21 Pros and Cons of Living in New Zealand

The first European explorer to visit New Zealand was Abel Tasman in December 1642. The Dutch were the first non-Polynesians to explore the coastline of the isolated land, and then Captain James Cook would become the first to circumnavigate and map the area in 1769. It would remain in Maori hands until the various chiefs signed a treaty with the British crown to give them the same rights as subjects in England.

Most of the Maori people became impoverished after this action, which led to a series of 19th century progressive proposals that included pensions and women’s suffrage. New Zealand would become a self-governing nation in the British Empire in 1907, but over 100,000 troops from the country fought in World War I on the side of the Allies. Another 120,000 troops were sent in World War II.

After the 1973 energy crisis, the economy suffered greatly in the country. Rampant inflation occurred when Britain entered the European Economic Community. A free-market economy emerged from the situation, although some tempering of the ethos has occurred since then. If you are thinking about living or working in New Zealand, then here are some pros and cons about being a Kiwi to consider.

List of the Pros of Living in New Zealand

1. There are vast swaths of wilderness to explore in New Zealand.
You will find some of the most rugged and wild wilderness venues in New Zealand when you start living there. You don’t need to travel far to embrace nature either, as parks, protected lands, or untouched public areas are right outside of the city limits. You can go fishing, camping, hiking, cycling, and so much more when living there. Because the population density is fairly low, there is an excellent chance that you will be the only one out there exploring as well. If you love a grand adventure, this is the place to be.

To put the amount of space that is available in New Zealand in perspective, the country is larger than Great Britain in total landmass. The only place in the country where you even need to worry about traffic is in Auckland.

2. Life is very quiet when you start living in New Zealand.
There is less pressure in New Zealand to be the best, or the richest, or the most important person in your industry. People here encourage a healthy work-life balance. Unless you manage a farm or another agricultural business, working after hours is almost unheard of in this country. No one really takes life that seriously. When you add in the quieter cities, fewer traffic problems, and large expanses of rural spaces, you might just find that the quiet country life offers a lot of appeal.

3. There is not much difference between citizenship and permanent residency.
When you are a permanent resident in New Zealand, then you have the right to vote in the country’s elections. You are able to come and go as you please. Your family receives the same access to all of the government subsidies that are in place as if you were a full citizen. That includes healthcare benefits, public education options, and almost everything else that comes with citizenship – including the right to stay there as long as you like.

The fact remains that New Zealand has only hosted civilizations for about 800 years. You will find a melting pot of diversity living here, ranging from the Maori to the Pacific Islands to those of European descent. There are fewer issues with cultural differences found here than you will experience in other countries.

4. Almost anyone can open a bank account in New Zealand.
As long as you have the correct documentation ready, you can open a bank account in New Zealand on the first day you start living there. You will want to present your resident or work visa as part of the process. It some situations, it is possible to setup this need up to 1 year in advance of your move there. That means you can start transferring funds right away into the account so that your finances will already be in order when you arrive. The entire process can happen online too.

5. Living in New Zealand means access to universal healthcare.
Everyone in New Zealand receives healthcare services regardless of their residency status. If you are a citizen or a permanent resident, then there are no out-of-pocket expenses to worry about when you need to visit the doctor outside of what you pay in taxes. Even non-residents on a temporary visa can access this advantage – although there are sometimes fees that they may need to pay as part of the process.

6. Entrepreneurs have access to some significant advantages in New Zealand.
If you are an entrepreneur with a specific skill, then moving to New Zealand could put you in the driver’s seat to new opportunities. There is plenty of space for new businesses, while there are shortages of specific skilled workers that can make it very easy to find a job and become a permanent resident. When you are ready to take your ideas to the next level, this country has a surprisingly rich amount of diversity that can foster innovation and creativity.

7. Even the food is incredible in New Zealand.
Because the number of sheep in New Zealand outnumber the human population, one might think that the entire culinary experience involves lamb and mutton. The country is actually more famous for the honey and coffee it produces. Because the import process makes it expensive to purchase other foods, most people here consume what is local and in-season. If you enjoy the farm-to-table trends that are starting around the world, then you will love living here because it is a way of life for almost everyone.

8. The educational system in New Zealand is one of the best in the world.
If you don’t have permanent residency status, then the government will charge your family a fee to have your kids attend the local public school. If you achieve this status or become a resident, then you can access the educational system for free. Most of the population holds an undergraduate degree for their career, with graduate and doctorate opportunities expanding as well. You will want to check on the current regulations for the area where you intend to move to ensure there are no hidden expenses which may cause some worry.

9. The weather in New Zealand is fantastic.
The temperate climate in New Zealand is one that is very inviting. It rarely gets too hot, and the cold tends to stay away as well. There are some gray days out there, but the ones filled with sunshine tend to outnumber them. If you like to experience snow, then the South Island is where you will want to be since it sees more of the traditional seasons. When you prefer to stay warm, then living toward the northern shores of the North Island is your best bet. Where else in the world can you go skiing in the morning, and then enjoy a warm swim in the afternoon without artificial interventions?

10. Crime levels are exceptionally low in New Zealand.
Despite the attacks on a Christchurch mosque that claimed dozens of lives in 2019, the number of murders in the country averages about 50 per year. According to the 2018 Crime and Safety Report for the country, crime levels are generally lower than in most of the significant cities in the United States. Most of the country’s population lives in Wellington, Auckland, or Christchurch, so that is where most of the arrests and criminal activities occur. Thefts from vehicles are the most common occurrences. The use of weapons in crime remains an infrequent occurrence throughout the country.

List of the Cons of Living in New Zealand

1. The cost of living in New Zealand is somewhat high.
Some people think the cost of living in New Zealand is high, though this, of course, depends on your benchmark. Auckland and Wellington ranked 103 and 123, respectively, out of 209 cities in Mercer’s 2020 Cost of Living Survey. Wellington tied with Lyon, France. As a further point of comparison, New York ranked 6, Mumbai ranked 60, and Madrid ranked 87.

The North Island tends to be more expensive than the South Island, and a two-bedroom apartment averages around $350-500 per week.

2. New Zealand is a fairly isolated country.
The world might be becoming a small place, but New Zealand is still on the fringe of what makes people comfortable. It is a rather small island nation with a little more than 4 million people living there altogether. If you decide to move here from North America or Europe, then you are going to be very far from your current family and friends. The time zone is almost the opposite of what it is in the United States too, which can make communication a challenge. You’ll make new friends living here, but it can feel very isolating when you first arrive.

3. The cost of getting to New Zealand is problematic for many families.
If you are moving from the United States, then the conversion rate of the U.S. dollar to the New Zealand dollar can help to stretch your finances a little better. As of April 2019, it is currently trading below $0.70. That means your spending power is about 30% greater as an American. You’ll need that money since the average cost of a flight is over $1,000. If you are moving any belongings as part of your trip, then those expenses are significant as well unless you can avoid sending them by freight.

Then you will need to remember that flying back home to visit family will have a similar cost. Even if you can afford the expense, the length of the flight is challenging for even experienced commuters.

4. You will be living a quiet life when you move to New Zealand.
If you like the idea of going out on the weekend for some music, drinking, and dancing, then you will be sorely disappointed by what you find in New Zealand. There are clubs and bars in the bigger cities for sure, but the quiet and relaxed atmosphere of the island extends to its nightlife. Even music festivals have struggled to find a foothold in this country, which means you might start thinking about starting your own traditions with your new friends instead. Expect laid-back weekends here all of the time.

5. You cannot avoid the cost of imported goods all of the time.
The limited size and infrastructure of New Zealand mean that you cannot avoid the cost of imported goods or services all of the time. You are going to pay more for electronics, clothing, and food items. You might not even find a specific brand that you want because of the limitations of the import/export market. There is always the option to order something online and then have it shipped to your address, but you will be paying a significantly higher cost for that service.

6. Public transportation is almost non-existent in New Zealand.
If you prefer to use public transportation as your method of getting around a city, then New Zealand will provide you with an unpleasant surprise. The country does not have an established rail system for passenger transport. There are a handful of trains that do operate across the islands, but they tend to operate slowly, run infrequently, and their cost borders on the ridiculous. Your best option is to use the bus systems that are in some of the cities, but even those are not entirely reliable.

Your best option when moving to New Zealand would be to purchase a bicycle if your funds are limited. The cities have extensive areas for safe cycling, and then you won’t be confined to visiting only the places you can reach by walking.

7. The housing standards in New Zealand are not as high as the rest of the world.
New Zealand has a reputation for lax housing standards compared to the rest of the developed world. If you purchase an older home in the country, then there is an excellent chance that you will need to spend some cash on insulation upgrades, the installation of a heating system, and even better wiring. The climate here is rather temperate throughout the year, but it is helpful to have a place where you can be warm and dry. The place you choose should also be able to keep the insects out.

8. You will need to get used to the odor of insect repellent in the air.
Because you are living in a temperate environment where standing water is common, there will be a lot of mosquitos and sand flies bothering you each night when you move to New Zealand. Most people say that their first summer in the country is the worst because they didn’t know what to expect from this disadvantage. You will need to use insect repellent on every warm evening because the bugs are going to bite. Even a visit to the beach on a windy day won’t provide you with relief. These insects are literally everywhere.

9. Protecting your skin is a top priority in New Zealand.
There is a lot of sunshine waiting for you when living in New Zealand. If you don’t like to wear sunblock, then you might enjoy an increased risk of developing skin cancer too. Because the country lies right underneath where the ozone layer tends to be weak, there are stronger UV rays that shine down on you each day. That means sunburns are more common when living here too. If you place anything next to a window when living here, then the colors will fade from that item very quickly.

10. The people of New Zealand sometimes work hard at fitting in.
It is a societal behavior that the Kiwis call Tall Poppy syndrome. The population here is very down-to-earth. There is a general despite for pretentiousness. This leads to a proverb that says that the tallest poppies are the first ones to be cut down. There are many talented people in this country who are afraid to distinguish themselves in any way because to do so could isolate them even more than they already are. It is not unusual for someone to pretend to be slower than they are (academically or physically) because that helps them to fit in better with the rest of society.

11. Dental care can be quite expensive in this country.
You can benefit from the universal healthcare system when living in New Zealand, but that does not include dental care once you become an adult. Children receive free care. A basic checkup with x-rays is about $100 (in local currency). Fillings begin at $160 per tooth, while extractions hover around $200. If you come in to get your teeth cleaned with a hygienist, then that’s about $150 for a 45-minute appointment. Root canals begin at $750, but multi-root teeth can be more than $1,200. These costs are why over half of the population doesn’t go to the dentist on a regular basis. Dental insurance is separate in this country.

The pros and cons of living in New Zealand are essential to consider if you are thinking about a prolonged visit or immigrating there permanently. Most people enjoy the laid-back attitude and quiet perspective, but it is an expensive place to live, especially if you regularly use imported items. Evaluate each key point carefully before finalizing your plans to know if this adventure is the right one for you.

Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.