Date: 2006-04-04 14:07:00
first week in new zealand

Fifteen years ago, I was faced with the prospect of "bootstrapping" myself in a new country (when I moved from Canada to California). One needs to get a drivers license, a bank account, a place to live, and so on. Many of these things you can't get without doing something else first. It all (hopefully) fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. Here's some of the things we have run into so far:

  1. To get a bank account (at the good bank, anyway), you need a permit to be in the country for 12 months or more. We don't have that quite yet because our residency application is still pending.
  2. To get an apartment, you need a bank account so they can set up direct withdrawal. You also need a bunch of cash up front which you can either withdraw from the ATM over the course of several days (staying under the daily withdrawal limits), or wire to yourself, for which you also need a bank account.
  3. To get a bank account (at another bank) you need a residential New Zealand address. Starting to see the problem here?

We figure once we can get over the first hurdle of getting an actual address and a bank account, then we can tackle things like drivers licenses. Our existing drivers licenses are good for up to a year in New Zealand, but various other things will require local ID. Getting a drivers license also involves learning the rules of the road, which include a weird "give way to the right when turning left" rule which doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. For North American drivers, the equivalent rule would mean that when turning right, you would have to stop and wait for any oncoming traffic turning left to go first.

The good news is that I've accepted a job offer from a company here in Christchurch! Before I can actually start working for them, I need either a permanent resident permit (at least a few weeks away), or a temporary work permit (which we can probably get a little sooner).

Some other things we've learned in our first week (well, my first week anyway) here:

More later, I'm running out of time on the internet at the library.

The lightswitch thing is a britishism I suspect, since that is the way the lights are in India.

And being Canadian you are probably familiar with "Car Park" and so forth.
[info]kvarko : World Famous in New Zealand

My parents got a cental-ish heater installed in their house -- it's a floor-to-ceiling unit on the wall at the base of the stairs that blows up the stairs. They still have a moveable gas heater in the kitchen, that can be moved to the living room if necessary (usually not) and a little mobile electric heater in the bathroom.

My parents have a clothes dryer. And I think my brother and his flatmates do too... But you're probably right that the percentage of people who don't have dryers is much larger than in the US. Of course, it could also be that you're in the south island -- they're a little more primitive down there than in the north island :P

I never noticed the light switch thing -- I never noticed that there was a convention in North America, really. Light switches are toggles: whichever way the swicth is pointing, if the light is on you flip the switch in the other direction to turn it off... whatever direction that is. Maybe part of not noticing is that it was more visible to me that light switches in New Zealand were often more like rocker switches than the nobby switches we have in the US/Canada.

I was more surprised by the typical flush buttons on toilets -- being buttons, and there being two options of how much water to use.

On driving, my Dad said it's just a matter of generalizing it. Instead of getting used to the concrete specific configuration of left or right, think of it as keeping yourself towards the center of the road -- whether that's left or right. He says that, that way, he finds no difficulting driving when he goes back to the US to visit relatives.

Have you hit any one-lane bridges yet? :)

And don't forget to throw a barbeque for Christmas :)

to visit relatives

Sorry, I should have said "rellies" :)

[info]ghewgill : Re: World Famous in New Zealand
We've seen lots of one lane bridges! We drove around the back roads of the Banks Peninsula and drove quite a way on a single lane gravel road, up and over some hills.
[info]edm : Re: World Famous in New Zealand
The really fun ones are the one lane road-rail bridges. You want to be sure that there's no train coming before starting to cross those!

Nearest ones to you (Christchurch?) would be on the West Coast, eg, a little south of Greymouth. That's a nice (scenic, etc) trip to do sometime anyway.

Good luck with the bureaucracy...

"It's a bit daunting when shopping at the grocery store for something simple like laundry detergent, and there's not a single brand name that you've ever seen before."

Bah, whine! At least the products have English labels! :)

"We don't pay anything for incoming calls. People send text messages a lot because it's cheaper"

Same in Poland!

"There's an all-Maori channel on TV"

Are you going to learn some Maori?

"The whole opposite season thing is going to be confusing."

Sounds fun! :)
"Bah, whine! At least the products have English labels! :)"

Ok, yes you win that one for sure.

I bought a small book on Maori before I left, and I'll have to have a look at it when it arrives. I think it's in a box inside a box inside a container sitting on a dock in Galveston or somewhere right now.

The good thing about the opposite season thing, is that we missed a chance to go snow skiing in Canada this season, so we'll get a chance here in a few months!
Welcome to New Zealand.

FWIW, friends of mine (recently migrated from the US) have said that getting a temporary work permit is a pretty simple process if you (a) have a written job offer and (b) good qualifications, skills, etc, that would (eventually) qualify you for permanent residence. Permanent residence seems to take in the order of 6-12 months to process, assuming that you're past the qualification criteria.

On the one way/two way street thing, off hand I'd say that it's impossible to tell from the markings on the road itself. You either have to know, or look out for the street signs. Generally only inner city streets are more than one lane wide and one way (most everywhere else a street with two lanes will be two way). In cities with a lot of one way streets (eg, Wellington) you basically just have to remember the one way system when planning your trip.

Residental rent is almost always quoted as a weekly rate, but typically paid fortnightly. I suspect this dates back to when most people were paid weekly or fortnightly. The monthly rates in, eg, the USA seem just as strange to us :-) The weekly rates on random other things are mainly to make them look cheap I think, although it's also a handy way to get 26 fornightly payments instead of 12 monthly ones without many people noticing. (And of course a bunch of those "only $12 a week" style deals appear to the less well off people, who typically are still paid weekly or fortnightly.)

Heating is definitely an issue in NZ. Historically each house would have had a fireplace (or two) which would generally have been capable of heating the entire house. But most of the "modern" houses (eg, anything built in the last 30 years or so) tend not to have that, and a lot of the older houses (eg, mine from the 1940s) have had the fireplaces removed. So the heating tends to be free standing gas or electric heaters. I've seen a few instances of (US-style) central heating, with a gas burner in the basement, etc, but it's pretty rare. Heat-pump style heating is becoming more popular and gives an effect somewhat like central heating, at least in the warmer (northern) parts of the country.

Oh, and insulation is often a problem too. Particularly older houses are pretty poorly insulated, so the heat you add often disapates relatively quickly. There's quite an industry in retrofitting insulation. Beware of trying to heat an NZ house to US conditions all winter -- if you don't have, eg, a central fireplace, then it'll get expensive quickly.

The common approach is, as you say, to heat one room and generally try to live mostly out of that room in the colder months. And wear warmer clothes in winter, even inside. The US/English/etc approach of heating the house so much in winter you have to take most of your clothes off when you come inside seems strange to NZers. (One apartment I stayed in, in England, was heated so warm during winter that I was in shorts and a T-shirt just to avoid overheating.)

I'm surprised by your clothes dryer comment. I guess it's an upper middle class thing, but outside student flats pretty much all the places I know about have clothes dryers. It's still pretty common to do the washing when it's fine and hang it outside though. As you say, it's cheaper and generally better for the clothes.

Best of luck with the job/bank account/accomodation hunting.

Holy cow, people still use fortnights as a measure of time??

Hmm.. sounds like the wedding better damnwell not be in the middle of the NZ winter. :P
Thanks! I've since got all the immigration and job stuff sorted out, with an employment contract and a two-year temporary work permit in hand.

It looks like I'll be paying rent fortnightly (I'm accustomed to monthly), and getting paid at work monthly (I'm accustomed to twice a month). Different, but still entirely manageable.

Our flat is probably not terribly well insulated, we have lots of big single pane windows. It's nice when it's sunny, anyway! I'm still figuring out how to best use the nightstore heater. We also have a little electric oil heater that works well for our smallish bedroom.
The nightstore heater is best used with a separate "nightstore" circuit and meter, which you then arrange with the power company to be on the "nightstore" ripple circuit (which should give you a discount on the power for that). Then it's generally left to heat up each night, and cool down during the day. Probably by the evening you'll want the other heater to "top up" the temperature.

But do plan on wearing warmer clothes in winter than you would in summer, even inside. And reduce your room heating expectations accordingly. New Zealander's really do wear their warm jerseys inside during winter!

Congratulations on getting the job thing sorted out.

Welcome to Timbuktu.

Dare I ask if there are any organic farmers over there? Can you get organic stuff locally?
Absolutely.. there are a few places that sell organic stuff, but apparently more in the Auckland area than here in Christchurch. We'll keep looking around though.
If you ask me, by leaving the U.S. you added 15 years to your life. At least. The first thing you should both do is get enemas.

Hey, welcome... Though it's a pity you're looking to be Chch based. Makes hooking up a bit more awkward. :)
Oh, and when we came here we had no troubles at all getting an account at Kiwibank with nothing more than visitor permits. And the CADLs were respected for the full 1 year period as IDs, I'm sure TXDL would be the same.
Yeah, Kiwibank set us up with no trouble. I'm pondering whether to stick with them or move to Bank of New Zealand, which seems to have better transaction rates. Any experience with that?
I had the account where you keep +$4k and there's no fees, which worked well until reserves went below that mark. :) Are you planning to buy a house? If so, that's when you'll get the good deals; we got our mortgage through ANZ and get free everything with it. Seems like that's how all the banks work, get a big fat account with 'em and it's all good.
Ah yeah, that looks like a good option if we can swing it. :)
Greg Hewgill <>