Why New Zealand? The Pros and Cons of a Working Holiday in New Zealand

10 mins read
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When I’m chatting with friends and family overseas, it’s the question that I’m asked most often: so, what’s it like living in New Zealand? The short answer is easy – it’s great!  After all, I am writing this from my home base in Auckland, where I still reside, over six years after first arriving for what was supposed to be a brief working holiday. Of course, as real life tends to be, the full answer is a little more complicated. No big life-changing move is without its ups and downs. Even though the UK is culturally similar to New Zealand, and we share the same language (kind of!), life here is just a little bit different from home.

If you are interested in the more nuanced answer to ‘what’s it like to live and work in NZ?’ then this blog is for you. I have spent some time thinking about my experience to date, and have pulled together my personal list of Pros and Cons of the Kiwi experience. Emphasis on the personal – because what I may see as a negative, might not be for you? Read on to find out.


The Pros

Beautiful scenery

I’ll begin with the obvious one. New Zealand is gorgeous. It’s a country known for its natural beauty, and there’s a huge variety of outdoor landscapes to enjoy. There are tropical rainforests and beaches in the Far North, rugged coastlines the length of the country with golden sand on the east coast, and striking black sand on the west. NZ has a multitude of untouched coastal islands, sparkling lakes, fjords, and lush green forests. There are spectacular, soaring mountains with breath-taking alpine landscapes, and plenty of snow in the South Island, if that’s your thing. The scenery is truly diverse, and I think there’s something for everyone.  And because New Zealand is relatively small it’s easy to see much of what the country has to offer, even if you are only here for a short time. You are never too far from a beach, a bush walk, a vineyard, or a new place to explore. My words may not do this beautiful country justice; if you are into the outdoors and looking for some dreamy inspiration, I recommend this section of the NZ tourism website.


Relaxed culture

New Zealand is a laid-back kind of place. From the way that people talk, to how they dress, ‘casual’ is an apt description. Like any society, there are extremes, but overall the culture here feels very egalitarian.  There’s not too much worrying about your background, where you went to school or University.  My experience of the workplace is a similar story. While the office where I work is officially ‘corporate’, the corporateness is just a tad more chilled out than you might find in large city in England, for example. I’m really enjoying the relaxed environment, and feel this is one of the big advantages of living in Aotearoa.


Life and work balance

I think this Pro is related to point above— in my opinion, the whole work/life balance equation is tipped favourably in the direction of life, here in NZ. The pace is a little slower. It’s accepted that you do have a life outside of work, and you’d like to leave on time to go for your walk / play sport / meet your pals. Weekends are for friends and family. Most office environments tend to close down, or work reduced hours over the big summer break—yes, that’s Christmas-time down under!  There’s plenty of public holidays (12 – slightly more than the UK) and generally, a helpful attitude to balancing work with relaxation time. Of course, every job and situation comes with stresses, but from what I’ve experienced, and observed, there is just a tad less pressure than you may experience in your typical workplace in London or Manchester for example.


Great work opportunities

New Zealand was impacted by COVID, like everywhere else in the world, but the economy doesn’t seem to have suffered any lasting damage. Certainly there is a high demand for workers, and unemployment rates are incredibly low. What this means for Working Holiday Visa holders, and other visa-holding migrants, is that there is a LOT of opportunity in the job market.  Businesses are crying out for workers, and if you get your resume looking polished, yourself work ready, and search in the right places, you should have no problem finding the work you want while you are here. In last week’s blog, I discussed the temp work opportunities you can enjoy on Working Holiday Visa, so make sure you read that post, if you haven’t already. My next two blog posts will cover exactly what you need to do to successfully find a job here in NZ, so make sure you check back next week to read more on this topic.


Friendly Kiwis

The locals I have encountered in Auckland, and while travelling the country, have been friendly, welcoming, and especially willing to help—Kiwis love a lost tourist with a map! New Zealanders always seem interested to hear about who you are, where you are from and what travel plans you may have. I’d describe it as more of a low-key, relaxed friendliness rather than big extroversion, which is kind of NZ culture in a nutshell!

As for the native birds, seeing a real life Kiwi is a little trickier. Kiwis are nocturnal and reportedly a little shy, but there are wildlife centres, and wilderness walks across the length of the country where you can see one, and hot tip – they have a special night-time Kiwi habitat at Auckland Zoo.


The Cons

The distance

By most measures, New Zealand is far, far away, and it’s isolated.  A trip to ‘nearby’ Australia is at least a three hour flight. If your country of origin is somewhere in Europe, then jetting home for a quick visit is probably out of the question, with the shortest flight distance being at minimum 24 hours, and the cost likely to be significant (especially now, post-COVID).  The closest mainland US destination is 13 hours. Basically, you are literally on the other side of the world, and travel anywhere else is a big effort. Here’s my positive spin: it’s a good reason to make the most of seeing the whole of New Zealand when you are here!



Homesickness is something you might experience when you move away from home, and wherever you move to, but I do think it is compounded and magnified in New Zealand by the distance, as per my point above.  I miss my friends and family back home, and it’s no easy effort to see them.  Thank goodness for digital technologies!  I do a lot of video calling, WhatsApp chatting and updating my Facebook on my latest travels to make sure I stay in touch with loved ones.


It’s quiet out there

New Zealand has a population of just under five million, and this means it is a relatively quiet place. There simply aren’t a lot of people around, even in the biggest cities like Auckland and Wellington. Of course, there are plenty of bars, nightclubs and restaurants etc (the foodie scene is big here) but there aren’t quite as many options as you’d find in a bigger city. Places close early. There are fewer festivals, and less chances to see your favourite bands, as many of them don’t tour here. If you are used to a faster-paced, busy lifestyle, then NZ may not deliver. Of course, on the flipside, if you prefer the quieter life then you may find all of this a big tick in the ‘Pro’ category.


Housing quality

A friend of a friend moved to Wellington in the middle of winter, and had already organised to move straight into a house-share with friends. When they arrived in the middle of the day as planned, no one else was home, so they duly let themselves in with the key that had been left out. They put their backpack down and because it was really cold inside the house, spent the best part of an hour searching for the central heating switch. Reader, there was no central heating. In fact, there was no heating, full stop! Thankfully, landlords are now required to meet a minimum standard of heating and ventilation, but some houses can still be a bit cold and draughty (especially the pretty old Villas and Bungalows – they weren’t built for the colder weather!). Luckily, much of New Zealand is fairly temperate, but when you’re house hunting, try to find somewhere that’s been fully insulated and preferably has a heat pump (I’ll share more on finding a place to live in a later blog).  Otherwise you could always do what the Kiwis do…put on a jumper!


Access to cheap shopping

Remember how New Zealand is really isolated and far away?  Another impact of this is that there are a) fewer products and goods to choose from and b) you don’t get the really cheap deals you might see in continental Europe, the UK or the US.  Don’t worry, you can still get what you need—and there’s a thriving second hand goods culture and market here. However you probably won’t see the full range of choices that you are used to, and it might cost a little more than you expect.

Having said that, we are starting to see more of the bigger, popular overseas brands coming to NZ.  We’ve got Zara, H&M, JD Sports and more recently, Costco. There are a lot of great online shops too, I still get my deliveries from ASOS, the order take a little while to get here but they offer free returns.


It’s worth it.

And so ends my personal list of my pros and cons of living in New Zealand. For me, the minor niggles are massively outweighed by the positives, you only have to take a look at my recent holiday photos to see that it’s worth it!


Your dream destination for 2023?

If I’ve persuaded you that that New Zealand is the perfect working holiday visa destination, good news, the NZ government has recently made changes to help increase access to working holiday makers already here, and those looking to travel to New Zealand. This means that more people can come to visit and work in New Zealand. Get your visa sorted, and come on over!


Next week’s essential reading

Tune in next week when I will be writing all about getting work-ready. I’ll share my own story, and include all of the bits and pieces and practical advice on what you need to get organised in advance. Then the week after it’s a big one: 10 ways to find a job in New Zealand.

Gemma Hill
Principal Consultant

A bit about me In 2016, I arrived in New Zealand from the UK and my recruitment journey began. With experience in people focussed industries like healthcare and hospitality across the UK and…

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