An Expat Aussie’s Guide to NZ

I was blown away the first time I flew into New Zealand.

I didn’t mean that as a joke when I wrote it a few moments ago, but I’m happy with the way it came out. Because NZ is a crazy, rugged, windy-as-hell little country floating out in the Pacific Ocean, with nature of every kind spilling out and into all of it; with thoughtful, funny people and crazy stuff poking out all over the place. I thought it was going to be just like Australia, but it’s nothing like it. Even though I live here now, it still feels as if I’m on holiday, and even though I’m not the most qualified person to tell you about the wonders of Aotearoa, I’ll tell you what I know.

No snakes.

You can walk around any bush or forest barefoot if you like. I wouldn’t recommend it, but you can do it.

People refer to Australia as ‘Aussie’

– You’re from Aussie, are ya? 

– No, I’m not. You could say I’m ‘an Aussie’, because I’m an Australian, but I’m not from Aussie. That would be like saying a Kiwi is from Kiwi, or, I don’t know… a Welshman is from Welsh. I’m sorry if I sound pedantic, but it’s really annoying.

– So, where in Aussie are you from, Melbourne?

– Yeah.

Otherworldly activity

The township of Rotorua is essentially like something out of The Dark Crystal, but with shops. Plumes of steam shoot out from everywhere; a woman drops some soap into a hole to make a geyser erupt every morning, and you can swim in natural hot springs at the caravan park. And that’s just Rotorua—don’t even get me started on the sci-fi madness of the South Island.

Maori culture 

Even though there are obviously huge problems with colonialism in New Zealand, and it’s probably because I grew up in Australia, where the bar was set shamefully low, there seems to be generally a bit more respect paid towards the people who were here before us white folk all appeared with our MacBooks and filter coffees.

Filter coffee

The coffee is seriously good here. Is it better than Australia? I don’t want to get into a fight—in the cities, it’s at a similarly high level. But I would say you have a higher chance of getting a great coffee in small-town NZ than in small-town Australia. The same goes for beer, and fish and chips.


People are generally funnier here than they are in Australia. Taika Waititi’s films are actually quite accurate portrayals of day to day life.

Lots of people live in their cars

A popular misconception amongst my Australian friends is that it’s cheaper to live in NZ. In fact, it’s actually really expensive, especially in the cities. With everyone fleeing back from wherever they were in 2020 (guilty as charged) and not that many jobs around, the housing crisis has gotten out of hand. 

Crazy places to skate and surf

Though it may not boast so many of the slippery concrete ‘street plazas’ that have popped up around Australia in the past few years, New Zealand has plenty of interesting shit to skate. From deranged concrete relics of the ‘70s up north to the soggy but charming DIYs dotted around the place and the quarter pipe-lined boardwalk of Napier, you should definitely bring your board when you visit. Apparently, it’s good to surf here, too. I thought I should mention that for the readers of Monster Children.

Famous people

For such a small country, NZ produces a lot of famous people. And most of them are really good famous people, not like the shit celebrities we have in Australia. Katherine Mansfield grew up here; she hated it and left as soon as she could—but you can visit the house she was born in. Sir Edmund Hillary seemed like a funny guy. Who else? Neil Finn, John Clarke, Lee Ralph. They’re just my favourite famous people, but look it up, there are heaps of them.

No Covid-19

And let’s keep it that way! 

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