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  •  Living in New Zealand

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Written by Travis

At this point we’ve been in New Zealand for over three years, and we’ve already shared pretty much everything we have to say about the immigration process. We always wanted this site to be more about educating people on the technical side of immigration than about what we did over the weekend. If you want to know about what expats in New  Zealand do during their spare time there’s plenty of blogs devoted to that. We don’t want to add another drop in the bucket. We may start blogging again at some point, but we’re stepping away from it for now. 

If you’re thinking about immigrating to New Zealand you’ll find the information on this blog very helpful. Click the table of contents to find blogs that address specific questions you may have. We’ve also compiled the most useful blogs into an E-book that you can buy for your E-reader.


I wrote a choose your own adventure book about New Zealand

In the past three years we’ve run into a couple of people who have done seasonal fruit work in one of New Zealands breadbasket regions, and pretty much everyone we’ve met knows someone who did it. The idea always intrigued me, and last summer I had the opportunity to go try it out myself. So I did it. I don’t really know what I expected it to be like, but I know I wasn’t expecting what I ended up experiencing. I also didn’t expect to write a book about it, but I felt like the experience was worth capturing and sharing.  So I wrote a book about it. There are a lot of different ways I could have told the story, but I had a good working relationship with the hostel owner where I was staying while doing the seasonal work, and the final product ended up being a creative marketing tool for his hostel. So  without further adieu, I present “The Rotten Apple Interactive Adventure Book.” Click the picture below to read it. Oh, and by the way….this isn’t a children’s book.

Important Note: If clicking the links takes you to the middle of a page instead of the top you can fix that by clicking the zoom button once or twice.


The Rotten Apple Interactive Adventure Book

3 year retrospective

Written by Travis

So we’ve been living in New Zealand for 3 years now. It took about 9 months to get used to living here and two years to say everything we have to say about the immigration process. We’ve only written a couple of blogs in the past year, because we’ve run out of things to say about the immigration process/experience. Even now as I try to think of things to say all I can think of is to re-emphasize things we’ve already said.

The first thing I have to say is that neither of us have any regrets moving to New Zealand. If we had to do it all over again we would have left America sooner. The Kiwi people are friendlier than Americans, and this isn’t just a statistic from a survey. When you live in New Zealand you are constantly impressed by how friendly people are. Granted, there are some horrible people, but the overall culture is refreshingly friendly.

Not only are people friendly, but they’re also generally accepting of other races and cultures. New Zealand only has a fraction of the racism, religious bigotry, gang violence and homophobia as America. There are only a few places in New Zealand where you should be afraid to go outside at night, and you’re never going to have to worry about getting car jacked. Even hitch hiking is so safe it’s still a national past time.

One of the best things about New Zealand is how absolutely, ridiculously beautiful it is. It’s so fantastically beautiful that people come from all over the world to film fantasy movies here. You’d have to go to Norway or the Alps to see scenery as beautiful as New Zealand’s. So having lived somewhere that looks like this:


I can’t imagine moving back to a place that looks like this:

Having said that, New Zealand isn’t without it’s problems. It’s got it’s own idiosyncratic issues that are easy to ignore, but it has at least four big problems that are a constant thorn in my side. The biggest one is the oppressive economy. Wages are low, and the cost of living is high You feel the financial squeeze immediately when you move to New Zealand, and it never goes away.

The second biggest problem is the inadequate insulation in the houses. Every winter you live with the never ending cold. Seriously, I lived in Germany for 2 years, and even though the temperature in Germany was much colder than New Zealand, this country feels colder because you can’t escape it…unless you’re rich. The summers are next to perfect in New Zealand, but the winters can be…daunting.

The third problem is the lack of professionalism in New Zealand business culture. You get jerked around and charged nonsensical prices. Also, bosses aren’t constrained by modern, first world standards of professionalism either. There are probably some phenomenal bosses somewhere in New Zealand, but all the ones I’ve met fly by the cuff and manage their employees irrationally. There are good things to be said about New Zealand’s lax standards of professionalism though. For instance I’m typing this blog at work while drinking a beer, and I wear shoes to work maybe once a week. So that’s good. I can thank New Zealand’s low standards of professionalism for that, but the downside is that trying to get quality work/services from Kiwi businesses can be…daunting.

The last problem with New Zealand is the high population of South Pacific red necks who have never left the region they were born in and have no interest in being a part of the outside world….or being intelligent in general. This problem is offset by the huge international community in New Zealand. This year my best mates were British, German, Estonian, French and Finnish. I’ve lived with flatmates from all over the globe, and that’s awesome, but there’s still a huge percentage of people in this country who just aren’t switched on and never will be. Granted, every country has these people. I just wish New Zealand had less.

These are just my personal views. Different people love and hate different things about New Zealand. So take this for what it’s worth.


Temporary Seasonal Work in New Zealand

Note: Everything said here is true about Australia also, but I’ve never been to Australia, and this is a New Zealand blog. So I don’t talk about Australia.

New Zealand has an interesting option available to international travellers under the age of 30 to help them live, work and play in the country for a year or longer. I’m talking about the temporary work visa, but temporary work visas aren’t unique to New Zealand. You can get a temporary work visa to most countries. The problem is finding a job once you get there. Job hunting in a country you don’t know anything about is an intimidating task especially if you’re doing it while going through the throws of culture shock. If you’re dedicated and resourceful you can work in pretty much any country, but most people don’t have the world traveling experience and grit to navigate all the obstacles to working in a foreign country.

New Zealand offers an easy way to sidestep most of the hassle of finding temporary work: by doing seasonal farm work. You don’t need experience or a resume to do most seasonal farm work. You don’t need an interview, and you don’t have to comb through the classifieds section of the Sunday paper to find job vacancies. There are job boards you can access on the internet that will help you find work, and some of them may require resumes, but these jobs boards are pretty easy to use:




The absolute easiest way to find seasonal work in New Zealand though is by staying at a working backpacker hostel, and there’s a lot of good reasons to stay at these places anyway. Firstly, they’re cheap, costing between $15-$40 per night or $100-$160 per week, and there are often discounts for paying by the month or having a BBH club card. Since most of the other guests are travelers you get to meet people from all over the world, and since you’ll be staying there working for weeks or months you have plenty of time to make close friends you may keep for the rest of your life. It’s not uncommon for backpackers to make new friends and then end up traveling all over the country with them. Some even pair up to travel to other countries. It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of them have sex, and some of them get married.

None of that would be possible if the hostels didn’t find their guests jobs. The way they find work for their guests is by building working relationships with the contractors and farmers in their local area. So when farms need workers they call the hostel to recruit workers or the hostel will go through their Rolodex and call every farmer within 50 miles until they find work for their guests. But the guests don’t care how they get a job. All they have to do is check in, let the manager know they’re looking for work and wait for a job to fall in their lap. Before you can start work though you’ll need a copy of your passport, valid temporary work visa, I.R.D. number and a New Zealand bank account. If you’re missing any of those documents the hostel manager should be able to help you get them.

Below is a list of working backpacker hostels in New Zealand. If anyone knows of any that are missing from this list feel free to leave a comment.

Hawkes Bay Region

The Rotten Apple


Irongate Cabins


Marlborough Region



Happy Apple


Lemon Tree




Northland Region

Hone Heke Lodge


Kiwi Bunk House


Cherry Camp


Central Lodge


Tauranga Region

Harbourside City Backpackers


Bell Lodge


Hairy Berry Backpacker


Just the Ducks Nuts


Depending on the region these hostels can help you find work picking apples, grapes, peaches, plums, pears, cherries, kiwi fruit and blue berries. The work is hard. It will make your body hurt, but it will make you grow as a person, and it’ll teach you the value of a hard day’s work. If you’re not physically fit you can try to find work in a pack house where you just stand at a conveyor belt and sort/pack all the fruit your mates picked in the orchards. Sometimes you can also find work in wine factories doing things like putting labels on bottles.

Some of these jobs pay minimum wage, and some of them pay “by contract,” which means you get paid by how many bins you fill with fruit or by how many plants you clear. Farmers will tell you that you can make up to $200 per day on contract, but that’s assumes you’re in peak physical condition and there’s plenty of fruit in the orchards/vineyards. It does happen, but as a general rule $120 per day is a more realistic average. If you make less than minimum wage you’re still supposed to get paid minimum wage, but your farmer probably won’t give minimum wage to a contract worker unless you report them to the labor department.

If you find yourself working for a dishonest farmer you can always just quit and go work somewhere else. Since seasonal employers don’t ask for resumes they won’t care why you left your last job. They’ll just be glad you have fruit picking experience. Once you’ve worked and played in one region of New Zealand for a few months you can move to another region, do more work and save your money until you’re ready to spend a few months traveling around New Zealand with the backpackers you’ve met along the way.

Doing seasonal work in New Zealand is a wild experience, but be aware that you can only get one temporary work visa to New Zealand (though you can extend your work visa a few months). If you want to get your permanent residency in New Zealand you’ll have to secure a job. You can’t secure a job without a work visa. If you’ve already used your temporary work visa doing seasonal work you won’t be able to use it to find a permanent job when you go for your permanent residency. So be aware of that.

A glimpse of New Zealand

Broken Luggage tourism ads #2

Click any picture to view a slideshow.

Rejected New Zealand tourism ads

…and by “rejected” I mean “never submitted.”

The New Zealand Sheep Fence Networks

If you live in New Zealand long enough, you’re eventually going to go hiking. Probably sooner rather than later. There are hiking trails everywhere. There are hiking trails where there don’t even need to be hiking trails. In a small town near Tauranga (if I”m not mistaken) there’s a hiking trail that weaves through its downtown strip in addition to the existing sidewalk…because it would be too boring to just walk on the sidewalk that’s already there. And I agree with  the locals.

Finding out that there’s a breath taking hiking trail right around the corner or stumbling on a city with a superfluous hiking trail woven through the downtown strip are little just two examples of the idiosyncratic things that make you smile in New Zealand. Another example is that it’s completely normal for these hiking trails to cut across private property where sheep graze.

That’s super cool that you can just walk on and off people’s property. In America the sheep would be a health and safety hazard. The entrance would have to be wheel chair accessible, there’d have to be a water fountain and toilets available. There’d be signs warning you not to shove rocks or sticks in your eyes. And it’d cost $10 per person. In New Zealand, if you want to go walk over there…then you can go walk over there.

It’s not that New Zealand doesn’t have fences, but when a hiking trail meets private property there will be a (usually) very basic, wooden step. Every time I use one of those rickety country ladders it makes me feel free. It’s a minute, idiosyncratic joy I find living in New Zealand.

Now that you understand that New Zealand is covered in a patchwork of countryside woven together by age old, public walkways then you can understand a social phenomon that exists in New Zealand that I call “The Sheep Fence Network.” Kiwis probably have their own word for this phenomenon. It’s a significant facet of Kiwi culture.

It stems from the fact that New Zealand is a pretty small place, and it’s extremely common for people to move to different cities. Despite how much Kiwis migrate within their own country they still really, really, really value family, heritage and history. So they don’t just fly the nest and never write home.

Try to look at life from a Kiwi perspective. Most of the world doesn’t even know New Zealand exists. If it’s suprising for a foreigner to know where New Zealand is it’s almost unheard of for them to know anything about life inside New Zealand other than the fact that the rugby team is called the “The All Blacks.” Most Americans don’t even know that much, and you’d get beaten up in America if you walked down the street wearing an “All Blacks” t-shirt.

The rest of the world’s apathy towards New Zealand has rendered the country one big, gigantic inside joke. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about ask a Canadian. They understand.

The cumulative effect of all these social forces is that every Kiwi knows every other Kiwi. If any one Kiwi doesn’t know another Kiwi specifically, he will still know 15 people who know that person. It’s like 6 Degrees to Kevin Bacon except with  a lot less degrees. If you’re ever at a bar with your Kiwi bloke friends  and another Kiwi enters the conversation and nobody knows that person, you’ll probably have to sit through 23 minutes of oral history while everyone figures out how many people they know who knows someone who knows the other person. Or something like that.

It’s cute to watch, but it makes you feel lonely. It’s also worth warning potential emigrants about, but understand what I mean when I say, “warn.”  The New Zealand good ole’ boy sheep fence network isn’t a sinister thing; Kiwis have just had a long time to become really close friends because there hasn’t ever been anyone else to talk to. If one of your friends asked you for a job you’d probably going to give it to them. You might even give your brother’s friend, or your best friend’s friend preference before you even advertise a job to people with hard-to-understand accents who don’t get all your inside jokes.

You can use this too your advantage though. If you know you’re going to move to New Zealand then get on the Internet and try to impress a few people in New Zealand. Make some professional pen pals and then drop their names every chance possible. I didn’t actually do that myself, and I’ve never known anyone who has, but it seems like it would work really well in theory.

And don’t worry about it too much anyway. There are 10 million reasons why this may never be a problem for you, but once you’ve lived in New Zealand long enough to establish your own catalog of references you’ll be able to play the name game with blokes at the bar and enjoy all the perks of being accepted into the sheep fence network.

My first New Zealand advertisement


This is our cat, Noe. New Zealand has really beautiful cats. I don’t know what’s up with that.

Apple and Feijoa, together again!

Goes great with lamb-and-mint chips!

Americans are the only people who don't pronounce this word phonetically.

Pronounce the word circled in blue phonetically, like the Kiwis do:


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