Useful information on Living in New Zealand

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The Language Barrier in New Zealand

Language will not be an issue for British expatriates planning on living in New Zealand as 98% of its residents speak English. This is despite the country having three official languages. That being said, you will face some differences in spelling and grammar. Also the correct pronunciation of some common words may be difficult to grasp.

Employment while Living in New Zealand

New Zealand attracts thousands of expat workers every year, due to the beautiful country and laidback life style. If you’re looking to make big bucks, New Zealand may not be the right choice for you. Expats here are generally employed in diverse fields, like healthcare, education and forestry, and do not tend to be in high paid positions.

New Zealand’s Immigration rules are strict. Expats can only get work visas that last for a maximum of 3 years. In order to apply for one, you need to already have a signed employment contract. Your employer also needs to prove that they’ve searched for a New Zealander with suitable qualifications before you can live and work there.

This makes it extremely difficult for expats wanting to enter the country. For this reason, many expats that live in New Zealand are transferred within their existing company. If an expat’s professional skills are listed on the Skills Shortage List Check, they may find it easier to get employed by a local company.

British Embassy in New Zealand

Address:British Embassy Wellington  44 Hill Street Wellington, 6011 Mailing Address: PO Box 6140 Wellington 6140
Phone:(+64) (4) 924 2888
Fax:(+64) (4) 473 4982
Office hours:Local Time Mon-Fri: 08:45-17:00 GMT  Sun-Friday: 20:45-05:00

Emergency Services Contact Information in New Zealand

Emergency Service          Contact Number
Police / Ambulance & Fire Services111

Weather & Climate

People travel from all over the world to experience the natural scenic beauty that New Zealand has to offer, especially in the summer. As it’s in the southern hemisphere, New Zealand’s summer season lasts from December to February.

You might think that the UK’s weather can be unpredictable, but in New Zealand it can go from sunshine to heavy rain in an instance. For this reason, you are advised to always carry sun cream, as well as a rain coat.

The high level of snowfall in winter makes the mountainous regions perfect for skiing, which is popular amongst both residents and tourists. During the summer, there are high temperatures and sunshine which last as late as 9:00 PM. This will give you plenty of time to enjoy the many outdoor activities the country has to offer, even after work.

While living in New Zealand, you may experience an earthquake. This is because it is located in a seismic zone. There are also a number of active volcanoes in New Zealand which you need to be aware of. The local authorities and emergency services will be on hand to assist you in the event of a natural disaster, but we recommend you also familiarise yourself with the advice from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.


You are strongly advised to visit your GP 8 weeks before you move to New Zealand. This is so they can explain to you the health risks you will face there. It also means you can receive the necessary vaccinations for your new life in New Zealand.

New Zealand offers its residents one of the most comprehensive public healthcare services in the world. This system makes a lot of medical services available for free. These include; treatment at public hospitals, x-rays and laboratory tests. Dental care is free for school children only.

It’s important to understand that only long term expats, with work permits for more than 2 years, may be eligible for publically funded healthcare. Regardless of whether you are eligible or not, it is strongly recommended that you arrange private healthcare insurance. This is to ensure you’re properly covered for treatments you may require. It also gains you access to private healthcare providers.

Driving In Australia

Just like at home, you’ll be driving on the left hand side of the road. The quality of driving is similar to what it is in the UK. This will make living in New Zealand feel a little more like home.

The road infrastructure is generally of a high standard. However, many of the highways, connecting the cities, are very narrow, winding and hilly. It may take a while before you get used to them.

The narrow high ways can be very dangerous. Head on collisions are frequent and drivers are often unaware of how dangerous some of the turnings can be. Because the travel distance between cities is vast, it can take a while for assistance to arrive; so drive extra cautiously.

You can drive on your UK driving licence for 12 months after arriving in New Zealand. However, it is recommended that you acquire a local licence sooner rather than later.

Getting your New Zealand Driving Licence

In order to transfer your UK driver’s licence to a New Zealand one, you will need to visit any driver licensing agency with the following:

  • A valid UK driver’s licence
  • A current medical certificate, if required
  • Proof of passing an eye exam
  • A completed DL5 form (found here)
  • Evidence of identity and residency
  • The overseas licence conversion fee

Legal Requirements

The legal minimum driving age for people living in New Zealand is 16.

Driving insurance is not compulsory when living in New Zealand, instead a fee is charged when you register a vehicle. This fee covers the cost of medical claims and basic injuries but does not protect you against vehicle or property damages. We strongly recommend getting private car insurance to ensure you’re not at risk of having to pay out in the event of an accident.

Similarly to in the UK, New Zealand operate a driving licence points system called ‘demerit points’. Once a driver gains 100 or more demerit points in a 2 year period, he/she will be suspended from driving. Driving offences and their demerit points can be found on the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) website.

The NZTA enforce very strict rules and regulations to improve road safety; they offer a factsheet to help expat drivers prepare for driving in New Zealand.

Drink Driving in New Zealand

The maximum blood alcohol content (BAC) allowed in New Zealand for anyone younger than 20 years old is 0, which means you can be charged for drink driving after a single drink. If you are older than this the BAC is 0.8.

If your BAC is measured at above this you will face severe penalties. These include; an appearance in court, a high fine and demerit points on your licence.

Repeat offenders could face prison time and will receive a driving suspension, and will be on a BAC zero restriction for three years after the suspension is lifted. They may also need to install an alcohol interlock on their steering wheel that disables the vehicle if there’s any alcohol in your system. Find out more about drink driving in New Zealand here.