British Expats Living in New Zealand - Interview With Nicola

Published: 21 Feb at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,New Zealand
Nicola and her husband John are originally from the UK and currently living in New Zealand. Nicola is a trained English teacher back in the UK but taking a break from teaching to pursue her love of writing, blogging, travel and photography. Nicola has been so inspired by her time in New Zealand she is setting up her own travel consultancy business – called Blue Penguin Travel, specialising in offering off-the beaten-track advice and itineraries for others hoping to travel to New Zealand. Nicola documents her travel adventures on her blog titled Our Amazing New Zealand Adventure (see listing here)

Meet Nicola - British expat in New Zealand
Meet Nicola - British expat in New Zealand

Here's the interview with Nicola...

Where are you originally from?
Somerset in the United Kingdom.

In which country and city are you living now?
I am currently living in Queenstown in New Zealand.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
We are on the working holiday visas for a year and will be living and working all over the country. So I have only been living in Queenstown for a month. We travelled around in Sept/Oct and over Christmas and New Year and before Christmas we spent two months living in Auckland. We are considering extending our visas for a further year, so may end up staying over here longer.

Why did you move and what do you do?
We moved over here because we wanted an adventure basically! I felt my life back in the UK had become really stressful as I had just finished training to be an English teacher and had a high-pressured year. My husband is an IT contractor and his work contract was ending in September, so it just felt like the right time to make a change. We don’t have any children yet, nor do we own a house so did not have any ties (other than amazing family and friends) to the UK. We have visited New Zealand on holiday twice before – once back in 2006 and again on honeymoon in 2010. We absolutely fell in love with the country from the moment we arrived and decided it would be somewhere we were definitely interested in living. The working holiday visa allows us to live here for one year (which can be extended to two if we choose) and work and travel. This gives us the perfect opportunity to try out living over here and seeing as much of this beautiful country as possible. Taking a break from teaching I am currently in the early stages of setting up my own travel consultancy business (called Blue Penguin Travel – have a look here if you are interested) – and following a strong passion of mine – which is helping people travel to New Zealand and have their own amazing adventures.

Nicola and John and a Queenstown sunset
Nicola and John and a Queenstown sunset
Did you bring family with you?
Yes – I moved over here with my husband.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
We have been over here for 5 months and found the transition pretty easy to be honest. I think it depends on which country you go to, but there are lots of things in New Zealand similar to home – including the language – so you can adapt quite quickly. I think the culture is certainly very different though – and much more relaxed in my opinion! People are so much more laid back. I find myself stopping in situations where I would be very ‘British’ – so, get stressed or complain about something - and think ‘Be Kiwi!’ – i.e. chill out!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I have met quite a few expats – particularly in Queenstown and it is nice swapping stories with them. We aren’t really staying in any one place long enough at the moment to properly socialise regularly with people.

Nicola at Mount Cook
Nicola at Mount Cook
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
New Zealand is an incredible country! There are so many amazing beautiful things to see here and I do feel very lucky to be living here. Queenstown itself is a stunningly beautiful town set on a lake with a beautiful mountain backdrop. Just a few suggestions of things to do would be: enjoy the many walks in the area (including Queenstown Hill for a fantastic 360 degree panorama), take a boat trip out on the lake, visit the kiwi park to see amazing kiwis and native birds, and a trip up the gondola for stunning views. There are also loads of adventure type activities (bungying etc.) for those that are interested in that too. In the surrounding area you can take a day trip to the incredible Milford sound, or visit Wanaka and Glenorchy (where the Dart River Jet Safari is highly recommended!).

What do you enjoy most about living here? The relaxed day-to-day atmosphere and attitudes of the kiwi people. People really make the most of every day – from sunrise right to sundown, and would rather be out exploring having adventures than at home watching TV – and this is certainly having a very positive influence on us. It also helps the country is very beautiful and so we love being able to visit so many scenic and amazing places.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
I think it is about the same on balance. Houses are cheaper to buy over here, but about the same to rent (depending on where you are). However, food is more expensive – in terms of groceries from supermarkets. Clothes and general shopping items also have a premium on them as many are imported.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
I think the main negative is that we can’t spend all our time travelling around and exploring New Zealand really! The reality is we need money to live and travel and so have to work. This is the same for anyone anywhere really, and we know we are incredibly lucky to be able to travel as much as we do.

Great Barrier Island sunset
Great Barrier Island sunset
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Save, save, save before you come! You will always need more money than you think you do – particularly when you arrive and have all the set up costs. You will also want to do so much while you are here – there are so many beautiful places to see, that you can never have enough money to see them all. Make sure you use this money wisely and do everything you can to enjoy your time while you are here.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The main thing we have struggled with is missing family and friends. We have been incredibly lucky that my family came out to visit us for Christmas, so the longest gap I had of not seeing them was about 3 months. As time goes on I think this will become harder, but we stay in close touch through Facebook, email and Skype.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
We have only been away for for 5 months, so it is difficult to say at the moment. We are also considering extending our visa for another year, so are not sure exactly when we will return home. I think if/when we do return home obviously seeing friends and family will be amazing, but I think home will seem quite different. We will see what happens!

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Save and budget – you will spend differently in a different country and need to try and have a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly budget that you make and stick to.
  2. Visit the country before you move over here (if you can) – the idea you have of a country will almost always be different to the reality of the country and it is best to have some idea of the country before you move.
  3. Research before you move – it is always best to know as much as you can before you leave, so you know what to bring and what you need to do once you arrive (e.g. visas, tax, set up bank account, accommodation, transport etc).
  4. Be open-minded – you will almost certainly end up somewhere different/doing something different than you expected and you need to be able to adapt to the situation.
  5. Enjoy it! Moving and living in a different country can certainly be scary and difficult at times but ultimately I think it is amazing to be living life to the full and having such different adventures on the other side of the world. You must remember to try and enjoy every day and make the most of everything you have the opportunity to do.

A yellow-eyed penguin Nicola photographed
A yellow-eyed penguin Nicola photographed
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog – Our Amazing New Zealand Adventure – tells the story of mine and my husband’s adventures while we are living over here in New Zealand. It is a mixture of blog entries written describing my experiences, and advice/guidance/helpful links for those hoping to do something similar. It also includes my itineraries from travelling and many photographs I have enjoyed taking along the way.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I am happy for people to contact me via my blog.

Nicola blogs at which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. Our Amazing New Zealand Adventure has an listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Nicola, please also drop her a quick comment below.

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