What is it like to move to New Zealand? To start a new life in a foreign country?
In the Ask an Expat series I interview expats living all over the world. I try to help paint an honest picture of the ups and downs of life abroad, share tips for other (future) expats and share information about what to see and do in the city, town or country the expat now calls home.
Expat life in Christchurch, New Zealand
Location: Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand
Hometown: Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada
“I was just living a “normal life” but not feeling as fulfilled. Groundhog day sorta thing.
When an opportunity came up for my husband to get a job overseas, doing what he was already doing, we decided to go for it! Two of our kids were just starting school, and the other was just about done with school so we went for it. It was the perfect time so we sold our house (and belongings) and left. It was risky, but we wanted to live life without regrets and shake up our lives a little. It was super hard to say goodbye to friends and family but we knew we had a short window. And so far it’s been amazing!!”
“My husband is a carpenter and because there were these big earthquakes 6 years ago, there is a lot of work still to be done.”
What do you like about Christchurch?
“I like the people! New Zealanders are happy people always ready to lend a hand. From the moment we arrived, we have met so many incredibly kind people. Kiwis are so friendly and they care about their “neighbors”.
There is also quite a sense of community. It might be part of a city coming together after such devastating earthquakes all those years ago, but it makes you feel a little less homesick.
On top of that Christchurch is a very diverse city with people from all over the world living here and the weather is pretty nice too.”
What do you dislike about Christchurch?
“The houses that aren’t insulated (there are lots) and the lack of central heating (it does get cold here). The distance from New Zealand to everything else is hard too. Family is so far away which makes vacations home very difficult.”
What is your favorite thing to do in Christchurch?
“We love going for walks and checking out the city. We will also often pack lunches and head out on a road trip for the day so we can discover more of this beautiful area. We have already seen quite a bit just by doing this.”
What is your favorite place to hang out (restaurant, bar, etc) in Christchurch?
“Being such a “good coffee” sort of city, there are so many cafes to visit. We usually grab a coffee and visit one of the many parks they have in Christchurch with our two younger kids. Our favorite park is Margaret Mahy Family Playground which is a must see if you are visiting the area with kids.”
What is the expat community like in Christchurch?
“I think its pretty large. There are lots of groups on Facebook and online to join or attend meet ups and such. I knew that having school aged kids was going to introduce me to lots of people. This way I met people from a number of different countries, including fellow Canadians. It is very nice to meet other “new” people as they know what you are going through.”
Any tips for moving to / living in Christchurch?
“Start researching ahead of time and get a sense of the area a little. But keep in mind that its difficult to rent something over the internet. We had a hard time and pretty much had to wait until we arrived in New Zealand before we found something. We noticed that reputable people were weary of doing stuff online, as were we.
Book a hotel or Airbnb so you have time to look properly once you are in New Zealand. We had kids, so we wanted to be sure the suburb had a school and was close to stores and such.
Lastly, make sure that you have copies of documents and your identification, just in case.”
Any resources you found useful during the process of moving to and/or building a new life in Christchurch?
Also try to ask your family and friends if they have any connections in the area. My brother knew someone in Christchurch so I contacted him and asked about areas of town, school, etc. Even knowing one person helps!”
Is there something you just have to see or do when you are in Christchurch?
“You must visit the old Christchurch Cathedral, even though its quite damaged and is all fenced in. It’s an incredible site to stand in front of as it has got so much history.
In summer you have to go to the beach. While you are there you can get some yummy fish and chips too!”
Jessica was born in Montreal, Quebec but grew up on the west coast of Canada, on Vancouver Island, BC. She is a mom of three and a new adventure seeker! Follow her family’s adventures on Instagram @davis_family_adventures_abroad or her personal account @jessdoesdiy
Christchurch, known for its English heritage, is located on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island. The Avon River meanders through the city centre and on its banks you find cycling paths, the green expanse of Hagley Park and Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Christchurch City is known as the “Garden City” because of its many beautiful parks, gardens and tree-lined streets.
In 2010 and 2011, earthquakes destroyed many of the historic centre’s stone-built buildings.
Christchurch nowadays offers an eclectic mix of historic elegance and contemporary culture. As the gateway to the South Island it’s a must visit.
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Featured image by Mjobling
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