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Ode to the New Zealand Winter

When we first started researching moving to New Zealand almost two years ago we kept coming across the topic of how cold it is in the winter. At first I just brushed it off as spoiled Americans whining.

However, as America is well into the middle of summer right now and New Zealand is well into the middle of winter I’d like to share my own thoughts on the subject. As you’re reading this, if you get the impression I’m boringly commenting on some arbitrary issue, I can assure you that learning about the heat in Texas during the summer before going there is as important as learning about the cold in New Zealand during the winter before going there.

Keep in mind though that I’ve been in Auckland the whole time I’ve been here and can only speak for Auckland weather. The winter here is as rainy as any tropical island. It rains almost every day, all winter; the rain starts and stops abruptly; a heavy, torrential downpour will hit your side of town and be cleared up in 1 hour while someone you’re on the phone with across town won’t see a drop of rain.; sometimes it’s just permanently misty for days at a time; every once a while you might get a few dry days in a row, but it’s usually rainy for so long that you barely even notice the rain anymore and you don’t rush in a panicked frenzy out of the rain when it comes.

The winter temperature stays between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (give or take 10 degrees) all winter long. We never have to scrape frost off our windshield in the morning, but we can never go a day without a jacket either.

So the winter isn’t painfully, lethally cold like in the Dakotas. The temperature doesn’t yo-yo between 10 degrees and 85 degrees like in Texas either. It’s just a dull, wet cold for 6+ months straight. Granted, the sun will be out sometimes in the winter, but it’ll still be cold, and everything around you will still be wet.

This is bad news for people with allergies to mold.  Mold is a real issue that you’re going to have to deal with eventually if you live here. Be prepared to spend $150 on a dehumidifier.

The point is it’s permanently uncomfortably cold here during the summer. This wouldn’t be a problem worth mentioning, but insulation and central heating and air-conditioning haven’t hit it big here like they have in Texas.

In Texas a fireplace is a more of a novelty than a necessity. You might light it on Christmas or “cuddle night” but that’s about it. And you take off your jacket when you come inside. In New Zealand there’s always the smell of someone’s toasty fire coming from a chimney somewhere near you. When you come inside you take off your outside jacket and put on your inside jacket or robe or hoodie. Some people (like Amber) get dressed under the covers in the morning, and everybody has an electric blanket.

And when you go to work, there’s a decent chance there won’t be much difference. Amber works at a school that uses space heaters to heat large classrooms. She teaches while wearing her coat, mittens and a bear hat. I work the night shift in a warehouse. I wear pajama pants under my pants, a thermal shirt, an over shirt, a zip-up sweater thing, a polyester vest, a sports jacket, fingerless gloves and a beanie to work every day…I mean, night. I wake up in the cold. I’m cold during my free time at home. I work in the cold, and when I get home from a hard, cold night of work, I come home to the cold. Then I go to sleep in the cold and wake up again in the cold. The dull, wet cold is a constant companion.

Why don’t they insulate their houses you ask? Well, I suspect it’s because it’s so expensive to ship anything here that they never really got the resources to insulate most homes or install central heating and air-conditioning. So the locals have been living with the dull, wet cold for generations. So they don’t whine about it as much as Americans.

On the upside, because of the constant winter rain and mild summers it’s always luscious and green here. If Ireland hadn’t taken the title “The Emerald Isle” first, New Zealand probably would have gotten it. The plants stay lusciously green all year ’round here, unlike New England, where the trees shed their leaves and look like unwrapped mummy hands clawing their way out of the earth.


3 Responses

  1. Many homes in NZ were built as baches (holiday homes), so they were just kind of slapped together. Also, people pretend that there isn’t a winter in NZ. Which is why you see people walking around in bare feet–in winter. And also there is the probably Scottish notion that you just need to “harden up” and just put on another wooly jumper. Ha!

  2. you thinks you guys got it bad. This dumbass american ended up settling in the south island for the winter. Still same housing conditions as you described but it has been snowing here. We are lucky if the temp gets to even 45 degrees. Heat is such a beautiful invention.

  3. This is so true! We try to keep the space heaters to a minimum in our house, and it gets pretty cold. Thank goodness for the electric blankets! And yes, having a dehumidifier is a MUST for living in NZ. We have ours running almost all of the time.

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