New Zealand, also known as Aotearoa, is one of those magical countries that encapsulates all the best things mother nature has created. From fjords and mountains to glorious coastlines and hot springs, New Zealand is full of wonders and hidden gems, which is extraordinary for a country of its size.
With a rich Māori culture and a fantastic economy, there are many incredible reasons to move down under, but while New Zealand may seem like a dream come true, we need to talk about the disadvantages too. From earthquake zones and extreme weather to its isolated location on Earth, New Zealand has a few disadvantages you should be aware of if you consider building a new life there.
Luckily, I have had the chance to live, work, travel, and make friends in New Zealand, so I can provide an honest look at the pros and cons of living in New Zealand, which is essential to make your decision. After all, it’s better to know these things before packing up and flying halfway across the world, right?
With that in mind, here are eight pros and cons of living in New Zealand.
A Quick Overview & Comparison
|Pros of Living in New Zealand||Cons of Living in New Zealand|
|Great Job Opportunities||Earthquakes|
|Outdoor Lifestyle||Cost of Living|
|Friendly People||Quiet Life|
|Fascinating Culture||Extreme Weather|
Firstly, it’s handy to know where the country is located to make an informed decision about moving anywhere. New Zealand, for instance, is further across the world than Australia and is situated in the Southern Hemisphere. Getting to and from New Zealand requires a long journey, especially from North America or Europe, and its location means that the seasons are opposite to that of the northern hemisphere.
The country comprises two islands aptly named the North and the South Islands, which differ in many ways. New Zealand is also ideally situated close to several South Pacific islands like Tonga, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and Samoa, so many cultures can be discovered without flying too far from home. New Zealand’s location can have some benefits and disadvantages, which we will discuss further.
For now, let’s look at a brief comparison of the good and the bad features of living in New Zealand before we dive in.
Pros of Living in New Zealand
1. Friendly People
New Zealand has just over 5 million people (about twice the population of Mississippi), which is a relatively small population compared to places like the USA, Canada, Australia, and Germany. Because of its small population, the country never seems hectic, plus the people are some of the friendliest in the world.
While many like to compare ‘Kiwis’ to Australians, the truth is they couldn’t be more different. New Zealanders are very genuine, easy to get along with, and welcome you into their home as soon as they meet you. You can instantly have deep conversations with new friends, and their sense of humor is captivating, which is the key to any welcoming nation. If you are searching for a place to meet lifelong friends and enjoy fulfilling experiences, New Zealand is undoubtedly the place to make that happen.
2. Outdoor Lifestyle
One of the most fantastic things about New Zealand is its diversity. New Zealand has one of the most incredible landscapes in the world, and it features a bit of everything, making it a joy to discover. The fact that the country is so unique doesn’t get past the locals making the most of their country all year round, whether it’s surfing, hiking, skiing, watersports, and rugby.
Did you know that Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island is the world’s adventure capital, and bungee jumping as a sport was invented by AJ Hackett in 1986. To this day, visitors and locals love to experience the thrill of bungy jumping and sky diving, but also white and black (in caves) water rafting, bouldering, climbing, and every watersport known to man. This is the country to be active in!
3. Māori Culture
One of the most exciting things about moving to a new country is the thrill of learning about a new culture; the ancient Māori culture is no exception. Not only are the Māori people some of the friendliest on the planet, but they are so proud of their heritage that they are always happy to share stories, traditions, and rituals with people keen to discover more.
Across the country, you will find plenty of immersive experiences to help you get to know the rich culture of the Māori people, which sets New Zealand apart from other countries. Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, and their culture is proudly represented across the country, which is great to see, compared to its neighbor Australia whose indigenous people are sadly not yet as integrated.
4. Great Economy
One of the pros of living in New Zealand is the economy, and with an excellent economy come ample job opportunities and opportunities to start your own business. When it comes to economic freedom, a recent report from 2023 showed that New Zealand ranked five and had a score of 78.9 compared to other countries across the globe.
In addition, the report showed that the unemployment rate was as low as 4.6%. The former British colony is one of the region’s wealthiest countries, making it attractive to those who want to take their business abroad or find a good job with their current skill set. Their property rights score is above the world average, and in comparison to Australia, it ranks higher across many fields.
New Zealand is regarded as one of the safest countries in the world, and don’t take my word for it. According to the Global Peace Index 2023, New Zealand ranked the fourth safest country in the world, ahead of Austria, Singapore, and Portugal. It fell behind Ireland, Iceland, and Denmark, but compared to Australia, which ranked 22nd, this score is excellent and will give you peace of mind.
When making a move, it is essential to research the safety of each country you are considering, especially if you have a family. New Zealand is a top choice for many ex-pats since crime rates are relatively low in New Zealand, and the country remains peaceful.
6. Diverse Landscape
Regarding the pros of living in New Zealand, we cannot overlook the country’s landscape, which is second to none. For such a small country (267,710 km²) and just 66% of the size of California, the country packs a punch and features an incredible array of landscapes.
From geothermal hot springs and rainforests in the North to the southern Alps, vineyards, and fjords in the south, the country features elements of Norway, Canada, and the French Alps, but on a much smaller scale. One of the best things is that you can quickly go from the mountains to the coast, meaning you can ski in the morning and surf in the afternoon, a massive draw for the sport type.
7. English is the Official Language
While learning a new language can be exciting, it can also be stressful, especially if you need to start work immediately and struggle to communicate. It can also deter you from your everyday chores and responsibilities when you don’t speak the language, which isn’t the case if you move to New Zealand.
English is the official language in New Zealand. This element will be very appealing if you are moving from Ireland, the UK, the USA, Canada or European countries that use English in school or for business. While there may be some slang words and accents to learn, you can rest assured that communicating will be much easier.
8. Short Distances
Yes, this is a massive pro of living in New Zealand. The country is small, so the distances are short. The country comprises two islands, which are linked via a ferry that takes just 3.5 hours, and when crossing the country from Wellington to Auckland, it is an 8hr drive or a 1hr flight.
Flights within the country are relatively inexpensive, and there are plenty of ‘long-distance buses to take advantage of, as well as the scenic Rail New Zealand. One of the great things about the distances is that you can go from the rainforest or the tallest mountains to the sea in a couple of hours, making this a fascinating country.
Cons of Living in New Zealand
9. Time Zone
One cons of living in New Zealand is undoubtedly the time zone, which is New Zealand Standard Time +12 on the mainland and +12.45 on the Chatham Islands. One of the good aspects is that both the North and South Islands have the same time zone, but compared to the time zones of Europe or North America, it can be tough to stay in touch with family and friends.
Since the time zone is 12 hours ahead of GMT, this can be very difficult to call home, as your daytime will be nighttime in the other country and vice versa. Staying in touch will require a lot of sacrifices which can become very frustrating, and this is something to bare in mind when considering a move down under.
Thousands of earthquakes occur in New Zealand each year, and while locals are well used to this, it might shock the system when you experience your first one. Around 14-15,000 occur each year, and the country has had earthquakes that have had devasting effects, particularly around the Christchurch area.
One thing to be aware of is the area you plan to move to, as you need to make sure you are protected and your home is as earthquake-proof as possible. It is advisable to move to one of the cities less prone to earthquakes, such as Wellington, Hamilton or Auckland, which have been deemed the safest.
11. Quiet Life
While this can certainly be a pro of living in New Zealand, not everyone loves the quiet life, and it can wear off when you live there for years. New Zealand is a small country with a minute population, so that you won’t find buzzing nightlife in each city, and certainly not in rural towns.
The country is experiencing a slow growth rate and depends on international migration to help it thrive. If you are retiring or moving with a young family, this might be an ideal option, but if you are expecting a vibrant country with lots of busy cities like London or New York, then New Zealand will be very disappointing.
New Zealand can sometimes feel very isolated, and since you are on an island far away in the southern hemisphere, you will always need a flight to get anywhere. Flights to and from Europe and North America are exceptionally long, but you can get to parts of Asia in just a few hours, which can be great for a quick vacation.
New Zealand’s location and isolation are significant for many people, especially if you are leaving extended family and friends behind. You will need to bear in mind the hefty costs of flying back and forth to your home country or even going on a holiday, which will also take up a lot of time and require extra work days just to cover the time spent in airports.
13. Cost of Living
New Zealand has an excellent quality of life, but the cost of living and the house prices alone will shock you. A family of four can expect to budget $5,940NZ per month without rent, while a single person can expect monthly costs of $1,646 without rent. For instance, the overall costs are 43.6% higher than that of Spain.
To give you an example of the costs in New Zealand, you can expect to fork out around $5.41 for a cappuccino, $8.37 for a dozen eggs, and $15.99 for a bottle of wine, despite New Zealand being a wine-producing country. The average monthly net salary is $4,751NZ, while rent can cost $1,876 for a one-bedroom city center apartment.
14. Skin Cancer
Despite all the pros of living in New Zealand, you need to be aware of one crucial factor: the country is situated beneath a hole in the ozone layer. This means that skin cancer is a concern for anyone who lives there since there is little or no protection from the sun, so care needs to be taken.
New Zealand is a gloriously sunny country and experiences 2,300 hours of sunshine a year per 83 days (about two and a half months), which means you always need to be protected when the sun is shining. The country experiences higher levels of UV than other countries, which can be a safety concern if not taken seriously.
15. Opposite Seasons
Moving to the southern hemisphere can be exciting, but you might be deterred when you realize that all your seasons will be reversed. While your family and friends back home celebrate Christmas in the snow or colder weather, at least you will be gifted with the sun, which won’t always be nice.
Many ex-pats living in New Zealand tend to have a second Christmas in July to give them that sense of a traditional festive experience. In addition, you will need to get used to December – February being summer, March-May being Autumn, June – August being winter, and September – November being Spring down under.
16. Dental Treatment is Expensive
While this is something you might not initially think of, it’s worth noting that the costs can be very high when it comes to dental treatment. Yes, healthcare in New Zealand is subsidized but dental care is not, so when you go for dental treatment, you will need to have insurance or fork out a lot of money.
Shockingly only half of New Zealanders see a dentist regularly, if at all because the costs are alarmingly high. Dental care is free for those under 18, but over 18, you can expect to pay between $70 – $90 for an examination and around $250 for a single extraction, which is outrageous.
What are the disadvantages of living in New Zealand?
It is very isolated, is prone to earthquakes and is extremely expensive.
What should you know about living in New Zealand?
You will be welcomed immediately and have a healthy, active lifestyle, but you will pay high prices.
Is New Zealand friendly to foreigners?
Yes, they are among the friendliest in the world and welcome people of all nations, making it a multicultural society.
Is it worth it to live in New Zealand?
If you want to enjoy an excellent quality of life, raise a family, excel in your career and enjoy beautiful surroundings, then yes, New Zealand is a wonderful place to move to, despite the costs.