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Things that will surprise an American about Kiwis’ homes:

While I do not claim to have seen every home in New Zealand, but due to our almost constant state of almost homeless I have seen a lot of homes.

First, I will discuss what an Auckland apartment is like.

It’s like a shoe box.

The only difference between apartments here and shoe boxes is that shoe boxes have right angles. The one we are currently living in was designed by a man on acid. It’s a good thing we don’t own any furniture that needs to fit in a corner.

Another thing apartments and all homes in general have in common with a shoebox is a lack of ventilation; windows are an exception, not the rule in NZ. All the guide books stress that even if you’re planning to live cheaply in Auckland, always request a room with a window. I suppose this would be like staying in your shoebox with the lid on. How long does it take for the air to run out?


Bathrooms are another world wonder. Of course they’re small. Ours is small even without the washer/dryer (that really doesn’t dry) shoved in there. The shower is a marvel of psychedelic architecture in itself. Please refer to my picture below, as it is beyond my capability to explain it. The one glass wall doesn’t go all the way to the ceiling or floor, and neither does the little curtain. The water just falls all over the bathroom floor, and most of it drains away. The rest just stays on the floor, which the architect at least had the foresight to make out of rubber. Too bad the architect didn’t have the foresight to lift the electric washing machine off the water-covered floor.

One last comparison with your shoebox. Look inside, do you see a closet? No, well neither do I. That’s why all of our clothes stay on the floor. Just look a picture of our apartment. I know in Europe they have standing dresser type things, but from what I’ve noticed here everyone is more into multiple clothing piles, one for clean, one for dirty.

A little last minute suprise for the Auckland apartment owner, not only do you pay out the butt for your mini-home, you will pay between $40-70 a week for parking. If you’re lucky you can rent a spot at your own apartment complex. Otherwise you’ll have to find some random parking lot on some random part of town to rent a parking spot at.

NZ homes (as opposed to apartments) are much of the same story with a few added wonders. First they are big and beautiful. Think of that old English style house that every neighborhood has, it’s most likely painted some crap pink or teal. That’s what we have here without the crazy American color scheme. You will drool at the wrap around decks, stain glass windows, old school wood floors. Dome molding and chandler in your sitting room, normal. Your street looks greener then the last forest preserve you visited, hardly worth a comment. In short I have never seen a street in America that came close to the beauty of the Auckland suburbs.

On the down side I’ve yet to see a house with less the six bedrooms have more then one bathroom. Plus, most of the houses were built during a housing boom when the government did away with building regulations. This means that insulation is unheard of, and “leaky house syndrome” aka your house is crap and unsafe to live in is the norm. New Zealand has the highest percentage of asthma suffers in the westernized world. Many think it is because of the cold, damp, moldy houses that Kiwis live in.

So that’s it. I’m not in America any more!


7 Responses

  1. Hey, welcome to New Zealand 😉 Looks like you’ve only been here a couple of months. This was a funny post, I’ve never been to the USA so it was interesting hearing the differences that you’ve discovered between our apartments etc. Yes, NZ does tend to do things small, including rooms (and apartments at least don’t bother about windows much, particularly inner city because there is nothing nice to look at).

  2. Funny post. However, paying for parking seems standard to me. But I live in a city in the Northeast US. If you are from Austin paying for parking might seem weird. When you rent an apartment where I live there is no guarantee of a parking space.

  3. I’m from a small town in rural America, and the housing in New Zealand was at least 5 times more expensive than where I came from. And we’d moved to a less expensive area, too! Not even Auckland. Quite a shock. The joinery is cr**, so wet and cold get into the cracks of their homes very easily. There is also no central heating, so their indoors are cold. Kiwis do not seem to mind this. We used space heater, woodstove and hot water bottles. This was difficult because we worked at home from our computers for a living and needed to seal off warm office space. New Zealand is not actually tropical, so they don’t have the warm winters you might imagine that they have, even though the flora includes palm trees and ferns. So we ended up living in basically an open-plan barn that was freezing much of the year, with one woodstove and a little space heater, and paying the crippling California prices for everything. Also there are no long-term fixed-rate mortgages, so when your ARM goes up, you’re out of luck. In general, we found it very expensive here and not worth the sacrifices we had to make to move here. It was beautiful. But New Zealand really had no advantages other than that beauty – and ACC, I guess, knowing that if you need to use it., it’s there.

  4. Hi there, I’m from rural New Zealand and yes some of our homes are small and yes some of them are leaky. But I’m sure youd find this in any country? Living is expensive here but we have no snakes or poisonous spiders, we have wide open spaces, clean green air and no George Bush.
    We don’t pay for parking in Te Awamutu or Otorohanga. You do in Hamilton but only if you don’t buy anything.
    As for the insulation – the government has a new scheme that will pay for your home to be insulated, so now most places are.
    I’ve never been to America myself – but why would I leave paradise?

    • I’m sorry if you took offense, that was not my intent. If you read some of my other posts you will see that both Travis and myself have fallen in love with NZ. There is a difference between American houses and Auckland housing. America lives for excess, this is part of the reason I left. There is a cause for the current housing crisis in America; Americans build and buy big as possible. I would encourage you to visit America just to see something different, not necessarily better.

  5. Hey there! I just read this article which says 74% of kiwis live in houses with 5 bedrooms or more! The total opposite of what you say! I suppose if you ventured out of auckland metro are you may have been able to check out the splendor with which these
    people live.
    I would like to hear more about this from kiwis also…plus i really don’t think its a big deal fixing a leaky roof 😉
    Here is the article i was talking about:

    • I think you miss read what I wrote. If your referring to “I’ve yet to see a house with less the six bedrooms have more then one bathroom.” I am indicating not that homes in NZ have a certain amount of bedrooms, but my surprise that they have so few bathrooms. I wish I had mentioned my surprise at how common six+ bedroom homes are in NZ. I can count the number of times I’ve been in a six+ bedroom house in the US on one hand. And just to be clear, I am not making a judgment statement, there’s a strong argument to be made for Americans having excessive bathrooms in our homes.

      As for the leaky house syndrome its serious stuff out here. It’s more then leaky roofs, that’s just the catch phrase for a much bigger problem that is plaguing many homes here in NZ. Besides the obvious problem of owning a home that has been taking on water for years, NZ has one of the highest child asthma rates in the world. The most subscribed to theories to explain this are the environmental conditions most children grow up in, aka the quality (or lack of) of the homes. I have personally lived in one house that had mold visibly growing on the bedroom walls and ceiling. Every time it rained the outer walls would moisten, and drip onto the floor. The owners had tried to keep the wall paper on with duck tape. I’m not saying that every home in NZ is having this problem, but enough are that parliament has just passed a bill that would pay for 15% the cost to fix these “leaky” homes. The general response I have heard from locals is that that is not enough.

      Check out this link.

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