Permanent move North of UK to Auckland - how on earth do I choose if it's the right thing???

(78 Posts)
IndecisionCentral Wed 14-Jan-15 22:05:08

DH is considering a job in Auckland. We currently have a good standard of living in North of England with young DC. DH has worked in oz before but many years ago, and has always been keen to return to Australasia.
We both work in healthcare and are disillusioned with the gradual erosion of the NHS.
Attractions are new challenge, better summers, beautiful country, better childhood for kids (?)
Concerns are kids feeling unsettled (both at first and later - will they hate us for taking them away from the opportunities in the UK), missing family (they're supportive and we don't see each other that often anyway), whether we'll ever feel we belong, if we will actually get a better quality of life in NZ, the dismal wet winters.

I've been reading loads, for weeks and weeks. I have a few questions for anyone out there who has been in our shoes and made the leap and would really appreciate some help.

Some people say education is great, others that class sizes are huge and not close to UK standards. What's the truth? DS is currently in private school which we would consider but had hoped class sizes and standards were reasonable enough to not have to.

Auckland seems very expensive for housing and there's is a lot of mention of v expensive foods and day to day living costs. Is this considerably worse than the UK?

If you live in nz and particularly Auckland as an immigrant what would you say are the best bits about living there? And the worst?

It's so so hard. I don't want to make the mistake of a lifetime, nor miss the opportunity of a lifetime. I know no one else can choose for me but I'd really appreciate some views from those further down the line. Thanks.

OP’s posts: |
dontevenblink Thu 15-Jan-15 01:23:39

Hi indecision, I've been in nz for just over 3 years now. We had never visited before we moved here, and knew we wouldn't be able to afford to move back as well (many called us crazy and I suppose it was a bit grin ), but we'd always wanted to move abroad and dh had an amazing job offer where they paid for all our moving and visa costs so felt we'd regret not doing it. Luckily we love it here and for us it is the best move could have made.

I've had 2 children here and ds2 has had a minor operation, and can honestly say I was really impressed with the level of health care here. I've also got a few friends who are nurses, some British, some kiwi, and they all seem to really enjoy it. In fact most of the medical staff I've come across have been British... we are taking over nz grin

Only my eldest is at school, but we are really happy with it so far. Dd1 was in a class of 18 in year 0, 20 in year 1 and will be starting year 2 in Feb in a class of 24. The biggest class in her school is 30 in year 6. This seems to be fairly similar to most of the primary schools I've seen here. Not sure about secondary though. The school has a swimming pool they are in 2 or 3 times a week in term 1 and 4, and they spend a lot of time outside. Schools tend to a lot of music and we've found do has made great progress. Can provide you with some links on curriculum if you want.

For food have a look at countdown.co.nz and do a practise online shop. The home brand stuff and select range are normally fine. Pak n save is cheaper but they are not online. I don't find I spend anymore here but I do buy on offer and get fruit and veg from a farm shop which is a lot cheaper and nicer, and only buy what is in season.

For us day to day living costs are fine. We live next to the beach and a forest so lots of free things to do, plus loads of parks here, some with free paddling pools. We do lots of outdoor stuff, we have kayaks for example and we're out on those at the weekend.

You can be limited on choice here and it can be annoying knowing how cheaply and easily you could get something for in the uk. Clothes are pretty rubbish quality, but you can get pretty cheap kids ones in Kmart. I really miss being able to buy uk supermarket clothes!

Can I ask why auckland in particular? We are in Christchurch on the south island and think it is fantastic. Summer has been great, if you have a grey day it is generally sunny the next, unlike in the uk where it tends to hang around for ages. We have seasons here but winter is nowhere near as cold and grey as uk. Auckland is very expensive for houses, buying or renting, has really shot up in last few years. Dh has been working on a big rebuild project here in Christchurch which is coming to an end and as his work is quite specific we have been looking at the north island too, but for what we pay in rent here it looks like we would have to add on 200 to 300 a week to get something similar in Auckland, with a big commute. (May still have to do it though which I'm not happy about as I love it here, but that's a whole other thread grin). If you're in Healthcare could you look elsewhere? The waikato is beautiful for example and much cheaper, or places like nelson, Napier etc? There are definitely a lot of mumsnetters in Auckland, and it is supposed to be a lovely place to live though, so I'm sure they will be able to tell you more.

Overall I think living here is great for some, others not so much. I do know people who have moved back due to missing family. There are a lot of the problems you get in the UK too, it isn't idyllic, but for us it was the perfect move and I wouldn't want to bring my 4 DC up anywhere else at the moment. There are things I miss (dd1 would love to go to the west end to see matilda for example, and we can't afford to fly back to see family which makes me sad) but the good outweighs the bad.

Anything else I think of I'll add, feel free to ask questions smile Sorry that was so long!

ToastedOrFresh Thu 15-Jan-15 03:19:49

My husband is from Auckland, although he's British born. His 79 year old mother lives there. His sister also lives in Auckland. She is married with 3 kids aged 15 and 9 year old twins. His view of Auckland is been there, done that, read the book, bought the t-shirt etc.

We moved from UK to NZ in February 2011. After visiting rellies in Auckland initially we moved to Christchurch as that's where our furniture was scheduled to arrive at.

We moved out of Christchurch in June 2011 when my husband was offered a job in provincial New Zealand in a small town 120 miles north of Wellington.

Auckland is very expensive. It's ridiculously expensive. Although that's like saying London or Edinburgh is expensive for housing. The list of Auckland suburbs with houses worth in excess of a million dollars (about five hundred thousand pounds to put it in perspective) is growing.

The newspapers here love to tell tales quite frequently of houses bought for, say, six hundred thousand kiwi dollars in Auckland then sold for double that i.e. over a million kiwi dollars just 3 years later. The purchasers are grinning that they could afford to buy it. The vendor seems to be laughing all the way to the bank. Perhaps the purchaser thinks the same thing will happen again in a similar time frame. Maybe they've got a crystal ball.

The north shore of Auckland is where the expensive residential property is because that's how they like it. The north shore of Auckland is and always has been a fuss over nothing if you ask me. My husband's sister lives there but that's a whole other story !

There's just one bridge that goes over Auckland's harbour (The Auckland Harbour Bridge to give it it's full name !) It's about four miles long. That's how you access the north shore, and in turn the city in the other direction. Imagine if London only had one long bridge e.g. the Queen Elizabeth River Crossing at Dartford and no tunnels or other bridges to cross the Thames. Also, no M25 equivalent to get around the city either. That is what makes the North Shore a mugs game in my opinion.

There's no industry or office parks on the North Shore it's just endless suburbs of identikit housing built around a shopping mall. This just replicates itself again and again. Like something out of a science fiction film. When my husband and I were in Auckland last month we could not believe how many different plots of land were getting chewed up so yet more of the same could be built ! I don't mean individual house plots, I mean whole swathes of, 'clean green New Zealand' were about to be gobbled up by earth moving machinery.

My husband keeps wondering what/who is it all for ? They can't all be journeying back into town for their work. There's only a finite amount of work available in Auckland. I defy any of them to pay mortgages of 700,000 kiwi dollars for a new build on retail workers wages. Are these houses rented from absentee landlords ?

There's a lot of resentment of Asians and Indians in Auckland because they've got the money to price NZ born Aucklanders out of the property market. It's called the Asian invasion. They are not wild about saffers either (South Africans) but at least saffers are white skinned. The racism in Auckland will leave you open mouthed.

Auckland's lack of infrastructure is just about legendary ! They have built a dedicated bus lane that ONLY buses can use which eases some of the overcrowding on the road from the North Shore into town. They've got trains but they don't go over the bridge as there was never any rails built for them. So access around Auckland by train is on a few selected lines.

More and more motorways and roads are being built. It's obviously providing employment for some.

I don't have children, I can't advise you about schools.

There's less income tax to pay in NZ. Also, there is no National Insurance requirement.

If you, your husband and child/ren move to NZ, you will have the devil's job getting him to move back to the UK. That's all I'm going to say on the matter.

ToastedOrFresh Thu 15-Jan-15 03:30:43

You may already be clued up to the internet chat site, 'British Expats.com'
It's got lots of other info too but the chat threads are interesting and can sometimes get heated !

There's a dedicated NZ thread plus chat threads for other countries too. Not forgetting the, 'moving back to uk' (mbtuk) chat thread for those who, for one reason or another, have had enough and are ready to go home !

You may have to develop a thick skin if you sign up to this free website as some people have asked a civil question about NZ on the NZ thread and just got their head bitten off and then reamed just for asking.

However, there are some people think it's a great resource and everyone on it is friendly.

ToastedOrFresh Thu 15-Jan-15 04:09:55

If you live in nz and particularly Auckland as an immigrant what would you say are the best bits about living there? And the worst?

Worst (for me and it's just my own personal experience):

cake Being unemployed for up to a year at a time. I find this infinitely frustrating.

cake Only being only able to get temporary jobs which are few and far between.

cake Not being able to claim unemployment benefit because my husband earns more than the minimum wage.

cake Not having a pension here in NZ. My husband and I have opted out of the NZ superannuation scheme called, 'Kiwi Saver' there is no National Insurance payable here, so, no pension. Just this government sponsored scheme called, 'Kiwi Saver.' We mostly have to live on one income and need every cent.

cake Being four years behind with our National Insurance contributions in Britain. I understand you can pay them from overseas but we are living on one income and can't afford it.

cake Getting the knock back from prospective employers again and again as I look for work which has been the continuing theme of the four years that we've lived here.

cake my self esteem being on the floor because of the above.

cake put on shed loads of weight to the tune of 110kgs and I'm 5'2" because of eating to much cake due to comfort eating because of the above.

cake worried that my cv is shot to pieces so I won't have much credibility with a prospective employer should we return to Britain

cake doing voluntary work to fill in the gaps on my cv, does that give the wrong impression ?

cake Christmas and New Year in the heat of summer. It does my brain in.

cake Nothing to mark midwinter, just the shortest day. Yup, that'll be June.

cake Easter in the Autumn. Halloween in the Spring. Schools returning to the new academic year in January. Back to school adverts in December and January. Autumn and winter in the same year.

Best:

cake we don't live in Auckland

cake we live on the coast

cake my husband is doing a job that holds his interest in prestigious offices within walking distance of home earning good money, well, for NZ at least.

cake He gets to see some of NZ's world famous natural beauty all as part of his job. He works for the NZ government department that manages government owned crown land. Last year he met his boss for a site visit in the 'saddle' between two live volcanoes ! He had half a day's skiing at a local ski slope with his new work colleagues as part of his hello and welcome to the department 3 years ago.

Hope you like all the cake I've used. Much nicer than bullet points.

peasandlove Thu 15-Jan-15 05:04:16

Bet you hate being called a whinging pom too coz you certainly live up to that stereotype

ChippingInLatteLover Thu 15-Jan-15 05:18:52

Toasted. I'm sorry you are so unhappy there, I really do feel for you,

However, that's a 'character assassination' of Auckland/NZ which is vastly untrue.

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Whowouldfardelsbear Thu 15-Jan-15 05:21:13

We're in Wellington. Our suburb has excellent primary schools - my DD1 was in a class of 18 year 1 and will be in a class of 16 next year in year 2. The very maximum they want to go to is 20 in a class and this seems to be the norm for most primary schools. The only thing that bothers me is a lack of foreign language teaching in schools until high school (13). That may just be my local experience though. Kids tend to start school on their 5th birthday (happy birthday!)

Childcare seems to be relatively cheaper. You get 20 hours free for 3-5 year olds. When DD1 was 5 and DD2 was 3 I was paying just under $800 (around 400 pound) a fortnight for full time care for both of them.

Hotter summers - the sun is very intense and you need to be really onto it with sunblock/hats etc.

Yup - everything is that bit more expensive - miss the range in supermarkets and the high street, but you get used to it and when i went back to the UK after a few years for a visit i was a bit freaked out by the size of the supermarkets!

Housing is expensive and mortgage rates are currently about 6.75% floating rate. we were paying 10% when we first got here.

Overall i love it here and have no desire to move back. It feels a lot safer than Europe at the moment (except from earthquakes!).

Whowouldfardelsbear Thu 15-Jan-15 05:25:30

You pay for GP visits (from June this year they will be free for children under 13 at least). However, I can usually get a GP appointment the day i phone and my GP spends as long as is needed with me at the appointment.

Dentistry is horribly expensive so if you do come out get anything and everything done you need. It can cost around 1000 pounds for a root canal.

peasandlove Thu 15-Jan-15 05:27:53

Considering a huge number of Brit expats move to the north shore of Auckland, also contributing to the ridiculously high cost of housing I felt it was an unfair and uninformed assessment too.

Whowouldfardelsbear Thu 15-Jan-15 05:28:16

You know - I've actually grown to like summer xmas - we have a bbq breakfast on the beach - most people leave the cities and there is none of the panic buying/black friday and monday madness. Our local supermarket is practically empty of shoppers on xmas eve.

I DO miss having something to cheer up winter - no bank holidays between June and October. However, you will quickly meet enough expats to get together for a midwinter Xmas in June!

Kakaka Thu 15-Jan-15 05:30:05

I'm from the North of England and can defiantly say the weather in Auckland is a HUGE step above the UK.

It probably helps that we are in week three of summer and it is 30C today. I'm expecting another three weeks of this at least. Winters can feel tough, partly cos of the housing but in truth they are not that bad. It tends not to rain all day here, just for a while, then the sun will come out and you can go outside. I have not seen frost in 7 years.

Re opportunities for kids, I had a wee chuckle at your worries there OP. This is exactly why I don't want to leave NZ! My DC has such an awesome life here. And the kiwi can do attitude means she is probably more likely to do something awesome with her life than if we had stayed in the UK. She may not go to Oxbridge but kiwi's are so enterprising and look at all the opportunities in Australia, Asia, the US, the Middle East and Europe.

Housing is an issue in Auckland though. Central suburbs do attract a $1M+ price tag these days so if you want to buy, you would need a 20% deposit. You could look out West (trademe.co.nz is best for realestate). Check out titirangi which is very popular and cheaper than central.

Toasted- you seem like you have had a hard time work wise ans I sympathise. It has take me a while to get into good employment too.

ToastedOrFresh Thu 15-Jan-15 07:30:40

Peasandlove - thank you for your comments

ToastedOrFresh Thu 15-Jan-15 07:33:00

Peasandlove - unfair and uniformed ? Are you for real ? Don't forget I live here and have relatives on the North Shore.

ToastedOrFresh Thu 15-Jan-15 07:36:34

ChippingInLatteLover - are you for real ?

I have told the truth. How can you possibly tell me it's untrue. I have lived here in NZ for four years come 28th Feb 2015.

I am flabbergasted that you think what I have written is vastly untrue.

ToastedOrFresh Thu 15-Jan-15 07:37:59

Peasandlove - I'm really angry that you dismiss the things that bother me just as whinging.

peasandlove Thu 15-Jan-15 07:45:57

well did you ever think that your comments are offensive to those of us who are born and bred in Auckland and the North Shore? Please. How long did you live on the north shore to give such a cutting opinion of it?

ToastedOrFresh Thu 15-Jan-15 07:57:01

I have nothing more to add to this particular thread. Good luck to the OP.

WhatSheSaid Thu 15-Jan-15 08:07:19

OP - have lived in Auckland 13 yrs. out if town on a lovely holiday at mo smile with limited internet. Will be back to answer yours qu's tomorrow.

brassywind Thu 15-Jan-15 08:44:38

I have lived in NZ for 4 years now ... I'm a lawyer and DH is a teacher. We came here so that our DS had more freedom and beacuse we were fed up with all the changes to the education system in the UK. Looking at what Michael Gove got up to I think our concerns were well founded.

We are not in Auckland. but are on the North Island in a larger regional town - don't want to out myself so won't say where. Happy to answer any questions if you PM me direct.

There are cultural differences, but nothing that you won't get your head round without difficulty. Skype makes the distance from family more manageable. M&S deliver to NZ for free grin as do Next, Boden and John Lewis deliver for a smallish fee. I enjoy my work here, wages are less is you try to do a direct comparison with UK wages, but it is artificial to do so IMHO.

Yes, it took some getting used to, but we don't intend to move back the UK, no way. However, we had been to NZ before we made our decision to move out here.

JapaneseMargaret Thu 15-Jan-15 09:18:07

I can understand people having a problem getting their head around a summer Christmas (although it's fabulous if you throw yourself into it).

But, come on! NYE is made for summer, and a zillion time better than freezing your arse off on near-enough the shortest day in winter...! wink

Auntlinny Thu 15-Jan-15 09:32:07

I have lived in NZ for 12 years now, some of the time is Wellington and most of the time in Nelson. Firstly, I think that everything you have heard about schooling is untrue. NZ has a world class schooling system in the primary years and is working hard at its secondary schooling. I wouldn't bother with private education - there are many great state opportunities, whether that be big multi-cultural schools or little rural schools. Generally class sizes are smallish - my children are in a class of 16. Outdoor education is big here as are sports (swimming everyday in summer) and my children's school is big on music and drama. The curriculum is flexible enough to allow schools to play to their strengths. My children are not engaged in after school activities all the time, but they are part of a sailing club, they ski in the winter and my daughter has riding lessons which are very reasonable. They are also part of a theatre club and surf in the summer. There are lots of opportunities for families to do outdoors stuff together - walking (lots of access to government owned huts for over night stays - the cost is minimal), outdoors events and festivals, a rapidly growing network of cycle trails, kayaking, great camp sites.

Property is very expensive in Auckland and this is talked up by the media. But if you are moving here with pounds, you should be able to find something suitable. Lots of people are very critical of our biggest city, but I have only had good experiences of Auckland. It is very pretty with lots of open spaces, gorgeous beaches and water views. Good access to education and some great bars and places to eat. Transport is shocking, but Aucklanders seem to get used to it.

Christmas in summer - well kiwis seems to have got their heads around it and the traditional kiwi Christmas is around the beach and the barbie. I do like to throw a mid winter Christmas party in June though.

IndecisionCentral Thu 15-Jan-15 09:56:41

Thank you all so much for taking the time to reply. It's great to get different views.

dontevenblink the link to the supermarket was really helpful. Overall not as bad as I expected but my goodness some of the fresh food is pricey! You asked why Auckland, it's purely because that's where the job is. We're both senior medics and DH in particular has a special role that we are unlikely to find again (he's been looking for years). On the plus side if he gets the job it's likely to come with removal expenses and we are lucky that we could afford to spend a substantial amount on a house. On the negative, I'm not a natural city dweller and would run a mile from living in London for example, so not my ideal but better than a long commute and hopefully we could find somewhere in Auckland with a villagey feel, we've looked at mount Eden and Epsom.

toasted I'm sorry you're so unhappy. I can completely understand how soul destroying it must be to be out of work and away from family and friends. It's one of the reasons we've decided we wouldn't go unless we can both get jobs. I'll have a look at the website you recommend, thanks. The racism is a worry. We are Caucasian but I would hate dc to grow up thinking any form of discrimination is acceptable.

whowould it's interesting what you say about feeling safer. It's one of our concerns about staying here in the UK, that the country seems to be getting more aggressive IYSWIM. But I did worry about some comments about gang culture being rife in Auckland. Don't know if that's more than any big city or not. I did also take a big gulp at the mortgage rate of 10%!

Kakaka that's really useful to get a comparison of the weather. DH has this idyllic idea of sitting outside having bbqs most evenings and being out at the beach, but I was concerned that would only be for a couple of weeks a year with the rest spent in much the same wet gloominess as a northern England autumn. Very reassuring you think it's better for kids there, I suppose I worry they'll get to school leaving time and regret there are more limited employment opportunities and I suppose I'd be disappointed if they went half a world away for uni. Wouldn't try to stop them of course though!

Brassy thanks. I think I'd prefer a town rather than city but needs must. I had heard M&S deliver but didn't realise it was free grin I have been to Auckland but it was only a 3 week holiday about 15 years ago so I can't remember enough to make it useful. I do remember thinking nz was beautiful (only saw North isand) and was somewhere I could live. Wages discussed would be pretty much what we earn here so I'm hoping with the reduced tax we wouldn't notice the increase in cost of commodities too much. How long did it take you and dc to feel settled? Does it feel like home?

A random logistical question. If we rent to start and all our stuff is in a shipping container, do we rent unfurnished and buy air beds and the like or furnished and have to find somewhere to store all our stuff til we can buy? Silly I know but can't get my head around how that bit works. The thought of packing everything up is rather terrifying but I don't want fear of change and a bit of hard work stop me from grabbing a great opportunity, if it really is that.

I am finding all this v helpful. Thanks again.

OP’s posts: |
IndecisionCentral Thu 15-Jan-15 10:07:41

Sorry japanese and aunt I took so long replying whilst potty training DD that I xposted with you. Heat at Christmas doesn't bother me - quite like the idea of a bbq on the beach! Thanks so much for the details of schooling and opportunities for kids, that sounds like an incredible life and the sort of things I'd love my dc to have the chance to try.

I googled one of the better rated schools in the area we're looking at and they mentioned that kids starting school should be able to dress themselves and it would help if they knew their colours and could count to 10. This worried me as DS is age 4 in reception and is reading and writing well and doing basic maths, as are all his classmates, and I didn't want him to have to take a step back. Will have to email a few schools perhaps.

Thanks again

OP’s posts: |
ChippingInLatteLover Thu 15-Jan-15 11:31:25

Indecision

Re DS and school. They don't start until their 5th birthday in NZ (on their birthday! Or the day after if they prefer, but most are keen to go on their birthday, weird little things).

It honestly won't do DS any harm to enter the class a little above the average (if he is) as it will give him some confidence and he can concentrate more on settling in. He's a good age to change too as he won't be too set in the way they do things in the uk. Schools are different, the kids are different, the rules and routines feel different. All good though smile

It also sounds like the school are worrying you, by trying not to worry you. Most kiwi kids are far in advance of that at 5.

Gang culture in Auckland. Well, it's not the same wee country it was 50 years ago, but neither is the uk. There are a couple of areas in Auckland I wouldn't choose to live but there's not a single one I'd be afraid to go to. There are a couple of well known gangs, but they tend to keep to their own areas and fight each other, you really rarely hear about them or see them. The vast majority of serious crime in NZ is 'known to victim' stuff.

Auckland is a city, but to be honest, it's more like a large english town or small city. It's nothing at all like London.

The North Shore is lovely. The harbour bridge does get congested, but no more so than our motorways and if you are working shifts or flexi hours it's even less of an issue.

Online shopping. This is one area that it's like stepping back in time. People actually GO to the shops to buy stuff! grin. There's a lack of variety in most things, but it's the price you pay for living in a country with the land mass of the uk but the population of London. It's sometimes frustrating, but on the other hand, do you need the choice of 100 different fridges etc? It's a less 'disposable' lifestyle, there's not the massive array of budget shops, but there are some.

Learn to love cooking. They really don't 'do' ready meals or anything like the children's convenience meals, snack etc you see here.

I wouldn't rush into choosing as area to settle in. If it were me I'd book into a motel for a month, not worry about school, and just look around Auckland and decide where you'd like to live. You could stay at the motel for another few weeks or move to one in the area you think you'd like to live. I'd rent for a year, then buy.

Weather. NZ has 'good' summers and 'bad' summers like we do, but their bad summer is better than our good summer. It's not as light as late as it is here, but you get used to that and it's lighter until 9pm for more weeks than it is here.

At this rate I'm going to talk myself into going back! My parents will love you!

(I'm here because I have other family & friends here and like to travel around Europe. Love NZ though. It's just a shame it's so far away from Europe!)

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