Expats moving to New Zealand have to make a distinct life choice. The island country is remote, sparsely populated and income levels are low when compared to countries such as the USA and the UK. At the same time, those who live in New Zealand are surrounded by awe-inspiring natural splendour and are able to enjoy a high quality of life. 

Around a fifth of the people living and working in the country were born overseas. New Zealand hosts large communities from the UK, North America, South Africa, the South Pacific, India and China.

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.

The country lacks the economic might of larger countries and faces challenges such as a growing income gap and high levels of debt. The government has made impressive efforts in recent years to address these challenges, resulting in a growing economy and a positive outlook. As a result, there are opportunities for expats with initiative, energy and optimism. This is helped by the fact that the country has been experiencing an outflow in which young, qualified locals have been moving overseas. As a result, 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. Major sectors and sources of employment include agriculture, finance, tourism and manufacturing. 

One downside to life in New Zealand is that seismic activity is a reality of life in the country, and residents experience around 200 felt earthquakes a year. Thankfully, only two earthquakes in the last century have caused significant losses. Residents usually have emergency plans for their families, and schools regularly practice earthquake drills. Houses in New Zealand are often built out of materials such as wood and plasterboard, which are more flexible and are able to better cope with earthquakes than traditional bricks and mortar. Local accommodation does, however, have a reputation for poor insulation and residents tend to dress warmly rather than warm their homes, which takes some adjustment for many expats. 

New arrivals will learn that New Zealand’s transport infrastructure is well developed and easily used. 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.

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. 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 are suited to the laid-back, outdoors lifestyle it offers will find that New Zealand has the potential to be an ideal expat destination.

Fast facts

Population: About 4.8 million

Capital city: Wellington

Other major cities: Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton

Neighbouring countries: While 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 a number of smaller islands. New Zealand's climate varies from cold and wet to subtropical in some areas. Much of the country's terrain is mountainous. The landscape is very dramatic and volcanoes can be found on the South Island.

Political system: New Zealand is a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarchy in which the British monarch is the head of state, as represented by the Governor-General. The head of government is the Prime Minister.

Major religions: Christianity

Main languages: English and Maori

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 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: 230 volts, 50 Hz. '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.