6 December 2016

Abigail Simpson - Expat in New Zealand

Abigail Simpson - Expat in New Zealand

We’ve had the chance to talk to Abigail Simpson, 25, a British expat who has moved to New Zealand with her family. Miss Simpson who has been living there for 15 years, now works as a writer. 

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: The North of England.


Q: What made you move out of the UK?

A: My parents. I was ten years old and had no say in the matter. I didn’t want to move at all. My parents wanted greener pastures.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: New Zealand. My dad, a high school teacher, applied for jobs in various countries. Canada was a possibility, but New Zealand offered first.


Q: How long have you been living in New Zealand?

A: Fifteen years.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: It was my mum, dad, little sister and I at first. My little sister was too young to properly miss anything; I was heartbroken. As a family, we adjusted well. New Zealand is culturally similar to Britain, after all. Then, a few years after we moved to New Zealand, my nana joined us from England. My nana still lives with my parents. My little sister and I flew the nest a while ago.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I suffered a lot from homesickness. I didn’t just have to give up seeing my grandma and all my friends: the small town in New Zealand we moved to didn’t have any ballet schools or violin teachers, so I lost my hobbies as well. (I started writing a novel out of boredom and now writing is all I can do.) I also (still) miss being surrounded by old buildings. I coped with the homesickness by reading endless British history books. Well not really coped, but… yeah.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: New Zealanders are really nice. They’re unpretentious. Laidback. On the flip side, there is a culture of bullying and anti-intellectualism, and strangers treat me with an air of “don’t you dare look down on us, you bloody pom”. I still sound English, you see.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in New Zealand? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: Making friends has never been easy for me because I’m a socially awkward person. I moved to New Zealand at the age of ten and spent the next few years of my life getting bullied for being a nerd. Thankfully, I met other nerds and became friends with them. When we first moved to New Zealand, my parents used to socialise with other immigrant teachers, mostly British and South African.


Q: How does the cost of living in New Zealand compare to your home?

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: I’ve no idea how much a cup of coffee costs in England, but in New Zealand, you’re looking at about NZ$4.50.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: An inexpensive restaurant… you’re looking at an Asian place… about $10.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: $40.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Cigarettes… don’t know. Wine… well the cheapest supermarket wine is $6, but it’s undrinkable. The cheapest drinkable wine is $9, and you’re looking at $15 for a semi-decent bottle.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in New Zealand?

A: I never had to deal with any of that stuff. From what my parents have said, it was easier than they expected.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: Again, I never had to deal with that side of things. My parents found the paperwork frustrating, but they had it far easier than others, as New Zealand was crying out for teachers at the time.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in New Zealand is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Healthcare is pretty good. A hospital stay is free, as long as you’re a citizen or permanent resident. Visits to the doctor cost about $40. Dentistry, however, is awful. It’s so expensive that less than half the population visits the dentist on a regular basis.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in the UK or New Zealand? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: I have health insurance through my job, but that’s just because I have a generous employer. Most people don’t have it. It’s not essential because New Zealand has a public health system.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to New Zealand? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: For me, the most memorable thing about packing to come to New Zealand was when the moving men packed my Pokémon cards by mistake. Also, watching my life disappear into boxes was pretty traumatic. The house I’d grown up in no longer felt real. I still hadn’t accepted that we were actually leaving. I threatened to run away from home so my parents couldn’t take me to New Zealand… Oh, yes, the moving company was called Britannia and I thought their logo – the goddess Britannia with her Union Flag shield – was pretty cool.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: People making assumptions about me because I was English. I don’t know, I didn’t really experience any challenges, just personal depression, and anxiety.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in New Zealand?

A: Positive: New Zealand is far away from everywhere. Negative: New Zealand is far away from everywhere.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: The best thing you can do in New Zealand is travel to all the beautiful places and simply marvel.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: My boyfriend and I want to live in Europe, but only for a year or so. We want to settle down, have kids and grow old in New Zealand.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Learn to loosen up and go with the flow and you’ll be happier for it.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about New Zealand?

A: I don’t have a favourite!