Fifteen years ago, I was faced with the prospect of "bootstrapping" myself in a new country (when I moved from Canada to California). One needs to get a drivers license, a bank account, a place to live, and so on. Many of these things you can't get without doing something else first. It all (hopefully) fits together like a jigsaw puzzle. Here's some of the things we have run into so far:
- To get a bank account (at the good bank, anyway), you need a permit to be in the country for 12 months or more. We don't have that quite yet because our residency application is still pending.
- To get an apartment, you need a bank account so they can set up direct withdrawal. You also need a bunch of cash up front which you can either withdraw from the ATM over the course of several days (staying under the daily withdrawal limits), or wire to yourself, for which you also need a bank account.
- To get a bank account (at another bank) you need a residential New Zealand address. Starting to see the problem here?
We figure once we can get over the first hurdle of getting an actual address and a bank account, then we can tackle things like drivers licenses. Our existing drivers licenses are good for up to a year in New Zealand, but various other things will require local ID. Getting a drivers license also involves learning the rules of the road, which include a weird "give way to the right when turning left" rule which doesn't exist anywhere else in the world. For North American drivers, the equivalent rule would mean that when turning right, you would have to stop and wait for any oncoming traffic turning left to go first.
The good news is that I've accepted a job offer from a company here in Christchurch! Before I can actually start working for them, I need either a permanent resident permit (at least a few weeks away), or a temporary work permit (which we can probably get a little sooner).
Some other things we've learned in our first week (well, my first week anyway) here:
- Driving on the left side of the road takes a bit of getting used to, again (we drove a lot in Australia last year, but most of it was highway instead of city).
- Having to shift gears with your left hand takes a bit more getting used to (the car we rented in Australia last year was automatic).
- It appears that in some cases, it is impossible to tell from road markings alone whether you are on a one way or two way street. A white line in the centre of the road could go either way.
- It's a bit daunting when shopping at the grocery store for something simple like laundry detergent, and there's not a single brand name that you've ever seen before.
- Gasoline is pretty expensive at NZD$1.56 per litre. That's about US$3.50 per gallon. There are no big SUVs and not very many large trucks here. And lots of cars from familiar manufacturers with unfamiliar model names.
- Cell phones are outrageous at 45c per minute, minimum. To call a cell phone from a different provider from our cell phone costs like $1.20 per minute. On the other hand, we don't pay anything for incoming calls. People send text messages a lot because it's cheaper (about 20c I think).
- Some people can correctly identify our accent, even to the point of distinguishing Canada vs the US. Other people just think we're from the UK.
- Lots of costs such as rent are quoted in weekly rates rather than monthly. Even in the furniture store, the payment plan rates are like "$995, or $12 per week!" Of course they don't say for how many years unless you ask.
- The grocery store has your usual fruit like aplpes, oranges, and bananas, but also what we would consider "exotic" items like passion fruit and feijoa. Both of which are pretty good.
- There's an all-Maori channel on TV (sort of like the French channel in Canada). They seem to often run English programs and dub them in Maori.
- There is no central heating. You want a room heated, you put a heater in it. There's also something called a "nightstore heater", which is a wall-mounted unit that heats up some bricks internally at night when the power rates are cheaper, and then radiates heat later.
- Almost nobody has a clothes dryer. Everybody hangs their laundry outside. Not only does this save energy, but it extends the lifetime of your clothing.
- All the electric switches are upside-down. Up is off; down is on. All the wall outlets have a switch at the outlet, too.
- Car license plates just have a plate number on them, with no other adornments like what area of the country they're from. We are so used to seeing different plates for different states or provinces that they seem very plain here.
- "Trundler Park" = "Please Return Shopping Carts Here"
- The whole opposite season thing is going to be confusing. It's April now and we're heading into autumn. That means Christmas in a few months, right? Wait, no, that's not right. Christmas is still in December. In the middle of summer.
More later, I'm running out of time on the internet at the library.