Chinese Student @ Otago

Continuing in our series of Migrants Tales – first hand accounts of the migrant experience of New Zealand, taken from places around the net.

This tale was recently published on

It was written by a student from China and anyone thinking of studying in New Zealand may find it interesting. You may like to read it in conjunction with our blog “New Zealand universities slide down rankings, must try harder

“I first chance upon this site sometime last year as I was researching on future career prospects and what others have to say about New Zealand. I think its really the thin end of the wedge for me.

I’m a Chinese and coming from a very capitalistic and workaholic country, I found New Zealand to be a very stark contrast though I did my best to accept it with an open mind when I first came down last year.

I currently study at the University of Otago and the standard in NZ was simply shocking, from their living standards to their education, public transport, telecommunication, pricing, lack of competition etc.

I hardly know where to begin on what is wrong with New Zealand. I think its shocking atrocious that NZ kids are so poorly brought up. So far in my time here in New Zealand, I’ve never seen a “kiwi” flat that is tidy. It is always littered with thrash, clothes, articles and all sorts of items.

It is fine if individual room were messy but all that eventually spilled over to the public area such as the living room and the kitchen. I guess I was unfortunate enough to have to flat with kiwis, last year and this year.

Somehow they have this mentality that someone else will always be there to fix their problems which is evident in:

1) Not cleaning up their own dishes, leaving it in the sink and piling up more and more dishes everyday.
2) Making a mess of the whole place and not cleaning up after a party… not even after several days.
3) Breaking things and not informing anyone about it.
4) My current landlord (also a student) who happened to stay in the same flat with me, couldn’t even bother to change the kitchen lights, even when all of it went out.
5) Leaving the kitchen in a horrible mess, leaving butter knifes, bread crumbs, jam and all sorts of stuff all over etc.

The worse part about leaving dishes around is that they won’t even rinse off the food first, leaving it to crust up and become extremely hard to scrub off (this includes pots and pans).

A common complain which a lot of asian students share with me as well, was “stealing food”. For some weird reason, they seem perfectly fine with taking other people’s food, which can be quite expensive. It’s probably alright if you pinch a tiny amount of sugar, salt, condiments and what-nots, especially when you’re cooking and you’ve realised you have runned out… but regularly finishing stuff which doesn’t belong to you like milk, pies, pasta sauces, pasta, hot beverages etc.

The only thing they haven’t pinched are my whiskey, wine and ingredients that are too “complex” for normal cooking.

That’s on the home front.

In university, the method of instruction is simply horrible. I could give a better lecture than most of the lecturers they have (though there are some exceptionally good lecturers) which consist largely of reading off the slides, rarely giving concrete working-world related material.

In my course of study, accounting tutorials were taught by “honours” students which have barely any idea of accounting theory. When asked on relevant accounting treatment on answers to questions, he simply mumbled some convoluted reply, told us to refer to the textbook and the “correct answer” as posted online.

Working with kiwi students was even worse. They mostly did not have any idea on what to do in group work (which often involves presentation), could not brainstorm or give ideas or meaningful contribution, does not seem to understand the topics at hand and were only interested in doing what they are interested in… which is very very little.

Every group work (about 3 so far) I had with kiwis, I had to form out the basis of the presentation, where to draw our content from (journals, real life experiences, business examples etc.) and I had to get them up to scratch. They couldn’t even be arsed to practice for a presentation… especially when their idea of a presentation was a powerpoint slide show cramped full of text and reading off a piece of paper… like that is going to ENGAGE your audience. They seemed tucked into their own world that if they read off their scripts and ignored everything else (I tried giving constructive criticisms to improve their points… didn’t listen to any at al) they would somehow get their points.

Even the most hard working kiwi student I have met so far (who was actually genuinely interested in doing well…. in his own definition), I would only equate him on par with some of the laziest friends I knew back from where I came. It seems to be a “I-want-to-knock-off-at-5pm” mentality. Don’t ask me to do anything MORE beyond that, not gonna pull an all nighter or anything to make it better.

Having worked previously, I joined some of the clubs and worked with some of the businesses here. It is a major disappointment.

You can’t trust their word because if they said within the day, it means a few days later… if they said 2 weeks (10 working days reference), it often meant MORE than 2 weeks. I had an incident where time-critical inventory was not delivered for an event until a few days after, bookings which I made were not kept because I was “vague” in my request.

The worse part is, you can’t simply switch suppliers or go to better businesses and call it a day. There is simply too little or NO competition at all! Instead of the customer being the focus of business, the convenience of the supplier is the focus.

There’s just so much more horrible things that could be written about… about the university, about the life style, about a lot of things.

I suppose the only few good things I learnt from NZ, was to become more liberal, open and friendly to strangers with a genuine interest rather than a “learnt behaviour”. I find a lot of NZer’s are not friendly, because they are genuinely friendly but because it was a “learned” behaviour.

Also for the oddest reasons, the NZers which I like the most, are the older chaps and chaps with accents. They were actually decent, respectful, NOT racist and you can actually have a good conversation with them.

New Zealand is a big disappointment for me. I am hoping, their working world will be more efficient but efficiency seems to be a lost concept here, with mandatory breaks for 4 hours of work, resulting in morning tea, lunch break, afternoon tea and pronto out-of-here at 5pm.

I use to say pretty bad things about the public sector from my country but as bad as they were, they are still better than the private sector in New Zealand. I don’t even want to talk about their “public sector”.

7 thoughts on “Chinese Student @ Otago

  1. It is sad to hear a story like yours. I hope you managed to graduate and have settled back to life wherever you are. Were you able to get help or feedback to anyone about the lack of good teaching in your course while still studying? I am curious because international students like yourself is what otago U needs crucially for good or bad financial times in the uni. Your fees contribute significantly. Would have been good to have proper response team to your feedback. The course you took-accounting-sounds like it needs to do something drastic to restore quality teaching to Its student. Using honours students who are not competent to teach undergrad is unacceptable. Further you lived in such sub-par conditions. How did you get into this situation? No one advised you? There is a code of ethics of pastoral care for international students like you here. Seems you were not properly informed. If you tell your friends never to come to otago I can understand. Did you?

  2. Outdoor sports = a weird fix-all for Kiwis. “Keeps teens off the streets” “Fixes obesity”, “Heals attention deficit disorder and depression” and so on. Every problem can be solved with outdoor sports. Maddening if outdoor sports are NOT the solution. Which they are not – for most things! 😦

    • Thinking about it properly, outdoor activity … is a form of attention-deficit disorder.
      You’re always moving from place to place, dealing with new challenges and never reflecting too much on what you’ve done or where you’re going. Everything is justified, but nothing is explained or understood.
      To make things even worse, there are some people even in the STEM field whose postgraduate studies revolve around “finding the best athlete in a database”(which is itself highly subjective, and predicates on 1- the ability to account for all variables including other athletes up until the sporting event, and 2- the idea that the future of sporting can be accurately predicted) … which is hardly something comparable to a new data structure, algorithm or applied science. And I wouldn’t be surprised if such people took only the easy papers or did a “double-degree”(half each of 2 degrees, actually, to make up a qualification – and tougher papers can be deferred or replaced with papers from the other faculty).
      These are the people who will be driving NZ’s push into technology?

  3. Note to readers:

    The Rhodes Scholarship is open to international postgraduates to study at the University of Oxford.

    New Zealand has produced 27 Rhodes Scholars in total since 1902.

    Last year there was an allocation of 3 scholarships for New Zealand, 6 for India, 11 for Canada and 9 for Australia.

    A list of Rhodes scholars may be found here

    New Zealand’s last scholar was Rosara Joseph from Canterbury in 2005, Rosara is a New Zealand Commonwealth Games (2006) and Olympic (2008) cyclist.

    Before that was Ceri Evans from Otago in 1998. Ceri was a New Zealand football (soccer) player and forensic psychiatrist.

    Ngaire Woods from Auckland in 1987 was a New Zealand-born British academic.

    David Kirk from Otago in 1987 was captain of the New Zealand All Blacks who won the inaugural Rugby (Union) World Cup in 1987; CEO of Fairfax Media, 2005–2008

    Do you see a sporting theme emerging here?

  4. I am 67 years old 4th generation NZ’r- and a male – thank you for your comments about the older persons in our community being easier and nicer to be with and to talk to even some them do have an ‘accent’.

    We have had staying with us in Dunedin a variety of asian students – Japanese – Thai – Korean and – Chinese. Now – dare i say it but out of all of these students the Chinese were the worst of all of these ‘homestayers’. Two of the girls were polite and so very clean with their room and in their personal hygiene. The boys – well – different story. Rooms looked like a bomb site – dishes left in the sink (dishwasher underneath sink) frying pans left after using – stove top not wiped down -The list goes on. One of the boys, I will call him JJ somehow found my supply of Thai food sent to me at an expense from Thailand and had all but eaten it all before I discovered this – maybe i should not have showed him this and shared with him some of the dried fish sticks. At this time I made it very clear that they were not to be used as i had them as a treat for me to have when I felt like doing so. Then we had a few friends in and I went to my liquour cupboard to get drinks for them – wow – a bit of a surprise when I found the whiskey (there were two bottles of this ) all but gone – the vodka down to quarter of a bottle and three bottles of my ‘private bin’ white wine gone completely. We would sit with JJ and discuss these things but all he would do was shrug the shoulders and say ” at home I would do this” total bullshit – his father was a very prominant business person ( banking ) and our discussions on the phone led me to believe this would not happen at home in China. Another one of the boys ( BB ) would sit in his total bomb site of a room and be on his computer 24 hours a day if he could. We went away for the weekend and he was not there when we arrived home on the Sunday night but in his place was a note…. he was staying with a friend until Tuesday – it was then that my wife moved a mat back to where it should have been and underneath on the cream shade of carpet a rather large deep red stain… red wine… He was always being told where the bathroom was and twice during his stay we had the carpet cleaners in to attend to his room – and the smell – not nice.

    I think it would be good for our correspondent here to realise that in all communities there are the ‘different’ types of society.

    The comments on shopping and the business community – get on to touring around your own back country China and have a look at what your eyes have maybe not seen yet – or maybe they dont want to. We have a bit of ‘third world’ society here in NZ but not that that exists in China. I have bought from China now products required for my NZ business. During the 10 years that I have done this I have had to be super careful with whom I deal with as three times now I have sent moies – and not small amounts – to but product only to either not get anything or to find that when the product arrived it was not what it was supposed to be and when I emailed about this I was told thats what you asked for and bought. Every society has its rogues and yes being in Dunedin has its pitfalls as such a lot of suppliers can just not afford to keep on the shelves that ‘thing’ that you need on ‘that’ day and we are often told that it will be down overnight. It is the way of a city of few people – not like towns such as Auckland and wellington where they have the population to make buying off the shelf easy.

    On the learning front – OUSA might have its faults and it might have a few ratbags learning there – this happens all over the world… were you bound by law to stay there?? or were you a free agent able to move to another city or country… maybe you would have been better off after you discovered it to be not quite to your taste to have cut your losses (as we say ) and moved on.

    Thank you for depicting New Zealand for being a backwoods third world country carrying a bunch of ‘dropouts’ – but – i would like to mention the Rhodes scholars that have appeared from our Uni’s and the brilliant doctors sought after world wide…. plus all of the other society debs that our small country has fostered.

    Why is it that Auckland is fast becoming a large Asian population if it is so bad to live and to be here….

    Enough of my disgruntled ravings…. just choose your words and look better at your countries roots before commenting as you have – look how long it took your country men to discover a better life than communism – or are you still one of these perhaps

    I hope things are good for you in life and that you do well as it does sound as though you are a dedicated person seeking a place in life – but – please – dont end up working yourself into an early grave – live life to its fullest in the most laid back and less stressful way that you can my friend – 40 years I commercially fished for my living and you might say i have been through a few stormy seas during this time but have been able to raise a family and had a hell of a good time during this.

    Allan D.

    • Is it right for me to assume that the two Chinese boys were the only children in their families?

      Funny thing about only children is that as the only next generation, they tend to be quite selfish. Not particular to any one ethnicity, BTW. If they’re rich, that swells their entitlement along with “social chameleon” skills to do what they want to achieve a result, regardless of its moral quality.

      And students who are overseas tend to do things they would not get away with at home. As a question to your girl boarders, did they participate in the blossoming Asian sex trade in NZ? I read that the Prostitutes Collective provide information about this lucrative profession (NZD120/hour last advertised in papers).

      I would add that Auckland is fast having an Asian population… which, like most NZers with the resources and wherewithal, plan to be elsewhere other than New Zealand in the next few years. The ones that are going to stay would most probably be cashed-up well-connected social movers, shakers and dealmakers with very few demonstrable skills beyond a gift of the gab.

      And on the flip side of it, is that Chinese aren’t unique to China… eventhough people try to paint that picture.

Comments are closed.