Some of the Memories We Will Take Back With Us to Scotland


Continuing in our popular series of Migrant Tales, first hand accounts of the migrant experience of New Zealand.

Today’s tale was sent in by a Scottish reader who has been resident in three different New Zealand cities at various times over the last three years. She is a registered special needs teacher and her partner is a chartered building surveyor. Her tale is one that will ring a bell with many of our readers – she talks about the poor quality housing, arcane working practices, bullying Kiwis, the high cost of living, bad roads, and many other New Zealand lifestyle problem.  Wisely, the couple has now decided to call it quits and return to Scotland. Fortunately they were some of the lucky ones who didn’t bring their money over and are now able to return home. Not everyone is able to do this and many migrants find themselves trapped in New Zealand.

We have been in New Zealand for coming up to 3 years after emigrating from Scotland due to the financial recession in the UK. My partner was in property
development and was made redundant. Most of the development companies in the UK closing we thought we would try our luck in New Zealand a country we had visited on holiday 10 years ago. We first moved to Auckland as my partner had a job there. I joined him 4 months later after selling our house. We didn’t bring our money over…thank god as we are now counting the days to returning home (beginning of December). For both of us it has been a nightmare and after reading comments from others on this website I realise we have not been alone.

I so agree with so much of what has been written. Here are some of the memories we will take back with us:


Greenhithe North Shore. Rental house costing nearly $3000 a month. Carpets rotting with something called ‘carpet beetle’, ants swarming all over the house, dead insects and bits of insects continually falling through gaps in the boards in the ceiling. Only one heat pump and an open fire so even in Auckland it was freezing . 3 rats captured (fortunately by our cat) in the house. Then winter when every time you got a piece of clothing out of the wardrobe you had to wipe off the mould. The house would have been illegal to rent in the UK and would never have sold. It was basically a wooden shack with no insulation and rotten wood everywhere.
Incredibly after we moved the owner sold the property for 350KGBP

Kapiti Coast. We did manage to find a decent property that was only 4 years old. It didn’t have double-glazing but did have air-conducted central heating (which was very expensive but worth it). However everything was cheap…cheap kitchen units that stained easily (a coffee mug would leave a stain then a Jiff rub down would take off some of the colour of the worktop) and windows that leaked water to the inside when you washed them!

Very difficult to get a half decent property that wasn’t earthquake damaged (yes Kiwis were renting out damaged properties that should by any civilized standards should have been illegal to rent out). We are now in a ‘brick’ bungalow that is about ten years old. The owners (who moved out for earthquake damage to be repaired and didn’t move back in …English emigrants) have put it lots of heating but the property is so badly insulated (as all NZ homes are if insulated at all) that here now, in winter, it is often warmer outside than inside. The windows need to be squeegeed every morning and the water moped up ON THE INSIDE! Our clothes get damp in the wardrobes and we have to have ‘damp rid’ buckets and hanging sachets to try an alleviate the problem.

My partner, a chartered building surveyor and Project manager hasn’t had a problem getting a job but his jobs have often left him stressed and really down because of the un-evolved working practices over here and the Kiwi ‘character’ of ‘we know best’ ‘this is how we do it here’ and an inability to see where change is needed e.g. in the quality of buildings. He has had 3 jobs since we have been here (hence the moving around continually trying to find an employment that he can get some satisfaction out of which by the way he did not have such a problem in the UK). His final job here is supposed to be as part of the Christchurch re-build after the earthquakes but he has found out that nothing much is happening because, as we have suspected for some time, the country is VERY poor and although it tries to give the impression of a first world country it really, really isn’t any where near it.

I am a qualified special needs teacher. I was accepted for NZ teacher registration (after spending money of course which is the ‘Kiwi way’ as in ‘how can we make as much money as we can out of you’). I have never been able to get a teaching job, though I have applied, and have been working as a Teacher Aide after scores of applications for each move we’ve made. Finally in Christchurch my luck has run out and I can’t even get an interview for a Teacher Aide after numerous applications for jobs advertised as requiring someone with special needs experience. Mostly I have put in an application and have never heard back from the schools even after requesting acknowledgment of my application. (As a generality Kiwis don’t reply to emails unless they want something from you).
The schools I have worked in Auckland and Wellington have been ‘Decile 10’ schools supposedly located in wealthy areas. The buildings have been awful. Damp, cold, mouldy, absolutely filthy and smelly, with black mould on the ceilings and ants crawling all over everything. There is very little equipment and education is done on a shoestring. One school I was at (primary) had a class budget of $3.95cents per child per term (that’s less than 2GBP and class teachers weren’t allowed to photocopy (no worksheets here) as the copier in the school was just for the local community so the school could raise funds!) Teachers???? Commonly referred to my special needs students as ‘retards’ (most special needs pupils are included in mainstream schools but are taught by Teacher Aides). Then of course there is Novopay whereby a new system set up by the Ministry of Education to pay school staff got it all wrong resulting in teachers and support staff being underpaid or not paid at all. I am still awaiting the equivalent of 400GBP in pay owed me since November 2012 and don’t expect to get it before I return home.

The people
In our experience they appear at first friendly but it’s very much a dog-eats-dog society where you have to guard against bullying (Kiwis call it management) and being ‘taken for a ride’. The TV channels continually throw out propaganda telling Kiwis how lucky they are to live here but the whole system has a built in lack of rights that sometimes verges on abuse. We suspect that your average Kiwi, if they were honest with themselves, know that the system (and that includes shops, services etc) takes then for a ride but they are too afraid of the truth to confront it.
I personally have been at the receiving end of some astonishingly poor social skills especially when a Kiwi becomes aware that in some sense you are different to them. For example I am a vegetarian and have been for over 40 years. At a social do with a Tramping (walking) club I asked another member if he was also a vegetarian after I had overheard him say something that I thought suggested he was. His reply!!! ‘Do I look like a f…ing vegetarian?’ said very aggressively. Probably because a lot of Kiwi men are very much into some kind of macho mindset as hunting is very big here (and with bow and arrows) with little animal welfare legislation sense. Wild pig hunting is a family ‘day out’ and children are encouraged to use guns to kill anything that moves in the ‘bush’ (there has also been several ‘accidental’ killings of ordinary campers and walkers whilst I have been here. Hunters, from what I have heard from Kiwis’ like to drink heavily whilst hunting).
In general Kiwis, because of the housing problems of dampness, lack of insulation and heating, have problems drying washed clothes in winter resulting in an awful lot of them actually smelling bad during the winter months. Not just BO but damp, mouldy unwashed clothing smells.
In work situations they are very un-evolved. Management is getting employees to work hours they are not getting paid for and to do tasks they are not employed to do. They very much have a mindset of ‘not seeing the wood for the trees’ and they like to talk and to do but find it incredible difficult to think.
The young Kiwis seem to travel a lot and like to work abroad for a period before returning. What is really strange is that they do not seem to return changed in any way. Travel doesn’t seem to broaden their horizons nor make them think about their own country and it’s culture.


Everything except wine is expensive. More expensive than in the UK

Wages are about a third to half what they are in the UK

Houses are the same price if not higher than the UK but the houses really are just cold, damp un insulated mouldy wooden shacks

All goods are of a much poorer quality than the UK. I gave up buying clothes a year ago as I was paying a lot of money for really poor quality (cloth and make)
When you buy something that is faulty it is a hell of a job to get it replaced (we had a new fridge delivered that didn’t work on arrival and had a job getting it replaced)

Supermarkets are really poor and all stock the same goods. If you buy only fresh fruit and veg then the quality is generally fine but forget about convenience foods. They are taste horrible and are really unhealthy.
Eating out is a real problem. Kiwis will wax on about a particular restaurant and how fantastic the food is but when you go there it is at best like a Sainsbury/M&S convenience food and at the worst so bad you end up leaving most of it. (and it will be expensive).

The only way to find out what goes on in the world is to log on to the BBC website or watch BBC World News. All Kiwis are generally interested in, according to the news, is what happens here and what the All Blacks are doing
Kiwis can be very racist and are very outspoken in being racist especially against people from Asia

As a generality there is a lot of animal abuse cruelty and neglect here with little in the way of animal welfare

It also appears that there is a lot of Domestic abuse and child abuse

A survey was recently done questioning 2000 women in the Waimakariri area near Canterbury (where I am living) about animal and child/domestic abuse they have witnessed. 40% of respondents said they had witnessed child/domestic abuse and over 50% said they had witnessed animal abuse (that’s not neglect that’s actual abuse)

There appears to be a lot of alcohol and drug abuse and car accidents resulting in death due to these kinds of abuse (reported in the newspapers) are very common

The roads are congested (Kiwis like to have big 4×4 gas guzzlers. Kiwis are heavily into personal debt) the configuration of roads and road signs can be dangerous (as it trying to get onto a highway from a standing start when everyone is rushing past at 100-120k per hour). The maximum speed limit is 100k but even the police are saying everyone should drive at between 95 and 115 K per hour. I was pulled over by the police for driving on the inside lane at 80K an hour on a maximum 100K an hour road and told I was dangerously going too slowly!!

Anything else? Loads.

If any one is thinking of emigrating to New Zealand then beware. If you don’t mind roughing it, if you don’t mind watching you’re back against bullies and dishonest people, if you don’t mind poor wages and poor working conditions, quality of food and goods and if you never want to leave the country (it’s expensive to get out of it for a holiday and remember the wages are poor) and you will put up with all of the above for a bit of sunshine then give it a try. New Zealand is best observed as a holiday, in a camper van touring round the South Island for a couple of months and then GO HOME (forget the North island there is nothing there except for a lot of bush and some hot springs).

Home to Scotland….5 months and counting the days!!!

P.S It cost me 50GBP for a dental check!!

2 thoughts on “Some of the Memories We Will Take Back With Us to Scotland

  1. well what a super item you have written and everything you say is 100% correct…ive been all around this globe and this place has to be the worst ive ever lived first boss here was a bully and i left the job after 11 months othewrwise i would have decked him.Went back to being selfemployed and have had nothing but trouble from customers..something i really never had in the uk.So after 9 years we are off to the south east again..kent..and i cant wait..going to cost us $30,000 to get utter rip off from removers etc..only friends we made here were the british..and earlier this year some good pommy friends up sticks and went back home.All the best in Scotland..let me come back for a holiday will you ha ha

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