NZ vs UK

NZ and UK

I thought it would be interesting to note some of the differences we have observed so far between the UK and NZ.


You can pay for virtually everything on a card. Bills, shops, supermarkets, corner shops, pubs, taxis, buses … well, ok not buses actually, but pretty much everything else. Since we arrived in April I have probably only spent about $100 – $150 (£35 – £52) in cash.


Continuing the banking theme if you have, say a bank account, a savings account card and a credit card account you can access any account from each card. That is, you can use your credit card in the ATM but take money out of your bank account.


Houses are generally cheaper in NZ than in the UK but are much lower quality. In our experience very few are built of brick or stone (most are built of wood) and very few have double glazing or heating. That means houses are often cold and damp. In NZ houses are more open plan than in the UK and decks and balconies are very big (as in common) as Kiwis are big entertainers.


Eating out is generally cheaper in NZ than the UK. Wellington is well known for its cafe culture, and there are lots of cafes and eateries to choose from. Dan’s favourite type of coffee is "flat white". It’s similar to a latte but contains more espresso and less milk than a latte. We often stop for a coffee and a snack (a muffin or a brownie, for example). Two coffees and two cakes in a cafe is generally around £5. Restaurants are also quite reasonably priced, and we have found the portion sizes to be bigger than in the UK. Cuisine is pretty similar to the UK with restaurants of all types around somewhere.


Kiwi blokes wear shorts all year round, regardless of the weather (as anyone who has watched the "making of" docmentaries on the Lord of the Rings DVDs will know). In the middle of winter a Kiwi bloke will wear multple layers on top including t-shirt, jumpers, scarves, hats, and thick coats and then wear a pair of shorts and flip-flops (or Jandals as they call them over here!).


One thing we noticed when we first arrived in Wellington is that everyone seemed to know exactly which way the wind was blowing. Everyone would talk about "quite a northerly blowing today" or "that was a nasty southerly yesterday". We wondered (a) how they could tell, and (b) why they cared. However, we’ve now worked out how you can tell and why you would care – the Southerlies come straight up from the Antarctic and are absolutely freezing!! If you’re outside in a Southerly the wind will chill you to the bone. The only good thing about a Southerly is that they generally only last two or three days, and the weather after them is normally clear and bright. Wellington is known as being a windy city (one of the windiest in the world and windier than Chicago) so whenever the wind picked up in our first couple of months we would comment on it. "You wait ’til we get a proper Southerly" people would say. Well, in August we had a proper Southerly alright – the worst storm in Wellington since 1968, with winds gusting up to 195kmh! At one point the Airport was closed, the ferries to the South Island were cancelled, the trains weren’t running and the motorway north out of Wellington was closed. It was a good job we didn’t need to go anywhere that day as we would have had a job to!


Given the links with the UK it’s probably not surprising, but generally Kiwi English is very similar to English English. Certainly in terms of spelling and terminology. There appear to be far fewer differences than with, say, American English (some might argue that’s an oxymoron!) or Australian English. The main differences are with the pronunciation; especially the vowels. They tend to be very clipped with ‘e’s, for example, being pronounced like ‘i’s. So someone called Ben would pronounce their name like something you throw rubbish in. One of Dan’s colleagues (who shall remain nameless) spent a number of years in the UK as a teenager and was recounting a story regarding the Kiwi accent. It was her first day in school and she was nervous enough as it was. Well at one point she said "the pen is on the desk" and wondered why everyone fell about laughing. The reason was that, to them, she had said "the pin is on the disk"!!


The beer in New Zealand is awful! In Dan’s humble opinion, anyway. Being a real ale drinker in the UK Dan came to New Zealand with low expectations and then found they weren’t achieved! NZ beer is extremely fizzy, even the so called dark beers. And not fizzy like lager, fizzy like lemonade! And it is served way too cold for Dan’s liking. Perhaps when summer (finally) arrives and he’s sitting outside in the sunshine he will be pleased to drink a cold beer, but until then he doesn’t like it that way. It is also served in kind of schooner type of measures a bit more than half a pint, but not as much as a pint. Although it is possible to get Guinness and Murphys in NZ, it is brewed locally and doesn’t taste the same. It is also possible to get hold of certain English beers either on draft (Old Speckled Hen, Boddingtons, Newcastle Brown) or in bottles (Double Dragon, Youngs) but they don’t travel well. All in all – very disappointing!!


Apart from the fact that Vauxhalls are known as Holdens in New Zealand, the main thing that surprised Dan is the fact that both Holdens and Fords are considered to be prestige cars in NZ! (Dan was corrected by one of his colleagues that Holdens and Fords are not considered to be prestigious cars in NZ (prestigious cars would be similar to those in the UK (Mercedes, Lexus, Aston Martin, Porsche, etc.)) but everyone in NZ is either a Holden person or a Ford person and these are the two main brands that people want to have.) Not surprisingly European cars (VW, Audi, BMW, Mercedes) are more expensive in NZ than the UK, and Japanese cars (Toyota, Honda, Nissan) are cheaper.


There are 6 free to air channels, 7 if you live in Auckland. They are: TV One, TV Two, TV Three, C4, Prime, Maori (+ Juice TV if you live in Auckland). In addition you can get Sky TV. This gives you about 35 TV channels (including the free to air) plus some radio channels and access to pay per view channels. Compared to the UK, though, where we must have had well over 100 channels Dan finds it frustrating that there’s "never anything on"!! The programmes are generally the same as back in the UK, although tend to be a series or two behind. There was a lot of build up, for example, to the "brand new" series of Stargate SG1, one of Kate’s favourites, at the end of October. She was quite disappointed, then, to find that although it may have been new in New Zealand it had already been shown in the UK so she has seen most of them so far!


Brands and phrases

I thought I would list some of the brands that are the same as in the UK but go by different names or brands that are similar, as well as some of the different words or phrases used in New Zealand.


Heinz (Beans, Ketchup, etc) Watties *
Sure (deodorant) Rexona
Walls (Ice creams, etc) Streets
Vauxhall Holden
Tippex Twink
Rice Krispies Rice Bubbles
Weetabix Weet Bix
Swimming costume Togs
Flip flops Jandals / Thongs
Trousers Pants
Estate (car) Station wagon

* OK, so they have the Heinz brand in New Zealand too, but Watties is bigger.


Cost of living

Quite a few people have asked us how the costs of living compare between UK and NZ. It’s actually very difficult to compare because different things vary in different ways. Some things are better, some things are worse.

Incomes are generally a lot higher in the UK than in NZ, in terms of gross salary, at least. For example, in pure gross salary terms Dan took a pay cut of 40%, and Kate is earning approximately 20% less than in the UK. The tax situation is quite different in NZ, though. There are no personal allowances, so you pay tax on every dollar you earn. The highest rate of tax is 39% which kicks in at $60,000 (c. £22,000). However, there is no National Insurance as such, although there is an equivalent levy which is only 1.2%. (There is also no capital gains tax or inheritance tax in NZ and GST (the equivalent of VAT) is only 12.5%.)

Interest rates are also different in NZ, the most obvious difference being they are a lot higher! That is good in terms of money in the bank, but bad in terms of mortgages and loans. Needless to say we have more of the latter than the former! Mortgage rates vary between lenders and depending on specific offers, but are generally about 2-3% higher in NZ. Loans are also a lot more expensive with a typical loan rate being around 13-14% (compared to around 7-8% in the UK).

However, it is not all about income, it is also about expenditure. Many things are quite expensive in NZ, but other things are a lot cheaper. I thought it might be interesting to note some items and what they cost in NZ so you can see for yourself what the equivalent cost in pounds is. (NB I have used an exchange rate of $2.75 : £1. Obviously rates vary over time. At the moment they are around $2.65 : £1 but when we moved here were nearer $2.90 : £1.


Petrol 1 litre unleaded $1.09 £0.39
Paint 2 litres $80 £29.09
Coca cola (1.5 ltrs) in supermarket $1.99 £0.72
Loaf of bread 800g $1.80 £0.65
Haircut Kate (Dan) $65 ($15) £23.64 (£5.45)
Music CD $25-$35 £9.09-£12.73
Beer in a pub (NB served in just over half-pints in NZ) $3-$8 £1.09-£2.91
Big Mac meal * $6.95 £2.53
Coffee – Grande Latte (Starbucks) $4.60 £1.67
Stamp (domestic) $0.45 £0.16

* – called a ‘Big Mac Combo’ in NZ


One thought on “NZ vs UK”

  1. Just read through all this, for old times sake.
    Got me thinking about the coffees and cakes which I enjpyed in so many places.
    I have fond memories, Dan, of the couple of occasions we had Big Macs very late at night just after Izzy was born——-they were wonderful. And those scrumptious chilli-choc biscuits we bought in Woolworths.
    I could just do with a visit to Wellington Brewery, for a Wicked Lady and green-lipped mussels. How about you, kate?.

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