Reflections upon moving to New Zealand

We’ve now been in Auckland for two months – here’s a quick summary of some differences between life here and life in the San Francisco Bay Area that have struck me, avoiding the most obvious, in no particular order:

  • Almost all egg yolks are the gorgeous orange I associate with pastured eggs back home.
  • We’ve traded burritos for fish & chips, and approximately 1,000 options for Chinese dumplings. Though we have found one brand of halfway decent corn tortillas, we’ve yet to find any tortilla chips or salsas worth buying again.
  • Toilets don’t swirl the other way; in fact, they all seem to be low-flow, dual-flush… and what little water does go down, goes down straight.
  • Big, fluffy clouds (with and without rain) pass through on a regular basis, which makes for lots of rainbows and generally dramatic skyscapes, particularly at sunset. It is quite different from the standard coastal Bay Area options of clear, fog, or total cloud cover.
  • Pedestrians do NOT have the right-of-way.

  • You can hurt yourself here if you want to. As in: “dangerous” situations abound without fear of liability, on public and private property. I guess that’s partially a function of the existence of the ACC, NZ’s nation-wide insurance policy covering residents AND visitors in the event of accidents?
  • Most things (shoes, clothes, appliances, books) cost on average 50% more. Food is about the same, despite what everyone seems to believe; we suspect it’s because they’re not taking into account the fact that menu prices include tax and nobody tips here.
  • There are loads of used cars in New Zealand that have been shipped from Japan after having been driven a few years there. Despite researching a range of interesting and new-to-us makes and models, we ended up the exact same car I had at home: a silver Honda Fit. Similar vintage, but about half the mileage as mine had, and in much better cosmetic shape. We paid significantly less (and to a dealer who offered the standard 3-month warranty) than the Kelly Blue Book private sale rate I got for my old car.
  • TradeMe is the one-stop-online-shop for rental housing, used furniture / cars / other stuff, and even new merchandise. It’s like a mashup of craigslist+eBay in that most things are sold on auction. I this find annoying as a shopper even if I appreciate that it means prices end up being more fair, and I am grateful that often there’s a Buy Now option.
  • A lot of houses here get moldy thanks to a weird phase of less-than-ideal building codes and sub-par building materials, and we were warned that you have to be really careful when looking for a rental. 
  • Scott found us a 3br house in the Auckland equivalent of SF’s Richmond or Sunset Districts for about the going rate for a 1br apartment there. Amazingly, it was the first house he liked enough to send me the link on TradeMe, and he found it before we’d even left San Francisco! It was also the first house we actually viewed in person, but you know, due diligence… 20-something viewings later, we signed the rental agreement.
  • Rental units don’t come with major appliances (we now own a fridge and a washing machine, whee) and central heating or even built-in heaters aren’t really a thing here. 
  • Rent is due weekly, and I get paid monthly (though apparently that’s not the norm).
  • GPS service doesn’t seem to be as effective here, something we first noticed because of frequent, wildly-inaccurate Uber updates (we used Uber when house-searching): “Your Uber is 8 minutes away” and then a minute later, while you’re still brushing your teeth of whatever, “Your Uber is here” and then watching the car image slide magically through entire city blocks. We’re also trying to get used to constant unnecessary route updates while following directions via Google Maps.
  • Based on observations during casual conversation, the average Kiwi knows more about American politics than the average American… which reveals so many layers of grim. I find it really challenging to be an American in New Zealand at this particular moment in history, as most people here, when they learn where I’m from, want to discuss their opinions about all the ongoing Presidential shenanigans with me, in ways that fully absolve themselves of any accountability or deny the possibility of any impacts they might experience. I need to figure out a polite way to announce that I’d rather talk about something else until they’re ready to discuss ways to be part of the solution.

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