I conducted a poll on my Instagram stories asking if you’d be interested in hearing my pros and cons of living in New Zealand. It turns out, quite a few of you are intrigued, so here we are.
For those of you who are just tuning in, here’s a quick rundown: I studied in Auckland for three years before moving to Toronto for another three. I’ve now lived in Christchurch for just over two and a half years. I’ve talked (and raved) about my life in New Zealand before on this blog, but have never talked about the drawbacks. Every country has flaws and I think it would be irresponsible of me not to acknowledge New Zealand’s shortcomings. New Zealand is consistently ranked as one of the top ten countries in the world and scores highly on social progress indexes, so keep that in mind while reading the following. While this does err on the slightly political side, it’s not my intention to persuade anyone of my views. I’m only striving to give a truthful and personal overview of my experience as a New Zealand resident.
Driving and urban planning
The road rules in New Zealand are archaic and favour the motorist instead of pedestrians and cyclists. We had a friend visiting from Toronto and he remarked that a woman had given him the finger when he was crossing the street (she was turning left…) This aggression and car-centric mentality has serious consequences to the built urban environment, making it way less safe and vibrant. If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t see people out roaming the streets and walking from restaurant to bar, etc., well… maybe look at your road rules and driver training programmes.
It can get pretty damp and dreary in the North Island and frosty in the South Island, yet New Zealand homes aren’t equipped with central heating. Some don’t even have double glazing, which is a huge health concern in the winter months. Having a warm, dry home should be a basic human right.
New Zealand has some of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world. It breaks my heart to hear about families and young children living in their cars and going to school without lunch. The youth suicide rates are also alarmingly high as are family abuse statistics.. Many local organisations and programmes have been put in place to alleviate some of these issues and it’s a top priority for the new government.
Intensive dairy farming
For a nation that prides itself on being ‘100% pure, clean and green’ New Zealand’s agricultural practices are pretty lousy. The intensive dairy farming is taking a major toll on the environment and many of our lakes, rivers and streams are completely polluted and not fit for swimming.
It’s not often talked about just how remote New Zealand is… It is basically a four hour plane ride to the nearest country, which makes going somewhere culturally different for a long weekend or even a week a virtual non-starter and immediately expensive. This can mean a quite limited world view, which brings me to my next point…
While I love the relaxed, ‘she’ll be right’ attitude displayed by Kiwis, it does irk me that those who constructively critique New Zealand are often harshly scrutinised. Who remembers when Taika Waititi said he wasn’t proud to be Kiwi (because of high suicide rates, polluted waterways and racism) and was immediately labelled ‘treasonous’ by Duncan Garner? Every nation has issues, racism exists in every country. Shouldn’t we be impressed by Taika for having the courage to tell the truth while actively trying to make New Zealand a better place? It’s the only way to move forward.
Progressive national government
It’s refreshing to see young, forward-thinking and progressive Jacinda Ardern take charge as New Zealand’s new prime minister. For a nation of under five million, she is ambitious about what New Zealand can achieve on a world stage and is serious about climate change. She’s also expecting her first child in a month, proving you can be a mum and create a better future for New Zealand at the same time. Maybe we’ll get back to that clean, green, truly egalitarian image the world has of New Zealand…
Never far from the sea
Having grown up near plenty of lakes, but nowhere near the sea, I love being so close to the ocean in New Zealand. I think it keeps Kiwis humble and grounded, being constantly connected to nature. No matter where you go, you’re never more than 80 miles from the sea. Pretty amazing, right?
Ongoing efforts to protect Maori culture
The indigenous people of New Zealand arrived more than 1,000 years ago from Polynesia and make up 15% of the population. The country is continuously trying to right past wrongdoings from land ownership rights to language revitalisation and preservation of cultural traditions. Maori and Polynesian culture is everywhere you look, truly embedded into New Zealand culture, from the haka at the start of every All Blacks game to the way people greet one another. As a Canadian, I find this truly special and remarkable.
Since the 17th century, cafés have played an important role in the enrichment of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities. They act as the third place for urban dwellers, a home away from home and a daily ritual. If you follow me on Instagram, you understand my obsession with the café scene here in New Zealand. Even small roadside cafes and tiny rural towns seem to pump out quality flat whites at record speed… (maybe it’s the milk industrial complex?) There’s also the abundance of quality food available alongside the coffee. In Canada, it’s quite common to encounter ‘specialty cafés’ that have no real menu apart from soup and sandwiches, but in New Zealand, even the smallest cafés offer a full breakfast and lunch menus.
…And then there’s the wine
New Zealand has some of the best wine in the world. There’s an abundance of incredible wine in New Zealand, both in the North and South Islands. In fact, North Canterbury is one of my favourite wine regions in the world. It’s incredible to see such small regions producing organic, biodynamic wines that are some of the best in the world.
Affordable domestic travel
While New Zealand is super remote, domestic travel is increasingly affordable. Internal flights are cheap and distances between cities and even islands are manageable. This means many Kiwis have the opportunity to explore their beautiful backyard, visit friends in different cities and even move from city to city quite seamlessly.
Oh and New Zealand has a fantastic airline.
Kiwis are generally less materialistic and image conscious than people in other countries. People aren’t judged on the way they look rather on the merit of their ideas. That said, New Zealand consumers are generally well-informed and attempt to buy from sustainable and ethical brands whenever possible. There’s an awareness and urgency to ban single-use plastic and disposable coffee cups, which I find is commendable.
Preservation of native birds and wildlife
New Zealand’s flora and fauna differs from every other large land-mass on earth due to its long isolation and uniqueness as a (near) mammal-free environment. And it’s remarkable the lengths New Zealand has gone to protect its native birds and wildlife. If you’ve ever been to Zealandia or any of the other eco-sanctuaries around the country, you’ll appreciate the research and conservation efforts that have gone into protecting and restoring the native wildlife destroyed by humans and mammals.
So, there you have it. A pretty straightforward list of pros and cons of living in New Zealand. As I mentioned, I wanted to create a list that was honest and informative for those who know very little about New Zealand. If you’re planning on visiting, know that New Zealanders are some of the friendliest and helpful people you’ll ever meet and will make you feel right at home.