that was my mistake and had to learn the hard way that kiwis do not like to be showed better and productive ways of doing things.

    I would really like to meet you if you are up for it. I have 2 kids, one in primary and the other in high school. My husband hates it here as much as you do, maybe even a bit more.

    My email address is: [edit: will be supplied on request. Ask admin for the link]

  16. My wife is a Kiwi and we lived in Christchurch for 18 months. I can honestly say I was delighted to leave. I have no regrets leaving and my daughter completed her education overseas.
    Every country has its problems, but I found NZ to be insular, vulgar and immature. Very much an over rated country and the cost of living is outrageous
    For the sake of your mental health leave asap. I can relate to your situation and had a similar experience while living in NZ.

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