Moving to Auckland

What were your reasons for emigrating?

We wanted a quieter pace of life, away from the crazy ratrace in Singapore where work almost totally dominates your life. We were tired with the tried and safe method of living in a country where everything is efficient like clockwork and rather boring. There is no great scenery in Singapore, awfully hot weather and far too many people living on a very tiny island.

Name: Astin
Age: 33
Occupation: Teacher and Student
Number Emigrating: 3
Emigrated from: Singapore
Moved to: Cheltenham, North Shore, Auckland
When did you arrive in NZ: May 2009
My Story Written: September 2009
Daily Commute Time: 35 mins if no traffic hold ups
What were your reasons for choosing New Zealand?

NZ has an image of a clean and green country with friendly people. During our trip to NZ a couple of years ago, we were pleasantly surprised at the level of friendliness, cleanliness and how relaxing and trusting Kiwis were in general.

It also helps that New Zealand is such a stunningly beautiful country.

Cheltenham, North Shore, Auckland
What differences have you noticed between your NZ town and your home town?

People here are generally quite relaxed and unhurried in everything they do. In Singapore, we would call this ‘slacking’ and Kiwis are quite the ‘slackers’, more so than Aussies.

People here are friendly in general but quite reserved in their welcoming. Trying to make friends with Kiwis takes a lot of effort. Much easier to make friends with NZ migrants (regardless of where they come from) because they know what it feels like to be new here and isolated.

What do you like best about New Zealand?

Stunning beauty, fresh air, the four seasons of weather, general friendliness and helpfulness of Kiwis, good service almost everywhere we go. Honesty and trust are usually the attitudes of most Kiwis in general and they are willing to help friends and strangers alike who are in difficulty (not that we experienced a lot of difficulty here).

What don’t you like about New Zealand?

Perceptions towards Asians in general. It’s hard to shake off the attitude of a large segment of the general population here. Kiwis here seem to have a very provincial attitude about the world, generally quite unknowledgeable in matters outside their own or country perspective. Hence they form opinions of Asians based on what they see and judge you first before knowing you beforehand. We had a little of that experience and probably will continue to do so. I suppose it could be construed as “subvert racism”. It’s not a big deal to us but I presume at some point it will be irritating.

Much harder to find teaching jobs because there seems to be an undercurrent perception about Asians being “not up to standards” and incapable of speaking/writing well in English despite that fact that a lot of Asians migrants right now are arriving on skilled visa.

This is a minor irritation but Singapore driving licences are not recognised in NZ despite being recognised in Australia and the UK as equivalent and exempted. You still need to take the theory and practical tests when you are required to convert.

What do you miss from your home country?

Food, family and friends in great spades. Enough cannot be said about it but thank god for Skype. Right now I think it’s the world’s greatest invention.

We also miss how cheap things are in Singapore when it comes to the cost of living. We also earn much, much more in Singapore with our extremely low tax so coming to NZ was not a case of “getting wealthier” but rather we are taking a hit on our finances, following our dream to get out of the ratrace even for a moment.

Auckland or NZ in general is not as safe as Singapore however it is still safe if you keep some sense in mind. Don’t stay out late, stay away from bad neighbourhoods and areas, live in a nice suburb, don’t carry too much money with you and refrain from showing off your wealth. Asians who are flashy are generally the target of thieves and burglars. This problem is especially visible in Manukau and Auckland City and during the time we stayed there for a month, we heard about a dozen different stories about how household burglaries are common and how ineffectual the police seem to be in reducing their numbers.

It seems like having household insurance and a burglar alarm is a must have in these cities. We didn’t make a conscious decision to move to the North Shore since our rental was up and we could only find a suitable one in Cheltenham at that moment but we are glad we took that route on hindsight. People here are not afraid of being robbed and certainly it is more pleasant to read in the local news of events happening around our area rather that reading about so-and-so person/organisation/school etc being robbed and getting paranoid about it.

I sure miss the safe, secure environment in Singapore which all along I took for granted.

How easily did you find work in New Zealand?

Coming from Singapore, we were treated very much on the low end of the pole when it comes to applying for teaching jobs. My hubby is a very experienced, excellent teacher but it took him months to get employment after submitting dozens of applications, even for relief teaching. NZ teaching agencies themselves commented that Asians who come here to be teachers will face huge obstacles and we even know some dropping out altogether.

Finally it was a prestigious international private school that hired him. They had a very globalised perspective with many international branches overseas and recognised that Singaporean teachers are certainly quite good. They were quite fast too in hiring him, within 2 weeks.

It was a pity that government schools didn’t bother to interview him or perceived him as unsuitable because of his Asian identity. It took us months to find a permanent first job (which was helped in some parts by an economic recession).

Previously he had relief taught in a decile 10 school which didn’t have any vacancies and a decile 10 junior high school which was interviewing him for a position (several weeks including teaching observations) but only offered him a long term relief teaching position finally which he of course rejected. Two interviews only out of countless applications. It was a stressful time for us.

The same experience cannot be said if you are a UK teacher coming over. You have a greater chance of getting interviews even from overseas and even being hired while still overseas. We faced the situation that UK/NZ teachers are preferred substantially followed by other native English-speaking countries. Asian teachers on the bottom of the pole. The idea that principals here prefer NZ curriculum trained teachers (for government schools) can be quite ridiculous since clearly UK and other overseas teachers hire cannot possible have NCEA training before arriving.

My hubby is concurrently attending a NCEA teacher refresher course which he started in June and half the class are Asian teachers from various countries trying to get their first teaching job and the other half are Pakehas who have left teaching years ago and are now trying to re-enter because of the bad recession.

This was a sobering experience for us and certainly a word of caution for Singapore teachers coming here. It is certainly not impossible to get a teaching job here in NZ but you need to be persistent, work hard at getting people’s attentions (here it’s who you know matters) and be prepared to have your ego bruised at the rejections.

For my case it was much easier since I am applying to study at AUT for a childhood diploma. Took them one interview to accept my qualifications and suitability. Of course it helped I had degrees from both Singapore and Australia and good referees.

How does your working life in New Zealand compare with your previous work experiences?

Now that we got our work sorted out, our life can really begin. Work here is relaxing and not stressful at all. Studying was tough since I was balancing it with being a mother to my daughter. Childcare education here is great and I saw my normally quiet 2 year old becoming more confident and interested in learning. Normally she is reserved and quiet, really leading a sheltered life but here in Auckland she is enjoying her school and having great fun in a non-stressful learning environment. This is one of the major plus-points for us.

Husband is getting along very well in school with the staff and students alike. Getting a lot of positive feedback and students like him a lot. He has great rapport with them because he has varied interests which range from photography to sports like soccer and sailing so they don’t just connect with him alone in class.

How much money did you bring with you:


How much do you earn in New Zealand:

Right now about $70K income. We have 2 rental properties (our home in Singapore and an apartment in the city) so we have a nice additional source of guaranteed income coming in. We’d also have investments too.

Point to note that coming here, you tend to spend a lot of money in the first few months and especially in this uncertainy economic climate, you need to have sufficient funds to sustain you. Because things always never happen the way you want it, being secure financially is a big security for us. We were very prudent with our money when we were jobless.

How much did you pay for your house:

About $1600 a month in rent. This is good in a nice area like Cheltenham which is one of the most expensive areas to buy on the North Shore. Unfortunately we think the housing prices are too high in general and affordable housing is certainly out of the reach of most Kiwis. Many people in Auckland are renters, some for life.

We made a conscious decision to rent but intend to buy only when we are ready. We already own 2 properties so there is no big rush. One thing stopping us is the high housing prices, another is the fact that we have a thing against weatherboard houses, third is that leaky homes and poor insulated housing is a serious issue in NZ and fourth the interest rates here are ridiculously high.

Given that we can find the right house, right section of land we may change our minds and buy one.

How does your standard of living in New Zealand compare with your previous country?

There is give and take here. In NZ you have a more relaxing life with little stress and more time to enjoy yourself. Work doesn’t intrude into your personal life and holidays are holidays. People don’t expect you to work overtime and you certainly get paid if you do so.

However there is always a tradeoff like missing out on your life back home and the family. Things in Singapore move much faster, more efficiently and Singapore also has a strong multicultural environment where we accept people of all ethnicities and intermingle a lot. We don’t see it a lot in NZ. People pretty much keep to their own flock here and their tight circle of friends.

Things here are definitely more expensive here with the exception of cars.

How does your quality of life now compare with your previous country?

Okay I guess. I mean I come from Singapore a developed Asian country and generally the standard of living is high. So there is no big difference moving to NZ where the standard of living is also high but so is the cost. The difference is what we perceive is important to us and the quality of life we desire. Right now we choose to be in NZ but we don’t intend to remain here forever as we also need to be in Singapore too. NZ is a wonderful place but so is Singapore and we like the option of being able to afford the ability to move here whenever we want.

Do you have any other personal experiences or observations that would be useful for people considering immigrating to New Zealand?

My observations are probably more for Singaporeans than anyone else since there is really scant knowledge about our countrymen living here and how they are coping.

Be prepared to work hard and fight to get a job even if you have tons of experience. Accept rejection and move on. Try to get some NZ experience through volunteering, study etc. It matters to them if you make the effort.

Asian food here is generally crappy if you are looking to eat Chinese. Indian food though is good and more worth your money. Dining out is expensive. Sushi here is interesting but not authentic.

Less variety of stuff on the supermarket shelves. Some things are impossible to get and you will miss them dearly, others are expensive and you need to get from Asian groceries stores alone. You have to do without a lot of good stuff.

Scenery here is amazing and there are many activities to do on the weekend if you are an active, outdoors person and they can often be free. There is so much to see and do in NZ.

Wire a lot of money into a NZ account. You need lots of it when setting up again. Things cost more here.

More Asia to NZ Reviews

Auckland/Hamilton – Jean from Beijing, China
Paraparaumu, Kapiti Coast – Ganasons from Penang, Malaysia
Palmerston North – KT from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Wellington – Annie from Laguna, Philippines

Would you like to share your own experiences of living in New Zealand? You can do this at My Story. Or you can read more thoughts about NZ.

One thought on “Moving to Auckland”

  1. Thanks for sharing your story.
    Would you be able to share if education system there is comparable if in the event my girl like to continue her studies in Singapore or Australia?

    My hubby and I are social workers and was told we are able to get better pay in NZ as it’s one of the area to fill people. Any idea on this?


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