10 truths about living in New Zealand

New Zealand North Island lighthouse

Ten months in New Zealand got me thinking: are there any truths about living in Kiwi-land that no one tells you about?

All you ever hear is: “It’s so much more laid back” or “oh, the people are so NICE!”

But if you’re thinking about moving to the other side of the world, you’ll need more than that to know what to expect, right?

So, here are ten truths about living in New Zealand I’ve gathered so far:

1. You’ll get mad about everyone having summer fun while you’re freezing your ass off.

On the plus side: Everyone gets mad about you having summer fun while they are freezing their asses off. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I just made it through my first winter in New Zealand. The longing feeling you get in winter – for somewhere warmer – was definitely stronger here than in Europe! It was nurtured by my social media filled with pictures of Italy, festivals and Aperol Spritzes.

Also, in New Zealand winter, you don’t even have Christmas to look forward to. It’s mostly just cold wind, grey clouds and stormy rain. Not as cold as European winter, though (at least in Christchurch)!

2. You’ll wonder how you ever managed to live in a tiny apartment.

Europe has many things New Zealand doesn’t have. Space isn’t one of them.

One thing I got used to in NZ is having a lot of space. The amount of money you spend on a one-bedroom apartment in Munich (balcony not even guaranteed), will rent you a two-bedroom house (garden included) in Christchurch.

Since there are not as many people living in New Zealand, cities are less crammed, busy and noisy. And it’s dead easy to escape civilisation for a few days in the more remote areas.

3. You’ll write love songs to European public transport.

Don’t get me wrong, there is public transport in the bigger New Zealand cities. It’s mostly trams and busses.

But the thing I don’t understand (as a European) is why the country has no passenger trains whatsoever. If you don’t have a car and don’t want to go on the backpacker/party bus, then there is literally no way to travel mid-to-long distance.

One of the best things about Europe for me is being able to jump on a train and go anywhere, no matter how small the village. Some regional train will go there. It will take you a while, but you’ll get there eventually.

4. You’ll think it’s perfectly normal to have mayonnaise as a salad dressing.

Yep, that’s right. Put that dirty mayonnaise consisting of 80% fat on the fresh, vitamin-packed, green salad, and you’ll have a combination that my European self would have cringed over. My still-European, but kiwi-influenced self says – meh, why not?

5. You’ll get used to greeting everyone.

Frankly, in New Zealand, you don’t really cross anyone’s way without saying either “hi” or “thank you”: the bus driver, the older couple passing you on a walk, the neighbours.

I really like the feeling that comes with that. When I lived in Munich, I often felt like I was invisible, insignificant in a crowd of thousands – especially on the tube. I’ve never felt like that in Christchurch. Yes, because it’s a smaller city, but also because of people noticing you.

6. You’ll wear jandals the minute the temperature rises above 20 degrees.

In summer, jandals (flip flops) become the Kiwis’ favourite piece of clothing. It’s contagious!

Jandals go everywhere – at work, at the pub, at a restaurant, going hiking. Just not at the casino or in a bar or club (weird Kiwi clothing rules when it comes to party venues).

7. You’ll wear socks in your jandals.

Apparently, jandals are not only the Kiwis’ favourite summer footwear. I’ve seen some people at the supermarket wearing socks in their jandals – in the middle of winter.

And the other day, I caught myself doing the same thing! Only out in the garden, though. But that still counts.

8. You’ll go to the Warehouse to get nothing you need and everything you don’t need.

The Warehouse has been a New Zealand institution for some years now. The giant stores filled to the brim with products made-in-China have driven out a lot of small business owners.

But sometimes, you just go to the Warehouse – because they’ve got everything. Literally everything, from toilet cleaner through to a Woody (from Toy Story) doll.

There is a mystery about the place. You’ll go in there with a list of stuff you need and find none of it. But you come back out with a load of crap you don’t even need. It’s a phenomenon. Maybe a bit like Ikea!

9. You’ll be fascinated by the plants and wildlife.

At least once a day, I stop and stare at some exotic plant or bird.ย There is a great variety of bushes and trees around that you’ll see no where else in the world.

Nature just feels a little closer in New Zealand somehow.

My definite wildlife highlight so far was seeing orcas and Hector’s dolphins in Akaroa!

10. You’ll love it but feel far away from everything sometimes.

I love living in New Zealand. But sometimes, the fact that you’re on an island in the South Pacific, that’s miles away from the next piece of land, comes crashing down on you.

Sometimes, you’ll feel like the world is turning without you. If your family and friends live far away, you can’t be as involved in their lives as you would want to be. Brexit, Trump and climate change, and the first thing New Zealand news are reporting on are panthers being sighted in the North Island.

This really bothers me at times. What helps me is this: Isn’t it a privilege to be on an island these days, where you could escape the rest of the world for a little bit if you wanted to?


Check out my New Zealand culture guide for a more detailed account of what to expect in “Down Under”.

Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚

4 responses to “10 truths about living in New Zealand”

  1. […] I moved to New Zealand and I got to see my own culture from afar. I can only explain the feeling as flying over my life in […]


  2. […] Also, for some more impressions of New Zealand life, you can read my article “10 truths about living in New Zealand“. […]


  3. I lived in the South Island for 6 months in 2004. We took the train from the town we lived in, Darfiled (45 min from Christchurch) to Greymouth on the West coast. It was a beautiful scenic ride over the Alps and Arthur’s Pass.


    1. Oh cool, Darfield is nice – right by the mountains! Yes, Arthur’s Pass and the West Coast are amazing! Hope you’ll find your way back here some time ๐Ÿ™‚


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