Christchurch, located on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island, is a captivating destination that offers a blend of natural beauty and a vibrant city centre.
Following the devastating earthquakes of 2011, Christchurch has undergone significant reconstruction and transformation. While the tragedy profoundly impacted the city's character, it also sparked a period of renewal, cultural growth and economic development.
Expats considering moving to Christchurch can now experience the fruits of these efforts, with a revitalised city centre and a range of stunning natural landscapes to explore. Whether they want to immerse themselves in the city's rich culture, enjoy outdoor activities or indulge in culinary delights, Christchurch has something for people from all walks.
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. Finding suitable accommodation in Christchurch can be challenging at times, but with some research and perseverance, expats can find a comfortable place to call home.
Since the earthquakes, the local economy has recovered substantially and is showing signs of steady growth. With a solid base in agriculture and tourism and a growing IT sector, expats have plenty of career opportunities. Predictably, expats with civil engineering and construction expertise 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. Christchurch boasts a balanced lifestyle of city living with 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, a 15 percent national sales tax is 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 excellent quality, and medication and services are either free or fairly cheap. Public education in New Zealand is also accessible at no cost or is heavily subsidised by the state.
Expat families and children in Christchurch
There are several highly regarded high schools in Christchurch. Single-sex schools, particularly, are known for academic achievement, though many public co-educational high schools are also esteemed.
Christchurch is the gateway for most visitors to the South Island, and the city's tourism industry is well-developed. Numerous popular attractions nearby 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'. Christchurch's seasons are relatively mild, but winters can be brutal, as few houses have insulation or central heating.
Expats moving to Christchurch can expect welcoming locals, beautiful parks and reserves, and an urban city centre with touches of pre-earthquake architecture, making it an ideal spot to raise a family.
►See Lifestyle in Christchurch to learn more about the exciting activities and outdoor pursuits available in the city
"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.
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