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.

779 thoughts on “Don’t Move to New Zealand

  1. I will be very much sincere to anyone reading my frank feelings – NZ is almost like a 3rd world country except that it is mostly inhabited by people of European heritage who are known to have pioneered great strides in world civilization for centuries.
    If you don’t do your research quite well, the general Kiwi propaganda about the country may deceive you to make the mistake of coming to this country just as I did. I am an African who had once lived and studied in the UK and I do understand how bad the place I come from looks like. So I am not here to make comparisons of for one unfriendly person that will come and tell me, “Is it better where you come from?. By western standards, NZ is just a shit country. You can reason how bad my continent is. So for me to tell you don’t ever migrate the NZ even as a white European, you should know that there is a form of credence to how poorly run this nation is.
    I only came to this country bcos of the domestic tuition fee that international students are allowed to pay when doing a PhD but I now feel that I should not have been here. After the CHC earthquake, Christchurch became devastated though I will admit that the rebuild is gradually going on even though I don’t have any standard to compare the swiftness of the rebuilt process.
    Though I live in CHC, I can generally state the the whole of NZ has no efficient public transport system. If you cannot afford to buy a car and only hoping to come to NZ to try your luck for greener pasture especially for citizens of developing countries, you may be lucky but don’t be too optimistic. A small city like CHC doesn’t even have an efficient bus transport routes so you must be able to afford a car for even menial jobs like cleaning – You may also be ripped off trying to get a driver licence or convert yours. The winter in the country can get to sub zero temperature, yet, I can estimate the almost 80% of houses in NZ have no central heating system. When it rains heavily, some houses even experience some sort of water getting into their houses.
    Even if you are a qualified professional, reconsider your options if you have a better place to go to. The average salary is low compared to other developed countries yet the system will want to rip everything from you. What I can understand about the government policy is that they are looking for “already made professionals”, yet very unwilling to train their people talk-less of immigrants. What Kiwis want will be for a one IT professional or a medical doctor to migrate to the country and offer his services for even less pay compared to other oecd countries – common sense should tell us that is very unlikely to happen. No wonder the country is continually suffering from brain drain because even when Kiwis take loan to school and qualify for a career, they migrate out of NZ at the slightest opportunity with little hope of paying back (these are not based on statistics but my feelings).

    Let me talk about what I will term the immigrant’s perception of justice and fairness. When it come to NZ, simply forget about that. I will just use the latest “New Zealand first policy” to clarify what I mean here. Some years back, UK government tried to bring about policies that will affect intl students. Even though one way or the other the govt had its way, but there was stiff opposition from Universities and Educations against such policies. They may not have succeeded in stopping the policy in totality but you could see a sense of justice for people at the receiving end of unfavourable policies. But here in NZ, I doubt if Kiwis will even rise if the government decides to take immigrants to the gas chamber once they are told that immigrants are taking their jobs. By August, a new policy that will definitely target international students and make NZ less desirable to travel to for studies will be implemented – I am yet to see any strong opposition from University professors.

    Racism? There is no need to talk about that so much since if you are not white in NZ, you are very likely to have a form of racism which may not be all that overt but more like institutional racism. I think much of this hate is directed at the Chinese and rich Asian people who are buying over properties that the average Kiwis cannot afford.
    NZ fits a very rich person that wants to spend his or her life at the end of the world and can afford overly expensive houses. So if you are not rich, reconsider your plan even if you are a qualified professional. All those propaganda about the scenery of the country is just to get money from you and do not fall for them.

    I have a lot to say be just read the above and make good judgement.

    • Well written in every aspect, I totally agree with you all the way. We had the same experience, but was fortunate enough to return to Switzerland. I originally come from an African country and have experienced the exact, same prejudices from the Kiwis. Would never, ever set foot there again.

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