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What do you hate about New Zealand
April 13, 2009 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Tell me everything awful about New Zealand.

My boyfriend and have been talking for a long time (longer than we've been together, actually) about wanting to go far, far away and live someplace near water like on an island. we've been throwing the idea of new zealand back and forth and before i sink too much time into research i thought you guys could tell me every negative about moving there.

about us: he's 33, i'm 27. we're both skilled in computers/tech support. we're both skilled in the service industry (him as a waiter, me as a retail monkey/studio photographer). we're fit, in good health, and willing to do just about anything for a job. we're american citizens and neither of us have traveled abroad. i wouldn't consider us rude/stereotypical americans. we don't eat fast food (much), we don't drive SUVs, we don't have a lot of possessions. we have basically no friends so no one to really leave behind. i'm a vegetarian, but would consider adding fish back to my diet if i could get them not factory farmed and fresh. he's been picked up for a minor traffic offense, but besides that neither of us have ever been in trouble with the law.

so, let us have it - why is this a terrible plan?
posted by nadawi to Travel & Transportation around New Zealand (66 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
neither of us have traveled abroad

You really should take at least one trip out of your home country before moving across the world. Also, you can't just go live in NZ. There are visas and work permits and what have you.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:05 AM on April 13, 2009


we're aware that there is prep work that needs to be done, and permanent immigration is more our goal than temporary work visas. are the work visas a rrequired intermediary step between non-citizenship and immigration?

but that's all tertiary, really. basically, we just want to know what other folks DON'T like about NZ so we can weigh that with what we asbolutely love about it.
posted by radiosilents at 11:13 AM on April 13, 2009


actually, the real question is actually as stated : what do people famailiar with NZ dislike about it? we appreciate your wanting to direct the course of our lives in some kind of self-help way, but really we're just looking for opinions about the place.

do you have any?
posted by radiosilents at 11:24 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think you atleast need to visit NZ for a couple of weeks/months and see how you like it.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:24 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


You haven't offered any guidance at all as to what you (think) you love about NZ, or what you hate about places you've already lived. Do you like [kind of weather]? Do you need [X kind of food] to be easily available or makeable from local ingredients? Do you mind if [FOO] is expensive as long as [BAR] is cheap? Your question is so broad that it's going to invite unhelpful or overly general answers, I think. Someone might come in and say that NZ sucks because of [thing you love] or [thing you don't care about] - so how does that help you?
posted by rtha at 11:26 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


we're not up and moving tomorrow. we are not in a panic. there is no crisis. the course we choose will be well planned and well thought, regardless of the destination. of course we will visit, should it actually end up on the shortlist of places we think we'd enjoy. visting is absolutely, positively on the list. right now, though, we're brainstorming and shortlisting ideas.

has anyone ever been there themselves? surely SOMEONE can say SOMETHING about the place?
posted by radiosilents at 11:27 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


actually, the real question is actually as stated : what do people famailiar with NZ dislike about it? we appreciate your wanting to direct the course of our lives in some kind of self-help way, but really we're just looking for opinions about the place.

To be fair, eggman did answer the original poster's question, "why is this a terrible plan?" In fact, he/she pretty directly stated why moving around the world to a country you've never visited is, indeed, a terrible plan. Go visit for a month and see if you like, make work contacts, etc. Then decide whether or not to move.
posted by billysumday at 11:28 AM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Radiosilents-you might want to go back and post as nadawi so commentors know that you are commenting in the thread.
posted by greta simone at 11:28 AM on April 13, 2009


we like the isolation of it, the island aspect, the temperature, the average standard of living, the geography/terrain of it. it sounds beautiful, out of the way, and similar enough to life as we know it to not bowl us over with culture shock.
posted by radiosilents at 11:29 AM on April 13, 2009


You need to be in the "skilled migrant category" (basically a points scheme) to live in New Zealand, unless you have family there already. Work visas are a different matter AFAIK.

Take a look at this page to get started. Realistically, I believe its most likely to happen if you already have a job offer from a NZ company. I don't think your idea is bad one at all (I moved half way across the world for a job because it sounded like a fun place to live), but you do sound a little unrealistic.

Visit first, don't make plans to emigrate having never even left your home country. I had visited California several times and decided I liked the idea of living there, but of course visiting is not quite the same as the reality of living there, but it helps get a feel for the place.

I am a little concerned you haven't even looked into residency requirements yet, so check it out and that will give you an idea what route to take.
posted by Joh at 11:30 AM on April 13, 2009


i'm not her. i'm the boyfirend.
posted by radiosilents at 11:30 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


My best friends moved to California from NZ four years ago (both of whom previously lived everywhere from New York to London to the south of France). The things they've mentioned frequently include the fact that as lovely as the country is, after a time they began to feel isolated. They just wanted more options of places to visit, people to meet, and things to do. However, the only thing they actually hated was that a lot of things were very expensive. The cost of books, culinary products, or basically anything that had to be laboriously imported is apparently crazy. Also, they said internet access was super pricey and very slow.

That said, they look back on their time there very fondly and I wouldn't be surprised if they ended up back there some day.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:30 AM on April 13, 2009


Seriously, moving to a country you've never been is more than a huge leap, especially for people that have never been outside of the US. Even aside from visa and immigration issues, this requires vastly more research and work and thought on your parts than what you have, seemingly, given to date.

Having said that, here are a few downsides to NZ (I never lived there but did visit when I lived in Australia as a child). Things are pretty expensive there because anything manufactured, for the most part, is shipped from another country to a fairly small market. It's a small place in terms of people.

It's very far away from just about everywhere but Australia.

This means traveling can be quite expensive, and even more so if you ever have children. The consequence of that is, unless you and/or your stateside families are pretty well off, you won't see your families very much. Move to NZ and you might see your parents/brothers/sisters/grandparents/etc a handful of times the rest of your lives.
posted by 6550 at 11:35 AM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


The worst thing I have heard about New Zealand from the mouths of kiwis themselves, is that Internet service there is expensive, slow and unreliable.
posted by chillmost at 11:40 AM on April 13, 2009


Umm ok. I took a three week vacation there, and here were my conclusions as a west coast American, for what they're worth:

I know this question is about hate, but let me say upfront that the south island is pretty incredible, nature-wise, and I met some nice folks on both islands.

That said:
1) Auckland is a boring city- no two ways about it. I spent four days there and it felt like four months. Wellington is supposed to be better but I didn't make it there, sadly.

2) People are standoffish. Not exactly unfriendly, but not exactly friendly either, for the most part. The contrast with Australia is certainly unfavorable in this regard. They have this national thing about "humility," but it's not really that humble if you brag about it, is it? Yes, they are less arrogant than Aussies can sometimes be, but sometimes it comes off more like provincialism than laid-back charm. People just kind of act like they could take or leave you. I rarely heard anyone laugh or make a joke, at their own expense or otherwise. (This applies to the N island and most of the south. I found the extreme south of the south island but to be more Scottish in character, folks are much more outgoing and friendly.)

3) Not exactly open-minded. There are immigration policies about how you have to take a test in English fluency before they let you in. Even though I'm a native speaker, that offended me and pretty much scuttled any vague thoughts of me living there someday. And as a somewhat shaggy white guy with a beard, I was singled out twice in a row at Auckland airport for "random" security wanding. I'm not sure how visible minorities or Muslims would be treated, but I can't imagine very well. (in fairness, the guys wanding me were very nice about it, but still). Some of the people working at immigration were also downright rude to me.

4) it's isolated and somewhat backwards. There was a joke on "Flight of the conchords" about "New Zealand is kind of like the 1970s," and I really laughed because it is so true. With the exception of a few places in the big cities, accommodations are old and not even close to the standards of the US or western Europe. Another funny thing about FOTC is that they are NZ's most famous export right now, and New Zealand does not even get their tv show, while Australia does. That pretty much sums it up right there.

Sorry for all the negativity, but that was the question.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:41 AM on April 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


as i stated at the beginning of the question "before i sink too much time into research i thought you guys could tell me every negative about moving there" - so, while everyone's concern for our level of planning or commitment is noted, it's not really appreciated as we admit up front that there's a lot of leg work for us to do.

if someone were to ask me what i hated about texas, i wouldn't have to hear their life story or learn about what they like or dislike. i'd say, the summers are too hot, the winters are too wet. the people in general seem nice to your face, but are some of the rudest and judgmental people i've ever met. everything is a mega store. there are TOO MANY PEOPLE. there are too many bbq joints. there are too many SUVs and dumbfucks driving them. It's hard to find any amount of culture that isn't either cowboy themed or so over the top pretentious that it's offputting. now, other people might like some of those things about texas, but those are things i hate. that's what i'm looking for about new zealand.

thank you very much for those who have taken the time to actually answer the question instead of picking and choosing the parts of the question they want to yell at us about.
posted by nadawi at 11:52 AM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Online shopping just isn't the godsend that it is in the USA, because instead of a massive economy of 300 million people all within range of a few dollars for ground shipping, you have a paltry 4 million and beyond that, thousands of miles of ocean all around so long-distance air-freight for anything out of the ordinary, where the high cost greatly reduces the point.

(For the same reason, things that need to be imported usually cost a little bit more in NZ than in the USA, because of the higher shipping costs. You'll notice the extra when buying a computer, for example, and the local stores won't have the same range of them available on-site as a US big box retailer like Frys)

If you like living in the big city, well, NZ doesn't really have that so much.

Depending on where in NZ you settle, it's probably colder than you're used to - the latitude is a bit closer to Oregan than Oklahoma.

You'll probably earn about the same number of NZ dollars as the number of US dollars that you currently earn. For local purchases such as food and rent, this might buy you slightly more, but for all international commodities (from gasoline to computers) the US dollar typically buys about 1.5x more, so you won't have as much buying power.
posted by -harlequin- at 11:54 AM on April 13, 2009


The sandflies are awful.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 12:05 PM on April 13, 2009


A few random thoughts from a native here:

Don't underestimate culture shock. In some ways it can be worse when people speak the same language and seem similar, because you start to think you are the same, and you're not. For example, our love of understatement and dislike of boasting can cause unpleasantry when confronted with American hyperbole and positivity, and then there's hurt feelings all around and no no one can figure out why. When you say "i wouldn't consider us rude/stereotypical americans", that's great, but it's what WE think that counts on that score. Once you are out of the US milieu you may discover you are far more American than you realise.

Another example: consensus from a whole group is really important here, which makes decision-making more fraught and difficult from an American perspective and leads to frustration for everyone. If you are in a management position, you will discover that you can't just tell people what to do. They will question your authority, or agree and then do what they wanted anyway, and turn sullen.

Do you drink? Social life here tends to revolve around alcohol, and we drink more frequently and more heavily, which can alarm visitors.

For better or worse, no matter how atypical you think you are, you will be a representative of the US and teased/hectored/needled for everything wrong about your country.

Food is different. Many ingredients for your favourite things will be unavailable, expensive, or taste wrong. A really common lament I hear from Americans here is that you cannot get good Mexican food! You won't have any problems being vegetarian here though.

My sister lives in North America. If I want to visit, it takes me a couple of hours to get to Auckland, more hours to wait, and then 12-13 hours to LAX/SFO, and then, whatever connecting flights there are after customs and immigration. And it costs > 5% of the average wage. Even an annual trip back to the US is going to start to seem onerous pretty soon.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:06 PM on April 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


In fairness nadawi, your question was "why is this a terrible plan?"
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:08 PM on April 13, 2009


Heh. I just saw drjimmy's answer. Now, I would explain a lot of things differently, because I am on the other side, and I don't want to derail, but it was PERFECT as an example of the culture clash issue. And that just took him three weeks - imagine what a couple of years might feel like if you have trouble acclimatising.

That does remind me though: no service culture. None. We're not as surly in shops and restaurants as the English, but still a long way away from what Americans think is normal. Customers are not always right. Your money is not necessarily as good as anyone elses. My self-respect is more important than grovelling for your money (caricature there, but anyway). You could find this charming and refreshing or extremely annoying.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:13 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


They have these things.

There's also this whole points system to calculate whether you get a visa.
posted by LolaGeek at 12:18 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just for your consideration -- sometimes, weirdly enough, it can be easier to move to a place that is really really different than to move to a place that seems "similar enough to life as we know it to not bowl us over with culture shock."

I don't know what accounts for this, except that maybe you're *prepared* to encounter major, major differences (and endure major misunderstandings and negotiate and make sense of stuff that at first seems to make no sense) when you land in some place that is obviously, right from the first glance, completely and utterly different than the place where you've lived your whole life. But in my experiences with culture shock, I've endured the most profoundly alienating kind precisely in those places that look kinda similar to where I'm from, and where English is spoken. I mean, when people are speaking in incomprehensible tongues, that's one thing. But when you land some place where it seems like you already have a rough grasp of how things work and where you can fully follow all the stuff people are saying, cultural shock dawns more gradually and manifests far more insidiously, as an increasingly nagging feeling that something is "off," although you can't quite name it. It can be quite maddening, and, let me repeat, extremely alienating, because the differences are subtle enough that you don't even know what questions to ask in order to achieve clarity. In fact, I really don't think it's a coincidence that the expat communities in those countries seem much more insular than the expats I've met in, say, India.

Apologies that this is so abstract. But honestly, in my mind, it really is the biggest pain in the ass about moving abroad, anywhere that you feel is "kinda like home." Slow internet, you can get used to. A sense of isolation from the rest of the world? Well, that depends on how interesting you find NZ itself. Feeling like you've gotten the hang of things and are starting to love it, and then waking up into a constantly I-feel-like-I'm-a-little-bit-drunk-or-everyone-else-is-an-alien-and-either-way-I-feel-like-I'm-constantly-committing-faux pas-but-can't-figure- out-what-they-are?

That is far more wearing.

So, if you go -- keep in mind that the culture shock might occur later than you think, but it will occur, just as surely as if you'd chosen to move to Egypt or Guatemala instead.
posted by artemisia at 12:30 PM on April 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Meta, I'm assuming.
posted by CunningLinguist at 12:30 PM on April 13, 2009


sorry, nadawi, let me be more specific: what i hated was the way i was wooed by the apparent similarities and then sideswiped by the realization, just after i'd gotten comfortable, that the similarities were superficial and i'd understood nothing of my first few months there. all my fault, yes. but a common trap! just saying, bewares of that! it can disorient you.
posted by artemisia at 12:34 PM on April 13, 2009


I spent about 2.5 weeks there 5 years ago and absolutely loved it, but I think that had a lot to do with the fact that I spent a lot of that time traveling with friends all over North Island (and I spent about 4 or 5 days on my own in South Island).

It's a gorgeous country, and I actually found the people to be very friendly. I also thought the food was great.

That said, it is EXTREMELY isolated. This sounds appealing in theory, but in practice, it makes for some practical hardships. As noted upthread, anything that has to be imported is shockingly expensive, from paper goods to electronics. Seriously, you will be stunned by how much books cost, and if you are used to reading on a regular basis, this will certainly be a problem for you. As for electronics, when I was preparing for my trip, my friends sent me a shopping list of things like computer batteries, digital camera memory cards, etc. that they asked me to pick up for them because they were too prohibitively expensive in NZ (on a doctor's salary!). And unless you're planning on winning the lottery, you will almost certainly not be able to afford to see your family more than once a year (possibly even less).

It's also a bit culturally isolated, Flight of the Conchords and the greatness of Neil Finn notwithstanding. If art, theater, film, or TV are important to you, you will have limited resources. I went to a number of art museums and galleries in Auckland, Christchurch, and some other towns, and while they were quite nice, they were somewhat limited in scope. (The natural history museum in Auckland is really great, though!) Also, I brought several seasons worth of videos and DVDs for TV shows that weren't yet available in NZ; they were particularly eager to finally get to see The Sopranos, which they'd read about for several years but -- as of 2003 -- didn't have any way of seeing for themselves.

Finally, I've lived abroad before, though not in NZ (I've lived twice in England for a year, and once for a semester in Vienna), and while I've always enjoyed my ex-pat experiences, it really does take some surprising getting used to, no matter how happy you may be to leave SUVs behind. There are a surprising number of small conveniences to living in America that you have certainly internalized and take for granted -- but won't even realize till you're somewhere halfway around the world at 3:00 in the morning desperate for some Pepto-Bismol, which you won't be able to get because A) there's no 7-11 two blocks away, and B) even if there were, there's no Pepto-Bismol to be had for 1000 miles in any direction.

So I think it's fine to dream about moving to NZ, but -- as others have suggested -- I think you both need to set aside some pretty childish defensiveness to consider that you ought to try simply traveling out of the U.S. first before going too far into trying to make your dream come true. Walk first, then run, you know?
posted by scody at 12:35 PM on April 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


thanks again for all these answers specific to new zealand! they are great! the slow culture shock, distance (and price to travel back), expense of importing, and slow internet are all really good data points.

when you say slow internet - what do you mean? 56k? less?
posted by nadawi at 12:36 PM on April 13, 2009


So, you live in Texas, but you've never left the US? The reasons you hate Texas make it sound like you must be living in some shitty town in the Dallas area. A lot of the reasons you hate it (cowboy culture, what?, SUVs), make me think you're kind of picky about surface aspects of places. Well, from those I've known who have been there or lived there, New Zealand is can be boring, a lot of stuff is run-down, and most things are definitely expensive compared to Texas prices.

It's also really hard to take your pets there from the US if you have any. Like, you might as well find new homes for them.
posted by fructose at 12:42 PM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Some more thoughts came to me.

New Zealand is not America. No, I don't think that's a bad thing, but it can be easy for USians to think that places like the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and even Canada, to a lesser extent, are just like the US expect people talk funny. But they aren't. They are different countries with different cultures and living in different cultures can be immensely rewarding. But it can also feel isolating and lonely, when everybody around you has a shared cultural history that you aren't a part of and won't be without considerable time and some effort. Conversely, all the little things have been ingrained in your day-to-day experience, what makes America America, also don't hold true. There is an impression of America shaped largely by Hollywood (and also our politics) that people around the world can hold that, of course, only represents America superficially. Also, as joe's spleen stated, you will be a representative of America whether you want to be or not (ex. Bush, Iraq, etc). A lot of that isn't something you'll learn just on vacation.

The food is not the same, in subtle and larger ways. An Australia example: I never, ever could eat Australian hot dogs without throwing up, even after three years there. The spices and seasonings just tasted off to me. You'll find yourself craving real American food and the only fix is McDonald's. I'm being serious when I say thankfully McDonald's tastes the same the world around.

Oh, and a final thought. Sometimes people that have screwed up their lives look for a geographical fix, thinking that if only they were somewhere else their lives would be back on track, things would go great, everything would work out. Invariably, those people move and continue to fuck up. Truly addressing and dealing with the root problems is the only fix, not moving. I'm not saying you are those people, but on the off chance that you are looking to move to NZ as a fix, that's not going to work.
posted by 6550 at 12:52 PM on April 13, 2009


Things I hated about NZ after living there for 6 months:

You're a really long goddamn way from anywhere that's not NZ.
People are still burning coal to heat things like their homes.
Tough to dig up music/theatre/film outside of Wellington and Christchurch.
Its windy. A lot. The country is parked in the middle of the ocean in the Roaring 40s.
Its cloudy and rainy quite a bit.
Because of the isolation and the less-than-cosmopolitan culture, you probably won't ever feel like a local.
You'll be categorized as an American before you're categorized as anything else.
If you were to, say, do something like ask for advice or assistance and then whinge a lot about getting the wrong assistance, people would be less tolerant about it in NZ than they would be in the States.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:55 PM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't mean to say NZ = Australia. Just that things are similarly different from America for Americans.
posted by 6550 at 12:56 PM on April 13, 2009


Warning - ill-informed, ignorant, over-generalization coming up ... In Australia you can't go in the ocean because you'll be killed by crazy jelly-fish.

Isn't New Zealand next to Australia ?
posted by Xhris at 12:58 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't New Zealand next to Australia ?

If by "next to" you mean "separated by 1,300 miles of seawater", then yes.

I have swum in the sea every summer of my life and never had a jellyfish sting, or seen a shark.

Which does remind me: many beaches, and unfortunately this includes some of the most beautiful ones, are dangerous. We have a lot of drownings every year. Many of the victims are foreigners who don't get local advice about where to swim, who don't know how to swim, who are over-confident about their swimming abilities, who are too macho to swim near the surf lifesaver flags, who get stuck in rips.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:05 PM on April 13, 2009


"slow internet"

Most DSL is rate-limited to 2Mbps down/128kbps up. You can pay extra for better speeds, but the local copper is crap and you may not actually be able to get the theoretical max speed. Only a few urban areas have cable or wireless broadband. There is no fibre to the home for consumers. All retail internet has data caps. So for example, you will pay $30 or $30 NZ per month for a shitty DSL connection, have a cap of 5GB of data per month, and be charged extra for every GB over the cap. So torrenting bootleg episodes of your favourite and unavailable show is going to get expensive fast.

Also, probably the content you want most is hosted in North America, so the speed and latency is always a bit crap for any site that doesn't have a local CDN.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:45 PM on April 13, 2009


America is not America. Just because we share cable TV stations and McDonalds, does not mean all of the United States is a monolithic culture. Monoculture is mostly a lie, and anyone who's done extensive traveling in the US knows it.

You want Culture shock? Move from rural New England to Daytona Beach. Go from Omaha to live in Brooklyn. Move from Phoenix to Alaska, or from Hilo to Chicago. To claim that Minneapolis is the same culture as Dallas is beyond stupid.

I mean, what imaginary American are you thinking of when you talk about "American Positivity"? You ain't never been to Rhode Island, or if you have, you've never put down the camera long enough to figure out the local accent and listen to what the locals were saying to one another. Black pessimism is our preferred mode of communication. New Zealanders drink more? Than which Americans? Been to Maine? New Orleans?

Good grief. Most anglophone societies aren't going to be all that alien to one another... and I seriously doubt New Zealand is going to be stranger than North Dakota to someone from Oregon. Adapting to Belize or Jamaica would be weird and difficult, a liberal first-world country like New Zealand just isn't that tough.

I'd worry more about the price of books and intarnets.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:54 PM on April 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


what imaginary American are you thinking of when you talk about "American Positivity"

The ones I see on TV, occasionally meet and work with, and have observed on my infrequent visits. That was a grossly generalised stereotype, I know. But if we're to be that fine-grained, then we can't make generalisations about New Zealand either, which is also a diverse society when viewed at the appropriate level.

I happen to work in a field where I have a lot of foreign colleagues, and I'm just summarising some of the comments I've heard. No doubt there are many people who didn't say anything, but in that case their views don't inform my stereotype.

Most anglophone societies aren't going to be all that alien to one another

The point I wanted to make was not that we are alien, but that if you are here for a long time small differences will build up. Some people really do find this hard, even while others shrug it off or enjoy it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:06 PM on April 13, 2009


Some random thoughts about New Zealand:
- You wont earn as much here as you will elsewhere. It'll probably be enough to have fun in New Zealand but I wouldn't think too much about being able to save - especially if you are planning on visits back to the US.
- The internet isnt that bad! I get up to 500kbps.
- Sarcasm, cynicism and irony are a huge part of our conversation. I remember when I visited the US I had a few cultural misunderstandings. If you're a typical Metafilter user you'll probably be fine.
- Auckland is one giant suburb and it could be hard to meet people. A much better bet to try Wellington as it is a "walking" city. Though it is famous for its wind and is on average a few degrees cooler. The South Island is much prettier but no-one lives there except Christchurch - though that town is very dull.
- Sport is all rugby, rugby league, netball and cricket but you can get some American sports on cable television. Though no-one will want to talk about it with you.
- Australia is much more of an "American" country - they joined in with that whole War on Terror thing. While we quite famously, at least here, were kicked out of ANZUS for not letting American nuclear ships into our territory. We think of Australians as a bit more brash and American too. They pick on us like you pick on Canadians too ;)
- The country has been left-leaning for the last decade under Prime Minister Helen Clarke but we just voted in John Key who is on the right - we're waiting to see what this means for the country.
posted by meech at 2:07 PM on April 13, 2009


Many of the victims are foreigners who don't get local advice about where to swim, who don't know how to swim, who are over-confident about their swimming abilities, who are too macho to swim near the surf lifesaver flags, who get stuck in rips.

It's not only foreigners. Strong & fit professional footballers of Maori origin also die this way.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:11 PM on April 13, 2009


Broadband is readily available in larger towns (say, with 20k people or more). The further you live from a metropolitan centre, the greater your chances of being stuck with dialup. We have DSL with a high bandwidth limit, so we can download shows and movies that don't make it to NZ. We pay about $40/month. There is a wide range of ISPs to choose between so, to some extent, you can get a good deal. But a good deal in NZ is nothing like a good deal in California (I lived there for a few years). In my opinion it's reliable (it stays up but speed is up and down), but we pay a premium for that. We use torrenting and usually watch the latest episodes of our favourite shows 24 hours later. Sites like hula.com don't work here.

Oh, yes, books are expensive here. Buying a book is almost a luxury; depending on the town, the library might be your best friend. You can, however, order from amazon.com and spend less on a book + shipping than you would by going to Borders at the mall.

Generally fashion is a season behind here, but that's partly because summer is northern-hemisphere winter and so on. Relative to California fashion is conservative, and the further south you go, the more weird looks or comments you'll get if you wear something unusual.

And every slightly weird personality trait you demonstrate will be attributed to your American-ness. You will be pigeonholed, and not based on your region of origin, but purely as an American.
posted by tracicle at 2:12 PM on April 13, 2009


Another funny thing about FOTC is that they are NZ's most famous export right now, and New Zealand does not even get their tv show, while Australia does. That pretty much sums it up right there.

Series two is screening here at the moment.
posted by meech at 2:15 PM on April 13, 2009


Speaking of football, you'll have to develop (or feign) a religious fervour for the national rugby union team, the All Blacks, or you'll become a social pariah.

This will prove immensely frustrating, because in spite of their reputation, they rarely manage to win any major international tournaments.

The entire country goes into mourning for a month or so every time the team is ejected from the World Cup, which explains the origin of their name.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:23 PM on April 13, 2009


A few people mentioned the internet. I live in London now. I would kill to get NZ quality internet. Also, in NZ it wouldn't take me three months to get it installed.

Plus side: I have several North American (US and Canadian) friends who've moved to Wellington, love it, and are in the process of becoming citizens. (This takes a while though: you're probably going to need to work there for a few years first before it's even an option).

Down sides: it's cold (you mentioned the climate; most of NZ is not particularly warm. Certainly, most of the places you might work aren't particularly warm). Also, NZers don't insulate their houses. Or heat them. My Canadian friends find NZ houses far too cold. (Don't ask me why we don't heat them, I don't know...).

People are....standoffish, as someone said? Reserved, maybe? But definitely quieter, more introverted, than Americans. When I've visited the US, I've often had people come up and start chatting to me in bars, or even on the street. You really don't see that in NZ cities, to the same way. Because of this people might seem rude or unfriendly to you.

Food: it will be subtly different. I find American food too sweet - you might therefore find NZ food tastes funny. Restaurant food will be more expensive and portions will be smaller (IMO the quality will often be better).

Costs: will be higher in some respects, certainly (though some things will be cheaper - travel costs (gas is more expensive, but you won't need to drive as far, probably); medical care.

Not a NZ-specific thing: it's the little things that can be tough. Not knowing what something is called (in NZ, a grocery store is called a dairy, for example). Not knowing where to go to buy product x (in the UK, you can buy spirits in grocery stores or supermarkets, in NZ you'd have to go to a specialist liquor store). Not understanding any of the local sports, or the pop cultural references.

Wellington has a good film scene and a reasonably good music scene with quite a few international bands at the moment; but we really have to take what we get - it's not like living in London (or most of the US, I imagine) where you have a wide range of choices about what you do, where you go, what you see. The rest of NZ is a hideous cultural wasteland that no sane person would want to live in (though, if pushed, you could try Auckland).

It might be different with Obama, now, but previously if you'd been strongly patriotic, or big Bush fans, that might have not gone down too well. And you might sorta find yourself lumped in with all other Americans, and being blamed for dumb things that one particular American might have done, even if you wouldn't agree with that person [not everyone will do this; but certainly some might].

Just answering DrJimmy's comments: I suspect you'd find that attitude at immigration everywhere. I've sure as hell encountered it in the US and UK. Accommodation? Again, I'd say NZ sure beats what I've found in England and the US (at the budget end, anyway). Not sure where you get the idea that FoTC isn't shown in NZ, either - it was on Prime.

I'd also suggest that the internet has made it much easier to access things like the Sopranos or the Wire. Sopranos was on TV; Wire wasn't but it didn't matter; everyone I knew had downloaded it and/or bought the DVDs.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:30 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Info passed on from my New Zealand friend...

*The Internet: It is 1Mb to 3Mb in the best places but a LOT of people are still on dialup. It is getting better than it was a few years ago but it's still not great.

*It's a small country with only 4 million people and they don't really care about service. It's expensive when earning NZ dollars. The pace is kinda slow and sleepy, and there's a lot of rain.

*In terms of trying to get visas, it shouldn't be as hard for you since you're under 30, but your boyfriend might have some difficulty. It would be much easier if he had a job offer in hand before actually moving there.

*If you're looking for something that is fun and exotic but is something that is closer to what you're used to then it might be worth looking at Australia.
posted by jaybeans at 2:47 PM on April 13, 2009


On preview:

America is not America. Just because we share cable TV stations and McDonalds, does not mean all of the United States is a monolithic culture. Monoculture is mostly a lie, and anyone who's done extensive traveling in the US knows it.

You want Culture shock? Move from rural New England to Daytona Beach. Go from Omaha to live in Brooklyn. Move from Phoenix to Alaska, or from Hilo to Chicago. To claim that Minneapolis is the same culture as Dallas is beyond stupid.


Sure, but there's some evidence that cultures differ on certain characteristics. See Hofstede. (That said, the US and NZ score pretty close on most of his dimensions).

Even ignoring that there are still a lot of basic cultural things that you all have in common, and that other countries don't, and vice versa. I mean you all have some idea about the Superbowl, and what you do on Thanksgiving, and a million other things. Whereas all the NZers in here know the significance of Waitangi Day, and what happens on that day (and probably have a strong opinion about it). And we all know what the Ranfurly Shield is. We all know to bring a bottle of wine to someone's house if invited for dinner; you all know how much to tip in a bar or a taxi. Sure, each one of these things is trivial, but taken together they do add up. Speaking as someone who has lived outside his home country for a while.

And it's worth remembering that there's not one "NZ" culture either: even ignoring everyone else, there's a huge difference between urban Maori in Auckland and Ngai Tahu, and Tuhoe, and....
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:51 PM on April 13, 2009


we're american citizens and neither of us have traveled abroad.

That's your problem right there. There are steps to be taken between being born in the U.S. and deciding you want to move, sight unseen, to a country that's a 15-hour flight away.
posted by oaf at 2:56 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey there, I'm an American who immigrated to New Zealand almost four years ago. I'll say up front that I really enjoy living here and I think NZ is great. However, I'm going to try and tell you specific things I don't like about NZ, so this will probably read really negatively. I could write the same things about the States. I could also write an even longer post about what I like about the States or NZ. That said:

- One thing that's really hard to find out until you move here and hear it from other people, so I'm going to warn you up front now: NZ immigration will tell you you qualify under their points system to work here, and maybe that you have a desperately needed skill that there's a shortage of here in NZ. That does not mean anyone will hire you. Kiwis a lot of the time just don't hire immigrants, and yes that includes first-world english speaking immigrants. They almost always want "kiwi experience" which means that before they'll give you a job you have to have already had a job in NZ. Crazy, no? They seem to have the belief that someone doing something like being a receptionist, or writing code, or laying concrete, is significantly different here somehow from anywhere else. They are full of shit. But once you get your first job you'll find getting all subsequent jobs a bit easier.

- It gets really cold here, and almost no rental flats have either heating or insulation. By law your landlord is required to provide you with some method of heating but this may mean a single oil column heater or a fireplace.

- As someone said upthread, people don't keep rental flats in good condition here. I think the philosophy is that if you want to live in a nice house then you should buy one. Hence despite the fact that my husband works at a University, our rental house has things like stains on the carpet, torn wallpaper, and intermittent electrical issues, that I never ran into in the States.

- There is basically no online shopping, so if you really want that dvd/game/book/cd be prepared not only to potentially have to visit several shops to find it, but also when you do manage to find it it will be very expensive. A paperback book will set you back about $35, a dvd about $30, a cd about $30, and a newly released video game about $100 (that's NZ dollars.)

- As i_love_joe's_spleen said, you can't get mexican food here pretty much full stop. There's a place in Auckland called Mexicali Fresh that's run by a dude from Oregon that is really similar to Baja Fresh back in the states; there's also a place in Wellington called the Flying Burrito Brothers which is great but they also do things like put cranberry and camembert in their burritos (totally authentic Mexican, right?). This is pretty much it for the North Island. You can however get "nachos" a lot of places. "Nachos" will be grody corn chips topped with some shredded cheese and a dab of sour cream. You will be charged $7 for the privilege of laughing at these.

- The drinking culture here is really shocking. I thought I was a pretty, uh, merry drinker back home, but let me put it this way: in NZ on Saturday morning a lot of the shops have to hose down their fronts to wash off all the puke/piss/blood from the night before. Also if you don't want to drink expect to be pestered pretty much non-stop until you relent and have a beer. If you won't relent be prepared to have people write you off as being "stuck-up."

- People seem obsessed with vandalising things here, even in the middle of town a couple blocks from a police station you'll see shop windows smashed and whatnot.

- There's a phenomenon known as "boy racers" here. It's basically dudes 18 to about 27 who drive around in ridiculously loud cars and often take over whole streets and whatnot with their rallys. They are incredibly irritating and you basically will have no way to escape them as police here are pretty much ineffectual.

- See above re: police being ineffectual. Good luck trying to get them out to help you with petty crime like your car or house being broken into which, on the fun side, is quite likely to happen here. A lot of people I know has had their house burgled some time in the last year or two.

- Kids here can drink from 18, which everyone who comes from a country where you have to be 21 assumes will make them more mature drinkers. OH HELL NO. Kids here have the double wammy of living on their own with their mates for the first time, and access to large quantities of cheap alcohol (a 12 pack of cheap beer here costs something like 15 dollars). So you can expect large drunken unruly parties the likes you havent seen unless you went to like Chico State or something.

- Also there's the charming kiwi habit of whenever you've had some quantity of alcohol, you're apparently required by law to stand out on your lawn screaming and laughing at each other at the top of your lungs until 4 in the morning. This may sound funny but believe me, when you need to get up for work early the next day and you can't sleep because of all the noise, it will cease to be amusing. Also there is apparently nothing like municipal "keeping the peace" or noise laws, so see again, re: ineffectual police.

- You'll encounter "tall-poppy syndrome" here, which basically means anyone who stands up above the croud will get chopped down. On the one hand this means you don't see the kind of boorish end-zone-dance type bragging here in NZ that you see in America; on the other hand it means you must be intensely modest about yourself at all times, or people around you will think you're a snob or try to take you down a peg.

- Electronics are very expensive. Also you will not be able to find any equivalent of T Mobile, or Verizon, or whatever here, ie. no cheap cell phone plans with a free phone and lots of goodies. What you will probably do, as most people in NZ do, is get a crap phone that you'll pay too much for, and it will be prepaid. Which means you can text but pretty much never use it for calling anyone as it's prohibitively expensive.

- I worked at, and now attend, a large university in New Zealand, and I can tell you first hand that American expats don't seem to gravitate towards each other for some reason. All the expats from the UK hang out, as do the South Africans, Pakistanis, and Thai. But Americans usually are just on nodding terms with each other and nothing more. I don't know if we don't want to seem clannish, or maybe as a nation we just don't have much in common, but don't expect to just fall in with a group of Yanks the minute you get here.

- Similarly kiwis are very standoffish. The best way I can describe it is this: when you're here you'll think people are so friendly. And they are. But you've already hit as friendly as they'll go unless you become close to them. It feels a bit inflexible at times, and it can be difficult to make friends here. I've heard lots of expats here say they had tons of friends at home but can't seem to make any in NZ.

- Good luck trying to be a vegetarian here. It's not that you can't get stuff without meat. It's just that it's not always easy and people (especially older people) will treat you like you're from the moon.

- Also food tastes weird. Yogurt is delicious; mayonnaise is gross (you can get best foods brand though, a god send.) The kiwi palate seems to be attuned more to the sugar, so any sandwich you grab from a supermarket will almost inevitably have a sweet chutney or somesuch on it. Also there are no decent delis here. The closest you can get to a decent sandwich that you don't make at home is Subway.

- People here can be really racist. In ways you don't expect. It's not in your face like it is in the US or Australia, but it's really insideous. For example, I probably wouldn't recommend NZ to any of my friends back home who are of Asian decent. I don't think they'd have a good time.

I came to NZ to marry my kiwi husband, so I already had someone to help me navigate all of this stuff. Plus I had been here for two (seperate) months before I decided to move here. I would really strongly recommend visiting NZ before you even think about moving here. I don't know what your financial situation is, but Air NZ has tickets on sale right now from San Francisco to Auckland for like US$800 right now, so if it's something you're serious about then it might be a good time to visit. Feel free to memail me if you have any other questions.

A website to check out is . Beware though, some people who post there despise NZ, so it can come off as really really negative.

Also: yes they have Flight of the Conchords here, it shows at 9am on Mondays on Prime. Geez people.
posted by supercrayon at 2:58 PM on April 13, 2009 [13 favorites]


Sorry, http://www.expatexposed.com/ is the website.
posted by supercrayon at 3:06 PM on April 13, 2009


Dur, also it's 9:30PM for FOTC, FAIL.
posted by supercrayon at 3:07 PM on April 13, 2009


One of the funniest, most timeless and (surreally) rudest essays ever written about NZ from an outsider's POV is by Mark Twain (in his classic "Following the Equator" collection - he took a round-the-world lecture tour in 1895 to stave off bankruptcy and, of course, wrote up the experience). It doesn't have a title, but it's the one beginning..."After Maryborough and some other Australian towns, we presently took passage for New Zealand...".

Worth fishing out of a library!

(As an unpatriotic kiwi who fled NZ years ago & has stayed away for many of the reasons mentioned here, I can recommend the Twain without reservation.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 3:24 PM on April 13, 2009


Worth fishing out of a library!

or downloading
posted by lukemeister at 6:19 PM on April 13, 2009


This thread has a lot of interestesting perspectives, and I don't know how much I can really add apart from mentioning that there is a lot of inaccurate information being passed on. You probably already know this, but unless someone is stating an actual law or something, YMMV, and in most cases it depends where in NZ your experience takes places.

Internet here depends a lot on what provider you are with. This links to a key point about NZ that has probably already been mentioned, and that is the lack of options (a result of being the size of Britain with only 4 mil people). We have two main cell phone providers. Internet, there are a couple more, but I have only heard and experienced good things about Telstra. My internet is probably expensive in comparison to US standards, and there is a data cap, but I don't think it is as shocking as many suggest, unless you download a movie every few days.

I know many vegetarians and I don't think any of them have experienced the issues mentioned above. Vege options are widely available, and I never seen or heard of honest discrimination against people who choose not to eat meat.

On supercrayon's experience with alcohol fueled youth shenanigans, I would never deny the presence of such behaviour, but I would note that, as with many of her observations, actually being affected by this depends entirely on where you live. There are plenty of places where this isn't an issue.

In my experiences I find the police to be effectual, and I have dealt with them several times in the past few years. Commentating on crime rates by saying most people you know have had break ins in the past year or two is about as helpful as me telling you that in my 20 years of living in this house we have been burgled once, while the hosue has unattended for a large period of time whilst we were overseas, and thus suggesting that NZ is incredibly safe. As with anywhere in the world, police and crime situations depend entirely on where you live and there are plenty of places where safety isn't a big issue.

I know the above sounds rather defensive, and is largely shaped by the fact that I live in Wellington, (probably) the best and most internationally acceptable city. I guess what annoys me is when people generalize in a misleading way. Whilst almost all of the above criticisms exist in some form, it is largely dependent on where you live. Just as not all Americans are gun-toting, gas guzzling, racist Bush fanatics - but those people do exist somewhere.

Some things I dislike about NZ (I have also lived overseas and travelled a fair bit):

Wellington is for the most part very windy, and it is hard to imagine how much this can wear you down until you experience it. It never gets really hot here in Welly, and when it does, it is mostly due to the piercing rays of the sun rather than nice hot air. The wind can often ruin a nice hot day at the beach. Winter can be characterised by large amounts of diagonal/horizontal rain, the wind destroying your umbrella attempts. In general I don't percieve Wellington as having 4 seasons, but 2. Summer, winter, and the vague and long transitions between them during which time you may experience the height of summer and winter within one day, only to realize it is meant to be autumn.

You cannot get good Mexican here. Flying Burrito Brothers does not count. In general the selection and price of culinary ingredients can be frustrating, especially when international products are concerned. There are a couple of 'Italian' shops but they are really expensive.

Internet shopping is often incredibly frustrating, mostly because of shipping costs (which hugely effects your ability to return or exchange items) and some sellers/websites/specific items not shipping to NZ.

Okay I could write more but this is already stupidly long. Sorry for being defensive, but Wellington really is a beautiful place to live when all is said in done (in my opinion). My dentist is American and recently moved here (in the past few years), if you guys start to seriously think about it I could give you her email address, she's really nice and I am sure would be willing to give you a first hand persepctive.
posted by atmosphere at 6:32 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


No worries atmosphere, I wasn't trying to present my experiences as being representative - the question was "what do you hate about New Zealand" so I posted with...things I hate about NZ. If you haven't found them to be true then that's great. And yes of course location will color my view - you're in Wellington which is fabulous, and I'm in Palmerston North. As far as crime goes:

NZ is number four in car thefts per capita.

NZ is number six in burglaries per capita.

I know NZ has this reputation as being a really safe country, but I think the perception doesn't always match the reality, re: petty crime.
posted by supercrayon at 9:22 PM on April 13, 2009


Kiwi ex-pat here, now living happily in the US. I still love my home country, but there are things I don't miss:

* It rains, a lot. If you want to know what it's like living in many parts of New Zealand climate-wise, try moving to Seattle for a year.
* Houses are very poorly heated; the kind of American central heating you're probably used to, with furnaces and ductwork, is rare.
* Convenience culture: you have no idea how easy it is to live in the US, until you live somewhere else. Stores are not open 24 hours. If you're an online retail consumer, you will be constantly frustrated at the great things you see on the web that you can't get in New Zealand. Amazon, etc are pretty much useless.
* Service culture: surly waiters and store attendants. No free refills.
* Prices: high cost of living, especially if you're in one of the cities or in a tourist spot like Taupo or the Bay of Islands.
* Economic commitment: Once you've bought in to the economy, you'll have to remember that your NZ dollar is worth quite a lot less than the AU, US, Pound and Euro; so it's going to be harder for you to leave, if you decide to return to the US.
* Employment: the employment market in NZ is not nearly as deep as it is in the US; it's much harder to bounce back if you become unemployed. And you really *don't* want to be unemployed, despite the fairly generous (by US standards) social safety net.
* Open, vocal and insidious racism.

The killer for me, though, is Tall Poppy Syndrome. There's a suspicion of conspicuous achievement, and a general consensus that if something great happens to you (or because of you) you shouldn't "brag" about it. People are less friendly and generous as individuals. Ultimately, the sky is smaller in NZ than it is in the US, and you have less opportunity to stretch or experiment and feel comfortable about it.

Samuel Butler, the 19th-century novelist, lived in NZ for a while. When he wrote the semi-autobiographical The Way of All Flesh, his time in NZ was fictionalized as a period spent in prison. I'm just sayin'.
posted by media_itoku at 9:29 PM on April 13, 2009


Kiwi Native here.

Just some clarification as someone who has also lived in the US.

"Things are expensive" True regarding books and some other imported stuff. However one of my main impressions from living in the US was "Things are expensive", e.g. car insurance in N.Z. is approx 1/10th what you would pay in the U.S.

"Slow internet" Depends on where you are I guess. I live in a rural area that only got DSL in the last year. I get ~5Mbps. Fibre has been run up the road a couple of months ago. Most rural schools have, or are getting fibre.

"[some show] isn't on TV" Sometimes we get stuff soon after the US, sometimes a year or three later, sometimes never. Quite a bit of the stuff cable-only stuff from the U.S. shows uncensored on FTA TV here.

"Restaurant food will be more expensive". Disagree strongly. I expected from what I had heard that restaurant food in the U.S. would be cheap. What a disappointment. Yes if you look at the price on the menu, you'll find lower amounts on U.S. menus. However if you take into account the exchange rate, and the fact that in the U.S. you'll have sales tax and then a tip on top, it works out a lot more expensive. In NZ the price on the menu is the price you pay - all taxes are included, and you do not tip.

"It's cold". This is relative I guess. N.Z. Has a maritime climate, quite different to the continental climate in the U.S. This means that the temperatures are less extreme - it probably won't get as hot or as cold as you're used to. Snow is infrequent and it's unusual for it to sit around for more than a day or two.

From my own perspective:

You are a long way from anywhere. That can be limiting if you want to travel to the US or Europe, but S.E. Asia & the Pacific islands are closer.

Bear in mind that there are FAR fewer people here than you will be used to, especially in the South Island. That can be a plus, but it depends what you want/like.

Food is definitely different, and people like what they are used to. Like another poster I found U.S. food to be far too sweet. I also found U.S. hot dogs to be inedible.

Finally:

Try not to move to Auckland - there are far more interesting places, but for tech employment, you'll probably need to be in reach of a larger center.

Remember it is a foreign country. If you want everything to be the same as at home, then you might as well stay home - i.e. expect and embrace the difference.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 9:42 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


It rains, a lot. If you want to know what it's like living in many parts of New Zealand climate-wise, try moving to Seattle for a year.


This is very location dependent. Where I live, we'd love to have that problem.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 9:44 PM on April 13, 2009


A few more things I thought of, that haven't been mentioned yet I think:

*NZ media is rubbish - especially newspapers. Very little international content, and what's there is usually sourced from agencies. [Sure, you can check all your favourite sites online, but if you want something good in print, forget it. There are good blogs, though]

*NZers are terrible drivers. Stopping at pedestrian crossings is treated as strictly optional. OTOH, drunk driving is rare, due to years of advertising and strong policing.

Responding to a few upthread: I find the service culture fine. It might be worse than the US, but it's certainly better than the UK and some other places I've been.

Racism is certainly present, but it depends where you go and who you interact with.

Supercrayon's comments about drunken students etc are probably due to living in a university town. Yes, drunks and boy racers are annoying, but unless you live in certain parts of town, you'll never see them. (Oh, NZ doesn't tend to have a big local/suburban bar scene; you will mostly go into the city centre to drink, so the suburbs are quiet).

Crimes against property are relatively high, but crimes against the person are quite low, especially murder.

media_itoku wrote that it's harder to bounce back from unemployment. I left NZ a year ago, so things may have changed, but when I left it was incredibly easy to find a job. We had the second lowest unemployment in the OECD, and were crying out for good workers. As I said upthread, I knew a lot of North Americans and Brits who came here, and did well for themselves. Things are probably harder now, but they're hard all over.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:04 AM on April 14, 2009


"- People here can be really racist. In ways you don't expect. It's not in your face like it is in the US or Australia, but it's really insideous. For example, I probably wouldn't recommend NZ to any of my friends back home who are of Asian decent. I don't think they'd have a good time."

"* Open, vocal and insidious racism."

"Racism is certainly present, but it depends where you go and who you interact with. "


Is it really that bad there in regards of the racism issue ?

I'm Asian (Indonesian Chinese) and New Zealand is one of the place that I had actually considered going to pursue postgraduate education next year.
posted by joewandy at 1:34 AM on April 14, 2009


I wish I didn't have to say this, but it is there. For example, my partner's sister-in-law is Japanese and has stories to relate of being ignored by shop assistants and shouted at by yobbos on the street.

My impression is that actual incidents of rudeness or aggression are rare, but statistical clustering means some people will suffer more abuse while others get none and wonder what the fuss is about, and it only has to happen once or twice to start to really get to you. I don't know whether things are worse for Asian-looking people here than they are in other English-speaking countries. I could hook you up with a couple of Chinese friends if you want an accurate first-hand assessment.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:08 AM on April 14, 2009


[I'm a NZ citizen, I'm allowed to say this stuff]

There is no quality news media. The better newspapers are haphazardly edited and have the editorial standards of other countries' trashier tabloids. The TV news is a complete joke (in ways which are a bit different from Americans' complaints about their own TV news). There is a public radio station which is okay, as I remember. The NZ media in general is small and insular, which means that any discussion of a controversial issue tends to turn into a great big mess where high-profile (within New Zealand) columnists bitch about each other without ever getting to the point. Depending on how keen you are to follow public affairs, this may drive you insane. Also, give up all hope of getting good international news from the local media - you'll need to be reading the NY Times online for that. (Getting a physical copy of an international paper will take weeks and cost hilarious amounts of money).

New Zealanders are not good at taking criticism. They don't like to hear it from their own, and they will turn into howling harpies if they hear if from you - not only are you a foreigner, you're an American. It will be quite difficult for you to complain about bad service, other people's mistakes, or even daily inconveniences like traffic or the weather without your comments being interpreted as a slight on the nation. As an example, check out this helpful blog which chronicles an Australian's experience of moving to New Zealand: www.fushnchups.co.nz. Now have a look at the New Zealand media's reaction to a few casual criticisms made by the blog's author: Pathetically rude Aussies upset Kiwis. Admittedly the Australian-New Zealand relationship is a particularly sore point, but the criticisms of an American will be almost as upsetting. New Zealand is very much the "little brother" in its relationship with, well, pretty much the rest of the world. Desperate to be taken seriously, but deeply immature when challenged.

New Zealand has a weird relationship with multiculturalism. On Indigenous issues, it's light years ahead of Australia or the US. There's still a small life expectancy gap between Maori and Pakeha, but Maori are well-represented in politics and most high-status professions. New Zealanders are expected to have a basic understanding of Maori culture, and discrimination is not tolerated. All of this is good stuff. But with immigrant cultures, things are a bit ...odd. It's hard to explain. New Zealand was officially bicultural before policy shifted to multiculturalism, so there's a strange assimilation/appropriation response to non-English-speaking immigrants, especially. The practical upshot of this is that New Zealanders can be a bit patronising and occasionally creepy towards outsiders - especially non-English speakers and anyone who isn't white. Also, it's quite likely that you will be served horrible, horrible, bastardised "Asian" food by a white waiter at a restaurant with an offensive name. Of course, I may just be bitter about the "Tom Yum" I once ate which I swear was actually packet tomato soup. Don't even ask about Mexican.

Other, smaller things:

- Food is incredibly sweet. I'm not sure how this compares to America, but as a NZer living in Australia, I'm always shocked by the food when I eat out back home. Pasta, noodles, curry, desert - everything has sugar, sugar, sugar.

- This may have changed since I left, but people can be a bit weird about dressing "well". Standards of grooming are a bit lower in NZ, which is nice in some ways - you can be perfectly presentable just by washing with soap and wearing clean, simple clothes. But if you're the kind of person who likes to dress up, do your hair and wear makeup, you might find your appearance will be interpreted in unusual ways. Sometimes, turning up at a casual gathering in clothes that aren't casual by NZ standards will garner reactions of the "Who the hell does she think she is?" variety. It might take you a while to learn the various dress codes. As a sheltered teenager in NZ, I remember thinking most visiting Americans looked completely ridiculous.

- The conventions for waiting tables and customer service will be different to what you're used to. No tips, for a start, but also there's a kind of shy, fumbling, slow, don't-mean-to-cause-a-bother attitude which might be culturally difficult for you to adapt to as an employee. You may well be the least brash of Americans, but compared to a New Zealander, you will still come across as too confident and too forward. As an assimilated Australian, I find the only way I can relate to people back home is to pretend I'm perpetually embarrassed and worried about everything. NZers find confidence very off-putting.

I could just about write you a thesis on this subject. There's plenty not to like about NZ. That said, every American I've ever met there has found it a charming, friendly, quaint, clean, green, paradise of a place to visit and/or live. Either that, or they were just trying desperately not to offend the locals.
posted by embrangled at 3:44 AM on April 14, 2009 [7 favorites]


joewandy. It's overtly racist - there are no signs saying "No Asians!" In fact NZ has very strong legal protections against substantive discrimination and it's relatively easy to make a complaint and have it upheld.

But yeah, you'll encounter some cultural bullshit which you may or may not find exhausting and demoralising. Read Tze Ming Mok for a better explanation - she's been a tireless commentator on NZ-Asian issues for years.
posted by embrangled at 5:01 AM on April 14, 2009


Oh hell, that was a typo. I meant it's NOT overtly racist.
posted by embrangled at 5:03 AM on April 14, 2009


I gained like 5 pounds in a week eating those damn high calorie, delicious assed meat and cheese pies! (Wellington)
The internet can be slow and unreliable.
People are friendly but you will feel alone if you are alone. (Wellington)
Driving on the other side of the road will suck for a few weeks.
The wind will blow you onto your ass. (Wellington)
Many sinks have separate Hot and Cold taps..... no mix of the two.... freeze or scald sinks!
Some roads are tricky as hell when wet.
You WILL hear friendly complaints about our Government and it may get old.
Things close EARLY!
Cell phone coverage is as bad as some internet connections.

That said, It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The South Island is a blast! Make sure you have some Maori friends so you can experience that side of the culture. It can be a tougher nut to crack in ways, but once you are in.... you are really in!
Be careful!
The "Hood" there is NO JOKE!
posted by StUdIoGeEk at 7:18 AM on April 14, 2009



so, let us have it - why is this a terrible plan?


In answer to your question, yours is a terrible plan because you've got the pretensions of every American who says "I'm not a stereotypical American." Your pretensions-- yes yours-- to be "not your average American" go over poorly in many parts of the English-speaking world. My unselfconscious, unrepentant Texas parents are likely to be better received just about anywhere than you.

You sound like me at 15, when I desperately wanted to live anywhere but Texas. But you're twice that age. If all you can see in Texas, a state rich in many cultures, is the mall on the outskirts of Dallas, what makes you think you have the intellectual curiosity or ability to appreciate a part of the world far from the creature comforts so natural to you you don't even realize it?

Finally, you have a terrible plan because despite your age, you suffer from naivete and arrogance that prevents you from recognizing good advice from bad.
posted by vincele at 7:45 AM on April 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


we're american citizens and neither of us have traveled abroad.

so, let us have it - why is this a terrible plan?


There's the huge flaw in your plan, right there. If you have never been out of the country, you almost certainly have a romanticized impression of what living in another country, or even just visiting one, is like.

Yes, there is beautiful architecture and you can just sop up the history and the culture and all of that. But there are a myriad of tiny little differences in what you are used to as an American, and what you will actually experience abroad.

Little things like bathing in a tub with a hose and no curtain instead of just stepping into the shower, or not being able to get ice in your favorite drinks (if you can find them at all) when you go out, driving on the other side of the much-narrower-than-you-are-used-to road in the much-smaller-than-you-are-used-to car (and I don't have an SUV either), drinking warm beer, eating foods that your digestive system thinks are too rich, too salty or too sweet, staying in tiny claustrophobic rooms with low ceilings and learning what it is like to be a stranger in a strange land for the first time in your life will be just the tip of the iceberg.

All of those little differences can add up to huge culture shock the first time you travel. Travel enough, and you may treasure the differences, but that's not a given by any means--some people would really rather be Accidental Tourists when all is said and done. And that's okay, as long as you know that going in.

So, please, do give some thought of actually traveling a little more before you consider moving *anywhere* out of the country.
posted by misha at 10:20 AM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is both long and a little late, but I sent a link to this page to a friend who has been living in New Zealand for the last 2 years to see what resonated with her. She asked if I would post the following for you (note she's not at all familiar with MetaFilter so cut her a little slack, but I think even given that she has crafted a well-thought out and useful response to the OP and future users thinking about moving to NZ):

I moved to New Zealand with my Australian husband and seven year old daughter a year-and-a-half ago. I lived in Germany on and off for eight years so I have a level of comparison that you might find helpful.

I first want to say, you are young. Live abroad. If nothing else, it will make you appreciate your own country more and it will make you a more enlightened citizen and voter. Traveling abroad and living abroad are very different experiences. Go for it. I truly don't think you will gain anything from traveling to New Zealand before moving here. As one person wrote, the Kiwis seem friendly to the visitor, it is when you live here that you will encounter cultural problems. Do check on the visa requirements. You will need a work permit. We found it much easier for me to get a work permit in New Zealand than for my husband to go through the process in the U.S. and the people working at immigration (at least in Wellington) were quite friendly and helpful. Get a copy of your FBI report showing you don't have a criminal record.

New Zealand is, geographically, a beautiful country. Where we live in Wellington the coast is a lot like Hawaii with its volcanic outcroppings. Aside from the splendor of the national parks, most of the countryside reminds me of Northern California or the Pacific Northwest. However, the architecture is a mishmash of styles, many of them ugly and it really takes away from the beauty of the landscape. The weather isn't great. All that green comes at a price and as someone pointed out, the wind, especially in Wellington, can really be oppressive. On the other hand, the air is very clean and on a beautiful day, you feel like you are in heaven. Anything you rent will be cold for a good part of the year. All foreigners agree, the New Zealanders seem to live comfortably without much insulation in their houses and rentals are particularly bad in this respect.

A big disappointment for me was the fact that although New Zealanders are very anti-nuclear, on the whole, I have found them not nearly as environmentally conscious as the Germans and basically the same, if not worse, than Americans. Auckland is especially offensive in this respect.

The biggest problem most Americans who live in New Zealand have is "tall poppy syndrome." I refer to this as an absence of appreciation for excellence. The New Zealanders have a fake humility that is really hard to figure out. They very much will discriminate against Americans, in particular, when it comes to hiring. Of all the cultural hurdles I have had to overcome, this was the biggest. In addition, there is a strong underlying anti-American sentiment that is not limited to politics (although Bush has wrecked our image abroad). New Zealanders even have a snide little term they use when referring to Americans, full-on. Translated this means, loud, pushy braggart. If you go for a job, underplay your accomplishments. They have a way of hinting about their accomplishments that is preferable to actually just stating them. For example, I had a teaching job at what many consider the best private girls school in Wellington. When people asked where I was working, I learned to say "A girls school in . . ." and then named the suburb. If I simply said the name of the school, it was perceived as bragging.

Also, be prepared. In your age group it is hip and cool to dislike Americans - always by Kiwis who have never visited America. In contrast, practically every Australian I met has either visited America, lived in America or has a close friend or relative who has. They have a much more favorable impression. Of course, if you are lucky enough to meet a great group of people, your friendships might cushion the effects of the culture shock. It IS strange how Americans really distance themselves from each other - I noticed this in Germany as well. However, there is the American Women's Network, which some have found to be really helpful.

Financially, you will be surprised. Food, in particular, is very expensive, as is housing and your salary won't go nearly as far as it does in the U.S. On the other hand, aside from pesticides which seem to be about the same, I feel safer feeding my child. There is no bovine growth hormone in the dairy, beef and lamb are grass fed, and there is little to no genetically modified food on the market. As for complaints about Mexican food, let that one go! You can live without it for a year or two. The Middle Eastern food is great here (I recommend Habibi's in Wellington for lunch. It is a bargain and the quality is superb!)

I say good luck and dive in. While New Zealand is different from the friendly, environmental mecca it is purported to be, it will be a great experience nonetheless and you will be amazed at how having to adjust to another culture makes you a more tolerant, interesting person. If it makes you feel better, buy an open-ended round trip ticket.

AmericanKiwi
posted by kaybdc at 2:55 PM on April 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


thank you again for all the long and well thought out answers, even the ones i find to be off topic. metafilter is always helpful, sometimes overly so. this will be a great thread to come back to over the next couple years as we decide on our next phase in our lives.

fwiw (and probably not much) - i can see how i would come off as a girl who has never left texas from this thread and that my eyes are huge at any chance that isn't the american south, but while neither of us have traveled outside of the US, both of us have lived all over the USA. Between the two of us, the only part of the US we don't have covered is the midwest. i've moved across the country twice as an adult. i also went to 15 schools in 12 years. i'm a former air force brat so adapting to the new situations that arise from suddenly being somewhere new is fairly old hat for me. also, i'm LOVING the comparisons to seattle. i love the pacific northwest (one of the reasons new zealand looked so good was the rain and wind and temp).

again, thank you all for your advice.
posted by nadawi at 7:35 AM on April 16, 2009


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