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An guide to living and working in Auckland as an Expat

Written by Sabrina Bucknole on 6 September 2018

It’s no secret that New Zealand offers breathtakingly beautiful scenery – one of those spots being Auckland and its surrounding area. With nature reserves, inactive volcanoes, sweeping green hills, and thermal springs, Auckland’s stunning scenic views aren’t the only reason why expats are attracted to the region.

As the country’s cultural and commercial centre, Auckland offers plenty of opportunities, both career-wise and in terms of lifestyle. With short-term and long-term skills shortages across Auckland as well as the country as a whole, the New Zealand government are seeking expats with suitable skills and experience to move to the country for work. This makes finding work and the prospect of career progression that much easier for those thinking of moving here to work.

To give you a taste of what living and working as an expat in Auckland is truly like, this article explores the city’s most popular industries, career opportunities and aspects of lifestyle from cost of living to healthcare.

Career opportunities

Auckland boasts a thriving economy, thanks to the diverse and plentiful employment opportunities in a range of growing and established industries. Ripe with exciting prospects, Auckland’s industries are divided into three core sectors including advanced, tradeable and enabling:

Advanced industries

Auckland’s advanced industries consist of technology and commercial services. The technology sector includes ICT and software companies such as cyber security, big data and fin-tech, and high-tech manufacturing such as medical devices and aerospace engineering.

The commercial services sector consists of specialist services in areas such as scientific research, engineering and business, and management. The advanced industries offer a small but significant contribution to the region’s economy, so if you have the right set of skills, you’re sure to find something to suit you and your career prospects.

Tradeable industries

Auckland’s tradeable industries contribute more than 25% of the region’s economy and comprises of the production of goods and services for international markets. These include food and beverage, and screen and creative. Businesses in the food and beverage sector employ, approximately, more people than an average business in New Zealand, meaning that you’ll find plenty of opportunity in this well-established sector.  

Auckland’s screen and creative sector offers some truly exciting career options, from film and television production, animation and gaming to virtual reality and urban design. The employment rate increased by 9,000 workers between 2009 and 2014, emphasising the growing nature of this blossoming sector.

Enabling industries

The city’s enabling industries include construction, tourism, and international education. Due to the amount of planned construction in Auckland, the construction industry is in dire need of those with the correct set of skills. So, if your expertise lies in this sector, be sure to take advantage of the abundance of opportunities available in this lively city.

With an ever-growing influx of tourists and visitors, career prospects in the tourism sector are plentiful. As well as producing 3.5% of Auckland’s GDP, the tourism sector plays an important role in when defining Auckland’s identity as an international and inclusive city.

Auckland is home to more than 400 schools, institutes and universities, making it the country’s most popular destination for international students, which in turn emphasises the importance of the city’s international education sector. For those interested and skilled in the educational sector, Auckland may be the perfect destination for you.

Business etiquette and work-life balance

Work etiquette varies from country to country as well as business to business, which is why it can be useful to know what to expect from your new place of work. Sarah Ayala, a New Zealander who works for Kiwi Importer, comments on the country’s “casual approach” to business etiquette. “At work not only do we dress more casually but I think we behave more casually too” she says. “Typically, we’re all on a first name basis in NZ, even your boss or someone in a high position of authority is likely to be addressed by their first name. I’ve made a few mistakes here (the US) by not being formal enough in how I’ve addressed others”, admits Sarah.

While New Zealanders often take a more relaxed and warm approach when addressing and communicating with work colleagues, having a strong work ethic and working hard is valued. “We also know how to enjoy our leisure time” says Sarah. “I feel like I work just as hard in both countries but somehow, I have more leisure time in NZ” adds Sarah – which is of no surprise due to the sheer amount of outdoor activities and green areas to enjoy in and around Auckland.

Awarded top spot for expat experience and sixth place for work-life balance in HSBC’s 2017 Expat Explorer Survey, it’s not difficult to see why New Zealand is an alluring choice for expats looking to further their career while enjoying a better quality of life. As well as having access to all the amenities and comforts that come with living in a city, you’re also within close proximity to breathtakingly beautiful green spaces so you can escape the hustle and bustle without even going far.

Lifestyle and culture

Auckland is a relatively small yet thriving city, with just under half of the country’s population living there. Embraced by three harbours, Auckland offers around 29,000 kilometres of gorgeous coastline, as well as parks, volcanic cones, forests, and much more. Situated in the Hauraki Gulf, you’re only a stone’s throw away from picturesque islands and emerald waters, giving you plenty to experience and enjoy. 

Considered an inclusive and diverse place to live, New Zealand’s culture finds roots in British, Asian and European custom, and is heavily influenced by Māori and Polynesian tradition. 1 in 4 people (127,629) of Māori ethnicity live in the Auckland region. Even though this number may seem low compared to the overseas born population, the Māori tradition is an innate part of the city’s, and country’s culture; one which is celebrated frequently. As such, don’t be surprised to see job descriptions and performance objectives that cite ‘understanding Māori culture’ as part of your role, as efforts are made across the board to ensure that newcomers to New Zealand understand and appreciate the indigenous culture.

Healthcare and cost of living

As the region’s largest city, Auckland offers a full range of high-quality medical options and services, from local doctors (GPs) and public hospitals to private hospitals and specialist care. Depending on your visa status, it may be worth looking into expat health insurance options because only those with a work visa in NZ that's valid for 2 years or more will have access to the country’s public healthcare services, otherwise you will have to pay for all your medical care.

While the cost of living in Auckland is cheaper overall than other major cities like New York, Sydney and London, some aspects of living can be more expensive than others. “Housing can be expensive in Auckland which is why more people tend to rent (if you are single you are likely to share a house with friends)” says Sarah. And while “eating out can be more expensive in New Zealand than the US, the food is so fresh and of good quality. There are also great farmers markets!”

With an abundance of career opportunities, a fulfilling outdoor-oriented lifestyle, and a beautifully diverse culture, Auckland is hard to beat when it comes to quality of life and work-life balance, making it a wonderful choice for expats.

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