Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Migrant Stories - A British Canadian's Perspective

From this post was written recently by a British Canadian woman who'd returned to Canada after a spell in NZ. A good many of the problems she encountered are experienced by other migrants, she is by no means unique. (see Migrant tales from NZ)

"My husband and I just left NZ 2 weeks ago after living there for 11 months and we are now back living in Canada. I was born in the UK, but married a Canadian. I lived in the UK until I got married in 1986, lived in Canada until 2007 and then we moved back to the UK. My husband has the right to live and work in the UK. We spent 7 months in the UK and in March 2008 hubby saw a job advertised by an Accredited Employer in NZ. (Google Accredited Employers for a list of employers who sponsor people to move to NZ)

Our experience living and working in NZ was an absolute nightmare and it would take me days to explain why, it was mainly related to work, so may I suggest that you look into the following points extremely carefully before you make the move.

- Make sure the job is what they say it is. Many employers lure people to NZ with great job offers and it turns out that it is not what they are making it out to be. I had a freind who was a NZ Police Officer, he told us that the NZ Police are one of the worst offenders for doing this and another friend who was in the Prison Service said the same thing. Some employers will hire you and not pay you. (That was my job, worked and never got paid a penny.) Still trying to get the money via a debt collection agency, but that's another story. I was ripped off by 2 different employers to the tune of $15,000.

- You will pay for every visit to the Doctor, it ranges between $40 & $60 per visit, depending on which Doctor you get. That's if you can get a Dr., to regsiter with, as there is a definite shortage. The health system is like it was in the UK about 30 years ago, it SUCKS! If you are on expensive medication they have to apply for a special number from the government so you can get the medication and if they say no, then you either can't have it, or you will need to pay full price for it.

Shopping - We found prices to be high, for both food and household items. Most NZ'rs buy stuff 2nd hand from Trade Me because they can't afford new things. Wages are low compared to what things cost. Amongst other things, a cooked chicken as big as your fist, costs $15.99. Yes, they really are that small. 3 Litres of milk is $6.79 and forget cheese. There are places like the Warehouse where you can get cheaper things, but most of it is imported from China and breaks within a few weeks, cheap tat, but you get what you pay for. Do your homework on prices and wages before you go.

Housing - Oh my gosh, we have lived in many Countries, but NZ has to have the worst housing in the world. It's just like living in a shed at the bottom of your garden. No heating, no insulation and no double glazing and for this you can pay $350 A WEEK, yes we did. I am not exagerating here, most of the garages in the UK are better heated and insulated than the houses in NZ. The 1st house we rented was only 7 years old, no heating whatsoever, little insulation and no double glazing. Double glazing has only just been introduced as a requirement for new builds this year, so houses pre 2009 do not have double glazing and houses are cold! Mould is common place in 90% of all houses because the condensation is incredible. You will need to run a dehumidifier constantly and we bought oil filled raditators for heat because they were the cheapest source of heating if there is no wood burner and our electricty bill for ONE MONTH was $400!

Cars & Insurance - Vehicles are expensive compared to the UK. A car which is 10 years old in the UK can be picked up for under 1000 pounds, the same car in NZ will cost you $5,000 and the mileage will be extremely high. You need a WOF, (warrant of fitness, which is the equivalent of an MOT) every 6 months at a cost of $55 each time. Car insurance is not mandatory, you don't have to have it and many people don't. If you do get it, it will cost you around $365 per year if you have full no claims bonuses, but take a letter of experience with you from your home Country or you won't get them.

Telephones, Internet and TV - Cell phones, not a lot of competition here. You have Telecom and Voadafone, both are expensive and sim cards will cost you approximately $35 to buy and then another $20 for the minutes. Most people in NZ text as it is cheaper. Landlines, Telecom charges 45 cents per minute for long distance calls within NZ, shudder to think what the per minute rates for overseas were. I never used them I used a VOIP program on the internet for all my calls and texts which was next to nothing. TV, if you don't have Sky you get about 6 channels, same as Freeview, you pay $350 for a freeview box and only get about 6 channels, what a rip off. I couldn't believe the price of the Freeview boxes, especially as UK Freeview boxes can be picked up for 25 quid. Internet, not cheap. I paid $80 month for my internet, you can get slightly cheaper packages, but it's still too expensive. Mostly DSL, only get cable internet in the bigger cities.

Utilities - Check out the real cost of electricity, gas, telephone, tv, internet before you go because none of these are cheap.

Crime - Considering there are only 4 million people in NZ, the crime rate is horrendous for such a small amount of people. Police are understaffed and crime is abundant. Petty crime is rife and you just don't realize how much crime there is until you live there. Even my friend who is a NZ Police Officer admits the crime rate is extremely high and I myself am an ex Canadian Police Officer and I know what high crime rates are. Many criminals get away with things because the Police don't have the manpower. Boy racers are all over the place too. Kids who race their cars up and down residential streets.

Weather - It depends on if you like rain or not. Maybe we were unlucky, but it seemed to rain constantly during the 11 months we were there. We had a few sunny days, nothing too hot, but the summer was nothing to rave about.

People seem to think that NZ is the land of milk and honey. Nowhere on this earth is there anywhere like that. Having lived in many different Countries there are problems with every Country in the world, good points and bad everywhere you go. People leave their homeland because they think they will get a better life somewhere else. Well, it doesn't matter where you live really, life is what you make of it. You can't change a Country, you have to live with whatever you get. NZ for us had more bad points than good, that is why we left, but for you it will probably be completely different. Heavens knows we certainly did not go for the money. We went because we heard stories of a better life and more freedom etc. It didn't work out for us, my husband's job was not what they said it would be and he was incredibly unhappy.

They often say "home is where the heart is" and this could not be more true. My heart is in the UK and for all it's faults, it's my 'home' and we will be returning there after hubby has finished his work here in Canada.

For anyone who is thinking of moving out of their own Country, please do lots of research before you go anywhere. It is so easy to be starry eyed because living in another Country sounds romantic. When you actually have to live there, it becomes a different story completely. I wish I could take all the good little bits of every Country I have lived in and make a whole Country out of them, but of course we can't do that. Just remember, the grass is not always greener on the other side. Statistics in NZ show that 1,000 people EVERY WEEK leave NZ to go to another Country and may people who do immigrate there from the UK, end up going back."

Today's posts - click here



    New Zealand landlords and agents are notoriously inventive in their descriptions (although legislation has been introduced to try to curb this) and they can make the shabbiest, most tumbledown ‘villa’ sound like a palace. If you use an agency or estate agent to find a rental property, he will usually charge at least one week’s rent as commission.


    Over the years New Zealand’s developers have built thousands of homes designed for a tropical climate in which we do not live. It’s as if, as an immigrant nation, we are still struggling to move in properly after more than 160 years, still hastily slapping up houses made of ticky-tacky and red corrugated sheds, too busy taming our wild new horizons to settle in.

    The leaky homes scandal’s big shock was that houses are supposed to keep the wind and the rain outside where the garden is. It provided a much needed wake-up and smell the mildew moment for a nation dozing in a damp patch. Shortly afterwards the elaborate financial structures built around these houses of cards came tumbling around our ears along with the paint flakes from the ceiling...


    Good picture of typical Kiwi houses and how crowded they are with the shambly fencing (except for the brick part - few are brick, more are mouldy frame).

  4. You can't judge an entire country just by the one place you live in!! Especially not NZ. The landscape and weather here changes as quickly as the speedo in the car. It sounds like you were very unlucky with your experience! Perhaps doing a bit more homework on the country would have given you the rewarding experience a lot of immigrants enjoy. Did you look around? I live in the sunniest place in NZ, Nelson which has weather to rave about, warm swimming beaches to die for and a low crime rate. And as for $350 for a freeview box - WHAT? We got ours for $60, along with 1000s of other kiwis. And $55 for a WOF? You can get them as cheap as $30. The cost of living is not cheap, but if you immerse yourself in NZ and its people, and enjoy its breathtakingly beautiful, unspoiled and uncrowded outdoors, the rewards are endless and you only have to share it with 4million people.

  5. Thank you for your comments.

    Research is to be highly commended, it's useful to have some feedback from someone who's content in NZ and who knows the country so well, Nelson in particular.

    Any news on the Czech tourist who was stabbed at the Motueka back packers, did he return home safe and sound? hope it didn't spoil his experience of NZ too much.

    Have the people in the Motueka Post Office Hotel recovered from their recent knife-point robbery yet? it must've been quite a shock for them all, our hearts go out to them.

    And did the police ever resolve that spate of minor arson and vanadalism in Motueka by the "young and often intoxicated"?

    The German tourist who was mugged in Nelson must've been gutted when his 17 year old attacker was only given a community detention, wonder if he'll ever come back or recommend the town to his friends back home?

    Still, you have the sunshine, and the yellowcake that passes through the port and the methyl bromide that leaks out when logs are fumigated on the dockside.....

  6. I just spoke with a friend in Nova Scotia, and she said that green peppers or capsicums at the height of the off-season period were a third the price of NZ in its own off-season period. Now, Canada is covered with snow and New Zealand in most places has no snow and they can garden mostly year-round down there. So how do they justify those prices.

  7. With that Canadian woman it was probably the accent surcharge. They hear a North American accent and charge you insane amounts for things. If you don't know any better, you pay them. It isn't until you have been here for years that you start to find out what the locals pay. Which is STILL too much. But less than if you are a naive cash-cow migrant.

  8. Dave's ESL Cafe had a good honest piece on New Zealand, with the usual crafty refutation by the "member with commercial interests", but they deleted it.

  9. Don't you just hate it when that happens!

  10. @site owner regarding Dave's ESL Cafe.

    Depends how commercial the site is or how many people with commercial interests hang out on it. Sometimes it is not a commercial site, but members with commercial interests "squat" there.

    Immigration forums can become very heated with all the love-its and hate-its grappling on stage and behind the scenes about their defended versions of reality. It's a shame. How many of these forums, for any country, actually provide the support they were presumably organised to do?

    In part, this is because to survive in the new country, migrants can't be honest about not liking where they are, or they have to change themselves radically to fit in. In the case of New Zealand, they didn't sign on for a life of fake happy, false humility, and/or poverty. You either knuckle under or move on. And if you can't do either, what do you do? Fight the good fight alone, if you have to.

    The laissez-faire non-managed forum approach doesn't always work either. Big Brother or Lord of the Flies? You choose.


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