I've been following Tia's blog as she made a much-anticipated move to New Zealand - unfortunately having to leave for the meantime her partner Bruce who stayed behind in the US to sell their house. Spare a thought for Tia, she has been having a hard time settling in. some aspects of life here are not as she anticipated. As she is without internet I read Bruce's blog as well to catch up, and found this post detailing some of the negative aspects of life in New Zealand.
Of course I got all defensive (and then felt guilty about getting defensive :) ). Of course we'd all like to think our countries are wonderful. And I think secretly we like to think we are better than the United States, for all sorts of reasons (maybe because the US is so big and overwhelming? - like the cool kids in school, everybody else secretly resents them).
But I have to say, most of the criticisms are true. The biggest one being that our houses are badly heated and wildly expensive. The reason that they are wildly expensive is immigration. So many people wanted to come to New Zealand, or return home, that there was a big demand for housing, and prices have skyrocketed over the past few years. I've seen graphs of house prices compared to immigration levels, and they clearly go hand in hand. So if everybody stops coming because of the high costs here, I'll be pretty glad - not because I think you're unwelcome, but because I have four adult children still at home, and I'd like them to be able to afford to move out! The other factor is that when you bring your American dollars here, you'll find the exchange rate is not very favourable at the moment. And that's because of high immigration as well. The chief weapon in the fight against inflation is to keep interest rates up, which is supposed to keep demand for housing down. Unfortunately it means all those overseas investors put money into New Zealand to take advantage of the high interest rates, and that keeps demand for our currency up. (A few years back, one American dollar was worth nearly 170% of what it's worth now, in New Zealand dollars).
So, don't come, OK? Then house prices will settle down. Our dollar will go down, the company I work for (an exporter) won't go bankrupt, we will raise the standard of heating in our houses, catch up with the rest of the world for internet access, and then you can sneak in, in a few years time, and get a nice, reasonably priced house, before everyone else catches on to the fact that New Zealand has become affordable again.
Of course if you are Shania Twain you can afford to buy a large chunk of our back country and build a fabulous house any time you want, high prices and all.
P.S. As for some of the other points -1) I was walking barefoot on the Rapaki track the other day, no broken bottles or other trash in sight although there were thistles.
2) Recycling - it depends where you are, we have kerbside recycling in Christchurch, we certainly don't have to transport it ourselves. (Though it's hard to recycle economically in a small country. It's a bit pointless to recycle if the energy costs of transporting the goods are more than the energy saved by recycling).
3) It probably doesn't actually occur to most New Zealanders that internet is expensive here - basically because if you haven't had it, you don't miss it. We e-mail of course, and blog, and even work over the internet - but we don't make long video calls for hours, or download lots of movies - we hire them from the video store. In most parts of New Zealand it should be quite possible to get good enough internet access to work from home.
4) Petty crime running rampant - yes, possibly. It's hard for me to judge. But I think part of the issue is that New Zealand isn't really big enough to have ghettoes. Criminals tend to operate near where they live, but in New Zealand we don't have big safe rich enclaves. So crime is spread out through more of the community.
I could debate this for hours - to sum it up, I love where I live, it's not perfect, but nor is anywhere - check the facts before you come (real estate agents have websites, you can check housing costs before you decide)