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How to move to New Zealand

New Zealand was ranked No. 1 as the most livable country in 2016 by The Legatum Institute, an international think tank based in London. Twenty-six other countries are wealthier, but researchers factor in other criteria such as health, freedom, business opportunities, governance, nature, safety and education.

New Zealand welcomed 69,000 newcomers in 2016. Immigrants from around the globe, along with the indigenous Maori people, make New Zealand a true melting pot of diverse cultures.

Follow these steps to make your move to New Zealand and become a Kiwi:

  1. If you do not yet have a job, visit the immigration website to find a list of positions for which the country has a shortage of talent. If your skills match up with a job listed on the website, you can apply for a Skilled Migrant or Long-Term Skill Shortage visa.
  2. The job list is extensive and includes all sectors. Sports, the arts and entertainment are additional avenues to obtaining a visa.
  3. You will have to provide copies of your passport, birth certificate, financial information and employment history. Personal references and a clean bill of health from your doctor are also required.
  4. Applications take about 25 days to process, and far more are approved than denied.
  5. If you are approved, your visa will entitle you to work in New Zealand for 30 months. After 24 months at a job for which talent is scarce, you may apply for permanent residence or another temporary work permit. You must live in the country for at least five years before you can apply for citizenship.

The immigration website has many valuable resources for newcomers. Hiring a trusted moving company with international experience will further ensure that your transition to New Zealand is a smooth one.

The Great Outdoors

New Zeland CountrysideFor such a small country, New Zealand has an astonishing number of distinctive features. There are rolling hills, rugged mountains, picturesque fjords, roaring waterfalls and even an active volcanic plateau. In geothermal areas, you will find mud pools, geysers and soothing hot springs. The varied coastline stretches for more than 15,000 kilometers. Parts of the North Island have sandy beaches that are ideal for swimming or surfing.

The overall mild climate is warm and dry in summer and cool and rainy in winter.

New Zealanders are well known for their sense of adventure. Bungee jumping, whitewater rafting, heli-biking and snow skiing are popular pastimes. Avid spelunkers find the cave system challenging. For the faint of heart, there are parks, nature preserves and hiking trails throughout the country.

The People and Everyday Life

Downtown AuckalndNew Zealanders call themselves Kiwis after the native, flightless birds that populate the country. The human Kiwis are exceedingly friendly and admired for their sense of humor. They wholeheartedly embrace hospitality, so you will likely be invited to their homes. They appreciate honesty and directness. They welcome questions. They are proud and patriotic, and they enjoy acquainting newcomers with their customs and local idioms. Kiwis also have a reputation for being thrifty and resourceful. They dive enthusiastically into do-it-yourself projects and rarely call on experts for help.

The Maoris were New Zealand’s first settlers. They account for only about 15 percent of the population, but they play a prominent role in society. Their food, customs and values have long influenced the culture.

New Zealand is a famously egalitarian society, so the natives are always happy to meet newcomers and learn about their homelands and customs. Racial tensions are virtually nonexistent.

The egalitarian philosophy extends to wealth and social status as well. There is no formal class structure, so common laborers are just as admired and respected as business tycoons. Addressing a waiter in a superior tone, for instance, would be deeply offensive to everyone at the table.

Many immigrants are surprised by the respectful, noncompetitive interaction between men and women in business, government and society. Depending on where you are from, you might see more women in positions of leadership than you did back home. It has been this way for a long time. New Zealand was the first country in the world to extend voting rights to women.

Expect to see smiles all around. Not only are New Zealanders known for their cheerfulness, but smiling is a common courtesy that is expected when eye contact is made. Formal titles are shunned. Upon meeting new people, Kiwis almost immediately shift to a first-name basis.

You might be used to central heating where you live. In New Zealand, heating systems are almost an afterthought. There may be small heating units or fireplaces in some rooms, but Kiwis usually just add more blankets or layers of clothing when they get cold indoors.

Dress is casual, and you should not be surprised to see people barefoot when shopping for groceries or walking their dogs.

New Zealand regularly produces award-winning cheeses and wines, and you will sample some of the finest roasted lamb in the world. Snapper, scallops, oysters any many other seafood offerings are fresh from the ocean. Fish and chips, along with iconic sausage sizzles, are sold on just about every corner. Sizzles are something like hot dogs, but they are made with sausage links, tomato sauce and grilled onions.

Tardiness is considered disrespectful, so always call to apologize if you are running late. Excessive noise of any kind is also frowned upon. Indeed, it is illegal to honk your car horn between 10:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m.

Cost of Living

Houses of New ZelandYou might pay slightly more for groceries, clothing, gasoline and other everyday items, but big expenses like housing and higher education are comparable to those in the U.S.

Health care is funded through general taxation and government subsidies. It is either free or very affordable.

The Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranks cities from most to least expensive. Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, was ranked 123rd in 2016. Auckland, the largest city, came in at 98th. By comparison, New York City landed in the 16th spot.