Located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Christchurch is a unique destination that is home to both a revitalised city centre and gorgeous natural landscapes that are just waiting to be explored.
The city's character has been heavily influenced by the 2011 earthquakes that caused so much death and destruction. Since then, the only constant in the city seems to be change, as Christchurch launched into a period of intense reconstruction. Expats moving to Christchurch will be able to enjoy the efforts of this labour, which have resulted in a period of economic growth and cultural renewal.
Living as an expat in Christchurch
Changes to the city can be seen within the city centre, which closed down following the earthquake and has since reopened to reveal a quirky and charming mix of old and new. Although areas of the destroyed city have not yet been rebuilt, reconstruction of Christchurch is an ongoing process that will likely continue for many years yet.
Following the earthquakes, the local economy has recovered substantially and is showing signs of steady growth. With a firm base in agriculture and tourism, and with a growing IT sector, there are plenty of career opportunities for expats. Predictably, expats with expertise in civil engineering and construction are in high demand.
New Zealanders are well travelled and tend to get along well with foreigners, which means most expats find it easy to make friends and assimilate into the culture. As in the rest of New Zealand, expats living in Christchurch enjoy a high standard of living, and the city also boasts plenty of beautiful greenery for those that enjoy a bit of fresh air.
Cost of living in Christchurch
Overall, the cost of living in New Zealand is high and Christchurch is no exception. Imported goods are particularly expensive (and most goods are imported). In addition to the cost, there is a 15 percent national sales tax attached to all purchases.
That said, many services are subsidised by the government which decreases the cost of living in Christchurch. Notably, healthcare in New Zealand is of a high quality and medication and services are either free or extremely cheap. Public education in New Zealand is also free, or heavily subsidised by the state.
Expat families and children
There are a number of highly regarded high schools in Christchurch. The single-sex schools, in particular, are known for academic achievement, though many of the public co-educational high schools are also highly regarded.
Christchurch is the gateway for most visitors to the South Island and the city’s tourism industry is well developed. There are a number of popular attractions nearby that make for easy day or weekend trips away from the city. Akaroa, Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura have always been popular destinations for a quick getaway.
Climate in Christchurch
The weather in Christchurch can change rapidly and frequently. Locals dress in layers, and often grab an extra jacket before leaving the house ‘just in case’. The seasons are fairly mild in Christchurch, but winters can be brutal as few houses have insulation or central heating.
Expats looking to move to Christchurch can expect welcoming locals, beautiful parks and reserves, and an urban city centre with touches of pre-earthquake architecture. It is an ideal spot to raise a family.
► Find out more about life this city in our Lifestyle in Christchurch page.
"I've come to love Christchurch over this year because of its resilience after the earthquakes, and I love watching the city evolve as time goes by. I love the more relaxed way of life here. I enjoy walking and biking round the various parks and reserves, and it is a handy location for the beautiful Banks Peninsula." Scottish expat Fiona shares her experiences of life in Christchurch.
"Christchurch’s location can’t be beaten if you enjoy getting outdoors. We’re about a 15-minute drive from the ocean and you can get to the Southern Alps in under two hours. There are tons of hiking trails nearby and you’ll almost never have to worry about traffic or parking. Everything feels very accessible." Read more about Eve, an American expat, and her experiences in Christchurch.
Are you an expat living in Christchurch?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Christchurch. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
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