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Les Calvert


New Zealand

1: There is no such thing as Kiwi central heating

In New Zealand, most houses are built single glazed and without central heating. The usual means of heating is a solid-fuel fire, and you’ll want to stoke it before you go to bed because otherwise, you’ll be able to see your breath when you wake up in winter. Kiwis will just tell you to ‘put your woollies on’- not the advice we’re used to in the UK or, even more so, the USA!

2: New Zealand has its own slang and it is impenetrable to outsiders

Because the Kiwi accent is usually less strong than the Australian, it’s easy to forget that the language has had a while to develop in its own way. Kiwi language is loaded with fun expressions to describe activities and people, many of which require a double take the first time you hear them. ‘She’ll be right, mate’is familiar from the more widely-known Australian dialect, but when was the last time you heard someone indicate the copacetic by, ‘it’s like a box of fluffy ducks’?

3: Kiwis have their own relationship with the letter ‘R.’

If you’re an American reading this, you might think that you’ll be fine with ‘R’s showing up on the ends of words where british people don’t put them. If you’re British, you might think you’re OK with ‘super’becoming ‘supa’- after all, that’s how you’ve always said it. But in New Zealand, it’s supa to be on a peninsularrrrr. Brrrace yourself.

4: They put odd things on food

In the USA, burgers come with a pickle, which you remove and discard before eating. In the UK, burgers come with mayo or relish. In New Zealand, burgers come with lettuce, tomato, mayo, beetroot and a fried egg, and each component is considered necessary.

5: Children in New Zealand don’t wear shoes

Kiwi kids pretty much just don’t wear shoes. Until you start school, in New Zealand you go barefoot and many kids go barefoot summer long too. In fact, the barefoot trend spreads so far that not only will kids wear nothing on their feet to the doctor’the zoo, the shop, restaurants, and basically everywhere else, but some schools make a provision for being barefoot as part of their uniform policy.

6: New Zealand food sizes are way off

Imagine a country that’s marginal for arable agriculture but a major producer of dairy and sheep meat. Now imagine what food portions would be like there. That’s New Zealand. Most things are smaller than Americans are used to, certainly, and sometimes smaller than we’re used to in the UK. But the butter comes in 500g blocks or above.

7: Cheese. Just cheese

Britain has a long tradition of local cheeses. Even in small supermarket franchises in out of the way places, you can usually find cheddar, red Leicester and maybe a crumbly Wensleydale. America has its many immigrant communities to thank for its culinary diversity. But New Zealand has a two-tier cheese system: artisanal hand-made cheeses, and the three traditional new Zealand cheeses. In the words of native writer Joe Bennet, ‘Colby is bland, Medium is bland, and Tasty, well, you can taste it.’Americans trying to cook Mac and cheese are horrified to find that New Zealand cheese doesn’t melt either.

Harbour Bridge Australia

It all depends what you want. Sydney is the obvious choice, sure, but Perth might be a better choice if you’re jobseeking.

It’s easy to understand the appeal of Australia for expatriates. There’s the 21, 000 miles of coastlines, sub-tropical rainforests, and the Great Barrier Reef; there’s actual sunshine, to say nothing of Christmas barbecues on the beach. And of course there’s Australia’s history as a British outpost. There’s also a huge country -the sixth largest in the world – with a population of just 22 million, meaning the great outdoors – and in Australia it really is great, in both senses of the word – is on tap. Extractive industries let the Australian economy survive the global economic meltdown almost unscathed.

It’s not that easy to get into Australia – see the Australian Visa Process page for more detail on that  – but once you’re in, where should you go?

Sydney is the New York of Australia – a thriving financial hub and home to fully one third of the country’s financial jobs. It’s beautiful, it’s vibrant, and it’s home to a thriving arts and culture scene that features fine galleries and museums, theatre that ranges from tiny experimental outfits to the great and the good, a wide range of top quality restaurants and a lively cafe culture. There’s a festival coming up almost all year, and when you throw in good public transport and great healthcare, plus the picturesque suburbs surrounding the city proper, you can easily see why so many people want to live in Sydney.

And there’s the rub: so many people want to live in Sydney that prices there are very high. You’ll be looking at AU$1m for a 3-bed house – median house price runs AU$600, 000 –  or apartments priced at AU$9, 650 a square metre in the city centre, falling to around AU$6, 500 in the suburbs. If there’s a single factor that holds most people off from moving to Sydney, it’s that.

Perth is a very different city. Roughly a thousand dollars per square metre cheaper to buy property in, it’s slightly more expensive for utilities – about AU$50 a month – due in part to being the most physically isolated large city on earth, a 29-hour, 2, 700km drive from nearest neighbour Adelaide.

If Sydney is the New York of Australia, Perth is the country’s San Francisco, a relaxed set-up featuring a cosmopolitan city scene with a laid-back coastal feel. (Incidentally, Perth beat San Francisco in the last Mercer Quality of Living Survey!)

One way perth falls short of Sydney is in the availability of school places for international students, and you can be facing expensive education fees – on top of Perth’s high cost of living.

So what if you don’t want to live in Sydney or Perth?

Maybe Hobart or Adelaide would be for you.

The big difference between Australian cities in terms of cost of living is house prices; apart from that there’s not more than 15% variation in the price of most commodities and services city to city.

Hobart offers homes costing an average AU$350, 000 –  about 40% less than Sydney. Canberra will cost a similar amount to Sydney.

There’s more to Hobart than lower house prices, though. Tasmania’s capital city features historic sites and the gorgeous Mount Wellington Lookout, and with a population of 217, 000 it’s big enough to support a thriving cultural scene too. You’ll need to fly across to the rest of Australia, and the climate won’t be the warmest – it’s Australia’s southernmost city, after all.

Rural New Zealand - Places to live

New Zealand has a very wide range of lifestyles available, depending on where in the country you move to. That’s great if you do your preparation and fetch up somewhere that fits in with your plans. But choosing the wrong destination could mean a lot of wasted money and upheaval.

New Zealand is divided into two land masses, the North Island and the South Island. They are very different places, as we shall see. The main population centres are Auckland in the north and Wellington in the south of the North Island, and Christchurch at the north and Dunedin about midway down the South Island. These four main cities have over 50% of new Zealand’s population – and that’s not much to begin with. New Zealand is about the same size as the UK, with about half the population of Greater London.


Of the 4.4 million people who live in New Zealand, a million live in Auckland. It’s by far new Zealand’s biggest city. Originally belonging to a country where land was fairly cheap, Auckland has the miles of sprawling suburbs you’d associate with a US metro area and consequently commuting can be a serious hassle. It also has New Zealand’s most expensive property market by a long way, and you’ll be competing with New Zealanders, other expats from Britain, Americans, Asians and a few Australians looking for a place to live within driving distance of new Zealand’s most thriving jobs market. In the centre of Auckland, the architecture is very modern with a lot of tall, glass and steel buildings, and the atmosphere is cosmopolitan and forward looking. In common with most large cities there are more and less desirable areas.


New Zealand has in common with the USA that its capital is not its largest or best known city. The country’s capital is Wellington, situated in the south of the North Island and home to about 350, 000 people. It’s unusual for being so windy that many of its shopping centres are underground, and regards itself as New Zealand’s answer to San Francisco – a liberal, internationalist cultural hub.


In the South Island, you’ll find Christchurch toward the northern end. Often described as the misty English of New Zealand’s cities, it’s more rugged and more windswept than Auckland as well as being smaller. Cold southerly winter winds keep buildings off the shoreline, a mixed blessing: there’s more open beach, but the city has less of a relationship with the sea than Auckland.


Christchurch shares the South Island with Dunedin, which has about 110, 000 people and is historically more Scottish than the rest of New Zealand. Dunedin stands out for a couple of things: one, houses are cheaper than in the other major New Zealand cities, and two, the steepest street in the world is there. It also has an extremely good medical school.

Rural New Zealand

Outside the major population centres, New Zealand is extremely rural. The trouble with that is that being from the UK, which is a very built-up country, we tend to think of rural meaning ‘farmhouses.’But there are parts of the bush in the South Island that have never been felled, and plenty of places in New Zealand where you can’t see anything man-made.

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to research your planed destination in new Zealand carefully – a holiday spent exploring the surrounding area as well as the place you have your eye on would be a good move. Some people recommend hiring a camper van and touring the area, especially if you’re looking at living somewhere more remote. And it’s important to consider that the New Zealand jobs market is already fairly crowded, and in rural areas many people combine several seasonal jobs to make ends meet.

New York

We’ve all heard of the ‘law of unintended consequences.’It says that anything you do might have both the result you were aiming at – and a totally unexpected result you had no idea might happen. And the bigger the action the more unintended consequences you can expect. You might term them ‘side effects’- they’re not always bad, sometimes they’re even a kind of blessing (sometimes…) but they all sideswipe you if you don’t see them coming. In the interests of being prepared, then, here are some unintended consequences of moving to America:

1: Forgetting the British word for things

If you moved to a country where they spoke a different language, this would be more understandable; in America they speak the same language differently, so expats get confused between the British and American English for things. Think of it like this: if you go into a shop (store) and ask for suspenders, pants and a vest, you’re going to get two very different results, depending on which side of the pond you make your request!

2: Becoming a joiner

Many people see joining groups – reading groups, hiking groups, crafting groups – as the act of someone who can’t organize a social life in a natural, organic way. Then you wash ashore in a totally new country where you don’t know a single person, and you pretty soon see the virtue in joining groups.

3: Distance gets smaller

The continental United States of America – ie, even ignoring Alaska and Hawaii – is only slightly smaller than the whole of Europe. As a result, Aberdeen doesn’t seem to be a very long way away from Newcastle when you return to the relatively tiny home islands.

4: Forgetting to feel homesick

Becoming American is a gradual process. You start out jarred by the alienness of everything – every interaction, signpost or blast of early-morning TV good cheer reminds you that you are in a new world. After a while, though, it becomes your world and your feelings of homesickness just drift down in the mix until they disappear for weeks on end.

5: Feeling homesick for America when you visit Britain

Being an expat is a strange existence. You can end up feeling homesick for two different places! In the USA, the sound of a British accent or a reminder of your home town can give you a lump in your throat, but in small, understated, demure Britain you can start to pine for the Land of the Free…

6: You might actually see more of your family

A transatlantic flight would seem on the face of it to be more daunting than a few hours on the train, or a jaunt down the motorway punctuated by a Little Chef. But the reality is that now you live in the USA, visiting you is a holiday and an adventure. Family members might actually show up more often, asking for you to act as a tour guide and expressing embarrassing surprise at things you got used to a long time ago.

7: You’ll miss British TV. Really

No nation on earth does TV like the Americans. We may have had wireless with pictures first, but TV? That’s as American as Betsy Roth. However, there’s a strain of British TV that you just can’t find replicated anywhere else on earth. Whether it’s slightly dowdy sitcoms or comedy shows that mix the anarchic and the oddly restrained, or the bizarre mix of civility and confrontation you find on shows like Newsnight, sometimes American TV just doesn’t cut it. Can’t imagine feeling homesick for Paxman? Just you wait…

8: You miss British food…

It’s such an expat cliche that everyone says they won’t do it. I’ll live without bitter beer, yeast extract, Cumberland sausages and brown sauce. Yes you will. But after a while you’ll start to pine for them…

9: …until you’re in Britain. Then you’ll miss American food

However you might try to separate yourself from mainstream America’s poisonous and obesity-causing food culture, you will find your tastes changing. In Britain, bacon is thick and chewy: in America, it’s as thin as razorblades and it shatters like glass; it’s like eating fried seaweed made of pork. A few days after you land you’ll start wishing you had a full American breakfast to look forward to.

10: Your kids will be American.

No, but really American. They’ll think your British table manners, attitudes and most especially accent are hilariously foreign. They’ll grow up not knowing what a pub is (unless you live in Boston), expecting everyone to drive, thinking a hundred miles isn’t that far, saying ‘aluminum,’the whole deal.

London Bridge

Life in the UK may be somewhat different from what you may be expecting. Many people emigrate to the UK in search of a different pace of living or a better life, but like any country, it’s important to find out what everyday life is like before you start to put down roots or commit to a new life there – find out more details on living in the UK below.

Living Accommodation in the UK

After you’ve sorted out your visa, the next step for most people will be accommodation. If you’re looking for a place to live in the UK your major options are estate agents or letting agents, or the ‘to let’ or ‘for sale’ sections of newspapers and magazines. Many of these are sponsored by agents, but there are magazines like Loot that provide space for private adverts. You can pick up a property or get a rental at a lower price, but with less protection. Small private landlords can be eccentric and private sales can leave you holding a lemon riddled with problems you weren’t made aware of when you signed the contract! Major estate agents in the UK include Bairstow Eves and Savills, while letting agents include Belvoir and Reeds Rains.

If you’re renting, you’re in good company – about 33% of British households rent. The usual deal is to pay a month’s rent, plus a damage deposit that’s usually about the same amount, in advance. Add in agent’s fees that can be as much as £200 for each person named on the rental agreement, and you can pay £1, 500 to £2, 000 or more before you get your keys. On the other hand, tenants have good legal protection in the UK and rents are relatively low compared with some places, though they vary very sharply by region. In London, you should expect to pay very significantly more rent or very much higher mortgage payments than in the rest of the country and as a rule of thumb, the further away from London you are the cheaper property becomes. Rent on a 3-bedroom flat in Bloomsbury, one of London’s more expensive areas, runs an average £3, 400 a month – over four times the national average of £745 a month.

If you want to buy property, the British process is relatively simple. It’s still long and complex, but it’s not as fraught or filled with legal impediments as some countries. There’s no mandatory involvement of notaries public or legally required bond process, but the usual method is for each side to retain a solicitor and it’s usual to have the property surveyed before signing a binding contract. This is usually done after you’ve made an offer but before you’ve agreed finally to buy the property. Having checked that you’re happy with the condition of the property and carried out nay further price negotiations you think necessary, your solicitor and the solicitor for the vendor will exchange contracts and you’ll both sign. At this point you’ll have to pay a deposit, usually at least 5% of the agreed price, and settle a date for the payment of the balance which usually comes from a mortgage with a bank or building society.

Driving in the UK

If you move to Britain with a foreign driving license, you’ll have a year to get a British one. During that time you can drive on your overseas license. For many new arrivals, the British driving test is surprisingly stringent and it’s also transmission-specific: if you want to drive a stick-shift car you’ll need to train and pass your test in one.

Setting up a Bank Account

One major problem expatriates face in Britain is that it’s relatively hard to set up a bank account. You’ll normally need proof of address as well as proof of ID, so your passport and driving license won’t be enough. That’s an issue when you haven’t yet got a permanent place of residence. Some of the UK’s major banks are interested in helping you get around this, and some don’t require proof of address.

Education in the UK

The UK schools system is particularly baffling to immigrants. ‘Public’ schools are actually private schools, and there are also regular private schools, state schools, faith schools and academies. Public schools are so-called because when they were set up they were being compared to church schools; they’re actually highly exclusive and very expensive fee-paying private schools.

Regular private schools are also exclusive and fee paying but they’re not as tied in to the Oxford-Cambridge university system as public schools. State schools are the main local schools, and the majority of British children attend these: private schooling is far less widespread than it is in the United States. Academies are state schools, which are partly subsidised by a private sponsor; often this is a faith group, university, company or even a wealthy individual. State schools don’t have entry requirements – all children who don’t have very severe special educational needs can attend one, but they work on a catchment area basis. You don’t have to live in a school’s catchment area to go there, but they give preference to pupils who do, and schools with good results and reputations are oversubscribed. As a result, there’s competition for houses in the catchment areas of good state schools.

When you want to enrol your child in a British state school, you’ll have to apply to the organization that’s in charge of the school. With private schools, that’s the school itself. With academies it’s the academy and with state schools it’s the local education authority (LEA). That means finding the local council, usually online, and sending in the appropriate forms. You have to go through this process at each stage of schooling, which in Britain takes you though from infants’ and primary school (year 0 through to 6, at ages 4 to 11) to secondary school at ages 11-16 and A-levels or vocational training at in-school sixth forms or at college, which lasts usually until 18. After that, continuing education is no longer free although support remains available.

American expats say that the UK is more different than they expect – the metric system is in use, controls on appliances are laid out differently and, just like any other foreign country, there’s a different unspoken ruleset of dos and don’ts that doesn’t always mesh with the one you grew up with. But taking it slow, getting the major areas of your new life under control and meeting people from your new country through work or hobbies will give you a route into British life and living in the UK.

NHS Hospital

The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom is famous the world over. When you consider emigrating to the UK healthcare can be a primary factor in your decision, so it’s good to know what awaits you in Britain with regards to healthcare in the UK.

The British health system is basically split between public and private providers. Private companies using a mix of public and private facilities to get their clients the best deal have sprung up in recent years. In the majority of cases private healthcare is chosen to avoid sometimes-lengthy NHS queues, or to seek procedures that aren’t available in the NHS.

The healthcare on offer from the NHS is generally good; just how good depends on whom you ask. In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked UK healthcare as 15th in Europe and 18th in the world, but a 2010 Commonwealth Fund report ranked the NHS as second overall in a comparison of seven developed countries’ healthcare systems. When the report was updated and the number of countries analyzed increased to 11, the UK did better, coming top overall and best in many categories.

The NHS operates a network of hospitals across the country. The regions of the UK – Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England – each operate their own NHS so your experience will be different in Glasgow to what you’ll find in Cardiff or Belfast, and different again from Manchester.

Your first contact with the NHS is likely to be either a GP (General Practitioner) or a hospital, depending on circumstance. When you move to a new area and register with a new GP practice, you’ll usually be asked to have a basic health checkup; this usually includes a blood pressure measurement and other basic checks, and is typically carried out by a practice nurse rather than the GP. Visits to a GP are free – though a £10 charge is currently being discussed – but prescriptions on the NHS carry a small charge: £8.05 for most prescriptions or £16.10 for some specialized equipment. It’s a flat rate regardless of what the prescription actually entails and it’s the only cost: you don’t pay for the drugs or medical equipment you need, only the prescription charge.

Registering with a GP is important. You’ll go to the GP for anything that isn’t a real emergency, and being registered with a GP is what entitles you to other NHS services – though if you show up injured at a hospital they’ll treat you first and ask questions afterwards.

You have freedom to choose which GP’s practice you ask to join- but they have the freedom to refuse you unless you live in their catchment area. This and convenience mean most people simply join the nearest one, but many catchment areas overlap – ask friends and co-workers what the local practices are like before you join one. Many GP practices have a website where you can check on the doctors’ experience and qualifications.
If you join the wrong one you can transfer, and you don’t have to notify your current GP of your intentions, though you will have to sign up all over again at the new practice. When you sign up to join the practice you’ll be asked to fill out a questionnaire and may be asked for ID – many practices do this, and all practices can, but none of them are legally obligated to.

Once you’re signed up you’ll be issued an NHS number. This will allow medical staff across the UK access to your health records.

GP’s surgeries will be the place that you pick up things like asthma inhalers or antibiotics for minor infections, and they’ll be where you go to ask to be referred to specialist outpatients clinics. Typically if you have a long-term, serious health problem the NHS will send you to a specific clinic, some of which are developing world-leading practice in their fields. If you have asthma or COPD there are specific outpatients’ clinics – but there are clinics for treating chronic pain too. You’ll typically also see your GP for cancer screenings and inoculations, though childhood vaccinations will usually be carried out at school by visiting teams of specialist nurses. GPs are responsible for referral to medical specialists such as endocrinologists or dermatologists too.

If you need a GP’s appointment you can usually phone the surgery and arrange for one within a couple of weeks. Most practices have a system of getting more urgent appointments quickly, and in many cases you can simply go to the surgery and wait until a doctor is free.

Dental HealthCare in the UK

One aspect of medical care that the NHS doesn’t comprehensively cover is dentistry. There is NHS cover, but it is restricted and the patient has to make higher payments, though these are still heavily subsidised. NHS dentists will provide treatment that is clinically necessary for health, but no more; any cosmetic procedure, for instance, will have to be carried out privately. What is and isn’t considered clinically necessary isn’t always cut and dried: your child might be referred to an orthodontist on the NHS because her crooked teeth are more likely to decay in the future, for instance, in the process ending up with a more regular smile.

NHS treatment charges for dentistry fall under three bands. These are:

Band 1: this band covers examination, diagnosis (including X-rays), scale and polish, and application of flouride varnish; during Band 1 consultations your dentist will advise you on how to prevent future problems, and dental emergencies are covered by Band 1 too. The charge is £18.50 for Band 1.

Band 2: this band covers everything in Band 1 as well as fillings, root canal work, and extractions. The charge for Band 2 is £50.50.

Band 3: includes the treatments in both the other bands, plus crowns, dentures, bridges and other complex procedures. Child orthodontics also fall under Band 3, and the price is £219.00.

If you have completed one band, but you need further treatment within two months in the same band or a lower band, you do not need to pay again as long as you have discussed it with your dentist. A complete guide to the NHS treatments available is here.

Pregnancy in the UK

The final area where you’re likely to come into contact with the NHS a lot is during pregnancy and childbirth. Some fertility treatments are available on the NHS, depending on where you live – regional NHS management structures offer slightly different services, leading to a result known in the UK as a ‘postcode lottery,’ so the same person might be eligible for the same service in one city but not in another.

Again, a pregnant woman’s involvement with antenatal services will usually begin via her GP, and then proceed to referral to a midwife who will conduct antenatal sessions leading up to birth. Some antenatal services are aimed to inform, such as information on nutrition and lifestyle as well as training in pelvic floor exercises, breastfeeding workshops and more. There will also be regular screening and tests, and you will get at least two ultrasound appointments during your pregnancy. You can choose to give birth in a hospital or at home and will be attended by an NHS midwife, often the one who saw you through your antenatal care.

Private Healthcare Facilities

Though the NHS is available to all, some people prefer private health insurance – though it’s not a popular choice, with only 6.3% of the population making this choice. One benefit of choosing private healthcare is that it allows you to have more choice over the kind of healthcare you receive – while the NHS offers choice it does restrict certain types of treatment and you have to find a doctor who agrees with you that the treatment you want is medically necessary before you can have it. It’s surprising how often this is the case – plastic surgery, breast enlargement and reduction operations, and other ‘cosmetic’ procedures are regularly performed on the NHS because of doctors’ opinion that the patient’s quality of life makes it clinically necessary – but private patients still have more say. The other benefit is that NHS provisions are often overstretched and private facilities often aren’t, s private patients can avoid queues.

If you’re thinking about using the private sector, you don’t always need insurance – sometimes you can just show up and pay, though the costs will be higher this way. The UK’s most popular non-state health provider is BUPA.

Good healthcare in the UK is open to all, and particularly to pregnant women and children, so you can rest assured you’re in good hands!

New Zealand

Finding work in New Zealand or employment in New Zealand can be the next challenge for any would be looking to emigrate to the country.

If you’re going to New Zealand on one of the country’s work-base visas, often you’ll already have a firm offer of employment before you start out. Otherwise, it’s a question of getting through the points system and then looking for a job once you’re there. While the points system can be frustrating, it does have the advantage that you’re unlikely to be unable to find work in New Zealand if you have the points for a visa.

If you have skills in areas where there’s a skills shortage, you’re both more likely to find a job and more likely to get through the visa system too. There’s a list of the skilled jobs where New Zealand is short of personnel here.

Getting a Job in New Zealand

Once you have a job, New Zealand’s tax rates are between 12.2% and 46.7% depending on income; there’s a tax calculator here. There’s a PAYE (pay as you earn) system similar to the one in place in the UK but unlike some countries, such as Britain, there’s no tax free allowance and you’ll be taxed on every dollar you earn.

New Zealand’s median income is about NZ$44,000, and on the whole it’s rising slightly yearly.  The typical hourly income is about NZ$23.00, and there’s 94% gender wage parity, meaning that on average, women earn 94% what men do – better than the differences in many other countries.

The New Zealand economy appears at first glance to be contradictory –two of the biggest growth areas right now are in tech and forestry, which seem worlds apart. Partly that’s because new Zealand is worlds apart – the sparsely populated South Island is a very different place from the North Island, and rural New Zealand is different from the modern cities, especially Auckland, by far the largest city in New Zealand.

When you find a job in New Zealand, you’ll find that the country’s informal culture permeates the workplace too. There’s relatively little formality in dress or the way people speak, for instance, and it’s typical for people to be on first-name terms with everyone both above and below them in the organisational structure, even in large enterprises.

Part and parcel of this relaxed approach to work is the expectation that staff contribute outside of their specific job capacity; it’s a mixture of ‘lend a hand’ and ‘manage up’ that comes as a surprise to some people, but that New Zealanders consider part of their egalitarian, frontier culture. Those qualities may be frowned upon in some work cultures, but to Kiwis, it’s what’s expected.

There’s a lot of agricultural work available in New Zealand, and kiwi fruit, wool and meat, and dairy products remain the country’s biggest exports. Salaries are good but it’s probably the wrong country to go to to try to strike it rich.

One issue in any part of New Zealand, especially in more rural areas, is transport. Like many prosperous countries with large backcountry areas, like Canada, New Zealand relies on car use. You can drive for up to a year on a UK or an International licence, but after that, you’ll need to apply for a New Zealand driver’s licence, which is done by applying for conversion of your existing licence. You’ll have to pass an eye test too. Public transport is a realistic option in New Zealand for travelling between towns and cities but it’s not going to get the job done if you have a job at a private location like a farm or business that’s off the bus route; especially in the very rural areas, the distances involved can be large.

One big positive effect of this is that many people commute for shorter times than are normal in the UK or other densely populated areas and are able to combine an industrial, managerial or tech job with a lifestyle that’s all about the beach or the bush. You can leave work on a busy street and be on a surfboard thirty minutes later.

When you’re figuring out what your work life in New Zealand is going to be like you should consider things like:

Will your job in New Zealand be the same?

While New Zealand’s economy might need your skills, it might not use them in the same way. Figuring out your way through the points system should include figuring out whether you’re suitable for a different role in New Zealand from what you’ve been doing previously. It’s also important to consider how compatible your lifestyle ambitions are with your work plans: some careers won’t be available in certain locations, while others are more portable.

Is your CV Kiwi-ready?

Like many countries, New Zealand work culture has its own distinctive style of CV. The New Zealand’s government website has a CV building tool to help get it right!  Typically, New Zealand CVs are quite highly detailed and often run to several pages.

Job Search, Kiwi-style

Hunting for work is made more difficult by not being in New Zealand! If you’re still in your home country you can use online tools, including sites and online communities dedicated to your niche or work area – like Edgagazette for teachers and teaching assistants –  as well as more general search tools and job sites. You should also consider using local auction sites like Trademe. It’s much easier to hunt a job in New Zealand once you’re actually there, and the new Zealand government’s website has advice on how to go about it.

Give some thought to how you’re going to handle job interviews. Being from overseas can work to your advantage if you let it: it shows you’re enterprising and outgoing, so let it be a virtue. You should also be prepared to undertake psychometric testing, which is extremely common at the professional level in New Zealand. You should also be aware that it’s uncommon for companies to make professional level hires who don’t have residency or long-term visas, though it’s also not that unusual to make a deal with the company to sort your visa status out after you’ve arranged your job.

There’s a reasonable degree of flexibility when finding work in New Zealand.

San Francisco

Many people who emigrate to America dream of setting up their own businesses. In part that’s because the kind of enterprising person who crosses an ocean (and goes through all the struggles necessary to get a green card) in order t build the life they want is also often happier self-employed. And in part, it’s because the land of the free attracts people who have an enterprise they’d like to make something out of. America welcomes entrepreneurs!

The first thing you need to know is this: You don’t need to be a US resident to open a business in America.

If you’re a resident, the process looks something like this:

You’ll need to write a business plan, if for no other reason than that your financial backers will want to see it. In practice, a business plan can help a business enormously by laying the groundwork for where you want to go and how you aim to get there. There’s free help available writing the plan, locating and growing your business, and securing financing. There’s also a range of finance available including low-cost loans and some grants as well as bank loans.

So far, so much like setting up a business anywhere. The next step is specific to the USA, though. You’ll need to choose a legal structure for your business. Some of these are more or less analogous to their UK equivalents – being a sole proprietor in the US is like being a sole trader in the UK – but there are differences too. Depending on what you want to do with your business and how big it is, you’ll want to look into different structures that include partnership, corporations, S corporations, Limited Liability Companies, and Professional Limited Liability Companies. LLCs are a recent development that permit some of the advantages of a corporation without the restrictive organizational rules; PLLCs are LLCs governed by slightly different rules, for practitioners of regulated professionals like doctors.

setting up a business in America

Different company structures put different responsibilities on their members, and they’re taxed differently too. Look twice: if you’re an LLC but you’re the only member, for instance, you’ll be taxed as a sole proprietor – you’ll simply pay ordinary income tax on what the LLC makes you. If you’re setting up a large company or you think you need to understand legal company structure in depth, the most effective and least expensive method might be to hire a lawyer who can help you negotiate your way through the regulations.

If you’re going for a more complex company structure like a corporation, you’ll need to decide where to incorporate. This usually means choosing between the physical location of the company and the state of Delaware, first choice for large or nonlocal (ecommerce, for instance) companies because the tax laws are favourable. If you incorporate in a state other than the state you do business in, you have to qualify to do business in your home state as a foreign business. So the question is, is your company big enough or nonlocal enough for all this to be worth it? If not, set your company up in the state where you’ll be doing business.

Non Resident

If you’re not a US resident, things are more complicated. In some situations, they’re downright paradoxical: you can control an LLC from outside the USA if you’re not a resident – but not from inside the USA, unless you have a work visa. Being a director or shareholder outside the USA is allowed; being an officer isn’t. Without a visa you can be in the USA and own a business – but not work for it. If you work for your own business without a valid visa you can be deported without right of return – and you’ll have to pay the fines for hiring yourself as an illegal alien! So it’s vitally important to get one of the USA’s types of business visa.

There are 9 types of US business visa and they all confer different rights and responsibilities. It’s important to get the right one for what you plan to do. Details of visitor visas can be found here and here, but essentially they are either temporary and restricted, intended to lead to permanent residency or designed to facilitate intercompany transfers. You may be able to apply for residency on the back of your business, but only if it has a very high turnover – the investor’s green card requires an investment of between $500, 000 and $1m as well as hiring requirements.

If you’re not a resident you’ll probably want to work towards residency status as you lay the basis for your business. Employment visas can be restrictive when it comes to creating a business so you might need a partner who’s a citizen to handle officer roles, contract signing and so forth. The restrictions on various visas are covered here. Obtaining residency is covered in detail here.

Having dealt with residency issues, it’s time to focus on the business environment.

In the USA you’ll typically deal with three layers of laws: federal, state and local, which means city or county. They take precedence in that order, so the job of state law is to refine rather than contradict federal law, but when you factor in zoning and bylaws things can get complex. You’ll deal directly with federal law when you come to figure out income taxation but state and local law can affect the taxes you’ll pay on any buildings you own.

To help clarify things, let’s take a concrete example: setting up a business in Chicago. The city requires you to obtain a business license, which means registering with either the Clerk’s Office or the Illinois Secretary of State, obtaining an Employer Identification Number and an Illinois Department of Revenue Account ID Number, applying for the license itself through the City, and providing a Business Information Sheet. There are also city taxes and zoning and planning laws applying to overground storage, accessibility laws for your business site, and more.

The good news is that localities tend to supply online support. Chicago’s is here, for instance, New Jersey’s is here, San Francisco’s is here. A Google search will usually introduce you to the support you need and while it can initially be confusing and appear fragmentary, it’s important to remember that the US is extremely business-friendly and they’re eager to supply advice, guidance, support and even money as well as forms. They want your business to succeed!