OPINION: Why I moved to the bottom of the world...New Zealand

Doctors moving to NZ

Hi, my name is Lisa Wagner, I am a Medrecruit Senior Solution Specialist. I immigrated to New Zealand from the UK five years ago, and now I help international GPs make the move.

New Zealand has more immigrants from the United Kingdom than from any other region. In 2019, there were 272,436 immigrants from the United Kingdom living in New Zealand. (statista.com)

Each day I talk to doctors who are thinking about making the move, and this always makes me think about why I moved here.

At least 70% of the staff in our Medrecruit office in Queenstown are immigrants, this got me thinking, why do so many people from the UK choose to make the move?

Often New Zealand is not even pictured in a drawing of the globe, I'm not kidding, it just isn’t there. But over the past few years, we have certainly made global headlines that have put us right on the map! Some of the headlines have been amazing, and some...not so great...but all news is good news, right? Hey, at least people have stopped confusing us with the Aussies now!

If you don’t want to read about Covid skip the next paragraph, I couldn’t really leave it out.

During the earlier stages of the pandemic, New Zealand was increasingly looked upon as a place of idyllic calm amongst the storm. Whilst the rest of the world was enduring spiraling covid cases, horrifying deaths, and lockdowns, New Zealand was carrying on with a normal life; virus, mask, and restriction-free.

However, we all knew this wouldn’t last, the country of envy was soon caught up in the Delta and Omicron madness. Lockdowns and mandates were in. The facts are; the country to date has reported 223 deaths (that is 223, not 223 thousand), 79.5% of the total population is fully vaccinated. Yes, New Zealand is currently experiencing a wave of viruses countrywide that is making people sick, causing hospitalisations, affecting the health service, and certainly the economics and logistics of everyday life.

Our government is probably facing its toughest time in history as they attempt to navigate the ever-changing Covid-landscape and keep the country both safe (and happy). There has certainly been widespread anger around the borders, managed isolation, vaccine mandates, and restrictions - but the good news is borders are opening.

When we look at the Covid landscape overall, the facts remain, New Zealand is well vaccinated and does have a very low death rate compared with other countries globally.

Covid aside, and I know we are all extremely eager to put Covid aside! We can start to finally see the silver lining, with the borders reopening to travellers very soon, Kiwis are excited to again explore the world.

We are ready with arms open wide to welcome back families from overseas, tourism with all of the yummy money (tourism pre covid accounted for more than 5% of the GDP), campervans driving frustratingly slowly before you and not pulling over on the commute home over the Crown Range, and international doctors!

Whilst doctors have been able to get into New Zealand over the last 2 years, it sure hasn’t been an appealing time to up sticks to the other side of the world, not knowing when you can again fly home for a visit.

I know that moving to a new country is a big move - it can be daunting. That's why I thought I would share my story about why I came to New Zealand (and why I never went home!).

1. I came for the snow!

Sure, we don’t have the huge resorts of North America and the Après scene of Austria, but we have so much fun here in winter! Also, the seasons are opposite, so you can still actually go for a ski holiday elsewhere (if you have a small lottery fund set aside). I drive up Cardrona mountain on weekends and on my days off. I only live 25 minutes drive from the bottom of the hill. This means I can ski and ride to my heart's content, then just pop home again. It’s not like Europe, but it’s on our doorstep.

There’s plenty of accessible off-piste, an amazing park set up, plus we’ve got the biggest halfpipe in the Southern Hemisphere (the kids are doing crazy things!!). Local kids even won two gold medals in the Beijing Winter Olympics. Winter and snow are a big deal here and I love it!

2. Summers are glorious

Lake swimming, hiking, mountain biking, BBQs, camping, wearing copious amounts of sunscreen. I don’t need to say more, being brought up in the UK, summer weekends here feel like an actual summer holiday. New Zealand has incredible picture-perfect, (like cannot believe you are really seeing it) scenery, lakes, mountains, beaches. All enjoyed best on a summery day. Let’s not lie though, we get ALL types of weather. Sunny days are HOT but we also do get rain and wind.

3. Food and Wine

Wineries and cafes in New Zealand are the best. I know this is objective and I do live in a high tourist area, but there are wineries all over this beautiful country. Where ever you settle, you will be able to visit nearby wineries and find out why New Zealand is famous for its vintage.

4. We made a family here

My children (3 and 1) appear to be having the most wonderful time. Skiing, bike riding, lake swimming, hiking up small mountains are part of their weekly routines. Noted I cannot compare to elsewhere, but my maternity care was amazing here. I enjoyed midwife visits to my home up to 6 weeks after birth with the same midwife. During my first birth, I was allowed to stay in the maternity unit for 3 nights. The local nursery has a beautiful large garden, and they grow insane amounts of veggies and keep chickens.

5. We built our own house here

My partner literally built our first home here. We designed it, and built it, something we are incredibly proud of and something we don’t think we could have achieved in the UK. It’s very common to do a self-build here, it’s often a more cost-effective way of buying a home, and certainly 100 times more stressful and fun at the same time. Would highly recommend it. Some of the homes around here have been featured on Grand Designs (dreaming!)

New Zealand is the kind of place that steals your heart. It's the kind of place where people come on a holiday and never go home, it's the kind of place celebrities want to buy houses (especially Queenstown).

Still don't take my word for it?

I surveyed the Medrecruit staff who immigrated here and this is a snapshot of the top reasons some of my colleagues moved to New Zealand (and never went home)!

  • Moved for work, stayed for work/life balance
  • Came for the snow season, stayed for the unbeatable outdoor lifestyle
  • Came for a holiday, stayed for a safe and friendly family environment.

Read about some of our doctors who made the move: Dr Abdullah Khalid, Dr Gabriella Paoloni

Find out everything you need to know about moving to Australia or New Zealand in our free IMG Guide.
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Lisa Wagner
28 March 2022Article by Lisa Wagner Medrecruit Solution Specialist