We had decided to make the move abroad and had worked out where to move to. We felt that the next step was to take a pre-planning trip to New Zealand or as it is sometimes called a ‘recce’ trip, in order to obtain a feel for the country and also to confirm that this was what we really wanted to do. We were in the fortunate position that we were able to afford to do so
and so we took a holiday out to New Zealand before we started any processes formally.
You may be asking yourself at this point, is a ‘recce’ trip really necessary and should you take one?
When emigrating to a country as far as we were planning on going, many families think that they can easily return to visit family, after all, in their mind, it is only a 24 hour journey away. I had certainly fallen into this category and this is one of the reasons why I feel that a pre-planning trip is of the uttermost necessity.
The reality of the actual journey may become one of the factors that you need to consider when you decide on your chosen country. The distance that you have to travel in order to visit family and friends, may be a reason that you take into consideration and it may well be that a country closer to home would be better suited in the long run. I have since completed the round trip to and from New Zealand a total of five times. I can remember the first return journey to the UK. I can only describe my mind being gripped by what I can only call ‘a moment of madness’. Thoughts began to cross my mind that if someone offered to open the door of the plane, I would be ready to jump out and away from the banality of sitting in one spot for the next 24 hours.
The flights are tedium, even broken up by the inevitable stopover, into 11 or 13 hour stretches. You are left viewing the flight path image on the flight information screen in front of you; I swear that it is a static image as it never seems to move! You feel that you have been seated in the same spot for the best part of at least several hours but in reality only a few minutes have passed. How many movies can you physically watch in 24 hours? You reach a stage where your eyes glaze over, but sweet sleep eludes. You check your watch again. Total time elapsed since take off is a meager thirty minutes hang in there just 23 hours and 30 minutes left! This I can tell you, is a reality check and one that anyone planning to move so far abroad should take into consideration before they actually make the move.
So, if you have the chance to complete a ‘recce’ trip this will help you to consider the impact this will have upon the decision you make about where to move abroad. Can your mind and your body cope with the general practicalities of the 24 hour journey, not to mention the financial implications that this will place as well? Once you complete a 24 hour marathon such as ours, the really will sink in that this is not going to be a quick hop over to the continent, as you would if you were immigrating to the European continent. that is if you have chosen a country as far away as we did.
What Can You Learn From A Reece?
Now a ‘recce’ trip can be good thing but unfortunately it only gives a flavor of what to expect. You see, you may still be in ‘holiday mode’, no matter what you tell your brain.
This is why.
You have money in your pocket and no job to go to. You have the luxury of filling your days as you please, so you are hit with a false sense of what life could be like. Your brain tells you that this is the life; this is what you are looking for.
When we took our ‘recce’ trip, the currency exchange rate was in our favor and so we were able to enjoy a better than average lifestyle once out there. We hired a camper van and toured the whole of the North Island to decide if we really wanted to live there. We had the freedom to enjoy the open roads; we would drive for miles and not meet any traffic. It was just unreal. No traffic jams. No congestion. We headed to the tourist hot spot of ‘Hot Water Beach‘ in the Coromandel. There was a choice of parking spaces available and it was free. No it wasn’t deserted, there were other tourists but there was an abundance of space for all of us to enjoy the surroundings. No more being squashed in like sardines on the beach terrified to move in case we couldn’t squeeze back
into our spot again. The beauty of the Coromandel is like living in another world. It truly is Gods own and explains why the emigration process to New Zealand is like jumping through hoops high in the sky.
We also took a trip out to Ninety Mile Beach, which is situated just north of Auckland. If you ever have the opportunity to experience this, then I highly recommend it. What you do is drive onto Ninety Mile beach. What’s so great about that you may be asking? Well, this is no ordinary beach; it’s a quick sand beach. There is a certain thrill in this; each moment brings the possibility that you could get stuck in the quick sand with the tide coming in, if you time it wrong. Just a word of warning here – no insurance company will insure your vehicle so you are doing this 100% at your own risk. Just think of the multitude of health and safety regulations that would be in place in the UK — actually come to think of it, I don’t think that there is the possibility that this practice would be allowed in the UK in the first place.
Well I wanted more of this free way of thinking.
Even the smells of Rotorua sulphur could not put me off my dream to emigrate. I was in love with the idea of emigrating and nothing could put me off, it was like the dizzy heights of first love, intoxicating and I wanted more.
So this is where you need to take that reality check again, enjoying a holiday is one thing, to actually live in a country whilst not being able to afford a holiday is another. So by all means, if your budget allows you to take a ‘recce’ trip, then do so. After all you don’t move to another town without first doing your research so why would you do it differently moving abroad?
A ‘recce’ trip will also allow you to have a look at the job market and obtain a feel for what the lifestyle and economy is like out in your chosen country. But if there is going to be a long gap between your ‘recce’ trip and actually making the move abroad, then you may find that this information may not be of much value when it actually comes to making the move. The job market changes quickly and the world economics will impact upon your plans.
During our ‘recce’ trip, I came across pages full of jobs in my profession and certainly it looked like there would be no problem in obtaining work. I spoke to a couple of agencies who were only too willing to help me to find work. Roll on some three years later, (yes, that’s how long it took to process all our paperwork) the world economy had gone into a recession and jobs were much harder to come by. So, keep abreast of the job market and any changes that are taking place. I will cover my employment and experience in more detail in the next blog post – The First Year Living
Abroad — Expat Reality.
A ‘recce’ trip will also allow you to have a look at the housing available. New Zealand and Australia have what is known as an ‘Open Home’ system when it comes to viewing potential homes. Basically the “open home” system means that on any given weekend you could visit as many houses as you choose to view, if they are on the open home list that weekend. To find out which homes are available for viewing, simply get hold of the local property papers, which are available outside of any of the estate agents in the town. The beauty of this system is that you do not need to wait for an appointment to be made in order to view a home. Or more likely, you don’t have to go through the rigmarole of explaining that you are only on a recce or that you are just a nosy so and so, whichever the case may be.
This means that you will be able to view several homes over the weekends that are available for sale. If this doesn’t open your eyes to the possibilities of the home you can afford to have in, then nothing will. You get to see firsthand, how people in that country really live and the styles of the homes. It is a chance to talk to estate agents and also see what interest there is in properties in the area.
Just a few tips if you decide to take a look at some open homes. When you arrive at an open home, you will be asked to fill in your contact details. This serves two purposes from what I can understand; one is to cover the estate agencies for insurance purposes in case anything gets stolen and the second is to allow the estate agents to follow up and make a sale. So be prepared and expect a deluge of calls shortly after your viewings.
I hadn’t realized this and within hours of the open home ending, estate agents were calling to find out my view and if I was interested in purchasing the grotty home with the faded wallpaper and dim lighting. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I was only on a ‘recce’ and nowhere near being able to buy and even if I was, that property would be the very last on my list, as the description didn’t match the reality. There are ingenious ways of getting around this either refrain from answering your phone, for the first few days after any viewing, to any telephone numbers that you don’t recognize. But that’s cowardly and rude and I know that you are neither of those things. You could accidentally reverse a couple of digits in your phone number when entering your contact details, an easy mistake to make right? Or else you can politely say, thank you but it wasn’t what you were looking for.
I personally found that the standard of homes, especially rentals was of a poor standard in New Zealand. Although this may be relative to your price range and the standard of living in your chosen country (and believe me we weren’t looking at the lower end) so, unless you are able to afford the absolute higher end of the market, be prepared for some shockers. If you are looking for a rental, you can have a look at the lists available from the estate agents or look online. New Zealand has a site called Trade Me which provides up to date lists of properties that are available for rental or sale and there may be something similar in your chosen country.
Before choosing a rental or property of your own, be warned that many homes in New Zealand do not come With double glazing or heating as standard. Open log fires are great and seem romantic, but they have to be cleaned and you have to buy the wood and kindle which can eat into your budget.
When people think of New Zealand, they believe that the weather is similar to Australia. They envision clear blue skies year round with warm temperatures. Another reality check is due right now. The weather in New Zealand can be as grotty as that in the UK — I’m sorry to have to tell you this but it is true. They can have severe winters and the temperature can go down to minus degrees and many parts of the South Island get covered in snow over winter.
In the North Island, the average temperatures are somewhat higher than the South Island, but I can only tell you that living in a house where the outside temperatures are at just above freezing With no heating or double glazing was not one of the reasons why I had moved my family half way across the world!
What I found was that central heating systems are not a standard feature in many New Zealand homes, although many of the newer built homes are incorporating some form of heating, such as heat pumps. Heat Pumps are the equivalent of central heating but, in my opinion, are not as efficient.
The heat pump works by warming the air and circulating the warm air around the house but you will need several heat pumps to see any benefit during the winter months. When you leave the UK, you say good bye to central heating and all its associated benefits, you may find yourself going back in time in more ways than one and find yourself searching for those
trusty thermals — oh no, you didn’t throw them out did you?
If your budget and time do not allow you the luxury of a pre move visit then there are other ways of conducting your research. One of the best is to get involved in an online forum where you can talk to others first hand and ask questions and find out about their experiences. Forums can provide you with a wealth of information and you will find people there who have been through the experience and are only too ready to try to help. Some forums also hold regular webinars which help to guide you through the process and will allow you to ask questions that you may have.
I’m Jenny and I whilst I love being an expat in Auckland I could not find any reliable advice or guides online from someone who had actually made the move to New Zealand. So I decided to create this blog which offers free advice for expats by an expat. Hopefully you will find everything you’re looking for (and what I wish I knew before) here but if you can’t please do contact us.