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Is New Zealand a good place to raise children?

Is New Zealand a good place to raise Children? The short answer is, yes.

New Zealand is a very safe place to raise children. Your child has a higher chance of drowning or dying in a car accident than they do of being shot or kidnapped (though that is technically still possible). Gangs aren’t very big in New Zealand, and most of the gangs New Zealand does have are made up of posers who just listened to too much rap music. The exception is the Mongrel Mob, but as a foreigner, your kid probably wouldn’t be welcome in the Mongrel Mob anyway.

The school system is pretty good. Kids get a broad education with lots of opportunities for vocational training, travel, cultural activities, sports and academic competitions in addition to standard academic classes. Unfortunately, New Zealand schools are starting to follow America’s example of valuing standardized testing over true education. All I can say is that I hope that failed experiment gets shut down sooner rather than later. In the meantime…you’ve been warned, that plague has already spread to New Zealand, but it’s not as crippling as it is in America…yet.

Most (if not all) schools in New Zealand require students to wear uniforms that look like cheap bell hop or nurses uniforms from a low budget Hollywood movie. They do this because of the lingering British influence in New Zealand culture/institutions. Discipline in schools is pretty good, but there are always underfunded, bad schools with incompetent administrators who fear parents more than they respect the importance of discipline. You can check the Ministry of Education’s decile rankings to see if a school is good enough for your kids.

Of course, there are plenty of private schools you can send your child to that will give you the best education money (a lot of money) can buy, and there are a number of religious private schools you can send your children to if you want to make sure they’re indoctrinated with archaic mythological beliefs invented by primitive tribesmen. New Zealand also has a number of all male/female boarding schools in case you think the best way to raise sexually healthy adults is to isolate them from the opposite sex during the formative years of their lives.

Hard drugs exist in New Zealand, but they’re hard to get and very expensive. So New Zealand doesn’t have as vibrant of a drug culture as larger, mainland countries. Marijuana is pretty easy to get, but it’s not celebrated like in say, California. Cigarettes are prohibitively expensive ($16 per pack). So your kids probably won’t be able to afford them even if they wanted them. Alcohol is legal to buy at 18. So there’s quite of a bit of high school drinking, but it’s no worse than in America. You’re just going to have to make sure you have plenty of productive talks with your children about the dangers of alcohol. The age of sexual consent in New Zealand is 16 years old, but that doesn’t mean there’s a gold-rush to sleep with 16 year olds. As a general rule, adult Kiwis are completely capable of exercising good judgment and controlling themselves without the police telling them not to diddle teens.

The best part about being a child in New Zealand is getting to enjoy all the camping, hiking, oceans, rivers, hot springs and other tourist attractions New Zealand has to offer. New Zealand is a giant backyard. Adults travel from all over the world to come play in New Zealand. Kids who get to grow up here are lucky as hell to get to enjoy so many fun activities in such a small place.

I think New Zealand might actually be wonderful to a fault. I’ve met a surprisingly large number of Kiwis with serious anger issues who get unreasonably mad at the slightest first world problem. At first I thought there might be something in the water that made Kiwis angry. Then I thought there might have been too much inbreeding that affected Kiwis’ brains. Now I’m convinced it’s just that a lot of Kiwis grow up with such little hardship in their lives that they have no frame of reference to understand that little problems aren’t worth getting screaming mad over. So if you raise children in New Zealand, make sure to take them on a vacation to someplace really terrible so they can learn some perspective.

One legitimate problem New Zealand does pose for children is that it’s so isolated. This motivates some Kiwi-raised kids to want to spread their wings and see the world when they’re old enough. It’s even semi-expected of children to go on an OE after high school. Certainly, growing up in New Zealand will expose you to people from every nationality around the world on a nearly daily basis. This is fantastic for cultivating an open-minded world perspective that just isn’t possible in say, West Texas. However, the isolation gets to some kids. Growing up in an isolated culture makes them identify as small-town backwoods hicks who are disconnected from the world at large. This can make them lethargic, especially since life in New Zealand is so great. You see this in kids in Hawaii. There’s a tendency to just accept where you are and never set your sights higher.

In fact, there’s a cultural phenomenon in New Zealand called “Tall Poppy Syndrome.” In America you’re expected to be the next celebrity superstar. In New Zealand overachievers are often seen as show-offs who need to be taken down a notch. Kids who grow up enforcing the Tall Poppy Syndrome enter the work force and continue to act like underachievers.

In fact, corporate culture in New Zealand is a general disaster. It’s fun to work here if you’re looking for a laid back lifestyle, but if you came to succeed you’re going to run into brick walls constantly. Obviously, this isn’t universal in New Zealand, but it’s a big enough phenomenon that it would be negligent of me not to warn you about. So if you do bring children to New Zealand you need to talk to them about motivation.

I don’t want to make New Zealand sound like it has an unchecked po-dunk, back-woods culture. It has a brilliantly vibrant, diverse culture. It’s a colorful place with colorful people. It’s a melting pot where your children will be exposed to an entire world of ideas, but you have to get your kid out of the house and into the flow of life to experience it all.

One last great thing about raising kids in New Zealand that I want to mention is that once they get their citizenship they can still keep their birth country’s citizenship, and I believe if they’re born in New Zealand they’ll get to be dual citizens in New Zealand and their parent’s birth country. This opens up global job opportunities than aren’t easily available to say, someone who only has American citizenship. With a New Zealand citizenship you can sail right over to Australia and make good money in their growing economy. You’re also a member of the British Commonwealth , which makes it easier for your children to work in those countries after they graduate.

New Zealand has its share of problems. It has produced its share of idiots. If you follow New Zealand politics you’ll see that. But I blame those idiots’ parents more than I blame New Zealand. In my personal opinion, I believe New Zealand is a great place to raise kids. It’s safe, fun and provides ample opportunities to set up children for success in life.



One Response

  1. Most certainly! We love it here – our 7 and 10 year old have a blast and I feel so safe to go out with them just hiking around!

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