Alex Smith emigrated by himself to New Zealand in May 2013. Since then he has experienced something of a rollercoaster ride as he adapts to his new life. This is Alex’s story…
I was 27 at the time when I made the decision to leave the UK and move to NZ on a Working Holiday visa. My decision to leave was mostly because the industry I work in (IT) was becoming quite crowded with many people going for the same roles and good quality, enjoyable jobs were becoming hard to come by.
There was also an element of looking for a better quality of life with a decent work/life balance. To be honest, I didn’t intend to stay in New Zealand for long. It was originally my intention to be here for a year and then head off to Canada doing the same sort of thing.
However, my employer at the time then wanted someone a bit more long-term so I made the decision to go for a longer-term work visa to bridge the end of my holiday one and then see how things worked out. The process for that I had no problems with. I found Immigration New Zealand great to work with throughout the entire process. They were very good at keeping me updated. It took just shy of four months for me to get my three-year work visa and from that another four months to get my residency (I think I was lucky with the time it took really).
If you know you’re coming here for an extended period of time make sure you bring as much as you can with you documentation wise, the immigration folks are good with listing what they need – it’ll save you a good chunk of time/stress in the long run. In fact, the main thing that I found it took time to wait for was out of country paperwork (police certificates, etc).
Working in IT, I found it quite easy to get a job. I had a full time job within two weeks and I’d done no interviews prior to coming here (as I later found out, most places do not like taking the risk you won’t come over – more so on a temporary visa). There are a number of good sites out there that have a good number of jobs listed (Trade Me, for example).
I’ve gone through a job change since being here to where I work now which also wasn’t too troublesome. One thing I had to do however was ‘localise’ my CV – the old format I used from the UK wasn’t getting me anywhere to start with but I got a lot of feedback once I adjusted its layout and information to suit the local area – again good information about those suggestions can be found online.
With regards to the best things about living here, for me, I’ve got to say the work/life balance and the general attitude of people towards the importance of having your own leisure time. Also, Wellington, where I live, is a lovely city to live in on the whole. If you’re an outdoors person then there is tons of walking and biking that can be done here.
I did, though, find it very hard to settle. Personally I think that moving abroad on your own can be very difficult if you’re not the outgoing type. You can end up feeling quite isolated from people and missing family is also a major hurdle to get over. Living in New Zealand is not just a short flight after all, and taking breaks outside of New Zealand is both time-consuming and quite expensive.
I’ve also found coping with earthquakes to be very stressful. They are a fact of life here and there is a good chance that while living here you’ll have to deal with at least some. Personally I have found that they are exceedingly unsettling and hard to deal with but everyone is different in that respect – I was unlucky enough to be here during the large ones back in 2013, just months after moving here.
One thing that I really miss most about the UK is how readily accessible everything is. Wellington, in fact New Zealand on the whole, is very small. This has the effect that things you tend to take for granted in the UK – like things being open late, good public transport links, the relative low cost of things due to the ease of importing – are very different here.
I made the mistake of not learning to drive prior to moving to New Zealand and I think this is something that really is a requirement here (Wellington is pretty lucky as it has good transport links during the day). This can have quite an impact on the social side of things which then also leads onto the things I mentioned earlier with regards to settling in.
As for advice I have for others – do your research before you get out here, visit the country first and be realistic.
This is where I think I made a large mistake. I didn’t take the time to research the non-work side of things – things like housing and social aspects (hobbies etc.), for example.
Had I visited first, then I feel it would have given me a better understanding of what to expect, where to look for housing, for example; visit the suburbs, work out what travel time is like… Fortunately, both places I’ve worked at were great with things like this, so always talk to co-workers – I’ve found that a lot can be learnt from them and they are almost always willing to suggest things if my experience over the last two years is anything to go by.
The reason you need to be realistic? Nowhere is perfect – moving country is a hard thing to do and I think looking back on it I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so hard. You will find things that bug you, just like you would in any country, city or town.