The Brief: You’ve seen it before, ‘Restless with London life – get us outta here.’ After an amazing 9-months working in Malawi as an initial escape from the city rat race, I decided a return to the ‘Big Smoke’ was not an option. We wanted to sample living and working abroad and were on the search for a bit of an adventure; an outdoor, active lifestyle more chilled than London was on the cards…
Result: Auckland, New Zealand (through boyfriends job). Perhaps slightly further away than we had anticipated J but a great opportunity to explore this side of the world for a few years.
And here we are. 3 months in, over 18,000km from London. We have sorted our house (rented obviously), a car (the infamous ‘Goldie Hawn’), a BBQ (very important), whilst being in a city, we are close to beaches for surfing, kitesurfing and swimming, and many-a-hike, and beautiful view is just a short drive away. It all sounds great – and it really is. So far it’s felt like a working adventure fuelled by the excitement of doing something different and new. We’ve been motivated to try lots of new activities and make sure our weekends are filled with some form of activity or trip, whatever the weather. We also have the luxury of time, knowing we have the chance to get to know the country properly. I really cannot complain at all, 3 months in and we are so far fulfilling what we set out to achieve but I would feel slightly dishonest if I only focused on these ideals. We all lead exciting and action-packed lives and it’s often understandably, only the perfectly formed moments that get shared. For me, it’s important to reveal both sides of our re-location, the shiny and the slightly less shiny. Here I’ve picked out a few key topics where I share my honest experience of adapting to a new life out in Auckland.
Firstly say hello to ‘Patience’ – Perhaps one of the most important things that I’ve learnt, be patient… from the process of packing up your flat back at home and finalizing all that admin to arriving in your new country and getting set up in your new location; setting up a new bank account, buying a car, finding somewhere to live, getting a job, creating a circle friends…it annoyingly takes a bit of time even if you’re moving to another first world country, not-so dissimilar to your own. Your first friend will most definitely need to be patience – more than you ever imagined.
Somewhere to live – Hot topic over here at the moment… Auckland is in the midst of a housing crisis. Not enough property in the city to match the boom in people working within the area causing prices to rise extensively. After doing lots of pre-move research online, we were convinced we’d be living the life of riley at a cheaper cost than London. We were wrong! For the areas we were keen to live in we are paying more than we were in London (can’t actually believe that!), but we do now have big outdoor space, an extra double bedroom and a double garage. Location-wise we’re lucky to be in a lovely sub-burb called Grey Lynn, surrounded by some great bars and coffee shops. If you’re on a strict budget, sharing a house is obviously a more cost effective option and also great for getting to know people. I suppose it just depends on what you’re looking for. Set your budget, research the different living areas and have a look to see what’s available and then be prepared to up the boundaries of your budget, as we did a couple of times!
Jobs – Getting a job in a your new location is important. It’s a great inlet to meeting people and getting involved in social activities as well as the obvious, it pays you so you can make the most of having fun. This has however been one of the trickier tasks for me to conquer. I was lucky as Adam was already set job-wise, so we had factored this into our vague financing before we moved, but I have heard a few stories of people coming over and failing to find work (even though highly qualified) while they’ve watched their hard-earned savings disappear. Not much fun. A few reasons for this that I’ve heard and experienced;
- The good ole working visa While I am lucky to have a 30-month working visa with no restrictions I think some employees aren’t so keen on employing someone who will potentially leave the company after a year or two. There is always the option of contracting which might be preferable but then there’s always the pressure on knowing when the next pay cheque is coming in.
- Kiwi work experience – as always the irony in trying to get relevant experience without having any experience. It’s a vicious circle and I suppose takes a bit of luck to get your foot in the door for that first role. I thought that my London working experience mixed with some international work would really work in my favour, but apparently not always the case.
- Salary – Lower those expectations. What you read is true; wages here, in general, are lower and this isn’t necessarily comparable with living costs. I think I may have priced myself out of a number of roles by being a bit too ‘Billy big balls’… (back in your box Sarah). Get ready to compromise or even take a more junior role and work your way back up. Yes, frustrating.
- Job sites vs. word of mouth and internal recruitment – Auckland is a small-ish city and as in many places, recruiting via word of mouth is common and preferable. Hard when you have just arrived somewhere and don’t know so many people in your related field. This plus a lot of internal recruitment within companies means that not so many jobs make it onto the job sites, and the ones that do are often the more junior roles.
I was lucky to land myself a short contract role after a month or so and while they weren’t recruiting long-term, often it’s these shorter contracts that do result in a permanent job. Am currently on the job hunt again and patience is very much needed here. It is frustrating and slow especially when you know you have a good level of experience. On a positive, I have however taken this ‘job-searching’ time to learn and confirm that I am definitely not ready to become a housewife!
Work… – From what I’ve seen and experienced, they’ve got it right here. People do tend to leave work at 5/5:30pm and there is an active understanding that people have their own lives to live. In general it appears to be more flexible and less hectic than bigger cities in the UK (this may well backfire when I move into my next role J)
..And Play! – Here you can not go wrong. As I mentioned before, if you love the outdoors, the sea, mountains, you’re sorted. There is honestly so much stuff to do at the weekend. From hiking (‘tramping’ as it is referred to here), camping, road-tripping, wine-tasting to watersports and it is all so accessible.
Getting around – Public transport is limited especially if you’re used to big city convenience, but it is being constantly improved. So far this hasn’t been too much of a problem for us as we are within a decent distance of various areas of the city so can choose to walk, hop on the bus or get a quick Uber. If you are planning on living over here for a while a car would definitely be needed to maximize your experience, It’s all about the road tripping after all.
Also don’t be fooled, Auckland does also suffer from rush hour traffic as for many commuters the only way in and out of the city is by car (yup the train connections are still limited). We’re currently awaiting the opening of a new section of motorway early next year, which should have a hugely positive impact.
Social – Coming from London, yes it is a little slower here. The pace tends to ramp up Thursday/Friday/Saturday and it can be pretty quiet during the week (so far I can only refer to my experience of winter here). We’ve had some great and random nights out though and it’s actually quite refreshing when you get back, look at your watch and see it’s not even midnight (or maybe this is me getting old). Adam has however sampled the bright lights ‘til 4am so we can confirm there are places that keep the party going.
It’s also harder than you expect to meet people. Or perhaps I should say like-minded people. It’s friendly enough but as in all cities you still need to put a good amount of effort in to establishing yourself, finding your pals and this is definitely an ongoing work in progress. On the plus side it keeps you on your toes. Back in London I was lucky to have an awesome collection of friends and friends of friends so the fun was always right there with little effort required. Here, I am reminded of what it’s like being on the other side and that you’ve got to work a bit at creating new circles of friends.
Cost of living – Auckland is pretty expensive and pretty much on a par with London prices. Internet, food, drinks are similar in cost and in some cases more expensive (a cucumber cost me £2.50 the other day- not to self don’t buy vegetables and fruit when they’re out of season) yet you can buy a decent car at a really reasonable price and you don’t pay council tax for example when renting.
I think a lot of people expect Auckland to offer a cost effective option for city living but it’s definitely worth investigating a bit before you come so you’re not too surprised. Obviously as you head out of the city it becomes a lot more reasonable so don’t necessarily let it put you off. Just make sure you have it covered in your costs.
Weather – Well I’m a Brit after all. It wouldn’t be complete without a comment on the weather patterns. Saying that, I have had many a conversation, Kiwi-initiated may I add, about the weather, which makes me feel it might be a popular topic generally where the weather is changeable. So we arrived in winter and while it doesn’t really get cold-cold, I can honestly say I have never seen so much rain (apparently this is an abnormal year, yeah yeah whatever, that’s what we tell people at home!). As long as you embrace it though, it’s fine. At the other end of the scale, when that winter sun shines you can happily be in a vest top having a BBQ. It’s definitely a four-seasons-in-one-day’ kinda place so make sure you’re ready and armed with all types of layers! We’re heading into Spring now and the sunny days are coming slowly, and I have been told by many that Summer is going to bring out a whole new side to Auckland, more beaching, more BBQs and more outdoor activities!
Arriving with the right attitude – There are of course a number of elements to consider when you move abroad, but for me the most important of all is your attitude. It’s never easy going somewhere completely new especially if you haven’t got a job or social circle to walk into but how you choose to deal with this will teach you a lot about yourself.
It will be lonely at times. Those frustrating days of yet another job rejection will leave you feeling a little bit lower than if you were at home – you haven’t got your best buddies just down the road to laugh it off over an evening vino. However in my opinion what far outweighs these challenges are the opportunities that open up from trying something new, and the rewards gained over the long-term from taking yourself outside of that comfort zone. Yes you need to be patient, I have to remind myself of this everyday, but I know it will be worth it. And when small doubts do begin to angle their way in I remind myself of why we made this move, and think about if I was still in London – absolutely no regrets.
So if you’re reading this and you’ve been thinking about making a move to somewhere new, follow your gut and give it a try. Be bold, be ready to commit yourself and keep an open mind, as I really do believe we only regret those chances we didn’t take. Good luck and enjoy!
Be sure to keep up with Sarah’s New Zealand adventure on her blog.