How To Go To Bed, NZ Style

Continuing in our series of Migrant Tales – first hand immigrant stories about life in New Zealand, taken from locations around the net.

Today’s tale is taken from a NZ emigration forum.

At this time of year talk frequently turns to the topic of cold, unheated homes and high fuel bills (read Scarily cold houses,” “Most people consider hypothermia a symptom of being cold, rather than an expression of national identity” and  “So cold it’s warmer outside“)

Most of the readers of this blog come from the northern hemisphere and are enjoying the highs of summer at present. When you brush your teeth before retiring for the night, spare a thought for those who endure the cold in New Zealand – children, babies, the infirm and the elderly included:

How to go to bed and keep warm in New Zealand:

“This was our routine, coached by Kiwi relatives.

The bed needs to be made up with several layers, under you and over you, to insulate you and keep your body-heat in. You can always push off a layer or two if you get too warm, then just pull them back over as necessary, but they need to be right there so you don’t have to get out and go looking.

About half an hour to 40 minutes before going to bed, put on dehumidifier in bedroom, possibly heater as well depending on how cold it feels. Dry air doesn’t feel as cold as damp air. Also put on electric blanket, or put hot water bottles in the bed.

Get into your nightclothes in a warm room, so you don’t lose body-heat. Your nightclothes need to be a little micro-climate of your own – long-sleeved, long-legged in warm material, worn with socks, and maybe a fleece or jumper. What you choose depends on where YOU feel the cold.
Just before you get into bed, turn off the dehumidifier (and heater and electric blanket, if used). You can keep the hot water bottle(s) in with you if you want. You are warm yourself, in a warmed, insulated bed, breathing dry air, and should be able to get to sleep. Once asleep, people can usually cope with breathing cooler air as long as their body stays warm. “

Further reading “Your stories – Kiwi experience of unhealthy homes“:

We live in Lower Hutt with our 2 young children. Our landlord doesn’t do anything to help us out. We have no insulation at all. My landlords family member said he would suggest to her about a heat pump but we never heard anything. Our house gets so cold and damp in winter that our blankets get wet. My and my children have asthma and its not helping.
I think it should be compulsary for rentals to have insulation and a decent form of heating. There are too many landlords out there who do not care!

Brrrrr, come on goverment, help us hard working families to live comfortably…please?
We brought our first home three years ago, a 40 yr old weather board place in good condition,, with woodburner, but no insulation in walls or floor, and during winter the temperature drops to an average of about 5degrees!!, we both work full time, but with a mortgage, increasing everyday costs of living and a baby on its way it is impossible for us to afford insulation! I am so worried about this house being unhealthy for my new baby – the lounge is fine with the fire, but the rest of house I cannot seem to keep dry – there are musty smells I cant remove and Ive cleaned and aired out …. dont know what to do, help us please

My partner and I are living in a 1960’s rented unit in central Auckland. We pay nearly $400 per week for a damp, mouldy home in winter, and spend a fortune on trying to keep it warm and dry. I can understand how it is not high on a landlords priority list to insulate his rental properties – I don’t blame these people at all. But this is definetly a problem that affects a lot of tenants in this country – and not just in the cheaper rental homes either!

7 thoughts on “How To Go To Bed, NZ Style

  1. I totally agree. I am writing this in a house at 12 Celsius. It is so warm I have taken off my woollen hat. I still have two layers of Marino wool on my legs a wrist length Marino wool top and a woollen jersey on top of that, and a fire behind me. I have never been so warm in winter as this. I am so glad I brought a chainsaw and moved to my girlfriends house. There is no fireplace in my 1970’s uninsulated house in Palmerston North, and at nearly $0.30/kWh, electric heating is unaffordable. I built a woodshed out of logs with the chainsaw, a couple of nails a few pallets, a bit of rope and a piece of black polythene. The next step will be bubblewrap on the window that faces the fence. The wood come from scraps left behind in after a logging operations. Thank God for the ute (Americans call them pick-up trucks) to bring them home. According to the metservice, this fire has not made the room any warmer, but it feels warmer, at least on the back of my neck.

    My advice to immigrants. Woollen underwear, woollen hats and if gets cold, a rug on the knees (preferably with a dog or cat for extra warmth).

  2. All this time spent making do with limited resources creates a stupid (in the broader sense) but very specifically adapted population. I noticed this when playing word games such as Scrabble or Boggle with Kiwis. They do extremely well at maximising numerical score value by carefully considered arrangement and placement of the allowed number of letter tiles, but do not have broad vocabularies to draw off of at all. It is just one type of game strategy. The problem is – once you move here, it’s their game, they make the rules. You had better be able to darn socks, or you are screwed. One reader mentioned living here was like Too Much Vacation. I found living here reminded me of that other children’s book – Stellaluna!


    reminds me of that thread on city-data.

    Also, thinking of

    So nice not to be married to a Kiwi anymore, to listen to music that moves me and dance alone if I feel like it, connecting warmly, smoothly to the pulse without outraging him with my frightening dissolution :). God forbid you kiss him in public either. They are, as one lady put it once, disassociated. And yes, imagine feeling passion without being drunk or high.

    Kiwi ex ended up partnering with another Kiwi and good riddance to him, they deserve one another. Some career-driven money-mad moody creature in a posh car with Maori stickers all over it, despite being about 1/32 Maori that I can tell, capitalising on the tiny Maori bit apparently as nothing else about her is tribal except for the surface spin. These Pakehas here buy their spirituality off the Maoris, without for all that giving them any political power in return. It is as if they want the Pacific spiritual identity as a commodity, and in the meantime laying some amazing judgments on the Maori as a people, without even feeling in their bones that very spirituality they commodify so readily. It is as if, pardon me, the Pakehas are wiggers of a Pacific sort.

    In the meantime, the Maori are busy in turn imitating American gangsta African-Americans.

    It is tedious living among people who have no true concept of what they are, who just try on other identities like so many jumpers.

  4. I forgot to mention, there is one healthy home, mine! But it took lots and lots of money to manage it, and it won’t necessarily give us an edge when we sell, because quite frankly, things like comfort and insulation are not valued here. It’s not just poverty that’s responsible for the appalling homes.

    Also, some of the tradesman were not that helpful in making informed decisions, as they have little experience with building beyond the bare minimum standard of the building code. We had to do our research and insist on what we wanted, and ignore their advice, quite frankly. One tradesman was actually beginning to get hot under the collar by our demands, as he thought we were being excessive.

  5. Gasper on the friendly coast :When I moved here, I never expected that a comfortable temperature in the home could be regarded as a luxury in a country that brands itself “first world”.
    I laughed out loud reading on a forum when some Kiwi showed up and said “yes there are a lot of crap houses, but there are million dollar homes as well”. Most who either move here or live here cannot afford homes like those.

    Even millionaires in NZ live in substandard housing.

    Yes, there are million dollar homes, but very, very few have proper heating, air conditioning, or insulation. What distinguishes them from the uncomfortable, unhealthy and environmentally unfriendly typical Kiwi homes is size, location, and price. There are so few comfortable, healthy homes, even at the hight end, that I’ve never actually found one, although I’ve searched around for about five years in Auckland. I’m only assuming there are some because surely there must be? Do you need to spend over 10 million to get one? Anyway, no real estate agent I’ve ever spoken to has been able to refer me to one, including agents that deal specifically with the high end market. If you ask about heating, you’re told that it doesn’t get cold enough! (Utterly, utterly wrong) and you’re told it doesn’t get hot enough for air conditioning (Wrong again) and if you ask if it’s been insulated you’re assured that it is (they’re usually talking about roof space insulation).

    In Auckland double glazed windows are not required by code, single paned low-E glass is considered sufficient, and even when you do find double-glazing, it’s in aluminium frames that offset whatever insulating properties the double-glazing my have had. Insulating windows have only been part of the building code since about 2008, and many builders did not install upgraded windows even as they were building houses in 2009, because their permits were granted before the requirement became mandatory. In any event, the building code should be considered the absolute minimum, not the gold standard as it’s treated here.

    Anyway, if you’ve ever thought you would want to live in a large old home in Remuera, content yourself with the knowledge almost none of them have wall insulation, or proper heating, air conditioning, etc.! A heat pump installed in a large, drafty, uninsulated home is expensive, wastes enormous amounts of energy, and is just plain madness. In 2008 we viewed an open home for a 3.5 million dollar property in Remuera, a newly built, architecturally designed home. It was mostly glass, concrete, stone, you get the picture. The windows were single paned, were not even up to the standard of low E coated glass, there was no central heating, but it boasted underfloor heating in the living areas (but not the bedrooms!!!) No air conditioning. What drove the price up? Size, locations, and appointments like American oak kitchens, natural stone floors, overpriced European made fixtures. Boastful, but with no comfort, and completely ungreen. A bit like NZ itself.

  6. Electric has gone up in price, as well. Seems like they hike the prices a couple percentage points about twice a year. This does not make things any easier. It is hot now, Kiwi summer, and homes with air conditioning are unusual. Everyone uses fans and dehumidifiers to keep comfortable. The description above applies to winter. The insulation and dampness are not the only problem. NZ residents cannot afford to keep the temperatures of their homes comfortable either way because wages are so low and the costs of housing, utilities, food, petrol, telecom, and other life needs are so high. When I moved here, I never expected that a comfortable temperature in the home could be regarded as a luxury in a country that brands itself “first world”.

    I laughed out loud reading on a forum when some Kiwi showed up and said “yes there are a lot of crap houses, but there are million dollar homes as well”. Most who either move here or live here cannot afford homes like those.

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