Sarah Robertson, a young British expat from London, moved to Queenstown in New Zealand in 2011 with her partner. While she acknowledges that the cost of living in Queenstown is relatively high, she enjoys the quality of life in Queenstown and the Kiwi philosophy of 'work to live not live to work'.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: London, England
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Queenstown, New Zealand
Q: How long have you lived in New Zealand?
A: 10 months
Q: Did you move to New Zealand with a spouse/children?
A: I moved to Queenstown with my partner, Alan.
Q: Why did you move to Queenstown; what do you do?
A: I was interested in living abroad and all the potential experiences that could come along with such a move. I'd felt for a long time that London was not a comfortable fit for us. In London, I was working as an Event Coordinator for a University.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your Queenstown, how’s the quality of life?
A: The quality of life is excellent here. As with most of New Zealand, there is a 'work to live' not 'live to work' philosophy.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: The cost of living here is very high relative to the earning potential. We are, after all, nestled in the mountains and so there are high expenses involved in getting things like food and high-speed internet.
Q: Is the Queenstown safe? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: This is an incredibly safe place to live. As a Londoner I’m always amazed by comfort in walking home at night by myself. As with most places, the incidents which do occur tend to be later at night outside the bars. But, these are mostly self-contained fights which offer no threat to a passer-by.
Q: How would you rate the public transport in Queenstown? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?
A: This is a small town and so walking will get you to most places. There is a bus running most of the day to surrounding towns and the airport, however, is pretty pricey. Having a car is actually cheaper and offers a lot of freedom to explore the local area.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in New Zealand?
A: Again, as a small town, the healthcare reflects this. As British citizens we are entitled to reciprocal healthcare for acute medical needs. But visits to the doctors can be expensive if you're on a visa for less than 2 years. Having said that, all the medical care we've received here has been excellent.
About living in New Zealand
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in Queenstown as an expat?
A: Queenstown central really offers the best accommodation options, and it is possible to access most facilities in this area on foot. There is also more sunlight here during the shorter days. Of course, the cost of accommodation in Queenstown decreases if you choose to live further afield.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Queenstown?
A: New Zealand is not renowned for good housing. Few buildings have insulation or double glazing. Queenstown was originally a holiday town and so most of the buildings were built with summer living in mind. Therefore, they can get cold and damp in the winter. Fortunately, newer builds are now being made with smarter designs.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Food is very expensive here to seasonal fluctuations – this is not something we're not used to in London. Internet is also very pricey as the infrastructure has not yet caught up with demand. Buying a car can be incredibly cheap as is the cost of car insurance.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: Queenstown is a strange place to live as it has a very transient population, with people from all sorts of different countries settling here for a few years. Therefore, I get to mix with Kiwis but also a lot of expats.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: Yes, this is the friendliest, most outgoing town I’ve ever visited. Everyone's in the same situation, and so they're all looking to make friends.
About working in New Zealand
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit in New Zealand?
A: No, every British citizen under the age of 30 is eligible for a working holiday visa in New Zealand. Once you've arrived and have a job sponsorship is a relatively straight forward, inexpensive process.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Queenstown, is there plenty of work?
A: I've been told that Queenstown has a 0% unemployment rate. I think you may just need to be open-minded with the type of work you'd be happy to take on.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: The work culture in New Zealand is very similar to that in the UK in a lot of ways, but minor differences make it feel more laid back to me.
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Be open-minded and take all opportunities that are offered to you.
~Interviewed October 2012