Expat destination: New Zealand
This article was written by Errol Gardiner, long-standing member of the FIDI Board and Chairman of New Zealand Van Lines, a FIDI Affiliated moving company. Errol has travelled extensively overseas and says the one thing that always strikes him on his return is the clear delineation between hills and sky due to the clean air – so different to the haze encountered in many overseas cities and countries.
So, you’ve accepted an assignment in New Zealand – lucky you! See if any of these features tick your boxes:
Culture – check; nightlife – check; cafes – check; restaurants and bars – check; clean air – check; out-door sports and activities – check; great wines and beers – check; fresh local produce – check.
As the corporate capital and largest city in New Zealand, Auckland is likely to be your destination. But if you’ve been assigned to a Government or Embassy posting, you’ll probably be in Wellington and if your field of expertise is in IT you may find yourself in Christchurch.
Vibrant city life Down Under
Each city has its own uniqueness and special attractions, but they also have many things in common. New Zealand has evolved over the past three or four decades and is no longer the country where an English comedian allegedly once said: “I arrived in New Zealand on a Sunday - but it was closed.” Today, with seven-days-a-week shopping, a myriad of restaurants, and bars open long enough to meet the needs of the thirstiest, you’re never short of choices of activity, any day or night of the week.
So, let’s revisit that checklist:
Culture: we have the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and New Zealand Opera regularly touring the country with world-class performances, as well as local professional theatre companies producing an eclectic variety of productions. Overseas musicals and leading singers and bands frequently perform in the main cities, and our vibrant arts scene is complemented by international exhibitions.
Night-life: restaurants of all ethnicities abound, bars provide entertainment ranging from pop to jazz, and there will invariably be a concert in town.
Cafes: the coffee culture thrives in all the main New Zealand cities, and the most common hand-held device seen in the mornings is the coffee cup containing that first-of-the-day latte or cappuccino.
Clean air: I read somewhere that Vienna takes the accolade of the city with the cleanest air in the world – New Zealanders would sniff at that!
Outdoor activities: we’re spoiled for choice. Great beaches; safe swimming and surfing; boating; bounteous fishing; wonderful scenic walking and cycling trails throughout the country, catering to all ages and fitness levels; skiing; scenic tours; bungy jumping (a New Zealand invention and an excellent test for heart condition!); wine tours – the list is endless.
Sports: New Zealand is probably best known for its international rugby prowess (current World Cup holders), but we also excel in sailing (recent winners of the America’s Cup), as well as netball, cricket, rowing, cycling – along with a myriad of other sports, open to all participants. Indeed, school children in New Zealand are actively encouraged to participate in local team sports, as a means of maintaining fitness, good health and wellbeing.
Wine making: New Zealand is producing world-class wines from its ten different wine regions and has developed a thriving export industry. Winery tours are a popular and enjoyable pastime, with summer wine-and-food festivals heavily attended.
Beer: still New Zealand’s most popular alcoholic drink! A recent phenomenon is the advent of individual boutique breweries, offering a wide range of craft beers well worth sampling - though not too many at one time, or your taste discernment and navigational abilities will be seriously affected!
Fresh produce: New Zealand is probably best known for its dairy and lamb products, but the array of other locally produced food is extensive, with fresh seafood, meat, fruit and vegetables available year-round.
And just in case you’re worried about feeling homesick, you’ll be interested to know that our major cities do also produce respectable traffic jams at peak hours!
Your home away from home – anecdotal evidence
I recently had the occasion to speak with a couple that arrived in Auckland on a three-year assignment from Israel. They have rented a nice house in a quiet cul-de-sac in north Auckland, and their three young sons attend schools within easy (and safe) walking distance from home. The whole family love the outdoor life and are keen hikers and cyclists. The wife is the assignee and has a 15-minute drive to her international office, and the family can be in downtown Auckland within thirty minutes. Like so many other expatriates in New Zealand, the end of their assignment will surely be a sad time for them.
So now that you realise how fortunate you are to have been offered your assignment, you’d better get on to booking your flight – on Air New Zealand of course – after all, they’ve been voted airline of the year for the past three years!
Pictures by Cassie Matias, Aaron Birch, Stephen Crowley, chuttersnap and Tim Marshall