Wherever I hang my hat…

As the more practical half of our travelling pair, I’ll hand over to Rob for our experience of setting up in Auckland and some (hopefully handy) hints.

We’ve been in New Zealand for about 2 months now and have managed to get ourselves set up with bank accounts, jobs, phones etc. This didn’t always feel easy or quick, so here are some things we ran into that caused delays and problems; hopefully this will help you sidestep these issues and get to the having fun bit quicker.

Landing card
When you complete your landing card on arrival, really concentrate. You’ve probably been on a long flight (ours was 11 hours) and you’re tired, but if you complete the card incorrectly you’ll be further delayed. New Zealand is very careful about disease, animals and plants being brought into the country so the form asks about items in your luggage. We fell foul of this when I ticked the wrong box to the question about footwear and apparently there was a risk that the British soil attached to my boots could have introduced Foot & Mouth to New Zealand. The customs officers take this very seriously.

Proof of address
Without proof of address, you can’t open a bank account. This can be tricky when you first arrive. We managed to get a phone company to send us a letter that worked for opening a bank account. The bank can then provide you with a proof of address (in store) which can be used for everything else.

Once you have proof of address, opening a bank account is pretty easy except for a couple of things. Firstly, some banks don’t open on Saturdays which caught us out especially when I began to work Monday to Friday. It seems that in Auckland, the banks in the city centre close on Saturday whilst the banks in shopping centres/malls are open. Just check the opening times before you go and you’ll be fine. Also you have to go into the bank to set up a PIN on your cards.

Another thing to bear in mind is that EFTPOS cards let you take money out of ATMs and pay by swiping in shops. If you want to buy anything online, use contactless payments or pay by chip and PIN you need a Visa Debit card (referred to as credit cards) which banks charge you a small amount for.

IRD number
An IRD number is the equivalent of an NI number in the UK, you need one to be paid for work and pay the right amount of tax. Apply for one with an IR595 form you can get from the Post Shop, if you return your documents here they will check you’ve done everything right and send it off for you. The IRD number took about 2 weeks to arrive after the application so if you’re planning on working when you arrive in New Zealand then I’d recommend applying as soon as you can.
You don’t need proof of address to apply, a passport and UK driving license worked for us.

Art in the Dark

Finding work
Recruitment companies seem very similar to the UK and we both found temp office work within a few weeks of arriving (through Madison and Hays). You’ll need your bank details and IRD number to get paid but we had no trouble in supplying this information after our initial meetings. It was helpful to make contact with recruitment consultants before we arrived and have meetings set up for when we got here.

Kiwis are quite a lot more relaxed at work than I was used to from working in the UK. Friday afternoon drinks in the office seem very common and more casual dress seems the norm. This has been our experience so far in the companies we’ve worked for in Auckland, but other companies and work places may well be different.

Finding somewhere to live
We were lucky to be able to stay with friends for a couple of weeks when we arrived. This gave us time to find out feet get a sense of the city. You could equally do this in a hostel and would also be great for meeting people. We looked for house shares on Trade Me and Gum Tree (where we posted a free ad) and found plenty of properties but that many adverts stated ‘no couples’. We found the apartment we’re staying in through our friend tweeting and subsequently being put in touch with the family we’re staying with.

Food and Drink
We moved to central Auckland and found food and drink quite expensive to begin with. Not much you can do about it except shop around, you do seem to get paid more than at home (for comparable work) and I hear that it’s cheaper in other parts of the country.

There are companies, such as Bunac and STA Travel, who offer packages to support you during these first few weeks – including proof of address and job search. I think I would have felt happier doing this if I was younger or traveling alone. It comes down to personal preference to whether you feel that it is worth the money, but definitely worth considering.

Have you had a similar experience when setting up in a new city? Anything you’d add?


One thought on “Wherever I hang my hat…

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