New Zealand is an archipelago consisting of two main islands, the North Island and the South Island, along with over 700 offshore islands. The two main islands form a long, narrow shape and the majority of the smaller islands are within 50 kilometres of their coasts. The country is known for its stunning scenery and outstanding natural beauty, which has attracted filmmakers from around the world.
Although the Maori culture in New Zealand dates back to at least the fourteenth century, the culture of the modern country is largely inherited from the British and European settlers who arrived during the nineteenth century. Today, New Zealand is a multiracial nation and over half a million people there identify themselves as ethnically Maori, while the cultural influences of several other Pacific Island nations are keenly felt too. For more information, visit the Te Ara cultural website.
New Zealanders have an active outdoor lifestyle, enjoying camping, trekking and mountain biking in their unique countryside. The geography also enables mountain skiing in winter while the coastal beach resorts offer a sun seeker’s paradise in summer. Rugby is the national sport, with the mighty All Blacks among the world’s powerhouse nations, while a number of other sports are available across the country. Outside the world of sport, you can experience Maori culture or explore the dramatic locations which provided the backdrop for the Lord of the Rings films.
Food and drink
New Zealand food unites European and Oceanic cultures in a style unique to the Pacific Rim. Fresh fish and other seafood such as mussels, crayfish and oysters come from the Maori tradition, while the British influence can be seen in beef dishes and the famous New Zealand lamb. Food and drink is there to be shared in the manaakitanga tradition. New Zealand is also a leading producer of wine and the classic wine route is a popular attraction for food and drink lovers.
While the vast majority of New Zealanders speak English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language also have official language status in the country, having been recognised by the government in 1987 and 2006 respectively.
The New Zealand accent is considered similar to the Australian accent, but has several subtle differences – although this is usually more obvious to Australians and New Zealanders than people from other countries. The vocabulary used in New Zealand also differs somewhat from that of British English or Australian English.
New Zealand has a largely temperate climate. While the far north has subtropical weather during summer, and inland alpine areas of the South Island can be as cold as -10 C in winter, most of the country lies close to the coast, which means mild temperatures, moderate rainfall, and abundant sunshine.
Because New Zealand lies in the Southern Hemisphere, the average temperature decreases as you travel south. The north of New Zealand is subtropical and the south temperate. The warmest months are December, January and February, and the coldest June, July and August. In summer, the average maximum temperature ranges between 20 – 30ºC and in winter between 10 – 15ºC (Tourism.net.nz)
Safety and security
New Zealand is a generally very safe country to visit or live in, with the greatest risks coming from petty crime. The New Zealand Police website has some good tips on keeping safe, as well as useful information about local laws and customs. Because New Zealand is located in a seismic zone it is at an elevated risk of earthquakes, and there are also a number of active volcanoes in the country. In the event of a natural disaster, follow the advice of the local authorities and emergency services.
New Zealand’s education system has three levels – primary, secondary and tertiary (higher) education. Although private options are available, primary and secondary education is predominantly funded by the state. School is compulsory from the ages of 5 to 16, but most students continue for at least another two years after this. Depending on the type of state school, parents may be asked for voluntary contributions to fund activities beyond those paid for by the government, and some must also pay the compulsory ‘attendance dues’.
The school year in New Zealand usually has four terms running from January or February to December. Terms have two-week breaks between them and there is a six-week summer break at the end of the year. Universities tend to have two or three semesters.
New Zealand has eight universities offering undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. In addition to this, there are a range of colleges and polytechnics offering academic, vocational and professional courses. Some students also take diplomas or degree courses at wānanga – a type of institution that teaches in the Maori tradition. Qualifications at higher education level are regulated by the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.
Universities in New Zealand charge tuition fees, which vary according to the institution and the course. Fees for international students and postgraduate courses can be significantly more than for New Zealanders. The government will subsidise tuition fees for permanent residents of the country, and if you have been a resident for two years or more you may be eligible for a student loan. Loans must be repaid, but there is also a means-tested allowance grant available to some students.
Undergraduate university courses in New Zealand may last three or four years depending on the institution and qualification. For more information, or to search for a course, visit the New Zealand Education website.
Despite the relatively small number of universities in New Zealand, competition for research budget and jobs in research remains high. There are several private funds and institutions in New Zealand also compete with global rivals for international research funding. To investigate available funding options, visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.
Primary and secondary education
There are three main types of school in New Zealand: state schools, private schools and state integrated schools – former private schools that have integrated into the state system and are now mostly funded by the government. Private schools continue to charge fees although some are subsidised centrally. During secondary school, students in New Zealand work towards achieving the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), which is the main qualification for entry into higher education.
Preschool and childcare options
Preschool education in New Zealand is known as Early Childhood Education (ECE), and is provided by kindergartens, playgroups and play centres. Although ECE is not compulsory, many parents choose to take advantage of the 20 Hours ECE funded by the government for children aged three, four and five. This scheme is available to the children of foreign nationals and does not usually depend on visa status.
Some new migrants find that the cost of living in New Zealand is higher than anticipated. Overall costs are relatively low, but salaries for some professions may be less than in other countries. While locally sourced goods are fairly cheap, imported items can be expensive. The cost of living also tends to be higher in the north, with Auckland considered the most expensive place to live.
The majority of houses in New Zealand are bungalows with a garden plot, although flats and apartments are more common in the cities. Some expats are surprised to find that many older homes lack double glazing, central heating and air conditioning, so take this into account when looking for somewhere to live. Prices vary dramatically across the country, but in March 2017 the national median rental price for a 3-bedroom home was $500 (≈£283.28) per week (nzherald), and the national median house price was $495,000 (≈£280,793.18) (nzherald)
Most foreign nationals initially rent property when they move to New Zealand, and the Residential Tenancies Act provides significant support and protection for both landlords and tenants. The government-(Tenancy Services) provides standard contract terms to both parties, holds the deposit (known as a tenancy bond) and offers a dispute resolution service. The process for buying a house is also well regulated.
There are 5 major banks in NZ and all offer mortgages, compare mortgage rates
Tenants can be asked for a maximum of 4 weeks’ rent as a bond. At the end of the rental, you can claim your bond back provided that no damage has been caused to the property.
To fund local council services, properties in New Zealand can be subject to a range of local rates depending on the area and authority. Usually the rate will be determined by property value. For more information, visit the localcouncils.govt.nz website.
Utility providers vary from region to region. Water supply is often provided by companies owned or affiliated to local authorities, whereas gas, electricity, telephone and Internet services are usually provided by privately-owned companies that compete on price. Websites like Powerswitch and Glimp may be useful for finding the best deals.
New Zealand has been investing massively into a new fibre network and by 2019, 75% of people will have access to lightning speed world class Internet. To see if a property can get fibre Internet you can use this free service Fibre Broadband Checker. Testing the speed of a connection is important now that streaming the likes of Netflix has become part of our daily lives. A connection that is too slow will lead to a poor experience, test your speed here Internet Speed Test.
New Zealand no longer charges a licence fee for television. It completed its digital switchover in 2013, greatly improving the quality of service across areas affected rugged terrain. The Freeview service and some regional channels are free to watch, but satellite services must be paid for.
Healthcare and medical costs
New Zealand offers state-funded healthcare through a network of District Health Boards (DHBs). Although hospital care is usually free, other services including appointments with doctors, prescriptions and dental care usually incur a fee. In some areas, ambulance callouts may also be charged. Although private healthcare is generally more expensive, treatment can be significantly quicker.
Foreign nationals living in New Zealand for the long-term may be entitled to healthcare subsidies depending on their immigration status. New Zealand also has reciprocal healthcare agreements with some countries, giving their citizens greater access to services. To find out what you are entitled to, visit the Ministry of Health website.
New Zealand is home to some international chain stores but may have slightly less choice on the high street than elsewhere in the world. For food shopping, there are several large supermarket chains as well as local convenience stores known as ‘dairies’. Dairies remain open for longer but produce can be expensive. For a more authentic experience, try your local Farmers’ Market.
Goods and services tax (GST) is a value-added tax charged on goods and services in New Zealand, including most imported goods and many imported services. GST is added to the price of taxable goods and services at a rate of 15%.
- Rent on 1-bedroom apartment in city centre – $1,352.08 (≈£673.09) per month
- Rent on 1-bedroom apartment outside city centre – $1,065.91 (≈£547.21) per month
- Price of apartment in city centre – $5,558.40 (≈£3,152.25) per square metre
- Price of apartment outside city centre – $4,183.28 (≈£2,372.34) per square metre
- Loaf of bread – $2.22 (≈£1.26)
- Milk (1 litre) – $2.53 (≈£1.43)
- Bottled water (1.5 litre) – $1.89 (≈£1.07)
- Draught beer (0.5 litre) – $5.07 (≈£2.88)
- Packet of cigarettes – $23.90 (≈£13.55)
- Petrol (1 litre) – $1.91 (≈£1.08)
- Cinema ticket – $16.00 (≈£9.07) Source: www.numbeo.com (accessed June 2017)
The ENZ website helps newcomers to New Zealand. It has a wealth of information to help you find your bearings on arrival.
The motorways and main roads in New Zealand are generally of a high standard. However, the country’s stunning natural landscape has resulted in some challenging driving routes elsewhere, with bridges, tunnels and narrow winding roads all common outside the main city routes. Combined with the changeable and sometimes extreme weather conditions, these routes require drivers to be alert and vigilant, so always check conditions before travelling. Travel times may also be longer than expected.
In New Zealand, you drive on the left-hand side of the road. You can legally drive for up to 12 months with an International Driving Permit or a valid driving licence from another country as long as it is in English or you hold an approved translation. After 12 months you must obtain a New Zealand licence.
Metered taxis are readily available in all major towns and are relatively inexpensive for short distance travel, although you may want to consider a different option for longer journeys.
Public transport is easily accessible and fairly cheap to use in New Zealand. Regular bus services are available in all the main towns across the country. Wellington also operates trolleybuses. Once a fixture in New Zealand, trolleybus routes have been closed in many of the major towns and Wellington is now the only place in the country to retain its commercial system.
There are several coach operators that offer services across both islands. Fixed-price tickets that allow unlimited ‘hop-on, hop-off’ travel are very popular with tourists and backpackers, and competition between operators means there are some excellent deals to be found.
With its priority historically more freight-orientated, the rail system in New Zealand is fairly limited for commuters. Urban passenger services are available in Auckland and Wellington and there are some intercity routes, but the network is better known for its scenic journeys, which allow tourists to pass through some of the country’s most remote and inaccessible areas from the comfort of a train.
Ferry connections are widely used as a means of crossing the Cook Strait. Operators including Interislander and Bluebridge run regular services between Wellington on the North Island and Picton on the South Island. Water taxis are also widely available in coastal towns.
New Zealand has seven international airports: Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Queenstown, Rotorua and Wellington. Auckland Airport on the North Island is the largest and ranks among the busiest in Australasia. Christchurch is the South Island’s biggest airport and also offers a huge range of international destinations. There are several domestic airports across New Zealand providing internal connections across both main islands and out to some of the smaller inhabited islands including Stewart Island, the Chatham Islands and Great Barrier Island.
Other ways to get around
In the past, trams were a major part of the New Zealand transport network and systems were common in major towns and cities. However, most of the trams still operating today are heritage systems and are considered tourist attractions rather than serious contributors to the transport network.
The work week in New Zealand is typically 40 hours spread over 5 days, although reasonable overtime is permitted. There are no standard hours, but most businesses work Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm with a lunch break of 30 to 60 minutes. Work/life balance is considered important and anyone can ask their employer for flexible working arrangements with the expectation that their request will at least be considered.
Most full-time employees are entitled to at least 4 weeks of annual leave each year in addition to public holidays. Casual workers or those on fixed-term contracts of less than a year may choose to receive extra pay (usually around 8% more) instead of accruing holiday. Any leave is then taken as unpaid.
There are 11 public holidays in New Zealand. Ten of them are observed nationally, with an eleventh – the Provincial Anniversary Day – differing by area.
National public holiday dates
New Year’s Day: Tuesday 1 January
Day after New Year’s Day: Wednesday 2 January
Waitangi Day: Wednesday 6 February
Good Friday: Friday 19 April
Easter Monday: Monday 22 April
ANZAC Day: Thursday 25 April
Queen’s Birthday: Monday 3 June
Labour Day: Monday 28 October
Christmas Day: Wednesday 25 December
Boxing Day: Thursday 26 December
Visas and eligibility to work
Apart from a few exceptions, the majority of foreign nationals visiting New Zealand will need to obtain a visa. New Zealand offers several types of visa, and eligibility for each depends on your nationality, the length of your stay and whether you are planning to work or study during your visit. The Immigration New Zealand website provides information about all the options. To work, you usually need to have a firm job offer before making an application for your visa. Certain professions are in particularly high demand in New Zealand, so check the Essential Skills List before applying.
If you are working in New Zealand it is best to apply for an IRD Number. These are not compulsory, but if you don’t have one you may be taxed at a higher rate. Tax rates vary according to your earnings, and are usually deducted directly from your pay through the PAYE (Pay As You Earn) system. Unlike some countries, there is no tax-free allowance – you pay tax on your whole income. The New Zealand Inland Revenue website offers a comprehensive guide to taxation issues in the country, or you can visit New Zealand Now for a quick overview.
To save for retirement, most New Zealand citizens or permanent residents will be automatically enrolled in the KiwiSaver scheme, although they can choose to opt out. The scheme works through a combination of voluntary contributions, employer contributions and government contributions. If you are in New Zealand on a temporary, visitor, work or student visa, you are not eligible for KiwiSaver. If you contribute to KiwiSaver as a permanent resident and then leave New Zealand for good, you may be able to claim back some of your contributions.
The social welfare system in New Zealand is comprehensive, but many benefits are only available to citizens and permanent residents. For a rough idea of your entitlements, complete this questionnaire on the New Zealand Work and Income website.
New Zealand is committed to promoting the active inclusion of disabled people within a tolerant society as outlined in the New Zealand Disability Strategy. It is one of the few countries to recognise Sign Language as an official language. For more information on disability rights, visit the New Zealand Human Rights Commission website.
Although there are large corporate organisations operating in New Zealand, it has a larger proportion of small businesses than in many developed countries. This means that organisational structure tends to be quite flat, with managers and employees collaborating closely to foster a real team-orientated environment. Smaller businesses also tend to mean broader roles for workers, giving the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills and really influence the success of the business.
Business owners and managers in New Zealand try to maintain an open and flexible working environment which rewards initiative, hard-work and productivity. New Zealanders expect their managers to support them and allow them to express their opinions freely. Respect is earned by actions rather than through status, and a can-do attitude goes a long way at all levels of employment.
Compared to many countries, New Zealanders can be quite informal with each other. Most workers are on first-name terms with their colleagues, even if there is a gap in seniority. However, many people are a bit more reserved when they meet strangers or new contacts, so it’s perhaps best to use titles and surnames to begin with, unless introduced by first names.
Despite the initial formalities, New Zealanders are generally friendly and sociable, so once introduced a warm relationship can be developed relatively quickly. As a rule trust is given quite readily, but any abuse of this trust will most likely end the relationship entirely. It is important to treat your colleagues and contacts the same, as highlighting the status of one person above another is frowned upon.
Business letters in New Zealand are styled in a similar way to in the UK or Australia. For emails, start off with a relatively formal exchange, for example beginning your message with ‘Dear’ and ending it with ‘Best wishes’ or ‘Kind regards’. If you continue to exchange emails the tone may become more conversational, but as a general rule you should follow the lead of the other person.
Although New Zealand has a reputation for fairly relaxed business dealings, the dress code is usually relatively formal, with men generally wearing dark-coloured suits with a collar and tie or an open-necked shirt. Women may wear either suits or conservative dresses. However, with the high number of small businesses, you are likely to find a bit of variation in the dress code, so check with your employer or colleagues.
In business both men and women in New Zealand tend to exchange a brief handshake at the start and end of a meeting. The traditional greeting of the Maori people is called the hongi, and involves both people gently pressing their foreheads and noses together at the same time. This generally occurs during the Maori greeting ceremony of pōwhiri. Although you probably won’t need to understand this custom to do business in New Zealand, it may be useful if you decide to visit a Maori marae.
Try to make sure you confirm meetings in advance and arrive early or on time. Missing a meeting or turning up late will be seen as an indication that you are unreliable and may negatively affect your future business prospects.
Meetings are usually fairly relaxed in style and small talk beforehand is the norm. Good topics include the weather and sport, but keep it polite and not too personal. Business cards may be exchanged without ceremony. Despite the informal communications, the actual content of a meeting is taken seriously. It is very important not to rely on sales techniques, exaggerated claims or pure charm – New Zealanders appreciate directness and detail in business dealings. When presenting a proposal, state all the facts, figures and terms clearly for the best results.
New Zealand considers itself to be a fairly egalitarian society, so try to treat everyone with the same degree of respect and you should fit in. If you travel to any Maori sites or meet Maori contacts, try to read up on their customs and understand something of their cultural sensibilities.
Although New Zealand recognises English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language as official languages, almost all business dealings in New Zealand take place in English.