Tag Archives: Expat

A-Z Challenge: QUESTIONS (& answers) about my life here in New Zealand

James and Alexa Rae at the top of the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.comMy boyfriend James is a big fan of Reddit, a site known for their AMA “Ask Me Anything” interviews.

I thought that a Q&A would be a fun way to post about the letter Q in my seemingly never-ending alphabet blogging challenge.

So… on Facebook I asked my friends and family to send me their quandaries. Scroll down to see my responses.

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How many hours difference are you from San Diego?

Well, it depends on the time of year actually. Right now, we in New Zealand are nineteen hours ahead of San Diego (or I like to think of it as five hours behind but a day ahead haha).

That will change when each of us (NZ & California) goes through Daylight Savings. It will change to 20 hours ahead and then 21 hours ahead.

 

How does working there compare to here?

Let’s see…

Here in New Zealand there is a 90-day trial for every employee. Before you hit 90 days at your place of employment you can basically be let go without reason.

Our salaries are a bit higher (but our dollar is weaker and cost of living fairly expensive) so it ends up being somewhat similar.

 

What are the benefits like?

In New Zealand we get many more days of paid annual leave (the minimum for everyone is four weeks but some businesses offer even more).

We also have PAID parental (yes, BOTH parents) leave (which will move from 16 weeks to 18 weeks next year), as opposed to the US – which federally speaking has zero paid leave and only 12 weeks unpaid leave… California does now offer six weeks at 55% of your salary.

And if you’re wondering why I know so much about parental leave? I wrote an article on it a few weeks ago.

 

When’s the wedding and am I invited?

Ha! Not anytime SOON – we are not even engaged!

 

What are your work colleagues like, and are their accents the coolest ever?

Yes, Heath. Your accent is awesome. haha And you, along with all of my co-workers, are pretty darn great! I feel very fortunate to work with such a dynamic group of people. There’s a fantastic energy in our office.

 

View on the kiwi foodie scene?

The amount of health food restaurants and stores is incredibly impressive for its size!

One of the things that stands out most about the food here is how fresh it is. It just tastes more real and fresh off the vine if that makes sense.

 

And what would you recommend to those travelling to NZ?

In terms of food? If you’re in Auckland I really love Mexico, ironically. I didn’t even like Mexican food when I lived minutes from the Mexican border. But Mexico is a really fantastic restaurant with a few different locations around AKL.

In terms of just regular travel? In summer I absolutely LOVED spending a few days on the island of Waiheke just off the coast of Auckland.

I would also definitely recommend the Coromandel Peninsula and Cathedral Cove as well as the Glow Worm caves down in Waitomo and hiking Duder Regional Park in Maraetai.

But honestly… this country is the most beautiful and diverse place I’ve ever been to. Everywhere you turn it is absolutely stunning. There truly are endless opportunities for adventure here.

 

Are you an All Blacks fan?

Sure am! I even have an All Blacks jersey! But I’m still figuring out how rugby works…

 

Do you say mate yet?

I don’t say mate and I don’t think I ever will. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, it just doesn’t come naturally like some other kiwi words do.

 

Other than missing family & friends, what’s been the most difficult thing to adjust to and how do you deal with it?

Driving and the weather.

I have managed to conquer driving on the left – with the steering wheel on the right. Well, for the most part.

The weather? Still a daily struggle for me. It’s not the arctic or anything but WOW. It really FEELS like it.

I’ve had to go out and buy new clothes – including merino wool tops, wool socks, more tights/leggings, more thick sweaters, more boots, etc.

I also have had to purchase an electric blanket which has made a massive difference in the evenings!

I now use a room heater in the bathroom for when I get out of the shower and I wear a robe, and slippers or house socks pretty much constantly when I’m home.

 

What is the main differences in food compared to the U.S.? In terms of what people eat, the taste, fruits, etc.

Food in New Zealand is generally a bit healthier — less processed, smaller portions and so on. Supermarkets don’t look that different really but people appear to eat somewaht less fast food and more homecooked meals, and you can tell the differences in sizes at the movies for example.

There’s a lot of pumpkin/kumara served here which makes me a very happy camper! And definitely a British influence in the food – the commonality of things like savoury pies, fish and chips, etc.

 

How different are the road rules other than driving on the other side of the road?

I’m still getting a hang of that.

The first thing that comes to mind… ROUNDABOUTS! And I actually LOVE them. They scared me for the first couple months but now I can’t imagine life without them. They’re so much more functional than sitting at red lights for forever.

In more rural New Zealand there are one-way bridges where one side yields until there are no more cars coming, which I’ve never seen in the US.

The speed limits in the US are a bit higher and I think I still drive at US speeds – oops! But I haven’t been caught yet. Only by James.

 

How did your perception of kiwis change after you moved here (if it changed at all)?

Hmm… I think I just learn every day how friendly kiwis are. I personally find them very welcoming and warm, more so than the average Los Angeles resident.

They have a wee bit (see what I did there?) of that formality that Americans associate with the UK. Sort of a sophistication. Well. Some kiwis. ūüėõ

 

What do you wish the US had that NZ does and what do you wish NZ had that the US does?

I wish NZ had Target! And quark. And less-expensive shopping. And warmer weather. And currency as strong as the USD. And my family. I really miss them.

Hmm… I wish the US had the lifestyle that NZ has. And the amazing level of healthcare that NZ has. And the far lower crime rates. Children walk home from school here without the fear that they’ll be kidnapped. Police in NZ don’t carry guns or even tazers. It’s very safe and you can feel that.

 

What’s the main differences in lifestyle from the U.S. To NZ?

New Zealanders have a healthier work-life balance. Americans live to work, where in NZ it’s more about working to live. The focus here is on enjoying life – BBQs with friends on the weekend, an emphasis on O.E. (Overseas Experience) for young adults, etc.

People here just seem more ALIVE, instead of simply going through the motions. I never noticed that the US is like that until I spent more time here and realized how much people

 

If you have any other questions for me ask them in a comment below and I will add them to the post!

A-Z Challenge: Meet Ruby, my new car!

RubyCar at Eastern Beach in Auckland, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com

My one-month blogging challenge has turned into a three-month blogging challenge.

But you know what… priorities.

I¬†managed¬†to land an incredible job¬†with an amazing company, which I’ll tell you about in an upcoming post.

Work and paying the bills will always take precedence. Because adulthood, yo.

But on with the post. I’m pretty damn proud of myself to be honest, for ALL the things¬†I’ve accomplished since I arrived in New Zealand more¬†than two months ago.

One of these things is buying a¬†car –¬†the second one I’ve ever had in my name.

RubyCar at dealership in Otahuhu in Auckland, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com

She’s not brand¬†new, but she’s beautiful.

We’ve named her Ruby, for her stunning deep red paint job.

James’ son, who turns¬†three this month, calls her RubyCar. It’s SO cute!

I found RubyCar on TradeMe, a Craigslist-type website of sorts.

She was the first car I test drove and after considering others I just kept coming back to her.

And a couple days later, after getting a pre-purchase examination and (sort of) working out bank issues, I picked her up from the dealership in Otahuhu.

RubyCar at Eastern Beach in Auckland, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com

I chose RubyCar for a variety of reasons.

1.) I never would’ve chosen a red car before now but because I’m in a new country, which drives on the opposite side than what I’ve been used to for 24 years, I figure it’s good to stand out on the road so other drivers see me!

2.) I have always preferred SUVs. My previous cars have been a bright yellow Jeep Wrangler, a pearly white Ford Explorer, a silver gray Ford Escape and now this ruby red Subaru Forester. I simply feel safer in a larger car.

3.) She drives smoothly. She has relatively low miles for her age. She simply has nothing against her. She’s like a perfectly-aged red wine. My very own Central Otago Pinot Noir with wheels! haha

4.) I can say I drive a Japanese import. Sounds so exotic, right? Her previous owners were in Japan and so to RubyCar we say Konnichi wa. Just kidding, we don’t say that…

RubyCar at Bucklands Beach in Auckland, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com

Since buying my newest transportation at the end of April I have put on approximately 1,000 kms, mostly driving to and from work, which is about 42 km roundtrip!

When I first began driving I was absolutely terrified. It took about 6 weeks (of being mostly a passenger) for me to really get used to the concept of cars being on the left and which lanes turned where, etc.

My first drive to work was at 5:00am on a very very rainy morning in the dark. I survived and since then have been very confident with my driving here.

IMG_4843

Sort of forcing myself into driving on the motor way, in the dark, in the rain, was a blessing in disguise because now I can get anywhere no problem!

But as much as I love RubyCar, I still love our odd mornings, with crisp air and seabird sounds, when James and I can sit side-by-side gazing at the Rangitoto volcanic island just off the coast as we take the ferry in to work together.

What a beautiful and lucky life I lead.

A-Z Challenge: Kiwi Birthday

Blowing out the candles on my 24th birthday via ZaagiTravel.com

I turned 24 on Sunday.

And days in which we celebrate our arrival into the world should always be special. This year was no different, so I feel it deserves a post.

After all, it was my first birthday spent in New Zealand – heck my first birthday spent in another country!

Blowing out the candles on my 24th birthday via ZaagiTravel.com

In the morning, before I even had a chance to have breakfast, I woke to beautiful roses from my ridiculously romantic boyfriend James.

The spoiling didn’t stop there. Many of my Kiwi friends came over before noon for tea and cupcakes.

James’ mom Sami baked delicious frosting-covered mini cakes, which displayed 24 (WOW time flies) long metallic candles.

FlashtyPants made sure to offer his assistance in blowing out the glimmering sparklers, climbing up on a chair beside me with a cheeky grin, a similar one that graced his face hours before when he opened up my birthday pressies.The roses James gave me for my 24th birthday via ZaagiTravel.com

The rest of the day involved watching the Pacquiao vs. Mayweather fight. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with the result of THAT. But it was still fun to cheer Pac Man on!

In the evening we migrated back to the couch to watch Full Metal Jacket and in between I day-dreamed of what I could create with my new Nutri Ninja 2-in-1 blender/food processor!

One thing is for sure… 24 is already one for the books. And I’m just getting started!

A-Z Challenge: Ice Ice Baby

Antarctic chill as seen from the view in Howick, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com

I arrived in New Zealand just in time for an Antarctic chill to sweep across this beautiful (double or kind of triple) island nation.

Throughout the last week we’ve had unusually cold temperatures, particularly at night and in the morning.

Rain has been on and off. Sometimes during the day the temperature has warmed up to be rather hot. But for the most part, the wintry weather has been a shock to the system for this born-and-raised California girl.Antarctic chill as seen from the view in Howick, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com

Antarctic chill as seen from the view in Howick, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com

It started last week, shortly after James and Brett completed their Guinness World Record.

I really can’t complain, considering we live in the north part of the North Island – the region furthest from the Antarctic than the rest of New Zealand.

The cold snap – which brought snow to the South Island and stormy weather to Auckland – meant 8/9 degrees Celsius or 46/48 Fahrenheit for us up this side.

Antarctic chill as seen from the view in Howick, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com

Down south in Christchurch the temperatures plummeted to 1/2 degrees Celsius or 33/35 Fahrenheit.

I survived with the help of newly bought slippers and the use of layers and sweaters (jumpers in Kiwi talk).

It looks like I’ll probably need to purchase some Merino wool under layers to help get me through this new-to-me phenomenon known as winter.Antarctic chill as seen from the view in Howick, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.comAntarctic chill as seen from the view in Howick, New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com

James making a fire during the Antarctic chill in New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com

Fortunately, James is a skilled fire-maker and has been building beautiful fires at night. As well as right now, at noon on Saturday morning as we both work side-by-side in the lounge.

Wish me luck as I try and keep warm, an entirely foreign concept for me… no pun intended.

A-Z Challenge: Customs (Global Entry & NZ Holiday Working Visa)

View from Air New Zealand flight over Manakau Peninsula in Auckland via ZaagiTravel.com

On Thursday evening I flew to New Zealand.

I arrived on Saturday morning due to time changes + the amount of time in the air (almost 13 hours).

For this blog post I thought I would tell you about my experience with Customs & Immigration — including my new Global Entry membership as well as which visa I am on here in NZ!

Flight Map via ZaagiTravel.com

GLOBAL ENTRY

I applied for the Global Entry program back in February.

The program, run by the U.S. Customs & Border Protection agency “allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States”, according to it’s website.

Applicants “undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment”.

The benefits of using Global Entry include…

  • shorter waiting times at both major American airports as well as many International airports as well
  • TSA PreCheck eligibility (cutting the line at security!)

Passport and Boarding Pass via ZaagiTravel.com

Basically, you’ll spend approximately 30 minutes and $100 on the application, and if you travel often it is something you should consider looking into.

The membership will last me five years, and being that I’ll be traveling internationally often, I personally feel that it is very worth it!

In order to be fully approved, first, I had to await the acceptance of my online application. I was then told I had to schedule an interview at my nearest enrollment center, which happened to be at the LAX airport.

The interview was very simple and to the point. I met with a U.S. Customs Border Patrol agent who asked me questions about my traveling habits, if I had a criminal record, etc.

After only 15 or so minutes I was told I had been approved and could immediately begin using my Global Entry membership!

Alexa and James via ZaagiTravel.com

NEW ZEALAND WORKING HOLIDAY VISA

Now, on to another immigration matter!

In order to live and work in New Zealand I am using a special visa, which is referred to as the Working Holiday scheme.

The rules of the visa vary, depending on where you are from.

But for Americans, you can apply for this visa if you are between the ages of 18 and 30. It will last me 12 months and allows me to do any work that I would like, as long as I abide by universal New Zealand employment laws.

The application ended up being absolutely FREE! And I was approved in less than a week!

It went in to effect the day I arrived and will last for 365 days.

When I arrived at the airport in New Zealand I only had to show my passport to the NZ Customs officer. I had copies of my work visa & proof of the amount of money I have (in order to show that I can support myself until I find a job and can afford a return ticket at the end of my visa’s covered amount of time).

The entire process (of getting and using a visa) was incredibly simple and straight forward. Moving internationally – not so much. But I can get into that in another upcoming post.

I’m a tiny bit behind on my daily blogging challenge, which defeats the purpose, I know!

But I have been so so busy the last few days. Trying to catch up now!

Cheers from NZ,

Alexa & James

A-Z Challenge: America to nZ

Alexa Rae on Waiheke Island in New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com
Well, if you’re reading this there’s a good chance you already know I’m moving to New Zealand.

If you didn’t know… now you know!

And I’m moving… this week.

I’ll keep this post relatively brief because there will be some lengthy ones to come.

In the month of April I will be blogging EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Ok wait. That’s not true.

I’ll be blogging every single day of the month¬†aside from Fridays¬†or Thursdays if you’re in North America. Technically the rules of the challenge I’m completing (more on that below) include breaks from blogging on Sundays. However, I’m a rebel so I’m choosing Fridays.

Keep Calm And Move To New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com

Basically… while researching blogs about Americans that have moved to New Zealand I came across Albom Adventures, a blog written by a female American expat living in Auckland.

She has completed the A-Z Blogging Challenge for the past four years. I was inspired. And being that this will be one of the biggest months of my entire life thus far, I want to document it the very best I can.

My blogging lately has been pitiful, and that’s being kind. But I feel extremely motivated to complete this challenge.

Some of my upcoming posts will include information pertaining to travel, including my experience with Global Entry as well as the special visa I’ll be on.

But most importantly, it will follow the shenanigans I get up to with the best sidekick in the world, my boyfriend James.

Upcoming topics include…

  • On April 11-12 James and his dad Brett will be attempting their second Guinness World Record, for the longest game of squash, playing 36+ consecutive hours to raise $36,000+ for the Child Cancer Foundation.
  • I’ll also be discussing Kiwi food, Kiwi slang, and some of my favorite places I’ve already traveled to around New Zealand.
  • Some of the most fun you could ever imagine!

Flag Of  New Zealand via ZaagiTravel.com

And! As it turns out… Rhonda from Albom Adventures has themed her A-Z posts ‘AmaZing Auckland’! I look forward to discovering more about my new backyard through her blog as well!

Please feel free to follow this journey I’m about to partake on.

And buckle up. It’s gonna be a crazy beautiful ride (on the left side of the road… Oh goodness!)