I’ll begin Part 2 with some random thoughts. I am just going to comment on various items from daily life.
A Small Country
One really important thing is the size of the market here in New Zealand. The population is something over 4.5 million spread out over an area about the size of California, and then split into two islands. The U.S. has well over 350 million people. This makes world products to be priced high here because the market share is low and the logistics are difficult to get things down here. Another factor is that almost the entire population in New Zealand is concentrated into a few major cities and the remaining population is spread out over the rest of the country.
Living in New Zealand
It has a clean environment and it’s great for kids to grow up in. Hiking, biking, sports, swimming, hunting and fishing are all major activities. Sports in schools are also a big deal along with overall healthy activity. In our school, the kids at year four go on overnight camps for two days. Each year the activities get more difficult and they all run a cross country race which is 2-3 kilometers long. The year eight students go on a week-long backpacking trip through the Able Tasman Park. All trips have parent volunteers along with teaching staff to ensure a safe trip. The adults are all screened to insure safety.
As mentioned before, they have a very good school system. Yes you still have to do the leg work to find what you want. And there are some trouble schools with lower scores and bullying problems.
High school (they call it college) can also be very good but they really put too much into sports for my tastes. They are very big on teamwork with your mates. During the high school years they have a series of tests to pass. Here is a link to see further information on the tests.
As mentioned before, food is very clean but it comes at a higher price. The seasons greatly affect the price of vegetables.
- Get your New Zealand citizenship. That will open the door to Australia.
- New Zealand is a long plane ride from everywhere. For example, it is 12 hours from San Francisco.
- As it is hard to get to, many world problems don’t make it down here–or they take longer to arrive.
Bring a Police Scanner
Get or bring along a scanner so that you can listen to what is happening on the public service bands. It’s one of the best ways to see what is going on behind the scenes. Some of the large cities have gone digital, so do some checking on what radio will work for you. There are gang and drug problems but those are mostly in the larger cities. Crime is also higher in the cities. Listening to the scanner will give you more of a feel for your area. I’ll have more comments later on what you hear on the radio.
I find that the news media here is reasonably fair but I feel it is a bit on the left-leaning side of things. As they seem to rely on the U.S.-based news corporations, it slants reporting to the left. Because they don’t get the other side of the story they don’t understand most of our problems as we see them from a right-leaning perspective. At times I am asked about things like immigration and what Trump is doing. Once I explain the other side of the news they get a better understanding of the problem. Some people after hearing my comments wonder how our media can be so one-sided? Others don’t seem to be convinced and change the subject.
The people are very friendly and honest. Yes you will run across the occasional jerk. In dealing with someone, always keep your word and follow through on what you agree to. If you cheat someone the word will spread quickly. Yes, you may be at the losing end of a deal someday. Suck it up, learn and move ahead. Remember, you’re the outsider until you prove yourself to the community. Volunteer and help out with things at your school and church.
New Zealand is not a litigious society. Yes there are lawyers (barristers) which are used for many contracts and they seem to fill the roll as escrow and title agent when you purchase a property. I don’t think an ambulance chaser would fit in too well. People have told me that frivolous lawsuits are unheard of.
It is a very rugged and beautiful country, especially in the south island. Hiking (tramping) and camping are very popular. Once you leave your vehicle at the car park (parking lot) of a trailhead and you start down the path, you’re on your own. If you screw up and get hurt it may be a while till they find you. If you slip off a cliff and kill yourself, tough luck. Your family is not going to be filing a lawsuit for any unsafe conditions. Many hikers and campers die each year. Be prepared for rapid weather changes.
Roads and Driving
They do drive on the wrong side of the road here. It’s not a big deal. You get used to it. Traffic circles are used heavily, so learn how to use them. I live in a town of about 30,000+ people. There is not one traffic signal and you can count the number of stop signs on one hand. The traffic can get a little heavy but you almost never see a traffic accident.
The accidents that do happen seem to be mostly on the highways and usually by tourists. The big cities have some nice wide streets and some freeway networks. But for the most part you will be using narrow, winding roads. The road shoulders are almost nonexistent. Usually the max speed is 100km per hour (60 mph), even on the twisting mountain roads. Some people can maintain this speed, if you can’t, pull over when you can to let others pass. Turnouts are usually hard to find and show up without much notice. I hear many times a day on the scanner where drivers will call the police about unsafe drivers. I don’t really care for a Stoolie Society but I can see the need to get unsafe drivers off the roads.
More about roads: New Zealand doesn’t have the huge tax base to have an extensive road network of wide, high speed roads. In the rural areas it is very rare to see a road that is made with an asphalt machine. Instead the road crews will work on a small patch about 50 feet long. They dig out the surface a little, spread some small rocks and sand, wet it and roll the surface down. Sometimes they actually seal it with oil slurry. The result is lots of rock chips hitting windshields (locally called “windscreens”).
A Tip: Get the $50 windscreen insurance rider on your car insurance. You will get many chips in your windscreen over the year.
So why do I need the $50 windscreen insurance? Well, your vehicle has to go through a safety inspection every year for newer vehicles. Two times a year for older vehicles. A chip within an area in front of the steering wheel will require repair or replacement. You will not see a vehicle here driving down the street dragging a muffler or bumper. It will be quickly tagged to get repaired immediately.
Health care is sort of a two level system. On the public side, everyone is covered and when you go to the clinic you usually get a different doctor. On the private side you get to select or find your own doctor. Usually the private doctors may have a waiting list to get on their roll. When you go in to the clinic or doctor’s office you pay a fee for the visit. A trip to my doctor will cost me $45 and I can usually get in the same day or sometimes the next. I don’t have to wait two weeks like in the states. If I need a prescription, I would usually pay $5 for the medicine. The above applies if you have private coverage also. Blood tests are free but you will pay if you have to go see a specialist. (I am not positive on that as I have not had to go to a specialist.) Things like going to see an EENT doctor to have ear wax removed is about $40. The major difference if you’re on the public side is you may have to wait a while if you need an elective procedure or be referred to a specialist. Sometimes the list is short, other times the wait is longer.
I don’t know what kind of other fees you pay on the public side as I have not used it. I went the private route, mostly from the fear of the medical billing system in the U.S. For the first 5 years I kept a high level policy coverage for myself and the family. I was spending about $500 per month for this coverage. Because of my fear, I kept the high coverage until I later learned the ins and outs of the system. Now I pay $150 per month. Lessons learned. My experiences with the health care system have been very positive. A few years back I needed a hernia operation. The total bill for the entire process was $4,500. The insurance paid for it 100% and I did not spend one penny. Even when I had to go back to correct a small problem I was not charged anything.
Health care for children is free until they turn 12 years old.
Dental care is good. It takes a little looking but you will find someone that is using the latest techniques. Prices are about the same for fillings and cleaning as in the states. Crowns and caps are more than in the U.S.
(To be continued, in two additional parts.)