Migrant Tales. UK citizen lived 13 yrs Australia and 10 in NZ – A Comparison

Welcome to the latest in our series of  Migrant Tales – first hand accounts of life as a migrant in New Zealand taken from locations around the net.

Today’s tale is from an emigration forum. The author currently resides in New Zealand and tells what its like to live in both Australia and New Zealand.

I am a UK citizen who moved to Australia after finishing Uni and then came to live in NZ in 2000 and thought my experiences might be of interest to people contemplating migration from Britain and unsure of whether to go to NZ or Oz.

Australia offers hot, reliable weather, relatively high wages and good government services including healthcare and a generally high standard of living. However, the two biggest cities, Melbourne and Sydney can feel rather overwhelming because of the density of population. House prices in Sydney are astronomical if you want to be within sniffing distance of the sea and living out in the sweltering western suburbs in summer time is rather dismal. Similarly in Melbourne it can be boiling and the seething traffic in the inner city is rather hard to take.
Australian cities have great restaurants (particularly Melbourne) and good food generally and a variety of entertainment. The large numbers of Greek and Italian migrants make cafes and street life vibrant and lively. Australian TV is excellent, particularly SBS and ABC.

The Aussies can be a caustic, hard edged lot and their attitude to migrants can be rather unwelcoming until you get used to them. The sense of humour is rather akin to that of the brits (except that the Aussies are not so willing to laugh at themselves!!). All in all it is fairly easy to settle in to Australia as a British migrant. I particularly remember the feeling of freedom I got when I first went to Aussie – the feeling that anything was possible and the enjoyment of unpopulated beaches and the bush.
I always preferred living in rural areas, particularly in Victoria and in Western Australia where I worked on mine sites. I loved the bush, the coast and the Australian wildlife and would have happily stayed in Aussie if I could have found well paying permanent work outside the cities. However, work was only practicable for me in Sydney and after 4 years of that I fled to NZ.

NZ is a beautiful country with friendly people but I constantly re-think whether I want to live here, especially as my children near the end of primary school. The bush is lush, the landscapes amazing, life is laid back and if you live in Auckland there is a reasonable variety of entertainment and restaurants.

However, there is a real feeling of stagnation here and an alarmingly dumbed down culture. TV is riddled with adverts and aimed at the unintelligent. Commercial interests intrude into schools and even into hospitals – Auckland’s children’s hospital “Starship” even has a McDonalds outlet!!!! Kiwis seem to have the national motto “mustn’t grumble” and the lack of political activism allows rampant exploitation of workers and free rein to unscrupulous right wing governments.

We are lucky to have a decent local primary school but no good high schools nearby. The crazy system of making kids go to intermediate school for 2 years and then to high school means constant disruption. I am sure, having attended 2 Australian universities, that the tertiary education is better in Oz.

Job opportunities here are limited due to the low population and lack of large employers. Wages are pretty appalling on the whole and taxes high (there is no tax free threshold). On the whole, only welfare beneficiaries get a good deal here!!!

Having said that, this is the ideal country for older people who have some money saved to retire too – peaceful and picturesque. For younger would-be migrants……hmm, not so sure. If you have a well-paid job and are happy with a laidback but rather insular existence then you will enjoy it here.

A word of advice for all would-be migrants – once you have migrated you change as a person – your country of birth never seems quite the same so it is hard to go back, and you rarely feel completely at home in your new country because the new culture is unfamiliar and you have no childhood bond with it. The honeymoon period lasts a few years and then the urge to move to greener pastures kicks in…..!!

2 thoughts on “Migrant Tales. UK citizen lived 13 yrs Australia and 10 in NZ – A Comparison

  1. I appreciate this as what could be the most positive article on the site. The difference between aussie cities and suburbs was useful to understand.
    I’ve had major problems with the people in nz in the workplace. Completely different to how it was on holiday. I found myself laughing and they say ‘I’m not joking’. I’ve never met such extreme people. It’s OK to be wild, it’s not OK to be nasty.

    Depends on your wage.
    Many migrants live in Crown institution bubbles.

    I kind of like the challenges… Somehow I accept challenges more easily in such a new place than I do where I’m from. It this is a big decision though so we have to be serious. The people factor could be critical.

    I always wrote off Australia due to the persona of the knuckle headed people. Now I’ve realised nz is the same. I can tolerate it by living in that in nz so I’ll give it a go.

  2. Hi, I’d like to say that this is not true of some Americans at least, the idea that you “can’t go home”, because I know a good half dozen just off the top of my head who did not like New Zealand and returned to America. All are employed now with housing and are very happy to be back, after a settling-in period. Although considerably more cynical as people, they don’t catastrophize America’s bad points anymore after their experience in New Zealand.

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