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Life in New Zealand – What’s different?

Living in New Zealand

New Zealand is a great country that has a lot to offer for UK expats. Besides being one of the most picturesque countries on earth and with a pretty interesting swathe of different climates, depending on where you choose to lay your roots, research confirms that it has one of the highest quality of life ratings, so it’s no wonder that it’s near to the top of the list for most Brits’ wish lists. However, like any far-flung country, Kiwi life, although similar in some ways to the UK, has several differences, large and small, that make settling in an interesting journey. Here, we take a look at some of the differences your “Rough Guide” may have left out, giving you the heads up on what Brits find most different.

Driving in New Zealand
British expats can continue using their UK driving licence for a year after setting foot on Kiwi land. After that, you’ll need to apply for a New Zealand driving licence of your very own, but it’s not too complicated – this can be done through a driving licence agent. Requirements to apply for this include a medical certificate, proof of identity and an eye test. Insurance, whilst not mandatory is a good idea, and it’s suggested that you should have third-party coverage as a minimum. The country is a great place to drive in, the roads are perfect and there is little congestion. Remember your manners though. The Kiwi’s are, in general a laid back bunch, but they’ll respect you more if thank them for letting you out – a finger lifted from the steering wheel is usually enough.

Getting around on public transport
New Zealand has a very cheap public transport network. The public buses are clean, safe and operate in all major towns, which is great for those who don’t yet know their way around the country. There is also a rail network, although it is not very extensive. For inter-island travel, ferry services are available and can make for quite a picturesque trip.

Healthcare Differences
Hospital visits are free, but a visit to the GP will cost you, and it’s well worth considering health insurance if you suffer from something that usually warrants you seeing the GP for more than a couple of times a year. Interestingly, the ambulance service (and the fire service for that matter) is made up of volunteers, and they rely on charity and sponsorship to keep going.

Pace of Life
One thing many Brits comment on when it comes to settling in is the sensation that there’s really not much going on. Whilst it’s true that Kiwi life runs a little slower than the UK, there’s usually lots going on in the summer, and you’ll find that if you look around – and online – you’ll find that within your own community, there’s plenty to go to. Failing that, take a tramp (Kiwi for hike) around the gorgeous scenery without fear of finding the snakes, spiders and crocs native to neighbouring Australia.

Rugby is much more than just a sport in NZ, it’s a way of life, and it’ll be much easier for you to settle in if you familiarise yourselves with at least the basics of the game. One tip – if you’re a fan of the Wallabies, then try and keep it to yourself – the Kiwis generally hate them. If you’re lucky enough to settle near one of the rivers, there’s another summer sport that may interest you. Whitebaiting with buckets and nets is a satisfying and unbelievably tasty pastime – if you cook it right!

Long term living
Assuming you’re loving it in New Zealand, and want to stay long term, it’s worth paying into a Kiwisaver whilst you’re earning. You can nominate between 3 and 6% of your wage and this can be paid out upon retirement. You can even take some money out when you’re ready to buy your first home, around $2000. Of course, it’s worth getting a plan in place before you arrive in NZ, so do speak to the professionals first, as they’ll be able to provide you with more detail, allowing you to get the best out of your money, however long you choose to say.

Of course, there are so many small differences between the UK and NZ that we could go on forever. It’s time to open up the floor to our expat readers – why not tell us exactly what you found different from life in the UK?

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