- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals New Zealand Guide (PDF)
New Zealand is a stunning country located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, consisting of the North and South Islands and several smaller islands. It boasts breathtaking landscapes that vary from snow-capped mountains and rugged coastlines to pristine lakes and lush forests, along with unique flora and fauna such as the Kiwi bird.
Despite its somewhat remote location, New Zealand offers a high quality of life, with well-developed healthcare and education systems, low crime rates and a friendly culture. The country also provides ample opportunities for outdoor activities, making it an attractive destination for tourists and expats alike.
While expats in New Zealand may earn lower income levels compared to the US or the UK, the comparatively lower cost of living offsets this difference – though it's worth noting that it's far from cheap to live here. That said, the country's social services and safety nets ensure that all residents can afford to access essential services such as healthcare, education and housing. The country's progressive tax system places the burden on higher earners, contributing to reducing income inequality.
Living in New Zealand as an expat
While New Zealand lacks the economic might of larger countries, it has a growing economy and a positive outlook. As a result, there are plenty of job opportunities for expats with initiative, energy and optimism. The New Zealand government welcomes prospective expats in a range of industries, provided that they have the skills and experience to benefit the local economy.
New Zealand’s transport infrastructure is well-developed and easy to use. Most cities have a public bus network, all major cities are linked by rail, and a regular ferry service connects the North and South Islands.
One downside to life in New Zealand is that seismic activity is a reality, and residents experience around 200 felt earthquakes a year. Thankfully, only two earthquakes in the last century have caused significant losses, and houses in New Zealand are built to handle earthquakes. Local accommodation does, however, have a reputation for poor insulation and residents tend to dress warmly rather than warm their homes, which can take some adjusting to.
Cost of living in New Zealand
The cost of living in New Zealand is high, especially in cities such as Auckland, which is the commercial centre of the country and where the majority of the population lives. Accommodation is expensive and, due to high import costs, so are groceries and general goods that are not locally produced. The good news is that, though it's a bit pricey to live there, people in New Zealand enjoy high living standards that most consider to be well worth the cost.
Families and children in New Zealand
Moving to New Zealand with family is especially popular with expats who want a fresh start and a better work-life balance. New arrivals are especially attracted by the good state-sponsored healthcare, low crime rates, a society that values children and the environment, and high-quality public education.
Climate in New Zealand
Known to its Maori inhabitants as Aotearoa, which means “Land of the Long White Cloud”, the country gets its share of cold and rainy weather. That said, expats will be relieved to know that the country usually does get more sunshine than most European countries.
Expats who commit to their new home and take advantage of the laid-back, outdoorsy lifestyle it offers are sure to find that New Zealand has the potential to be their ideal expat destination.
Population: About 5.1 million
Capital city: Wellington
Other major cities: Auckland (largest city), Christchurch and Hamilton
Neighbouring countries: Although New Zealand has no direct neighbours, Australia is situated to the northwest, while Tonga and Fiji are two of the most prominent island countries to the north of New Zealand.
Geography: New Zealand is made up of two main islands (the North and South Islands) and several smaller islands. Much of the country's terrain is mountainous. The landscape is very dramatic, and volcanoes can be found on the South Island.
Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Major religions: Christianity
Official languages: English, Maori and New Zealand Sign Language
Money: The official currency is the New Zealand Dollar (NZD), which is divided into 100 cents. It is relatively easy for expats to open a bank account provided they have proof of address and identification. ATMs and internet banking are widely available.
Tipping: New Zealand's tipping culture is based on merit, and tipping is not expected. A 10 percent tip can be added in appreciation of excellent service.
Time: GMT+12 (GMT+13 from the last Sunday in September to the first Sunday in April)
Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. 'Type I' three-pin flat-blade plugs are used.
Internet domain: .nz
International dialling code: +64
Emergency contacts: 111
Transport and driving: Cars in New Zealand drive on the left-hand side. Travel between the North and South Islands is usually by ferry. Bus services are the main mode of transport in most cities, while local rail services operate in Auckland and Wellington. Long-distance travel is done by trains, buses and domestic air flights.
► See Pros and Cons of Moving to New Zealand to learn more about life in the country.
"I’d recommend getting out there and being proactive in starting your new life. Go out, make friends, apply for lots of jobs. The city is full of potential but it is on you, and the effort you put in will determine what you get out." See more tips about life in New Zealand in Savannah's interview.
"One of my favourite things has been seeing how Kiwis prioritise their work/life balance. Anyone working a full-time job is guaranteed a minimum of four weeks annual leave and you’ll never be made to feel guilty for using it." Read more about Eve's experiences in New Zealand.
Are you an expat living in New Zealand?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to New Zealand. 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.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.