A Working Holiday in New Zealand: How to Meet People

9 mins read
Job Seeker advice job seeker working holiday Working Holiday Visa

I hadn’t really thought about it before now, but being a Recruitment Consultant is a bit like being a matchmaker, without the romance (though if there are any Netflix producers reading this, that could make a great TV series…). As the intermediary who helps match employers and job seekers, and makes all the introductions, I understand how anxiety-inducing it can be to meet new people, and how stressful it is wondering whether you’ll find the right fit – the right place and the right group of people, where you feel like you belong.

If you’ve just landed in a new country where you don’t know anyone, the stress and anxiety of meeting new people can be even worse than in an interview situation! Making a new group of friends can seem like such a big, insurmountable task – at least that’s how it felt for me! But don’t worry, I’m here to help with some tips, advice, and a handy list of the best places to go to meet like-minded people and make new friends.


Put in some effort

My first, and very key message, is: you need to try.

Back home you’ve probably accumulated a collection of besties, friends, acquaintances, work colleagues and maybe some randoms you met at cousin Sally’s birthday party. You probably didn’t have to try very hard to acquire this group; most likely it all happened naturally and organically. However, that won’t necessarily be the case once you land in Aotearoa for your much-anticipated adventure. Most people you meet will already have their own group of friends, so you’re going to need to put in some effort to make connections, and my advice is to make peace with that. You might need to try a little harder than usual to build rapport, collect phone numbers, and make friends, but it will be worth it.


The proximity effect

Research shows that the closer you live to another person, the more likely you are to be friends with them, despite living in a world where nearly everyone has social media. This feels like common sense, but it’s also a useful insight for those of us who are intentionally looking to make connections, and even more relevant in New Zealand, where it can be difficult to travel long distances to visit people unless you have your own transport (public transport is less common and not super reliable!). So, in addition to making an effort, try to surround yourself with people and spend time in places where you’ll meet like-minded individuals. This is one of the reasons I mentioned in last week’s blog that I highly recommend staying in a backpackers when you first arrive in New Zealand.


My story

Many people have asked me how I managed the same transition, and I’ve talked a few times about my experience, so here’s how I handled things – not to say that I’m the best example, but I am pretty settled, with a great group of friends (and I did take some of my own advice)!

When I arrived in New Zealand, I was lucky enough to already have a friend living here who had a spare bed, so I stayed with that friend and unfortunately didn’t go the backpackers route (I would have otherwise!). I’d done a fair amount of planning, and I had joined a Facebook group that has subsequently become a big part of my life. Prior to arriving in Tāmaki Makarau, I spent quite a lot of time immersed in that group, connecting with members and asking for recommendations on everything from what suburbs to live in and where to find work opportunities, to the best places to go and things to do – you name the question, I probably asked it!

The group is called Brits in Auckland. Originally set up by a fellow Brit, when the time came for her to leave New Zealand she handed over the reins to myself and another admin. During my first year here, we started organising face-to-face meet ups for the group, and I made a tonne of friends through those interactions. Some of them are still here in Auckland today, and while others have returned back home or gone elsewhere overseas, they remain key people in my life. The Brits in Auckland group has become a great project for me, and it’s now grown to a group of over 6000 people! It remains a great source of community, connection, and fun. Speaking of my pet project…that leads nicely on to my list of the best ways to meet new friends here in Aotearoa:


1. Your Workplace or Social Space

I’m going to begin with the more obvious options, so I won’t dwell on them too long. Suffice to say, if you have a job or you’re heading out somewhere social – whether it be to a bar, club or pub – you immediately have the opportunity to meet new people and make new connections. Be open to chatting, apply my rule above (‘make an effort’), and you’ll soon start to build up a group of acquaintances that may lead to long-term friendship!


2. Social Media ‘Expat’ Groups

For anyone wondering, ‘expat’ is short for expatriate, which just means someone who lives outside their country of citizenship. These groups are great for meeting people from a similar cultural background, or who are in a similar situation to you. A bit of a safety net for when you arrive, these groups help you connect with other Working Holiday Visa holders or other travellers from across the globe. These types of groups are normally run via Facebook, so to join you’ll need your own Facebook account and there’s typically a simple ‘request to join’ process you follow before being granted membership. Here’s a list of some key groups I’m aware of, but there are loads more out there:


3. Meet Ups

Meet Ups are exactly what the name suggests; a way to meet up with like-minded people. It’s an online platform, self-described as a social network, that facilitates meeting other people IRL. The different Meet Up groups are organised by interests or locations etc, and you really can find a meet up for all sorts of interests! It might take a little while to find one that suits you or that ‘sticks’, but it’s worth pursuing. Below is a list of common meet ups that people I know have enjoyed:


4. Sports Groups

Remember how your mum was always trying to get you to join that netball team when you were younger so you could ‘make some nice friends’? Well, she was right, because sports are a great way to meet people. Kiwis love their sports (don’t worry, not just rugby!), and as I mentioned in an earlier blog, jobs in New Zealand normally offer a good work-life balance, so you’ll have the spare time to get some exercise while also making new connections. Whether you prefer football, cricket, hockey, or good old netball, visit Just Play to find a social sporting team near you, or try Googling your local sports centre to find their social leagues.


5. Travel Groups

You’re here in Aotearoa to travel aren’t you? So it makes sense to join a travel group! Not only does this give you valuable information about where to go, helping you schedule your itineraries and find the best place to buy that self-contained van, but it also gives you a chance to connect with others who are in the same situation – and that is excellent bonding material! As with many other groups, they’re normally run from Facebook; say what you like about Zuckerberg, but FB is a decent tool for this kind of activity. Here’s a snapshot view of the most popular travel groups I know of:


6. Community & Backpacker Noticeboards

Older generations think we don’t know how to use a pen and paper, but those community noticeboards (like you find in a supermarket check-out area) prove them wrong! Yep, old-fashioned notices on those little cards can be a great way to meet people! Fellow travellers will often put up cards, looking for someone to jump in with them on their next trip, to save on petrol and to share the expenses and joy of a wandering journey. You could try the same and post a card looking to meet like-minded people. Please just make sure that you’re little more wary, and do the necessary safety screening and checks before meeting someone in person.


Friends ahoy

Coming to New Zealand from a distant land on a Working Holiday Visa (or any other type of visa) is a big, life-changing adventure, and one where you can make new, life-long friends. What a magical opportunity! So while I know it’s not always easy, I reckon if you follow my advice, make an effort, and try out some of these options, you’ll be connecting with a like-minded crew of awesome humans before you know it.

Once you’ve got a few new pals, you’re probably going to want to explore a bit more of what beautiful New Zealand has to offer. Well then I’ve got the content for you!  I’ve been saving it up for the end of my blog series, nicely timed for the summer vacation of course. Next week’s blog is all about the best places to go when exploring beautiful 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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