So you graduate college without any real career plan and decide to spend a year bartending so you can travel as much as possible. Eventually you decide to take advantage of being a young adult with nothing tying you down and opt to leave the states and move to another country. But which one should you choose? Impulsively you decide on New Zealand, knowing only that they have a relatively easy visa process, a population that speaks English, and scenery so beautiful it was used for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. You spend the weeks leading up to your big move wondering if you’ve made the right choice. After a few weeks here I wanted to document my experiences by sharing 5 things that I learned very quickly after arriving to the twin islands.
Let’s set the scene. You leave from Houston, Texas on a scorching 102 degree (or 38 if we’re using Celsius) August afternoon and spend the next 16 hours on a plane heading a world away. You’re killing some layover time by stretching your legs outside of an airport in Auckland when you realize that you’ve been transported to one of the closest countries to Antarctica and it’s the dead of winter. It’s easy to forget that the seasons are flipped on over here and if you’re coming in between anytime from May to September you’d better break out the scarves and winter coats. New Zealand on average won’t get above 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) but it also won’t dip below freezing unless you plan on heading all the way down to the southern tip. It also doesn’t hurt to have a wind breaker either. Trust me when I say Chicago has nothing on gusts here in windy Wellington.
2. Rugby Mania
Kiwis (a nickname for the residents of New Zealand) absolutely love their national rugby team and why wouldn’t they? The All Blacks are have won the past two Rugby World Cups and are looking to make it a three-peat with the 2019 cup starting on September 20th. For me this means lazy Sundays spent watching NFL games are transitioning to exciting afternoons at the pub to cheer on the national team. Rugby fever is palpable with everyone gearing up to watch the boys compete on the game’s biggest stage, but it’s not just a spectator sport. There’s over 150,000 registered players and you won’t go more than a few blocks without seeing a game or practice on one of the many pitches scattered throughout the country. You might be hard pressed to find a soccer goal, let alone a basketball court, but a Rugby pitch is always within walking distance. If you’re a sports fan like me then be prepared to learn the rules of the country’s most popular sport so you can make your way to an All Blacks game. Even if rugby isn’t your thing then get out there just to witness the team’s epic pregame war-dance, The Haka.
3. Higher cost of living, but not really
Trust me, I’m aware that money is one of the biggest anxieties when it comes to the stress of traveling. As a young transplant without a huge nest egg to fall back on one of the first things you internally debate is whether or not you can afford your pipe dream of picking up and moving to another country. When you get to New Zealand you’ll immediately notice that the prices of all your favorite goods are slightly higher. For perspective, a cup of coffee at Starbucks will run you about $6, a beer is closer to $10 and a pair of movie tickets could easily set you back around $30. With this in mind you would think the cost of living would be much higher, but you have to take the conversion rate into account. The current value of the New Zealand dollar is .63 cents to an American dollar. That means your life savings is about a third higher when you come over. Additionally the minimum wage in New Zealand $17.7 dollars an hour to the USA’s $7.25. This makes paying $16 for a burger a lot less of a daunting task. Fantastic entry level wages aside if you can find a job before you leave that will let you work remotely do it. Your American income is going to go a lot further once you settle into your new home.
4. Lavish Landscapes
You know those pictures of beautiful beaches and serene mountain landscapes from fables and far away exotic islands? As it turns out they really do exist. Living in New Zealand gives you the opportunity to enter into a travel brochure and traverse whatever page you’d like. I personally love a good hike but my girlfriend is the type of person who’d prefer the calm of the ocean kissing a sandy beach. For us moving here meant that we didn’t have to choose between the two. The pair of islands that make up this beautiful country act as condensed versions of an all terrain getaway. Lakes, glaciers, tropical rain forests and active volcanoes, whatever adventures you’re after odds are you’ll find them located somewhere on the 1600 kilometer mass of the water locked country. New Zealand is filled with active outdoor oriented people, and why not with a country so gorgeous? Invest in a bike or some hiking boots and be ready to take plenty pictures for your friends back home.
5. Friendlier pace of life
Moving to another country is an incredibly exciting opportunity to broaden your horizons and see the world. It’s also terrifying. Every part of adapting to my new home was made infinitely less worrisome by people who always seem to offer time and a smile when I’ve needed assistance finding my way around this new country. Whether it’s airport customer service assisting with travel issues, various government employees assisting with the visa process, or our AirBnB hosts going above and beyond to make us feel safe and accommodated, every person I’ve interacted with has been shockingly kind. It’s a pretty big change coming from a large city in the states where everyone always seems to have somewhere to be. Instead the pace of life slows down and creates the sort of laid back atmosphere where you can have a conversation with a stranger without one of you feeling like you’re taking up the others time.
So after two weeks in a foreign country 8,546 miles from my hometown of Charlotte NC I can honestly say that I feel at ease. For those who can adapt to the way of life described in this article I would recommend starting the Visa process today and saying Kia Ora to a new life on this island hidden away in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. See you soon.
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