Moving to New Zealand - feature photo - view of Wellington from the summit of Mount Victoria
Life,  Travel

I’m Moving to New Zealand

New year, new country! Is anyone surprised at this point? Yes, after finishing up my working holiday in Canada, as well as previously living in Hong Kong and South Korea, I’m trying out living somewhere else again. This time I’m moving to New Zealand, specifically Wellington, the capital city at the bottom of the North Island. Looking back at those older posts, I’ve started writing this one much more calmly – I must be getting used to all these moves! It’s still nerve-racking every time, starting over somewhere new, but slightly less daunting when I know I’ve managed it before.

I actually moved over at the start of February, after my Hawaii short break on the way over from Vancouver. We’re now in April, so I’m 2.5 months in already. I got here a month before my birthday, and thanks to my incredible Antarctica trip which also got me to South America, landing in Oceania meant I hit all 7 continents before turning 30! Anyways, this post will be a little about why I moved, how it all came together, and my first impressions so far.

Moving to New Zealand - second feature photo - giant letter sign reading Wellington by the waterfront

Why Did I Move?

Cast your mind back to that post about moving to Canada and I did actually mention moving to New Zealand was the next stage of my plans! Since it’s pretty easy for UK citizens to get working holiday visas for various countries to stay for a few years, they’re a great opportunity that I wanted to take advantage of. It made sense to go straight from Canada, rather than settling back home again for a spell, just to pick up sticks and move down the line. As with all my previous moves, I do this to have the experience of living in another country for a while. And to have a base to travel other countries nearby – get ready for some Oceania adventures this year!

It was a bit of a toss-up between Australia and New Zealand for a while though. A friend who has already been to both suggested I would be able to cover more of New Zealand on long weekend and short break trips, since it’s smaller. Even though it’s still bigger than most people realise! Whereas Australia is so insanely big that you have to fly everywhere. I also thought New Zealand sounded a bit like Canada and Scotland in many ways. A smaller population than its neighbour, lots of mountains and hiking and nature to explore, a temperate climate and low-key, relaxed vibe. I’m definitely excited to explore a lot of the natural scenery! And I plan to visit Australia to travel and work remotely later in the year as well.

Working Holiday Visa

Anyways, what is the working holiday visa? For those unfamiliar, it allows you to live and work in the country, without having to be sponsored by an employer. For UK citizens coming to NZ, it’s available up to the age of 35 and for a maximum of 3 years. Canada and Australia are the same, though each country does have different application processes and other restrictions. Australia actually caps you at 6 months per employer, then you have to change jobs, which wasn’t going to work for my job – more on that in a second. Whereas NZ allows me to stay in the same job the whole time, as long as I have an end date in my contract (you can’t have a permanent contract).

The NZ visa process was super simple – Canada’s was much lengthier. I filled in a quick online form and paid the application fee, then got my eVisa approval about 3 days later! That gave me a year to enter the country (I applied in November, so only 3 months later in my case) and then the visa is valid from the day you arrive. I only have a 1-year visa because my passport was due to expire. I’ve renewed it now, so I can request an extension, although you have to pay for a medical check to get the additional years. Currently, I don’t plan to extend past a year, but I have plenty of time if I change my mind. Mostly because I think after being away for so long, I’ll be ready to go home.

Getting a Job

I didn’t have to job hunt on arrival this time round! The job I found back in Canada is for a global company, who have teams in Australia and NZ. So, a few months ago, I reached out to the relevant manager and was able to secure a position in a team here instead!.My role itself is the same, just with a new manager, team and clients all in the ANZ region instead of North America. There are various differences between regions I’ve had to learn, but it certainly took away much of the stress of moving to a new country when I already had a job lined up. This is also why it was easier to get the NZ visa, without that annoying 6-month per employer cap!

Like Canada, my role is fully remote and I work from home – or wherever I happen to be! Which is going to be great for travelling around the country. The rest of my team are all in Melbourne, so I’m the only one never in the office and in a different time zone. Whereas the majority of my NA team were also fully remote, so it has felt a little different because of that. I haven’t gotten as close to the team in a social sense yet, but it’s still early days. And that’s partly the price I’m paying for flexibility!

Flat Hunting

Work aside, there’s plenty of other tasks to undertake when moving to New Zealand, or any new country. As mentioned, I moved to Wellington specifically. This was on the recommendation of a few friends either from NZ or who have visited, and all thought it would match my vibes. Not too big and busy, plenty of green space, and lots of events and sightseeing options. It’s also central to the whole country, so a good base for other travels.

I booked into a hostel for the first few weeks while I started flat hunting. Unlike Vancouver, sublets are few and far between here, so I had to accept quickly that I’d need to sign a longer-term lease this time. I did check options for exiting it early though, in case I decide I want to move on from Wellington or because of my other travel plans. I went to a slew of viewings in the first week or so, mostly found via Facebook groups. Some of which I ruled out, others which I liked but then they ghosted me. Eventually I found one that seemed pretty decent and the flatmates were happy to have me, so I moved in within 2 weeks of arriving in NZ. It’s a 5-person household and we mostly keep to ourselves, but will chit-chat when we cross paths.

Life Admin

My first week also included other life admin, such as getting my IRD (the NZ version of a tax number) which was an easy online application. The hostel was able to give me a letter as proof of address to open a bank account, which you can also do online with BNZ. Then you have to take your passport to a branch to verify your ID and they post the debit card (to the hostel in my case). And I got a local phone number and plan on the first day with One NZ too. There were also Canadian loose ends to tie up, especially since I didn’t get my last pay there until a month after moving. Calling your phone provider and bank from another country to close and cancel everything is a fun thing to explain to their staff!

I also have a car now! I didn’t plan to get one, but my brother was finishing up his annual summer season here (he works in agriculture) just as I arrived, so I got to keep his for free when he left. He’ll either take it back next year or I’ll sell it for him when I leave. But that did require getting car insurance, paying to renew the registration and it currently needs a repair in the garage next week… More recently, I got a membership to the local council’s recreational facilities. It includes a gym, which I’ll never use, but it’s mainly for the swimming pool and yoga classes in my case! It’s only taken 2 months, but my life admin list has finally dwindled away (at least for now).

Plans for the Year

So once the life admin is sorted, a new to-do list emerges – booking travel plans. Is anyone surprised? I’ve already taken 2 long weekend trips on the North Island since I got here, which I’ll write about soon. I have another lined up for the next public holiday, then a week in Northland, the region above Auckland. These first few months have been focused on the North Island. Then when winter hits, I’m heading towards the equator! Samoa is first on the docket, since I’ve already booked a trip through work. Then I’m eyeing up a Vanuatu trip, with some independent travel in Fiji before or after.

Springtime is for Australia, before it gets too hot over there. I plan to spend a month travelling and working remotely, followed by some time off to explore more. I’ve got some key places I want to go – Uluru, the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney, Melbourne – but I haven’t worked out a specific itinerary yet. It’s too huge to go everywhere, so I have to be selective. I’m considering a stop in Western Australia after I leave NZ next year too.

Then, I’ll come back to NZ for summer. My plan is to spend 2-2.5 months slowly road-tripping around the South Island, working as I go. This is also why I’d likely leave my current Wellington flat, maybe even before Australia! My visa expires at the end of January next year, so I might make some other travel stops on my way home too (I’m also eyeing up a Borneo trip through work!). That’s way down the line though, so no concrete plans yet. But definitely lots of ideas and options! If 2023 was a busy travel year for me, 2024 is shaping up to be no different.

First Impressions

I’m getting ahead of myself though. How have these first 2 months been? It certainly took a while to settle in, as it always does in a new place, while busy doing the life admin. I’m in more of a routine now though! As was the case in Vancouver, it’s hard to make friends as an adult, so I don’t have much social life so far. But plenty calls with family and friends back home fill my social needs too! And I’ve never shied away from doing things solo, from sightseeing to hiking to events.

Wellington definitely has plenty to do. There’s been some street festivals and I’ve ticked off a lot of tourist attractions. I’m trying to pace myself since I’ll be here for several more months though! The first few weeks of summer sunshine were wonderful too, but I’m struggling a bit with it getting gloomier now as we approach winter. I like that the city is on the coast and has lots of green spaces, although it’s more spread-out than I expected. Outside the city centre, everything feels very suburban, just endless houses on winding hillside roads.

New Zealand is like the UK in many ways, due to the Empire and Commonwealth. A very problematic history, but it has made it less of a culture shock compared to other places I’ve lived. The Maori culture is still present though and I’ve been able to learn a bit about it already. Overall, I like NZ so far, though like Canada, I’m not in love with it. At least not yet. But I’ve already seen some amazing places and I’m excited to explore more!

As a very wise Hobbit said (yes, get ready for many Lord of the Rings references), “I’m going on an adventure!”