On Moving to New Zealand

November 9, 2016 – 6:38 pm
Hello, American friends!  President-Elect Trump has given his speech and begun to redact his campaign website of the obviously illegal and impossible campaign promises, and you look up from your keyboard through an election-defeat hangover and want to move to New Zealand.
First of all, consider staying.  America’s problems won’t be solved if all the tolerant and progressive people leave.
But that’s not an easy choice for everyone.  If you don’t think you’ll be safe, or you’re concerned about the effects on your children of growing up in the cloud of President Trump, you might be looking elsewhere.
Allow me to suggest New Zealand.
New Zealand has a fairly straightforward skilled migrant immigration scheme, where you get points for meeting certain criteria and if you clear a particular number of points then you can move here.  Some of those criteria are around education, language, and health, effectively biasing it against people who don’t speak English, those who aren’t highly-educated, as well as non-able-bodied and unwell people.
We maintain a list of jobs that are in demand.  If you can meet the needs of an OMG SO IN DEMAND job then you just need a job offer (as well as the points, as described above).  The government’s website on moving to NZ to work doesn’t suck. It’s harder but not impossible without ticking the ZOMGJOB list (and do look: there are some surprising inclusions).
There are plenty of tech startups looking to hire people.  NZ tends to have a reasonable number of fresh software engineering graduates, but few with the kinds of skills that people acquire in American startups: devops, engineering leadership, web scale distributed systems, big data pipelines, etc.  Which startups are hiring?  Look at PushPay, Raygun, Atomic, TimelyVend, Xero, TradeMe, etc.
Nerd conferences are good here.  Webstock (design, Feb) and Kiwicon (security, Nov) are anchors of the scene.  Attend those and you’ll meet many of the people with whom you could work, and some good friends.  There are additional web, mobile, etc. conferences.  Be sure to schedule Fieldays in your first year, because the agtech world is weird and wonderful and close to our grass-growing economic roots.
If you’re an investor, you can investor your way to residency.  Similarly entrepreneurs.
The pathway to citizenship is straightforward if you decide you’d like to live here forevs.
The absolute dollar value you’ll earn in NZ will look low if you translate it to American dollars.  Do not think you’ll be able to afford your San Francisco home because you’ve been working in Auckland.  It doesn’t work that way.
Food is expensive. Thanks to globalisation (fist shake! Grr globalisation, you!) the whole world can buy our food.  So we pay a lot to eat it.  We don’t have a Mexico just south of us always producing fruit, so (for examples) we eat strawberries for a month each year when they’re in season … and then not.  Meat’s available all year round, and pretty good in the shops.  And if you live semi-rural you can probably find a farmer who’ll let you buy a bull and have it butchered for you, then you can get a freezer full of export-grade yum.  Vegetarians, make friends with your local Asian grocery, where all sorts of surprising imports and deliciousness is available.
Housing is tight in Auckland, but easier in many other parts of the country.  You can buy a home in Auckland if you have the earning power of two professionals in your family, and then they’d better be successful professionals.  In many other parts of the country, one professional income is enough.
NZ is beautiful and diverse; there are many great places to live.  Think of it as the American West Coast: Auckland is Santa Barbara, Dunedin is Seattle.  (ish) The rule of thumb: warmer is norther, but there are some exceptions (Nelson and Napier are toastier than you’d expect given their locations)  Do you like hiking?  Skiing?  Fishing?  Swimming?  Hunting?  There are great places for these activities around the country, and you could live next to the national park or marina that means you can live your passion every weekend.
Are you more cultural and cerebral?  Wellington and Auckland have thriving arts scenes, with bands, coffee shops, theatre, opera, orchestras, etc.  The cities of Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Palmerston North, Hamilton, and Auckland are university towns.
Caution: our hipsters are not as developed as America’s. So while there’s the occasional extravagant beard and fixie bike, and it seems like every town with more than 50 people has a cafe where you can get an excellent coffee, you’ll struggle to find someone who’ll charge you $27 for an artisanal cruelty-free microbatch locally-produced free-range recycled soy-inked letterpressed 50%-butter-by-volume coffee and there are no emoji-only ride-sharing voice-interface social network startups.  Turn back now if this is a problem for you.
Can Trump happen here?  Never say never, the world is going fucking nuts.  However … New Zealand so far has traded with crazy nations without becoming crazy itself: we have a lot of Brits but most Kiwis think Brexit was nuts; similarly with Americans and DT.  Kiwis have a much warmer relationship to regulation than Americans. There’s been no NZ indigenous genocide (unlike USA and Australia), and the worst social woes in NZ don’t register on the American scale.
Our racists and entitled old people have done little damage to the rest of us; both leading parties are center-right and center-left.  And our definition of “racist” is “I don’t think those blimmin Marries should be given any more money!” and “no more Chinese immigrants, they’re driving up house prices!” rather than KKK robes and skinheads beating the shit out of brown people on a regular basis.  To be clear: no skinheads or KKK robes in Hobbit-size.  We have a sad racist past, sad racists, and ongoing racial tension, but not on the scale of America.
NZ schools are pretty darn good.  We’re no Finland (as politicians constantly remind educators) but state schools are mostly very good.  Schools aren’t driven by yearly tests, and the NZ Curriculum is very flexible with plenty of room for schools to find their own identity (culture, technology, etc.). Schools are funded from central Government, not property taxes, and schools in poorer areas are given more money.  I’ve heard San Francisco residents complain that most state schools in the area are terrible—that is not the case in Auckland. We moved to NZ (wife is American, I’m a Kiwi who’d spent 10 years in Colorado) when our kids were 4 and 6 and the relaxed school environment, no gangs, no shootings … priceless.
We have proportional representation, so power is frequently split between parties.  We get to vote for MPs who represent our area, AND for a party.  The parties get MPs in proportion to the number of votes the party got — it’s not as complex as cricket, much fairer than your system, and you’ll get the hang of it.  The Green party is a contender here.  On the downside, we don’t (yet) have constitutional protections against the elected Parliament, so if NZ did elect a lot of arsehats then they could run amok.
We’re part of the Five Eyes network (with US, UK, Canada, and Australia), so Ed Snowden can’t move here either.  We have legal protections against wholesale surveillance of citizens, and distrust our spooks to play by the rules or politicians to make them watertight.  Like Americans, we all suspect that unless we’re using Tor and Signal our comms are fair game.  On the upside, NZ is small enough that you can easily meet your politicians and bureaucrats and give them a piece of your mind.
What else isn’t great?  We have higher child suicide and abuse against children rates than economically-comparable nations, and the government has done a shit job of taking care of the poor during the last decade’s housing in Auckland.  Because of that economic boom, NZers have invested more in property than in all the good stuff.  Our socialist healthcare system takes care of everyday things really well, but if you’re earning middle-class incomes then consider augmenting it with private insurance so you don’t have to join waiting lists should you need surgery (good news: the dominant provider is a coop so NZ health insurance costs are miniscule in comparison to American health insurance costs).  If your kid has very special needs (e.g., autism), the Government doesn’t fund enough assistance for their schooling to be awesome (and, obscenely, may not let you stay).  A surprising number of our rivers are full of animal shit and not swimmable (fancy that, in a dairying nation).  Why the hell in 2016 are we still building subdivisions without bike paths, and building roads without bike lanes?!  These are all issues that the NZ Left is familiar with and grumpy about.
In short, we’ve got our problems but they’re nothing in comparison to your problems!  You’d be welcome and loved here.  Ride out the Trumpocalypse with the sounds of native birds in the trees as you crack a cold craft beer and revel in your new home’s reasonable race relations, functioning political system, and complete absence of orange arsehats.
Of course, this is all just my opinion.  You should come and check it out for yourself!  See you soon!

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