New Zealand is known for its impressive nature, strange flightless birds, and best in the world All Blacks rugby team. The country tops many travelers’ bucket lists, and plenty of famous artists get their start here. Yet, the question remains – is New Zealand a good place to live?
Answering this question takes some digging, along with some soul searching. While New Zealand might be someone’s heaven on earth, its location far from the rest of the world and relatively relaxed pace of life might not be your cup of tea.
We take a closer look at the ins and outs of calling New Zealand home. The pros and cons of living somewhere with nature constantly on your doorstep, with good health care yet expensive groceries, and unique culture to answer the question – is New Zealand a good place to live?
1. The nature
Pro: New Zealand has some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world
New Zealand stormed onto the scene in the early 2000s when Lord of the Rings turned Middle Earth’s dramatic landscapes and mindblowing scenery into a place everyone could visit. If you’ve watched the movies, it’s impossible not to be awestruck by the otherworldly Mount Doom, the lush dairy farm hills of the Shire, and the mossy Fangorn Forest. If your dream home is in Middle Earth (minus the orcs and trolls, of course), there’s no doubt you’ll love living amongst New Zealand’s endless nature.
Plus, it’s not all about the mountains and forests. Being an island, New Zealand has stunning golden sand beaches that rival even those of Australia. You’ll also find turquoise blue glacier lakes, drowned fjords, caves lit by fascinating glowworms, and mesmerizing geothermal hotspots. If you can imagine it, New Zealand has a landscape to match.
Con: New Zealand is prone to natural disasters
With wilderness at your doorstep, no matter where in New Zealand you are, it’s easy to get the feeling that nature is the ruler in this country. Besides, New Zealand didn’t get its vastly diverse landscapes by luck. The towering mountains and volcanic lands are stark reminders of the power of mother nature, just waiting beneath the surface.
Due to New Zealand’s small size and location along major fault lines, the country is prone to earthquakes, volcanoes, flooding, erosion, and landslides, to name a few. It’s not unusual to feel a few good shakes a year and have to retreat to higher ground due to a tsunami warning if you live near the coast. So, if you prefer the land under you staying put, the question of is New Zealand a good place to live may not be a yes for you.
2. The bottom of the world culture
Pro: New Zealand embraces its Kiwiness and Māori culture
The moment you step off the plane, you’ll notice things are a bit different here. Kiwi slang hardly sounds like English, and te Reo Māori (the language of Māori) is becoming more and more prominent throughout the country. Alongside the country’s rather unique lingo is its somewhat odd but very lovable New Zealand culture.
Cricket and rugby are New Zealand’s favorite sports, both to play and watch. When the All Blacks play, the entire country stops what they’re doing to watch. When it’s time to eat, you’ll find meat pies and sausage rolls an easy go-to or fish and chips for a more hearty meal. However, above everything, you’ll notice how welcoming and friendly the Kiwis are. It’s impossible not to feel welcomed between the Māori’s passion for great hospitality and the always happy to help locals.
Con: New Zealand’s seasons are opposite to most
Christmas in summer? That’s right. New Zealand is located in the southern hemisphere. Its summer falls between December and February, and winter lingers from June through August. For many, this can take a lot of getting used to – especially around the holidays. Instead of cozying up to the fire, drinking hot chocolate, and enjoying snowy weather, you’ll be heading to one of New Zealand’s stunning beaches, enjoying daylight from 5 am to 10 pm, and working on your tan.
While a summer Christmas has many perks, you will miss out on the traditional festive atmosphere that a northern hemisphere Christmas brings. The same goes for Halloween. Instead of the traditional fall with leaves changing color and a briskness to the air, you’ll have wildflowers blooming and spring in the air. However, in good news, watching New Years’ fireworks is much more enjoyable on a warm summer evening!
3. The outdoors
Pro: New Zealand is the mecca of hiking
Prefer rugged trails to shopping malls? You’ve found your heaven on earth in New Zealand. The small country has some of the best hiking of anywhere on earth, including coastal walks, rainforest, mountains, glaciers, and lakes – if you can dream it, you can likely hike it in New Zealand. Pair this with New Zealand’s lack of dangerous animals, and you can enjoy mother nature without worrying about bears or poisonous spiders.
If you prefer a bit of luxury with their hiking, you’re also in luck. There’s an endless supply of stunning accommodations you can hike to. Or, if you don’t mind more basic cabins, you can stay in New Zealand’s backcountry huts for as little as $5 a night. Just be sure to keep an eye on New Zealand’s unpredictable weather… more about that next!
Con: New Zealand’s weather can be unpredictable
As they say in New Zealand, always be prepared for four seasons in one day. It’s not unusual to go from hot to cold to snow to rain and back to hot again in a matter of hours. On the upside, it’s unusual to have a full day of rain. On the downside, even if there’s not a single cloud in the sky, it somehow still might be raining on you. How does this work? Nobody really knows, but the Kiwis call it a sunshower.
If you’re a fan of endless sunshine and guaranteed good weather, living across the ditch in Australia might be the better option for you. New Zealand’s weather is mild and hardly gets below freezing or above 80° F (26° C), so it’s great for those who prefer warm days and cool nights. Once you’ve been in New Zealand for a few days, you’ll learn to always pack layers.
4. The cost of living
Pro: New Zealand’s good health care makes it a great place to live
If you get sick or injured in New Zealand, you won’t have to worry about going deep into debt if you don’t have health insurance. New Zealand residents can access a wide range of free services and subsidized services, which makes going to the hospital stress-free. On top of this, residents do not have to pay deductibles.
Even visitors are covered by The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). If you need emergency care due to an accident, you’ll be covered by ACC and will also pay a subsided amount for doctor’s visits, surgery, and prescriptions resulting from the accident. However, even with free health insurance, many Kiwis still take out private insurance for noncovered services such as dental and elective surgeries.
Con: New Zealand is an expensive place to call home
Whether you’re visiting for a week or living indefinitely in New Zealand, you’ll find your money doesn’t stretch quite as far compared to most other destinations. Due to New Zealand’s location far from the rest of the world, most goods have to be imported, and everything from avocados to building materials costs much more than in Europe or North America. On top of this, higher wage costs mean services do not come cheaply.
Accommodation costs also surprise many visitors and those looking to move to New Zealand. In larger cities and resort towns, the price of an average three-bedroom house sits around 1 million New Zealand dollars (675,000 US dollars), and you don’t get a lot of bang for your buck. If you’re renting, prices won’t be much better, with one-bedroom apartments costing between 1,000 to 1,300 US dollars a month or between 1,800 and 2,300 US dollars for a three-bedroom apartment. If you’re looking for a place to live where you’ll get your mansion for cheap, New Zealand isn’t the top choice.
5. The laid-back lifestyle
Pro: New Zealand has a relaxed pace of life
If you prefer island time, you’ll love New Zealand’s relaxed pace. It does take some getting used to, but once you do, it’s almost impossible to go back to the fast-paced, always a bit rushed way of life of much of the world. In New Zealand, things will get done when they get done, and that’s just the way it is. Need a plumber? They’ll come around when they have a chance. Need a new part for your car? It’ll arrive when it arrives.
Kiwis also love their breaks and time off of work and aren’t afraid to take full advantage of their four weeks of paid vacation. This is especially true around Christmas and New Years when it seems like the entire country takes a whole month off of work. If you’re new to the country, it can feel frustrating to wait longer for things to get done. However, once you jump on board with the laissez-faire approach, life seems much less stressful and serious.
Con: You may get bored in New Zealand
There’s no denying it; life is a bit quieter in New Zealand. Even if you live in larger cities like Auckland and Wellington, you’ll notice there are just not quite as many events and things to do compared with places like London and New York City. If you enjoy big concerts, festivals, and top-notch nightlife most weekends, New Zealand isn’t the place for you.
Don’t get us wrong, New Zealand certainly gets some big-name artists and has wonderful music festivals dotted across the calendar, they’re just fewer and farther apart than you may be used to. Plus, once you leave the larger cities, things get even quieter. You could hike for days and never see another soul. But if the weather turns and you’re looking for something fun to do inside, you may have to settle for some Netflix.
Bonus Pro: New Zealand is often ranked one of the best in the world for its high quality of living
Whenever a study comes out ranking the best countries in the world to live in, New Zealand consistently ranks in the top 10. These studies usually consider access to good food and housing, education, healthcare, environmental quality, and individual freedoms, and all of which New Zealand does incredibly well.
It’s also worth noting that the work-life balance in New Zealand ranks high. With four weeks of paid annual leave and ten sick days a year, life in New Zealand isn’t all about the desk. Want to raise a family? You can rest assured your medical bills will be covered by health care, and you won’t have to rush back to work with 26 weeks of paid maternity leave.
The final verdict – Is New Zealand a good place to live?
Yes, New Zealand is an incredible place to live. It’s easy to see why so many visitors come to the country to explore and never leave. Between its friendly culture, stunning and accessible nature, high quality of life, and quirky Kiwiness – there’s not much you can fault New Zealand on.
Of course, you must keep in mind New Zealand is far from the rest of the world, which means trips to Europe and North America aren’t just a short flight away. However, if you’re ready to live a stress-free life filled with adventure, there’s no doubt you’ll love calling New Zealand home.