Friday, January 15, 2010

New opportunities in a new land

New Zealand is a new and vibrant land. Our growing economy is characterised by a willingness to innovate, adapt and try new ideas. As small nation distant from our major markets, we have to be innovative to survive. And this ‘can do’ attitude has yielded some impressive results. In less than a decade, our film industry has grown from tiny beginnings into a producer of such international successes as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Whale Rider and The World’s Fastest Indian. Similarly, our once unknown wine industry now consistently produces award winning vintages that are sought after internationally. Over the years we have chalked up an impressive record of technical breakthroughs in science and technology and the range and diversity of our commercial products has burgeoned.

It is no accident that it was a New Zealander who first scaled Mt Everest. With our ‘can do’ spirit and record of innovative commercial enterprise we offer fertile ground for new ideas. As a small economy we also offer different types of work opportunities. Our companies are small and less formally structured and this calls for broadly-based skills rather than narrow specialisation. Diversity and adaptability --- and the opportunities that come with this more flexible approach to work ---- are essential to the way we do business.

Our lifestyle is also open and expansive. New Zealand has a thriving cultural life, with a unique mix of European, Maori, Polynesian, Asian, and increasingly, other traditions. Traditional social constraints and class structures are less evident. We have a firm belief in social equality and a dislike of formality and stuffiness. The differences between high and low income people are not pronounced and most New Zealanders have access to a range of affordable social and sporting activities. We are passionate about sport and have a great love of the outdoors. The range of activities available from sailing to fishing to mountaineering is huge. Easy access to the great outdoors is a feature of our way of life and even those living in the major cities are often within less than a twenty-minute drive of open and unspoilt countryside.

As a migrant destination New Zealand has a lot to offer. But life here will also be very different from what you are accustomed to and these differences are something you must take full account of before deciding to settle.

First, a few considerations

New Zealand is a small and distant country. For those accustomed to larger, more metropolitan societies this can come as a shock. Of all New Zealand’s cities only Auckland with a population of over a million, about 25% of the national total, would qualify as a major city. For many migrants, our other centres have more the feel of a country town and provincial towns often seem more like villages. If you love big city life, these features will not appeal. Our smallness is also reflected in other ways. The range of consumer goods is more limited and prices are sometimes higher. When compared with larger developed economies, New Zealand wage scales are also lower. This has to be kept in mind when comparing living costs which must be measured in terms of your New Zealand not your current salary. The opportunity to develop highly specialised skills is more limited. Standards tend to be more uniform, with few schools and no universities comprising an elite.

Although new technologies are constantly making it easier for us to keep in touch, quick overseas trips are not an option. Our closest neighbour, Australia, is still three hours flying-time away and overseas travel remains costly and time consuming. Divorce rates amongst migrants are high and distance from family and friends is often a contributing factor. If family and friends are important to you, this is something you’ll need to weigh carefully before choosing to settle here.

New Zealand is a new society. Although Maori settlement of Aotearoa goes back almost a thousand years, the cultural roots of other New Zealanders go back little more than 150. A rich sense of history and tradition is something you will not find here. Freedom from the past can liberate but for some, this lack of history can engender feelings of isolation and loss. As a new country we also have our own way of doing things. Our housing is lightly constructed and employs different materials and styles. Two-storey houses, double glazing and central heating are uncommon and construction is generally of wood or manufactured materials. Our roads are usually limited to two lanes and in the country often have a gravel or metalled surface. We are also a do- it-yourself culture. If you want things done about the house, you must generally do them yourself. Home decorating and renovation is a national obsession and you’ll need to take a hands-on approach to most things. Domestic servants are not available and status counts for little. As a New Zealander you will be expected not to stand on your dignity and ‘muck in’ like a good Kiwi, whatever the occasion.

Source: New Zealand Immigration

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