What were your reasons for emigrating?
Both my husband and I got good jobs in Beijing. Our life was comfortable and we were surrounded by family and friends. But we wanted a healthier life style and escape from the pollution, the rat race and corruption. We also wanted to see the world and have some adventure when we were still young.
Occupation: Financial Manager
Number Emigrating: 4
Emigrated from: Beijing, China
Moved to: Auckland / Hamilton
Daily Commute Time: 20 – 30 Minutes
When did you arrive in NZ: January 2000
My Story Written: January 2007
What were your reasons for choosing New Zealand?
The beautiful scenery, mild climate and the fact that it’s a small country with low population. Also because the living standard for average people was supposed to be good. It was said that there was no extreme poverty here. We both like sports and outdoors, so the easy access to nature and recreational facilities was attractive. Another reason was we thought it was a family friendly country with very good healthcare and education system, and there would be great support for families with young children.
What differences have you noticed between your NZ town and your home town?
Totally different. The weather was more extreme in Beijing, very cold winters and very hot summers. NZ weather is mild with a lot of rains. Something obviously different, like less people, no high-rises, cleaner, greener, and less noisy. Things are more expensive relative to income. Secondhand goods are more readily acceptable even for higher income families, which is unheard of even for low income families in Beijing. It’s more difficult to introduce any improvement or changes, while in Beijing new roads appear in a week’s time and companies upgrade their whole IT systems every couple of years.
What do you like best about New Zealand?
Cleaner, greener, less pollution as mentioned above. There is a clear procedure to get things done (though this doesn’t mean faster) instead of relying on who you know. Privacy and personal life is respected. People are polite and you are more respected as a person rather than for your clothes, money or position. Easy access to nature and recreational facilities. Well maintained parks, reserves, tracks, back country huts, etc. Average people can afford the money and time for their hobbies and favourite sports. Nice and roomy housing with gardens. Safe water and food with not too much chemicals. Driving is a much more enjoyable experience! Also better work-life balance.
What don’t you like about New Zealand?
Low income, high tax, high living costs, therefore much lower disposable income for us. The healthcare is inefficient, expensive, and with a shocking shortage of qualified /experienced staff. Not up-to-date with the latest technologies in both household and industry level. Expensive and slow internet access. Lack of world class arts and theatres. PC on a lot of culture and economic issues. The distance to the rest of the world and the air companies are there to rob you. Not a place if career opportunities are important to you. Lack of good quality childcare.
What do you miss from your home country?
Family and friends. Nice restaurants. The historical buildings and cultures. Good career and business opportunities (though I don’t miss the late hours). Decent Chinese food of different varieties. Here you only get the terrible take away or Cantonese food of some kind.
How easily did you find work in New Zealand?
Not easy. We both had postgraduate degrees and working experience. But these were not recognised here. So we went back to Uni. After 3 years and a big student loan, I got my Master degree and Shane finished his PhD. We established contacts in local industry while studying and working part-time, which led to full time jobs when we graduated. It took us a lot of effort to get there, we’ve done a lot of volunteer work, and accepted very low rate to start our part-time jobs. Though we both now have professional jobs in our areas, the positions are still lower than what we had in China, and with less perspective for promotion into real senior positions. We accept this as price we pay as new immigrants, and we pay even more for being Asian.
How does your working life in New Zealand compare with your previous work experiences?
There is a clear cut between work and personal life, the balance is much better. There is less hierarchy in the companies, and colleagues exchange opinions more openly. My husband found that it is less flexible and less efficient in getting things done.
How does your standard of living in New Zealand compare with your previous country?
Our standard of living improved in some areas: we now live in a big house (the bank owns it though) with gardens in a nice suburb, which would have been beyond reach in Beijing even for high income families. We can afford two cars (second-hand of course). In other ways, our standard of living has dropped: we need to economise on our food and grocery, seldom go to restaurants. We no longer upgrade our AV system, buy secondhand stuff when possible, no more branded or tailored dresses for me, no more fancy sports gear for Shane. We can’t afford overseas holiday, and stay in the cheapest motels when we travel locally. No theatres. We buy almost everything basic and cheap.
How does your quality of life now compare with your previous country?
Despite of lower disposable income, our quality of life has actually improved, since many of the good things in life cost very little. We have more time to enjoy reading, music, sports and hobbies. We now have a two-year-old and a 4-month-old, and enjoy our family life at a more relaxed pace. We are by far still happy with the move and our life here. Every coin has two sides. For us, the healthy life style and family life is more important than money.
Do you have any other personal experiences or observations that would be useful for people considering immigrating to New Zealand?
For those considering moving to NZ from China, especially those from big cities, don’t expect NZ to be a “modern” country. You probably own more fancy appliances and high tech gadgets than most Kiwis. And consider it twice if you have a good career and already on high income – the salary here is unbelievably low. Make sure your value of life is in line with what NZ has to offer. Unless you have enough capital to retire here (NZ$500,000 for a house, and extra income from investment to cover living expenses), expect that both of you need to work to get your ends meet, and only think about basics, no luxuries!
I don’t know how others manage to live on single income of 40-50k. We both work and spend around 55-60k a year on living costs, plus interest on our mortgage is 15k a year – current rate is around 8%. Our biggest cost is childcare, 20k a year for two under-threes. However, we are still better off than me staying at home. Grocery’s around 12k (we cook most of our meals, buy budget brands and discounted stuff, don’t drink alcohol, don’t smoke). Another 5 k covers clothes, household items, baby gears, again, only basic stuff. 5k for all sorts of insurance (cars, house, content, health, life). 5k on our two cars including petrol. 5k for the rates (charged by city councils) for the house plus some R&M (those wooden houses need to be painted every 3-5 years, and plumbers are expensive if you happen to have some drainage problem). 1.5k for phone and broadband (we don’t have personal mobiles). 1.5k for power / gas. 1-2k for some local holidays, sports and hobbies, no overseas travel. If we go back to China for a visit, that’s another 5k. On top of these, we have an emergency fund of 1-2k a year, so far has been spent every year on car/appliances breakdowns, insurance excesses, etc.
Things will get better when our kids are bigger and have access to some free childcare and education. However, we still have to pay for another half and any after-school-care, donations, activity fees, etc, still around 10k. Also older children’s expenses are much higher than babies.
We are a long way from paying back our mortgage. In a recent research, NZ home affordability is among the lowest, 6 times average income. Better save for a house before you come.
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