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Ten Things An American will get Used to After Living in NZ for Six Months

Driving: Driving on the left hand side of the road for the first time is more terrifying than you’d think, but you’ll get used to it within a week. That or you’ll die in a fiery, head-on collision. Eventually you’ll stop having anxiety attacks every time you drive through a roundabout.

Your co-workers wearing the same shirt as you: That’s because there is one mall. And in that mall two stores that you buy clothes from.  These are the same two stores for all twenty-something women that you work with.

Snubbing your nose at grocery store veggies: You get them fresh from the farm of course. Plus, in the winter the vegetable selection at normal grocery stores get real sad and real expensive.

Your new diet: Nobody tells you this, but when you move to a new country you have to adapt your diet to what food is available locally. When you change what goes in your body you change what comes out of your body.

Chemical withdrawals: Cigarettes cost $13-$19 per pack. Beer costs $11-$19 per six pack, and liquor is something you only buy on very special occasions. Since you just spent all your money moving to a foreign country you can’t afford to be an addict.

Going to bed at 9pm: Because everything is closed by 7, and two hours of staring at you partner is enough for anyone.

A diminishing dislike for cops: You can go weeks without seeing a cop, and when you do see them you don’t have to be afraid of them, because unlike the cops in the United States, their motto isn’t, “To terrorize and fleece.”

Seeing people not wearing shoes. They’re everywhere, and that’s fine.

Real ethnic restaurants: Made by real ethnic families, with real ethnic atmosphere.

Calling NZ home: it may have taken six months but now remember your phone number and address.

And one more for fun: You’ll finally accept that you’ll never be able to pronounce local words with your American accent.  There might have been hope if you were only up against a local language, but in NZ it’s the British version of the local language.  Look away and mumble.


12 Responses

  1. Hi Amber and Travis:
    Thanks for sharing your adventure, congratulations on making the move to N.Z. I am a kiwi living in the U.S. (Rhode Island). I originally came to the states for college with no intention of staying, however, I met my wife here, and 15 years later I am still here. We have 3 small children and I feel that now is the right time to move back home. My wife loves visiting New Zealand but doesn’t want to move there. My question to you as Americans – how can I convince her to move? Like many of my American friends, my wife is very close with her family and is scared of moving to another state let alone to N.Z. We are going for a month in July, so I will do my best to convince her while we are there. She is an elementary school teacher with a masters and national certification so I imagine she could easily work in N.Z. My kids are all dual citizens so no worries there either. Best of luck in N.Z. let me know if you want places to stay in Wellington my family would love to put you up. Thanks, for any advice on how to relocate my wife! Regards, Nick jackson

    • Nick,
      It’s cool to know a Kiwi is interested in what I’m writing. Sorry to hear that your wife is having a hard time with the thought of moving. I was really surprised at how many negative responses I got from family and friends when I finally made the decision to move out here. As I’ve tried to explain to many people here in NZ, it not common for Americans to leave America, it’s seen sometimes as irresponsible and crazy. Americans don’t do OE’s, and overseas vacations are for honeymoons or the once in a lifetime trip to Western Europe.
      It’s a benefit for me that I started traveling in college so it wasn’t that much a surprise for me to go some place so far away. But my partners mother (a Texan) is only beginning to speak to him since the move. She told us on the way to the airport she thought it was foolish, and we would fail. I think the biggest obstacle for people trying to understand a move here is that they know nothing about NZ. Some of my family assume I’m living in huts, with outside toilets, and others assume I’m living some place near Africa, NZ has just not made the radar in the American psyche.
      If your wife has been to NZ, she’s probably spent some time in Auckland, a place I found very similar to Austin TX. and Honolulu. With all the other stresses that come with moving to another country moving to a place that felt like the US was a helpful start. As much as I want to move out of the Auckland area and experience NZ, as an urban American I’m nervous.

      Here are some of my thoughts why moving to NZ would be good for an American-
      Auckland is like a mid size (nice) US city
      There was very little culture shock, it really just took some time to find the things that I deemed necessary and a few packages from home filled with deodorant
      I had an easier time making friends here then on the US mainland
      I’ve joined several groups including an American expat, and American Woman’s group, it is nice, especially in the first few months to mingle with other American that have made the move.
      The kids will be exposed to a multicultural society
      Both my partner and I talk several times a week to family and friends on Skype, it’s free and easy
      It doesn’t have to be a permanent move, it will give your NZ family a chance to build bonds with your children and your wife
      Since she works in the school system she will have opportunities to travel back to the states for visits during the 2 week breaks between each term (6 weeks during summer break).
      At least in the high schools, I spend significantly less time doing admin work. Teachers are expected to teach, and anything extra is seen to take away from our job.
      Primary teacher are in very high demand, if she gets a job within 3 months of moving here she will get a 4K bonus for being an international teacher. This also means that she can shop around for jobs (VERY few people have masters in education) and a community she likes. The pay rate is also good for teachers, with a significant increase each year.
      There is less violence in schools, I’ve found working in a docile 4 school has better behaved students then I’ve ever had in the US.
      There is so much to see and experience, and to be able to see it on any normal weekend has made me a much more relaxed person.

      The best way to get your wife taking the move seriously is to get her close friends and family on board. It’s a beautiful place, with a ton of opportunity for an American, a blessing from friends and family make taking the risk feel a lot more exciting.

      I wish you luck, I can say as an American women and a teacher I am very glad I moved here. Next weekend my partner and I are taking a four day road trip through Northland, it will be our first time going north of Auckland, I can’t wait.

      Hope to hear from you again.


  2. Move to NZ from San Diego some 10 years ago (yikes!)

    In the first few months came across an issue of the Listener (NZ “equivalent” to what? Time? Metro?) with an article about a couple of Canadians who visited one of the southern-most cities (Dunedin or Invercargill?), absolutely fell in love with it, and moved. Immediately. With a newborn baby.

    Only then did they discover the wonders of Kiwi housing, with the temperatures inside the house dropping to 32F at night. Best quote from the article:

    “Before moving to NZ I had always thought of weather as an outdoor phenomenon…”

    (Oh, and please, let’s not encourage any more Americans moving here! 🙂


  3. Hi Amber & Travis,

    My husband and I just found your blog. Went back to the beginning and read it through… and couldn’t stop smiling. (We moved to Christchurch 18 months ago from Massachusetts/California.)

    If you’re ever heading down to the South Island, definitely email us. We love getting together with others who’ve made the move, and are always happy to host, cook, and/or just share our little area of the island.

    Cheers, Anna & Mike

  4. OK, that did it. My wife and I have been silent followers of your blog, we have a printout of all your blogs, but now we both have decided to come to New Zealand. We’re both teachers, she has a masters in education but I have a temporary certification and was thinking of getting certified through an alternative route in Florida, I was thinking of testing out through ABCTE (http://www.abcteach.com/). Should I stick around the States a bit longer and get an actual teaching degree or will they accept ABCTE certification? I know Florida does. You mentioned you have four state certifications but no one ever looked at the certifications, it was the degree they wanted. What about Education credits, is that acceptable? My wife and I both teach science. We were thinking about coming on a work to residency visa. In retrospect of what you guys did, what do you think?

    • Awesome! And I haven’t written my blogs about what I did on my spring vacation last week, this place is so bloody beautiful and cool! I don’t know about alternative educational programs. The best way to figure out if it will fly is to contact the New Zealand Teaching Council. If they will except the cert. it will work for all NZ immigration steps. I know when it comes to your teaching pay rate they will take into consideration your credits. There is also a graduate teaching cert. you can get here in Auckland. It’s a year course, or you can do it part time. College here is ridiculously cheep if your a resident. Once things settle and I know where I’m going to be for awhile I’m going to go for my Masters in Ed. it will cost about 5K for the whole thing. And that’s before the grants that are widely available.

      I would post of question about the alternative education and work to residency visa program on the NZ forum http://www.emigratenz.org/forum/index.php. It will give you some idea of what routes other American teachers have tried to get out here. It is something to keep you from killing small children while you wait for responses from NZ teaching council.

      What I know about the work to residency visa I found out because you get put on the program if you don’t succeed with a skilled migrant residency visa. It can be tricky as a teacher, because your expected to work at the same place for a long time before the residency is granted. What I’ve found is that many schools hire teachers on a relief (long term subs) for one or more terms before finding/offering a permanent position and then it might be only a year contract. That doesn’t play well with the requirements of a work to residency visa. You will also find it hard to get a job without at least having a residency visa in the works. Schools want to know you will be around in a year.

      Another thing to keep in mind is that either your wife/self has to be the main person on the application. All the pressure is on this person’s qualifications, work experience and ultimately them getting a job in NZ. My partner doesn’t have a degree so I was the primary applicant. It made little difference when he got a job here, the application was for me, and how likely it was for me to be employed. He was just a side note in the whole application process. Whenever I finished jumping through the hoops We got our residency visas! Whatever way you take for residency it will take some time, you might consider starting the process with your wife as the primary application (as long as your healthy they won’t care much about you) while you get the alternative cert. (after you have made sure that it will be accepted by the teaching council). Once you finish your program it’s a matter of weeks to get the NZTC cert. Considering how long everything else takes it’s a small part of the whole thing.

      There are jobs for secondary ed. science teachers, but you will be able to teach only freshman/sophomore age students because you will have no experience teaching for the national tests. These individual test scores are used to see if and what programs students take at college, so it’s heavy stuff. Though, most of the pressure is on the students and not the teacher, it hasn’t come close to the idea that a teacher is personally responsible for all his/her students marks. Last term I taught only underclassman, but this term the school has given me one senior course which will make me a hundred times more employable. That being said, if you get the grad. teaching cert. out here you will not have that problem. They watch the numbers of people in the program very carefully to make sure that their will be a job for each graduating student.

      I’m excited that you’ve both decided to make the move. NZ is a different place, but for the right people it can be more comfortable then US society. Timing is everything with planning your visa applications, employment, and the final move. There’s a 4K international grant you get if you start teaching within 3 months of your arrival, I missed this by three weeks. I would suggest coming out at the end of the US school year, and trying to get a job as a long term sub. This way you can get experience in a NZ classroom (there is very little known about American schools so US experience is good only to fill out an application, it will not be much in an interview), you get the 4K (a piece if both of you start working within the 3 months), and you won’t get stuck in the 2 months of nothing during Christmas/Summer break. Nothing happens between Dec and Feb in education.

      Let me know if you have any other questions. If you want I can get you an email or two of some science teachers that work at my school if you have some science teacher specific questions. I know there are a few strange things in social studies/history that I wish I had learned earlier.


  5. Hi Amber-

    My family is in the long process of getting our permanent residency visa. We currently live in St. Louis, MO. I am a primary school teacher with 2 years of teaching and my husband is an IT project manager. I am so excited, but scared that we will not accepted. We started the process, EOI, in August of 2009. The medical portion seems to just drag on. We heard that completing the residency visa while still in the states would be the best choice, but after reading your blog I am wondering if we just should have moved to NZ first.
    I too, thought it would be best to move in October so that I would have the opportunity to be there for the prime hiring time for teachers. Now after reading your blog, I guess it’s not that big of a deal? Good to know. In your experience, is it easier/faster to get a teaching position as a relief teacher?

    • Jennifer, I know its hard but try not to worry to much. Right now there are 45 primary teacher jobs posted in just Auckland. Primary teachers are on the skilled list for a reason, unlike secondary teachers where there are VERY few jobs this year for us. http://www.edgazette.govt.nz/vacancies/default.aspx If your ever feeling like the process is not working check out the edu. gazette there is hope!

      It has more to do with timing whether you stay in MO or make the move to NZ prior to getting your residency visa. In a wonderful world get your visa before you come, it will make it easier for you to land a job, and it will make the world of difference for your husband. I made the choice was come out in Oct, when I thought it was the best time to get a job (it would be if I was had my residency and NZ teaching experience) and because there was a hiring freeze in my district so I had no chance of working even as a sub in Austin. I figured it would be cheaper to be unemployed in NZ then TX. I’m not sure it worked out that way, but at least I wasn’t in TX any more.

      After you submit your medical your application will sit for exactly 4 months in London. If your missing anything from your application they will tell you during the four months so it will not add on to the time it sits. After the four months it goes very quickly, they email you ask a few questions set up an interview with in a week or two, the interview outcome can take up to a month, mine only took a few hours. If you can work with that timeline and get out to NZ in June/July’ish that would most likely be ideal.

      Over all, I wouldn’t come in Oct. it is prime hiring time but the first jobs go to NZ teachers and people the schools know (relief teachers and student teachers). I don’t know any foreigner that got a job that first month of hiring. Long term sub positions are already filled as well, so your first paycheck will not come until mid Feb. Come Nov. – Jan. your husband will be left twitching his thumbs, outside of schools most major industry shuts down late Nov. into Jan. there will be no hiring going on. College students graduate in Dec. as well, NZ is very much driven by relationships and who-knows-who so sadly new college grads will have a leg up on a foreigner. This sucks in the beginning but once you land your first job you are no longer a foreigner and it makes things.

      The big boon for relief teaching is that teachers can take up to a year off for a pregnancy. Being a Long Term Relief person means you have your own classes, in all purposes (including pay) you are a normal teacher, the only difference is your job is only guaranteed for a selected amount of time. From what I’ve been able to figure out once you’ve been hired its a permanent thing, your there until you choose to leave. A permanent position is greater security, but considering you’ll be in a new country a job is a job. You will make the same pay either way, I’d take what ever you can.

      I hope this helped.

      Best of Luck,

  6. Thanks Amber-

    Your information is really helpful. Another reason we want to come in October is that our daughter will be going into high school next year. I wanted to give her the opportunity to start at the beginning of the year in NZ. Would you happen to know of some good high schools there in Auckland?
    As of now, our application is still pending. Like you said the medical is constantly coming back to us with more and more questions and needed information. Now they want a GP note? What is that anyway? They didn’t provide any other information…just GP note. ugh. Everything else for the application seems to be completed.
    Similar to you, my district cut 100 teaching positions for next year including mine so I will be out of a job. The economy in the states is terrible now, especially for teachers. So many states are either closing schools, having a hiring freeze, or laying off teachers and increasing classroom sizes.
    Anyway…thanks for your help.

    Take care,


  7. hi-I was in new zealand for one year and I could not wait to get back to long island new york. Now that I am back I really miss the laid back lifestyle of new zealand and feel so much more stressed. Any thoughts anyone as I am thinking of going back with my family and my kids loved it there??

  8. Hi Amber
    I have movied back to NZ after living in San Jose, Ca for the last 14 years, my children are US born and raised, and feeling a bit homesick, (and so I am even though Im an ex pat), you mentioned that you belong to an Americans womans group, , I unsucessfully tried looking for a US group NZ, could you please forward me the link to join.
    many thanks

  9. Don’t worry about getting accepted to NZ for those of you who are thinking of it I regularly notice people who cant or don’t speak a lick of English so youll be fine

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