I can’t quite believe it, last week marked 1 month since I landed in Auckland and began my new life in New Zealand. It’s been a bit of a blur if I’m honest, and I’m still settling in and finding my feet. I’ve moved to Wellington, in the South of the North Island, In my first three weeks I managed to get a job, a room in a flat, a fairly sizeable houseplant collection (priorities haha!) and a great bunch of friends, both fellow working holiday-ers like me, and Kiwi’s.
Despite the winter chill, life is feeling pretty exciting right now. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to explore this beautiful new country and I’m making plans so that I get to see and experience as much as I can.
This past week I’ve taken some time to reflect a little on how far I’ve come in the last month, here are 11 things I’ve learned in my first month in New Zealand.
1. Even in winter, the days are (fairly) long
We just had the shortest day of the year and even then the sunset at just before 5pm, as someone from the UK who’s used to it being dark before 4pm this was a lovely novelty. It’s due to the fact that NZ is closer to the equator than the UK. It might not seem like much but that extra hour of light makes a big difference.
2. The weather really is as weird as they say
New Zealand is famous for having all four seasons in a day and that’s certainly been true some of the time I’ve been here. Layering, and a good waterproof, are key. I’ve settled in windy Wellington and despite being from Bristol the power of the wind here has come as a bit of a shock – on some of the wider, less sheltered streets you can feel yourself literally getting blown off your feet.
3. The people are lovely
Kiwi’s have a reputation for being a friendly bunch, and it’s one they’ve truly earned. They’re kind, friendly and helpful to a fault – get used to being asked ‘how you going?’ the moment you step into a shop or bar. So many life admin tasks that would have been a total ballache to accomplish in the UK are quick and relatively painless to do here. I made an appointment to set up a bank account and left 30 minutes later with a new debit card, my online and telephone banking set up, my banking app downloaded and set up, and a whole load of information about transferring money to and from the UK. So handy!
4. You’ll meet a lot of Brits
Seriously, you’ll hear the accent everywhere. I currently work for one of the NZ Government ministries and I was surprised and amused when meeting my large team to hear so many fellow Brits and a few Americans. The Working Holiday Visa scheme is really attractive so the place is full of us!
5. Earthquakes are something you actually have to think about
Ok, so maybe you’ve always been someone who thinks about earthquakes but being from Britain they’re not something I’ve ever given too much thought to. But given that New Zealand lies on top of hundreds of fault lines and Wellington lies on top of a pretty major one, it’s now something that’s on my radar. After the big Christchurch earthquake in 2016 NZ really stepped up its game and prep for potential natural disasters became more of a priority. Walking around town a number of buildings (including the lovely Central Library) are closed due to not being earthquake-proof. At my first day of work I was presented with a fluorescent yellow ‘get home’ bag. I’m supposed to fill it with supplies needed to help me get home from work in the event of an earthquake, this includes food, a torch, shoes, warm clothes etc. When I was given the tour of my new flat I was told where the torches/candles are kept and the best high ground to run to in the event of a tsunami. So yeah, whilst it’s not something I’m overly worried about I am more aware, and also aware of what I need to grab from my room in the event something happens.
6. WiFi is not a given
When I was planning this move I had read some pretty devastating reviews of the internet in NZ. Something about it being at the end of the big ol’ internet pipe under the sea meaning speeds are slow and coverage is awful. Well, thankfully the internet in my flat is speedy and unlimited, and of course it’s great at work too. It’s in between that things get tricky. I’m used to being spoilt for choice at home and in Asia, where there’s free wifi available in every coffee shop, bar, restaurant and sometimes even shopping centre you pop into. That’s not the case at all here. Not everywhere offers free wifi, when they do it’s often limited to an hour or doesn’t work at all. In Wellington the CBD has it’s own free wifi which is pretty good but again it’s limited to a fairly small area. Mobile data plans are much pricier here, however, they do often come with data related perks. For example, 2degrees offers users a free hour of data every day.
7. Words don’t necessarily mean what you think they mean
I haven’t been here long but I’ve already got a variety of new words to add to my vocabulary. Want to have a chat with someone? You’re going to have a ‘yarn’, hiking or walking is now ‘tramping’ and when you go tramping you take ‘skroggan’ aka trail mix. Everyone asks ‘how are you going?’ instead of how are you, and there are also the Americanisms too. Trousers are now pants, courgette is zucchini, oh and whilst on the subject of veg bell peppers are capsicums.
8. Your dressing gown will be your best friend
Despite the fact that a lot of the houses here were built by British settlers, and the climate is similar to the UK, they didn’t think to put central heating in homes or insulation. In fact, a lot of the homes are made of wood. This, combined with chilly winds from Antarctica mean in the winter months a snuggly dressing gown and lots of blankets is a must. Pretty much everyone has some type of portable heater, a hot water bottle and blanket collection. I get home from work and straight into my dressing gown, it kinda reminds me of my uni days when we were too cheap to put the heating on ha!
9. Rent is paid weekly
When househunting you’ll notice that the rent is paid weekly, this was really odd to me and I had to quadruple everything to check I was getting a good deal. However, it’s also common to get paid weekly or bi-weekly too which, once you get used to it, makes budgeting a bit easier. Whilst I still prefer the ease of everything coming out in one go at the beginning of the month, it is nice to have smaller (albeit more regular) bills.
10. Rooms here come unfurnished
Speaking of renting, unlike the UK pretty much all rooms here come unfurnished. I did see some ads that offered to throw in the bed and maybe a chest of drawers but you’d have to pay extra. It’s not a huge issue but definitely something to factor in, and budget for, when flat hunting. Thankfully a lot of rooms here come with their own built-in closet so that’s one less thing to worry about, and Facebook Marketplace is full of people selling cheap beds and mattresses. One of the good things about arriving in NZ in Winter is that a lot of my fellow Working Holiday-ers are heading to warmer climes so there’s a lot of furniture being sold at the moment. Oh, and there’s no Ikea here – shocking I know! So your options for cheap furniture are more limited.
11. Op shopping will replace your usual highstreet clothing haul
New Zealand does have clothing stores, the biggest probably being Glassons and Cotton On. Zara and H&M does exist here but alas not in Wellington, and ASOS also delivers. But that’s pretty much it. Like a lot of things, clothes shopping is pretty pricey in NZ, so the best way to spice up your wardrobe and ensure you’re not dressed the same as everyone else given the limited choices available is op shopping. Op shops are charity or thrift shops (op here meaning opportunity) and they’re everywhere. They’re really cool and offer a great range, some will also buy your old clothes off you. The ones in the city centres aren’t much cheaper than buying new though however, I’ve been reliably informed that once you get outside of the city the prices come way down. Currently I’m on the hunt for the perfect leather jacket and even more plaid – well it is Winter after all.
After my first month in New Zealand I’m really enjoying feeling so much more settled and at home here now and I can’t wait to share more of this beautiful country with you.
Love, Sarah x