What shocks foreigners about living in New Zealand long-term?

Is the Kiwi life all it's cracked up to be?
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Is the Kiwi life all it's cracked up to be?

We all know the things that surprise tourists when they arrive in New Zealand. The people are friendly, the coffee blows their mind, and contrary to what they were led to believe, there aren't sheep in the cities.

When foreigners decide to stay in Aotearoa long-term, several things shock them as the months go by about what life as a Kiwi is really like. After talking to dozens of new residents and scouring expat blogs and social media groups, these are the most common themes.

1. PUBLIC TRANSPORT IS RUBBISH

Few foreigners can understand how Auckland, a major international city with over one million people, can have such convoluted public transportation options. Initially, of course, it shocks them that there isn't a train directly from the airport to the city – usually the norm in cities of this size all over the world.

As they settle into New Zealand life, it surprises them that it's impossible to live without a car unless you live in either Auckland or Wellington CBD, and although train travel does exist around the country, it's expensive, infrequent, and terribly slow for the comparatively short distances travelled.

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2. THE MOBILE INTERNET SPEEDS ARE FAST AND RELIABLE

Aussies, particularly, are shocked at the reliability and speeds of 3G and 4G internet in New Zealand. Unlike in Australia, where there are frequent network overloads and system faults, service here is almost flawless.

And as for mobile internet speeds, few expect that a country as small as this could provide 4G that streams video at 100mbps. Unfortunately, though, foreigners are always surprised and disappointed at NZ mobile companies' relatively tiny mobile data caps.

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3. EVERYTHING IS EXPENSIVE

Petrol is always the biggest shocker, especially for Americans, who pay 116 per cent more (as at April 2016) for fuel in New Zealand than at home.

The price of everything from milk to make-up is around double in New Zealand as in the USA, which makes sense for imported items but surprises foreigners on local items and services which travel relatively small distances from production to store shelves.

This includes New Zealand's "natural assets" such as fresh produce, meat, and electricity.

4. ADMINISTRATION IS EFFICIENT

In many countries in the world, but especially in Europe (and most prominently in Britain), administrative tasks such as opening banks accounts and getting electricity and gas connected take weeks or even months to complete.

In New Zealand, it shocks people that you can do these things in one day. The low level of bureaucracy involved in daily administration in Kiwi life is a welcome surprise to foreigner, as is calling any helpline and actually having it answered within minutes by a real person.

5. THERE'S NO CENTRAL HEATING, AND INSULATION IS RARE

Though we do enjoy a hot summer and moderate temperatures in many months of the year, the majority of New Zealand gets close to (or below) freezing temperatures during our long, dark winter nights.

As autumn draws to a close it shocks foreigners that central heating cannot be found in most homes, nor are a lot of them insulated.

Perhaps the biggest oddity is seeing exactly how Kiwis heat their homes: Never the whole house, hallways, or bathrooms, but only the room they are currently in.

6. IT'S HARD TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH KIWIS

Despite Kiwis being friendly to strangers, foreigners find it hard to convert interactions with New Zealanders into actual meaningful friendships. Kiwis can come across as clique-y and disinterested in making new friends, and expats often find themselves befriending other expats instead.

Most surprising to foreigner is the average Kiwi's perception of Asian people, which can go from dismissive and stereotyped at best, to downright racist at worst.

7. NEW ZEALANDERS HAVE AN INFERIORITY COMPLEX

As time goes by, foreigners living in New Zealand are shocked that, although they don't explicitly say it, Kiwis have an inferiority complex when it comes to our place in the world.

New Zealanders, some foreigners say, feel our isolation and purported insignificance (outside of sport) in the world gives us a feel of envy of larger nations such as the US.

Because of this, Kiwis try and overcompensate to prove themselves as "just as good" as others, often meaning we exceed without even being able to appreciate it.

Of course, this notion that New Zealand is sub-par isn't something any foreigner living here understands. Ask them, and the majority will say with absolute certainty, "New Zealand IS the best country in the world". And that, naturally, is why they now call it home.

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