Your F3 Year in New Zealand
Moving abroad as a junior doctor can be scary, so knowing what to expect before you make the move is really important. Here, we’ll take a closer look at New Zealand to help you decide if it’s a good fit for your F3 year abroad.
Moving to New Zealand
Moving to a new country as a doctor can feel exciting and adventurous, but at the same time overwhelming and daunting. New Zealand is almost as far as you can get from the UK, but at the same time it’s a well-developed, well-connected country with all sorts of opportunities to advance your career. There is no need to learn a new language or adapt to a vastly different culture or healthcare system, which actually makes the move a lot easier.
With so much to consider Messly has created a series of content designed to help you navigate some of the big moving decisions, and our regional guides will give you an introduction to each region and city, summarising the key facts, living costs, things to do, and local hospitals. They are the perfect springboard for your research.
But first off, is New Zealand the right place for you? You probably know that it’s where Lord of the Rings was filmed, and that the All Blacks are one of the world’s greatest rugby teams, but what is it like to actually live there? Read on to find out more about this small but mighty nation, the realities of living as a Kiwi, and explore its varied regions.
Key Stats: Geography, Population and Climate
New Zealand, located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, is made up of two large islands - the North Island, and the South Island - and around 600 smaller islands. It has a population of over 4.7million people. The capital city is Wellington, however, you are more likely to have heard of Auckland, which is larger by population and is the main financial centre. The currency is New Zealand dollars (NZD). They drive on the left. All be told, it’s not that different from the UK.
Both the North and South Islands have a temperate, maritime climate. Average year-round temperatures are 10°C in the south and a slightly warmer 16°C in the north. But just like good old Blighty, summer temperatures can soar to the low 30s. The country is predominantly coastal, which means there’s moderate rainfall and abundant sunshine. That said, New Zealand does have various microclimates across the country. For example, the far north has subtropical, humid summers while the mountainous inland areas in the south can be as cold as -10°C in winter.
The Kiwi Lifestyle
One of the main draw-cards of this beautiful country is that it is famed for having the work-life balance just right, and there is a persistent belief that life is for living. Notoriously laidback and down-to-earth, Kiwis balance a good day’s work with plenty of time for friends, family, and being able to enjoy their impressive outdoor wonderland. Expats and locals alike have more free time around their jobs, and as a result experience a better quality of life and mental wellbeing, meaning that New Zealand consistently leads international quality-of-life surveys.
With a landmass equal to that of the UK or Japan, and all the facilities of an advanced Western economy, but a fraction of the number of people, it means there is less pressure on space and natural resources. Less pollution, congestion and fewer health issues than many other places in the world all contribute to happy residents.
Finally, newcomers shouldn’t feel worried about settling into their new home, as across the country New Zealanders live up to their warm and friendly reputation.
Things to do
Aptly named the 'adventure capital of the world', with skydiving above the mountains and heli-hikes over glaciers topping the list, New Zealand is jam-packed with things to do, for every taste, but particularly if you enjoy the great outdoors.
New Zealand is home to the kind of scenery that demands a standing ovation. From Milford Sound’s arrow-headed peaks, to stretches of beach so vast they earn outlandish names such as ‘Ninety Mile Beach’. Caves filled with glow-worms like a million fairy lights, and ice fields that career down almost to the edge of the Tasman Sea. Lord of the Rings may be fiction, but the place in which it is set, is all real. You can learn to surf, ski, paddle and dive, or simply walk, run and cycle, to enjoy this stunning and varied country.
And the thing that makes it even better? It’s all in relatively close proximity. In your F3 year abroad you could conceivably have a different experience across the country every weekend. And whilst notorious for its ‘isolation’ there are also plenty of affordable ways to visit nearby countries, with frequent (short) flights to Australia, Fiji, The Cook Islands, Tonga and New Caledonia.
Find out more about specific activities and recommendations by checking out our Regional Guides below.
Culture and Traditions
As already mentioned, the culture of New Zealand is essentially a Western culture. However, it is specifically influenced by the unique environment and geographic isolation of the islands, and the various waves of multi-ethnic migration which followed colonisation by the British. But perhaps most important is the input of the indigenous Māori people, who’s culture and traditions form an integral part of Kiwi life.
The Māori people arrived in New Zealand over 1000 years ago from their mythical Polynesian homeland of Hawaiki, and today they make up 14% of the population. Their history, language, legends and traditions are central to New Zealand’s identity, as a visitor or resident of the country you will experience their captivating art, food, and stories in action.
Cost of Living
Although the cost of may be higher for some (depending on where you are coming from the UK, and where you intend to live in New Zealand), for the vast majority of junior doctors, New Zealand is incredibly affordable and you should find you have some extra pennies in the bank. The 2019 Mercer Cost of Living Survey placed Auckland 89th in the world in terms of cost, and Wellington a very reasonable 114th (London was 23rd!).
The majority of expats will head to New Zealand’s main cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, with Auckland being significantly more expensive. But if you do decide to live in a smaller city, you will find that your cost of living will be significantly less.
In 2016 the government Statistics Department surveyed New Zealand households and the average weekly budget, including rent, utilities, health, transport, clothing, food and recreation came to £630.
Housing: You won’t find the endless sprawls of high-density housing or rows of towering high-rises you find across the UK, in New Zealand. There’s room to breathe, even in the larger cities, and plenty of options to choose from. On average you can expect to pay around £170- £250 a week for a two bedroom apartment in the city. Utilities will vary in price depending on your energy provider. Power Switch is a useful tool for finding the right provider.
Travel: Smaller, less crowded cities and towns make getting to and from work much easier. Auckland is the exception, and like any million-plus city it does have noticeable peak-hour traffic congestion. All of New Zealand’s main cities have efficient public transport systems, with fares starting at around £1 for a single trip. Just like the UK’s major cities you can buy weekly and monthly passes to make travel more cost-effective.
If you plan on living further outside a major city, or plan on doing lots of travel during your year abroad, buying a used car is a really cost-effective and convenient option. Petrol is cheap (£1.15 a litre) and it’s not compulsory to have car insurance, but most drivers purchase at least third party cover.
Food and recreation: As mentioned, costs will vary depending on your location, but you will find cheap meals like fish and chips, or noodles for around £5. Although a dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant will set you back between £40-£50. A beer at a local bar is around £4, a flat white is £2.50 and a trip to the movies between £5-£9.
You can read our guide to the New Zealand healthcare system, and what that means as a junior doctor here.
Thanks to heavy government subsidies, all Kiwis and permanent residents, as well as many work visa holders can access healthcare for free or a small cost and nobody can be refused emergency care because they are unable to pay. New Zealand has around 40 public hospitals spread across the country in cities and larger towns. Each of our Regional Guides has a breakdown of the local hospitals you can expect to work in.
Whether you already know where you would like to relocate to, or are just looking for some inspiration on for a short list, check out our Regional Guides, which will help you decide which New Zealand spot is best for your year abroad:
Northland: At the northern tip of the North Island, Northland has some of the country's best weather with a sub-tropical climate. Its a great place for surfing, hiking and exploring nature with a relaxed pace of life. Whangarei is the largest town, but is small (even by New Zealand standards).
Wellington: New Zealand’s capital is located at the very bottom of the North Island, alongside the Cook Strait (the strait running between the two islands that make up New Zealand). It is known to be one of the world’s most liveable cities, doing very well in many rankings over the years. It won first place in terms of liveability and non-pollution in 2018, while in 2013 Lonely Planet named it “the coolest little capital in the world”.
Bay of Plenty: The Bay of Plenty is a large open bay on the northern coast of New Zealand's North Island. It is famed for its lifestyle opportunities and a climate that means outdoor activities can be enjoyed year round. The most iconic element of the Bay of Plenty is its expansive coastline – home to stunning white sand beaches that attract residents and holidaymakers alike.
Hawke's Bay: Hawke’s Bay is a region on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, and consists of a large semi-circular bay that extends for 100 kilometres from northeast to southwest from Mahia Peninsula to Cape Kidnappers. The major towns are Hastings and Napier. For years, Hawke’s Bay (particularly the Hastings District) was known as ‘New Zealand’s fruit bowl’ for its stone and pip fruit production. More recently, land use has diversified, especially into viticulture.
Napier: Napier sits on the eastern coast of the north island of New Zealand, and is the main city in the Hawke’s Bay region. It is famous for it's stunning and beautifully-restored Art Deco buildings and the annual 'Mission Concert', which has attracted performers such as Kenny Rogers, Shirley Bassey, and Rod Stewart.
Waikato: Waikato is a lesser-known, but incredibly beautiful, region in New Zealand’s North Island. The biggest, and only, major city in the region is Hamilton. With a population of 166,000 people, it is the fourth-biggest city in New Zealand. If you are looking for big city lights and action, this is not the spot for you. However, if you are looking for an outdoor wonderland, which still offers enough city amenities and conveniences, it’s definitely worth considering.
Canterbury: The Canterbury region stretches down the East coast of the South Island of New Zealand, dominated by the region's major city, Christchurch. It is a popular place for British expats to settle, and is home to beaches, mountains, rural villages and big cities.
Otago: Otago is a southeastern region on New Zealand's South Island. The largest city is Dunedin (population 120,000), sited at the head of a long harbour. Other major centres include Oamaru, Balcutha, Alexandra, and the major tourist centres Queenstown and Wanaka. Otago is among the most diverse of all New Zealand’s regions. The mountain scapes, forests and lakes intermittently give way to busy urban areas and secluded hamlets, and it’s this variety that remains its big drawcard for locals and migrants alike.
Dunedin: Dunedin is a city on New Zealand’s South Island, at the head of Otago Harbour on the southeast coast. It is known for its Scottish and Maori heritage, Victorian and Edwardian architecture, and a large student population, which heavily influences its character. Dunedin won the title of most beautiful city in the 2018 ‘Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards’, mainly due to lots of well-tended community spaces, natural surrounds and commitment to sustainability.
Messly is here to help
At Messly, we help doctors like you make your next move in healthcare. We are working with hospitals and clinics in Australia and New Zealand, helping trainees from the NHS make their dream F3 year a reality.
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