Don’t Move to New Zealand

starving piggy bank

“I am so tired of Kiwis making a virtue of necessity – there’s nothing here to compensate for the forced pennypinching”

This story was originally published on the discussion forum Expatexposed.

A US migrant in New Zealand tells how grinding penny pinching becomes a way of life in NZ with nothing to compensate it, rather than a short term measure to get ahead.

The poster also tells of how carefully ‘Brand New Zealand’ is manipulated to attract people who turn out to be unsuitable migrants.

This is the sort of honesty that seldom gets published about New Zealand, and we’re honored to be able to host it here:

I am so tired of Kiwis making a virtue of necessity. They should be honest that THAT is what it is – making do on a cute remote island. Nothing more than that. Not an arcane “lifestyle” to be aspired to (cue: clink wineglass of Sauvignon Blanc, look out to blue water, flash impossibly white teeth at partner that you would never see on a Kiwi because most of them don’t do dental).

There’s nothing here to compensate for the forced pennypinching – little opportunity, no rich culture, you can’t easily travel to other places for a change – nothing. The government and migration agencies are dressing New Zealand up and not being honest about what it is really like here – THAT is my biggest gripe.

If you are rich, boaty and/or fetishize nature, you will LOVE it here, and you won’t have to make sacrifices, or the sacrifices may well be worth it. I am not rich, boaty and do not fetishize nature.

I DO wear woolly socks and jumpers inside, and I did that before I came here. I shop secondhand “just because it is sensible”. I make food from scratch. I totally agree – it’s sensible and no less, regardless. I have NEVER had central heating or double-glazed windows in any house I have lived in, though I aspired to such back home where I was able to afford to buy my own house. I used to put thermal plastic sheeting on my windows to keep warm in winter. I will hunt that stuff down for this year in NZ if I haven’t been able to leave by winter. At home, I had a gas furnace (not a standalone heater) and my heating was, under a special distributive program where they spread the money out for winter heating to summer months so you don’t get these big lumps to pay in winter) about 80 a month USD (that’s about, what, 100 NZD?). Just to give you a comparison.

The difference is that back there, I lived this same way and was able to save money and get ahead by being frugal. I could afford better food and I didn’t have to darn big holes in socks. I’d darn a little hole or two and then when the socks persisted in developing more holes, I would give them away to the local animal shelter inside a pillowcase for the animals to use. I had money to travel and visit people.

I’ve lived frugally before – and was able to GET AHEAD by doing so. I was able to save thousands a year doing that. Here, you are FORCED to live that way just to keep your head above water, and you are lucky if you can save anything. Maybe some year upward mobility will pull you into its wake if you can catch the wave at the right time…you can only climb the rungs of the ladder with great difficulty in New Zealand, and just hope you don’t have a setback that sends you back to START. It’s easy to have that happen to you if you have no family here to cushion your setbacks for you.

I do not consider that the people of New Zealand are beneath me. I perceive that they “make do” valiantly with what they have. I have seen them be amazingly creative making good useful things out of nothing. The housewives use everything but the squeal. Jesus, do I have to want to live like that, though? This is admirable, and I’d do it if I had to, but why pay out the nose to do that? Kiwis are both shaped and limited by having to live that way. They don’t have time for intellectual pursuits? Just LIVING here occupies enough of their effort, so ok, it’s understandable (Google “culture of New Zealand”, “anti-intellectualism” if you think I am being a snob). People have crafted the Wiki entry to reflect reality, better, I think, since I came over some years ago, and I think prospective migrants should read it: (See below*)
I don’t think you’re aware of how carefully they manipulate Brand New Zealand to attract people who in actuality turn out to be highly unsuitable migrants. That’s where I perceive my fight to be on EE, is representing the reality of New Zealand as I personally experienced it, as one of those unsuitable migrants, so I can prevent other people from making the same mistake I did. It’s the only way I can make lemonade out of my own lemons! That’s why many of the members post here – they are either venting or making sure the downside gets “out there”, hoping that googlers will be able to find and read it through all the net-bombing by “paradise”-mongers who are trying to represent New Zealand as a place that it is NOT.”

*Anti-intellectualism in NZ (Wikipedia)

Unlike many European countries, but in common with other ‘Anglo’ countries such as Britain, the United States and Australia, New Zealanders do not have a particularly high regard for intellectual activity, particularly if it is more theoretical than practical. This is linked with the idea of ‘kiwi ingenuity’ (see above), which supposes that all problems are better solved by seeing what works than by applying a theory.

This distrust of theory manifested itself in social policy of the early and mid twentieth century, which historian Michael Bassett described as ’socialism without doctrines’: although the policies of the first Labour and other governments pursued traditionally socialist goals, they were not based on any coherent theory. A major break with this tradition came in the 1980s when the fourth Labour and fourth National governments enacted a series of reforms based on free market ideology.

This reinforced many New Zealanders’ distrust of intellectual theory, as many consider that the reforms increased poverty and inequality in New Zealand. Despite the prevailing mood of anti-intellectualism, New Zealand has reasonably high rates of participation in tertiary education and has produced a number of internationally renowned scholars and scientists, including Ernest Rutherford, J.G.A. Pocock and Alan MacDiarmid. It should be noted that both Rutherford and Pocock spent most of their professional lives in Britain. For many years this was a common occurrence, and a consequence both of New Zealanders’ attitudes and the low population which made it hard to support major research.


Because New Zealanders often have to relocate to achieve worldwide fame and fortune, New Zealanders are keen to claim famous people as being New Zealanders, however short their residency in New Zealand might have been.

While people born in New Zealand are certainly identified as New Zealanders, those who attended a New Zealand school or resided in New Zealand also qualify, irrespective of national origin. This sometimes leads to famous people and innovations being identified as coming from both New Zealand and another country—such as the pop group Crowded House, the race horse Phar Lap and the actor Russell Crowe, all of whom have been associated with Australia and New Zealand.

Because the measure of New Zealand success was often how well a person did internationally, anything from ‘Overseas’ is seen as holding more cultural capital than the local equivalent, regardless of its quality.

This means that New Zealanders are often lured to the performances of “international acts”. This is exacerbated by New Zealand’s isolation and small population causing it to be skipped by the international tours of all but the most commercially successful musicians and performers. The flipside to this phenomenon is that famous people from overseas can be quickly embraced by New Zealanders if they visit regularly or for an extended period or claim an affinity with the country.”
“We invite them to live here, then set them up for failure. Immigrants and refugees have a tough time settling in New Zealand, and it’s costing them – and us – dearly”

“New Zealand has never been particularly welcoming to immigrants, but a National Business Review-Phillip Fox poll this month suggested that attitudes of ordinary New Zealanders to non-white immigrants are hardening.”

“The requirements for immigration and the requirements for registration [as a teacher] are very different and it’s never been made explicit. So they come here on the basis of their teaching qualifications and can’t register. We suspect it’s the same with other qualifications, particularly those with a registration component, such as engineering.”

Although politicians attack migrants for “taking taxpayers for a ride” by claiming sickness and hardship benefits, a recent Victoria University survey found that a majority of New Zealanders are accepting of immigrants, but they have little to do with them. Those at the bottom of the socioeconomic heap who have most contact with them often perceive them as a threat. Chile was called in recently to sort out a dispute for an African migrant family who bought a house in South Auckland. “The people next door set the dog on the woman of the house and the children have been beaten up.”

( is being updated all the time, for the latest of hundreds of migrant tales click on this link If you would like to send us your migrant tale please leave it in the contribute section).

Everything you read on this site is genuine. We cite all our sources so people can judge the authenticity for themselves. People may not want to believe what they read here, and its easier to dismiss the site than deal with the numerous issues it raises; BUT that is what we call the “New Zealand condition.”

Let’s face it, if New Zealand was that great why does a country larger than Britain have more sheep than people, and a population of a little under 4.5 million. Did you know  >1 million Kiwis live overseas, ever wondered why they do that if ‘everything is awesome’?

Please take a while to read some of the comments that were left on this thread since it was first published in Feb 2010 – scroll to the bottom of the page to get them.

817 thoughts on “Don’t Move to New Zealand

  1. O.k… pretty sure I’ve heard enough to change my mind.. i was thinking ahhh an English speaking country with a great landscape, rolling countryside, England in the 50’s, an old mates been living their over ten years, community ready, cosy pubs, get a job and grow fresh veg in the garden and go explore….sounds like a don’t…Where do I go instead? 🙂 :/ It’s not what the Immigration page stats is it!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. OUR TAKE ON NZ – PART 3 (JOBS AND EMPLOYMENT) In this comment I want to share my opinion (with tips) on what is possibly the most important aspect of any new immigrant’s first concern when arriving in NZ – finding a job.

    NZ is a low wage economy with many jobs demanding long work hours whilst employers tip toe around the edges of the employment laws and stringent Health & Safety requirements. There is a definite gender pay gap and overall prejudice throughout much of the work environment, and this is especially prevalent in the employment process. Job seekers’ very first task is to navigate their way through what can often be frustrating and ongoing casual, part time, and temporary fixed term/contract work situations.

    A recent (May 2017) news editorial in one regional newspaper stated, “Bias is a growing concern for New Zealand businesses trying to increase diversity and inclusion in their workplace, according to new research. The latest New Zealand Diversity Survey reveals that 48 percent of organisations identify bias to be a key issue, up 18% from the previous survey six months ago.” All of which I believe is a somewhat subtle, understated way of simply saying that many aspects of the NZ workplace are not transparent and lack integrity. The encouraging news here is that as with many other things, NZ is slowly but surely starting to at least become aware of its inherent workplace prejudices.

    The current minimum wage is ($15.75 per hour) which I think is fair pay for a student or someone just starting out. The problem is that this is not a living wage by any measure. If you have a family, or are a single parent with one or more children in your care, you have almost no hope of keeping up with the daily cost of living (even if you work 60+ hours each and every week). If you are thinking of getting a second or even third job as a means to top your income, you may want to think again, as the secondary tax implications make this an almost futile proposition. More and more, the only way to cope on the minimum wage is to tap into the welfare system for assistance. You need a permanent residence visa to be able to do this. To be fair, the NZ welfare system does provide a lot of ongoing assistance for people in this position, and especially those with children and health issues. There are also special tax rebates (credits) that can help families scrape by on their low income on an indefinite basis.

    The bulk of the NZ work force earn between $15.75 and $25 per hour with many living payday to payday. Your average qualified professional can earn anything in the region of $25-$65 per hour, and then there are the fortunate few that earn the really big dollars (for these people, NZ truly is paradise). The 2015 median (middle) annual gross income across all NZ salaries and wages was $46 000. When you run these figures through the exchange rate of some countries (just a few) they may actually look quite attractive, but you will quickly change your mind when you get to experience NZ taxation, and the high cost of living. When you do secure a job offer, a good tip to remember is that given the choice, rather than accepting a fixed salaried position (which is very tempting when you first arrive in NZ), in many cases it may be beneficial to rather opt for an hourly pay rate. Otherwise, you could end up working a whole lot more hours for no extra pay whatsoever (employers really like that). Overtime and after hours extra pay is fast becoming a thing of the past, so make sure you know exactly what the position requires in terms of the working hours and so on. This all sounds so obvious, but it is very easy to overlook these basics when you first arrive as an excited, eager to please immigrant, seeking work in an unfamiliar and intimidating job market.

    Some immigrants may be lucky enough to arrive with a secure offer of employment, and that’s great. For the vast majority, including my husband and myself, we had to begin what was to be a long, stressful journey in order for one of us to finally secure full time employment, and the other to still be working year after year on a renewable fixed term contract ‘arrangement’. This type of ongoing repeated year after year temporary work contract is actually illegal in NZ, but persists throughout my specific work industry without so much as the slightest concern or redress from any official governing body.

    Do not be fooled, the trick in NZ, is not only to find a job that suits your experience, qualifications, skill set and interests, but to actually be able to retain the position with opportunities for advancement. Be warned, Kiwis do not like to deviate from the Kiwi way of doing things. Many immigrants have to step very lightly in the workplace (especially when employed part time or on temporary, renewable contracts) for fear of upsetting the status quo, at least until they have settled in and been offered a permanent position (which could take anything from a day to never).

    In NZ, think of a first time job search as a long blindfolded walk through a minefield with the addition of smoke and mirrors! The chances of being successful are extremely low, but you cannot stand still forever, so you slowly try to move forward one small step at a time, in the hope that you will eventually safely get to the other side.

    There are many minimum wage job opportunities available. Jobs like fruit picking, cleaning, labouring, serving and casual student type jobs are relatively easy to come by. There are a few reasons for this, the first being that many Kiwis could not be bothered to work for the minimum wage when welfare is so easily accessible (more about this in another comment). Another reason is that so many Kiwi applicants fail the entry drug tests at their initial job induction. Some others simply forget if, and where they are employed, failing to arrive for work due to their unabated consumption of drugs and alcohol. You may think that I am joking, but I am actually serious about this.

    Higher paying jobs are a lot more difficult to find and even harder to secure on a full time permanent basis. The big cities (Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington) are your best option for most employment opportunities, but they each have their own pros and cons in terms of living costs, weather, traffic congestion and other factors. There is no doubt that the regions are growing fast, but many of these more remote areas still have limited job opportunities and a very tight ‘Old Boys Club’ network (more on this later). Ultimately it is all about what you do, and where your specific working potential will be best suited in terms of location. It is quite possible that you could be extremely lucky and find your dream job well off the beaten track, far away from the city. You could even live happily ever after with the basic needs of a carefree lifestyle with few of the trappings of city living. This type of lifestyle will not suit many people, as it will severely limit your options in terms of schooling, healthcare and so on.

    So what are some of the other every day barriers facing immigrants wishing to find employment in NZ?

    I make no apologies for being blunt and direct with my opinion of the prevailing situation in the NZ job market. This minefield can be the biggest hurdle in a new immigrants life, and can quickly create a sense of failure and desperation, leading to a breakdown in self-confidence, as one ponders the question “What am I doing wrong?” At times like this, you must remember – it is not you!

    Keep in mind that the deck is stacked against you, as there is very little integrity in the NZ job market. Despite the daily media ramblings of jobs galore and booming equal opportunities for all, the secret is out that this is just another typical Kiwi marketing exercise to portray a thriving NZ job market with unprecedented growth, and a fair go for all. I would really relish in describing many of my own, and my husband’s personal job search experiences, as they are truly unbelievable and even comical (now that we can look back on them). Unfortunately, I cannot do this for fear that someone out there may identify either of us and put our current employment situations at risk.

    In short, here are just 5 things you should take into consideration during your NZ job search:

    1. The highest qualified applicant does not always get the job. The most talented applicant does not always get the job. The most experienced applicant does not always get the job. The best suited applicant does not always get the job. And not even the highest qualified; most talented; most experienced and best-suited applicant always gets the job. It’s all about ‘The Fit’! This could mean absolutely anything from the fact that the potential employer does not like the way you look, the way you talk and/or the possibility that you are higher qualified than they are, have more worldly experience than they have, and may ultimately become a potential threat to their own position of authority.

    2. Kiwi experience trumps all other experience. This is the way it has always been. It does not matter if you invented the aeroplane; were a recent long serving certified head flight instructor and pilot for a major international airline; have flown around the world 46 times; and then journeyed to the moon and back on the weekend – the exit strategy from a potential employer may still sound something like this….. we regret to inform you that unfortunately it is clearly evident to us that you have limited experience within the New Zealand aviation sector. To add to this, you have little or no practical Kiwi flying experience either. These limitations are of concern, and may be a possible obstacle pertaining to your suitably and fit for the position…, we suggest…, we would love to hear from you in the future when…

    3. Just because you have internationally recognised qualifications from one or more of the finest universities and/or other education institutions in the world, does not necessarily mean that you are entitled, qualified or recognised to work in NZ. Luckily, there are plenty of NZ bridging courses and other retraining opportunities available to get you ‘up to speed’ and in tune with the way things are done in NZ. These will however take some time to complete, and cost a fair amount of money. Student loans are readily available for immigrants that have a permanent residents visa.

    4. A number of advertised jobs vacancies that are placed in print, online and sometimes even with recruitment agencies, are simply not genuinely available in the first place. Unsuspecting job seekers’ can end up spending a lot of time, cost and effort pursuing an advertised employment opportunity that is actually already allocated to an existing internal candidate/placement. Keep in mind the fact that many large corporates and businesses, as well as government departments, local councils and other public service organisations advertise their ‘available’ employment positions as a legal/internal compliance requirement. This deceptive practice is designed to give the impression of equal opportunities and a fair go for all. In cases like this, unsuspecting new job applicants (puppets) will be required to perform all the usual job application and interview requirements/processes in a well orchestrated, staged production – filled with smoke and mirrors.

    5. The Old Boys Club runs deep in NZ! It is the usual story of: it is not what you know, but rather who you know that can assist you with securing employment. This practice is common in other countries too, but in NZ there is the added undercurrent that many of these same people have a network of deep-rooted influence, manipulation and control that extends way beyond employment issues and what could be called ‘accepted business norms’. The tentacles of The Old Boys Club extend throughout most areas of NZ business, local governance and everyday society, as they work the system for their own self interests and ego, and that of their mates and other club members. Strangely, these people are still held in high regard, championed by the establishment, media and many people in NZ that simply do not (or do not wish to) see the situation for what it is – a perpetuation of prejudice, bias, corruption and missed opportunities. Remember, these individuals have long standing Kiwi experience, this is how things have always been, and no one does it better than a Kiwi!

    The Old Boys Club revolving door style practices are well known, but rarely addressed. Keep your eyes open, look around, and you will find them moving from business to business and organization to organization, selling their personal brand endorsement and stamp of approval. If you are planning on starting a business, you may even want to think about having one or more of these notable individuals on board as a business partner/shareholder, ensuring a guaranteed fast track to success (sad, but true). Fortunately, more and more of these gutless old school dinosaurs are slowly but surely becoming extinct, as they get older in years and are put out to pasture to enjoy their well feathered nests. Thankfully, the Internet also continues to be of great help in exposing the network, movements and influence of The Old Boys Club that exists in many parts of NZ.

    So there you have my candid views on the NZ job market and employment minefield. Not pretty! The situation is very frustrating in the beginning, but knowing what you are dealing with, and being confident and determined whilst staying true to yourself, can make all the difference. As they say, forewarned is forearmed. More in Part 4 (to follow).

    Liked by 1 person

    • An unbelievably good and truthful representation of the employment situation in NZ. I am what I call a new age Kiwi that immigrated here 22 years ago and am trying to give and do my best for all. I am an HR employee representative for a large building and fabrication firm. Almost every week I have to deal with substance abuse issues with employees. The excuses are endless with some even saying that they cannot get to work because they or their partner have spent the fuel money on “piss” as they call it. It’s the worst just after pay day. We find it very difficult to find dependable workers. So many are stoned both day and night. Many of these same peopl complain that they cannot afford to feed their families, but are always smoking, drinking and buying takeaways. So sad, NZ is not the same place as it used to be.


    • Dear Barbara,

      Once again you have hit the nail on the head, there is zero transparency involved in the NZ recruitment sector and petty jealousy or ‘tall poppy syndrome ‘ is rampant.

      I remember being interviewed for a mid-management post at the Dept of Internal Afairs for a job as Strategic Targeting Coordinator of their Internet Policing Unit after returning from a 3 year stint working overseas for the UN

      One of the interviewsite actuality said my CV read like an James Bond novel and then proceeded to be the most antagonistic obtuse interview I have ever met…to the point where one of the other interviews had to rebuke him for being so disruptive!

      As far as struggling on the lower end of the pays scale to get by, when I finally landed a job it was with NZ Fire service in Wellington. 6 month’s in they decided to move their offices from Johnsonville outside the city to above a Fire Station in the CBD. They offered no compensation to staff for the huge parking costs or the alternative of train + bus fareally cast (and 2 hrs extra commute time) to staff.

      This move had a 6 month lead in. By the all but 1 of the Admin staff had left for other local jobs and the 1 remainder left 4 months after the move. They just didn’t care at all about the impact on staff and their considered a very good public sector employer in NZ…but only if your a Fire MAN!


    • Even at lower level work, nepotism is strong. When I’ve worked in factories, I’ve asked other others how they got their jobs there, and the reply has been – my aunt worked here, or my father etc etc. Because I don’t have the all important contacts, I’ve had to get any work the hard way – through papers etc. When trying to transition into a new career it can be difficult. It’s really a Catch 22. You’re asked if you have previous experience in the field, and when you don’t, that’s it, but when you ask how you get the all important previous experience. you’re told you have to have worked in the field before. I’m much more a believer in transferable skills than I am in previous experience.


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