Palmerston North, New Zealand

What were your reasons for emigrating?

I married a Kiwi.

What were your reasons for choosing New Zealand?

I didn’t really have much of a choice. My then-fiance, now my husband, is Kiwi. Australia would have been my surrogate country of choice, just because I studied there and it would have been more familiar territory. However, New Zealand is a close second choice.

Name: KT
Age: 46
Occupation: Secondary School Teacher
Number Emigrating: 1
Emigrated from: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Moved to: Palmerston North
Daily Commute Time: 15 minutes
What differences have you noticed between your NZ town and your home town?

There are wonderful malls in Kuala Lumpur (KL), so shopping there is an experience in navigating an intricate consumer minefield. You can be as anonymous or visible in KL as you choose to be. You just need to find the right watering hole. I can get lost in the mall corridors which are like labyrinths. In that respect, KL can be impersonal. On the other hand, Palmerston North gives me a greater sense of community. You can’t often go to the CBD and not run into a colleague, neighbour, relative or church member. There is less clutter in the streets here, too.

View Larger Map
Palmerston North, Manawatu-Wanganui
What do you like best about New Zealand?

What I like is the fact that I don’t feel I need to tote the latest Prada bag or wear a Cartier watch or drive a BMW to feel like I am somebody. Social amenities are well organised and in place here to provide a sense of well-being. High walls, fences or motion sensors surrounding homes are an exception rather than a rule here and this attests to the people’s general feeling of security in the neighbourhoods. There are fewer petty crimes such as snatch thefts, pickpocketing and minor carjacking, though more serious ones like taking a life, here than in Malaysia. NZ is a classless society, and this relieves you of the burden of having to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.

What don’t you like about New Zealand?

The post-modern liberal relativists have shaped a socialist political and educational landscape that is vastly different from that of Malaysia. Thence your emphasis on freedom of the individual, freedom of expression and tolerance culminating in bills such as anti-smacking and civil union, and multiculturalism. In Malaysia, the conservative religious right is still the dominant worldview that forms the people’s mindsets and protects their rights. There is very little to dislike about NZ, otherwise. I am not crazy about the windy weather in Palmerston North, however.

What do you miss from your home country?

The food stalls that are open 24/7, the varieties of tastes, the cosmopolitan flavour of Kuala Lumpur and the architecture, are what I miss the most. I also miss my girlfriends and hanging out at coffee shops with them.

How easily did you find work in New Zealand?

I was only able to find voluntary and casual work in my first couple of years here. I did attend many interviews for retail and office work, but was not successful. It was only in my third year here, when I had decided to return to education, that I finally found regular employment.

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

Entering the workplace as a johnny-come-lately has meant that I’ve had to work my way up the hierarchy from ground zero. It did not matter that I had been a principal before. Here you also need to express your interest in a promotion or top job. It doesn’t get offered to you based on your superiors’ observation of your contributions, skills and experience. In Malaysia I was twice promoted without having had to apply for a promotion.

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

I am aware that if I were holding a full-time teaching position, my standard of living would be comparatively better than what I had enjoyed in Malaysia. A teacher’s pay here is four times that of a Malaysian teacher.

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

Equal opportunities to access all the social amenities here have improved my living standard also. You feel safe to walk the streets and visit the playgrounds alone here.

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

New arrivals need to realise that they need at least three years to acclimatise to NZ and complete the adjustment process. Anticipate culture shock, which can be as minor as the use of slang in different contexts, or as major as social taboos and customs. New Zealanders who know you treat you as family and when they invite you for a meal, expect you to make yourselves at home and help yourselves to what is on the table, as opposed to the Asian custom of verbally asking you if there’s anything you wish to eat or drink. Dental is expensive, so have your teeth fixed before you first arrive. Use English when you are on the bus, shops or public places, especially if you tend to cluster with your friends or kinsmen, to show your commitment to being a ‘new’ Kiwi.

More Asia to NZ Reviews

Auckland/Hamilton – Jean from Beijing, China
Paraparaumu, Kapiti Coast – Ganasons from Penang, Malaysia
Wellington – Annie from Laguna, Philippines
Auckland’s North Shore – Astin from Singapore

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 more personal experiences.


  1. Sarah Peters says

    Hello my name is Sarah and I’m currently a teacher in Sandakan, Sabah. I have always wanted to migrate to New Zealand even without visiting the country. I have a B. Ed in TEYL(Teaching English to Young Learners ) and am planning to further my studies in September of this month. Is it required of me to do my Masters in TESL locally or should I wait another two years and then apply to migrate. I am 28 years old and single.

What say you?
Please do not ask us for immigration/visa advice - we cannot respond to such requests.