NZ FAQ Series Part 3 – What’s it like to live in New Zealand?

This broad question has many answers. Many people who have already taken the journey will tell you that New Zealand is like a home from home, similar to the UK, but different. We highlight some of the key differences that people tend to ask us about.


1.       What’s the difference between the North and the South Island?

There are a few fundamental differences between the two islands. In terms of climate the North Island, closer to the equator, boasts great weather with a subtropical climate in the Summer months. The South is home to the Southern Alps and has a smaller landmass, so has a cooler climate. The North Island has a much denser population, with three times the number of people compared to the South. Many of them live in Auckland - 33% of NZ’s total population. The North Island is generally more cosmopolitan with both Auckland and Wellington, that said Christchurch is fast becoming NZ’s city of culture with a population growing at around 2% per year. If you like the bright lights of the city, the North Island may be for you. If mountain views and whale-watching is more your scene, the South Island may suit.

2.       What is food shopping like?

This is one of the biggest differences we hear about. As per the UK there are big supermarkets, smaller convenience stores and markets, but you won’t find any of the big names you see in the UK. Supermarkets tend to be huge warehouses stocking vast quantities of groceries, to offer low prices. Fruit and Veg grows well in New Zealand, but you don’t get exports quite like in the UK so varieties on offer are mainly seasonal, which means prices can inflate when out of season. New Zealanders tend to own huge freezer chests where they can store lots of meat that they’ll get from local butchers, or fresh fish which bountiful and a core component of the NZ palette.

3.       What are the people like?

New Zealanders are in general, incredibly down to earth, with a relaxed attitude and a great outlook on life. Because of this they are very welcoming to migrants from all nations. They have a very liberal approach to life, are leaders in many environmental policies and a positive approach LGBT – they were one of the first countries in the world to legalise gay marriage in 2013. The current political party in power is the National Party which is slightly right-wing. They have a varied ethnic background from Maori to Pan-Asian, to European of all nationality types. This hot pot of culture is what makes New Zealand's diverse population so welcoming.

4.       What’s the language in New Zealand?

English is the dominant language in New Zealand, Maori is also an official language, and there are languages spoken by ethnic minorities. Kiwis do have their own lingo, for instance a ‘dag’ is a joker/comedian, ‘bro’ is a common friendly phrase for addressing people, similar to mate - as is ‘bugalug’.  A ‘chook’ is a chicken, a ‘dunny’ is a toilet, ‘fagged out’ means to be tired out, ‘hard yakka’ is hard work, ‘racked off’ is being angry or annoyed, and ‘strewth’ exists in NZ too – meaning, wow/I agree! There’s loads more Kiwi lingo here.

5.       How do people spend their time?

Because of the weather, people tend to spend a lot more time outdoors. Kids carry out sports after school and often take up outdoor hobbies. As part of Children’s schooling they are encouraged to explore the fauna and fauna and tend to develop a good environmental connection. The diverse landscape means that there’s something for everyone – beaches for relaxing, mountains for climbing or skiing, lakes for water-based activities, oceans for fishing, forests for hiking trails, rivers for rafting, and the sky for falling! There’s also many cities to visit with strong art and music cultures as well as bars and cinemas and theatres (so similar activities to the UK is possible.)

6.       Are there any other noticeable differences when you first arrive?

Many people note that the pace of life is very different, especially if you’re used to living in a city. This much more relaxed attitude is actually something you’ll need to adapt to, but it’s also what makes NZ life so enviable. If you’re moving from a city, then you’ll also notice how much space there seems to be everywhere. With a smaller population cities are built less densely, and a passion for the natural world means that everything is just that bit more spread out. The other thing you’ll notice immediately is how friendly everyone is. There tends to be a strong community feeling and the neighbours are very likely to pop over and say hello!