A Foreigner in New Zealand: Insider Tips and What Immigration Doesn’t Tell You Before the Big Move

by MarissaLana

Important tips for foreigners and what to expect when you're living in New Zealand.

It’s a dream come true. You’ve applied for your visa, you’ve been approved, and now you’re moving to New Zealand. You’re from a faraway land and don’t know New Zealand’s culture and customs. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Being an American citizen myself and having lived in Auckland for the last three years, here are a few insider tips to help you adjust to your new lifestyle in the world’s most beautiful country.

New Zealand
New Zealand

If you plan on seeing any of the country, you’ll need to get yourself a car. New Zealand’s major cities have public transportation, but probably not like what you’re used to. Unlike other major cities around the world such as London or New York City, no city in New Zealand has an underground train system. That leaves above ground transport such as buses and trains. These means of transport do come quite frequently, but they aren’t always reliable. You can take a bus from city to city, but if you live anywhere outside of a major city or want to ever leave the city to go to the beach or see the countryside, you’ll want a car.  A friendly reminder: stay on the left side of the road!   

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The cost of living is high, especially when it comes to food and clothing. The days of buying $10 or $20 dresses at TJ Maxx are over. Expect to pay at least $100 for a decent dress, maybe $50 if you’re lucky and it’s on sale.  So don’t plan on buying a whole new wardrobe once you get there. Food is very expensive, especially meat and vegetables. And if you like turkey for dinner, get your craving’s worth before you go. A small frozen turkey will cost you no less than $40.


Forget about owning a house. You’ll be paying at least $400,000 for a single family home 30 minutes’ drive from Auckland, and more than double that for a house in central Auckland. A three- bedroom ranch in the countryside can cost you around $500,000.

Overhead of Houses in Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
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But don’t worry; it’s not all that bad. With that being said, you’ll get paid more for doing the same job in New Zealand as you would in the States. So the cost of living is higher, but you are also getting paid more.


You can also live cheaply if you want.  Buy your fruits and vegetables at Asian supermarkets. They are much cheaper than the normal supermarket chains such as Foodtown and Pak’n Save. Invest in an entertainment book that is packed with 25% and 50% off coupons in your area. You may also want to subscribe to a few daily deal websites such as www.grabone.co.nz or www.grouponnz.co.nz. Two mains and tap water at a regular priced restaurant will cost a couple $40, but with a daily deal it will only cost you $20. Shop around when you’re making a big purchase such as furniture or electronics as prices will vary significantly between stores. You can usually save time by doing research ahead of time online and comparing the prices before heading out.  

Lake Pukaki, South Island, New Zealand
Lake Pukaki, South Island, New Zealand

I hope these tips help you as you embark on your adventure to New Zealand. Immerse yourself in the culture and take weekend breaks to the beautiful scenic beaches while enjoying the country’s peaceful, laid back lifestyle. You won’t regret hopping on the plane!  

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Updated: 09/15/2012, MarissaLana
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