Driving, costs shock migrants

By Julie Middleton

Immigrants don't like our driving habits and cannot believe the cost of living.

But nearly all new migrants would tell others to join them in New Zealand, saying the country's natural beauty, relaxed pace of life and friendly people made their Kiwi experience special.

The insight comes from Skilled Migrants: A Study of Settlement Outcomes, by Ruth Wallis, a Department of Labour senior research analyst. The survey encompasses 2060 skilled and business migrants, who were polled three to 12 months after their arrival.

A total of 93 per cent were satisfied with their lives in New Zealand. More than 80 per cent were in paid work, 40 per cent of those in occupations on DOL's skill shortage list.

Most migrants - 79 per cent - were "very satisfied" or "satisfied" with their jobs, and 81 per cent were happy with their housing.

However, of the 94 per cent who would recommend a move here, just 55 per cent would do so "with enthusiasm", 39 per cent attaching "reservations".

Although the study did not outline what those reservations would be, migrants listed the high cost of housing, living and healthcare among "their shocks and surprises".

The service says that this first survey was not wholly representative of the skilled and business migrant grouping. The English were over-represented; Chinese and South Koreans and those aged 16 to 19 were under-represented.

Englishwoman Jennifer Barnes, who arrived in Auckland on January 3, says she can relate to the survey's main findings.

Aged 25, in New Zealand on a talent visa, flatting in Parnell and working as a product development technician for manufacturer Tasti, she has found people friendly and helpful and the environment attractive, but was "shocked" by the cost of doctors' visits.

In England, doctors' appointments are free, and although she knew medical visits here attracted costs, had never got around to finding out what they were before arriving.

She has also found driver behaviour alarming: "They are terrible! Cutting people up, driving slowly in the fast lane and not indicating."

Otherwise, "expectations and reality at the moment are pretty spot-on". The low population density is a plus _ "Saturday afternoon shopping is blissful here" _ and the climate kind.

"It's definitely a more relaxed pace of life and the people are friendly. I still get shocked when walk into a shop and someome says hello."

Rita Zhang, from China, has been in New Zealand for the past year and a half. She likes the natural beauty, the environment and the relaxed life style, enough to want to have a career here.

She wants a job in a biology company, doing research. But she thinks she might be out of luck: "The trouble it's a very small market for building a career."

When it comes to dilikes, she also agrees with the survey's findings that the public transport system isn't up to much. "There's not many buses. You basically have to get a car to move around."

For Prbah Misah, a New Zealand citizen from Fiji, New Zealand "has just become home now."

She is a loans manager in a bank, and said she had no trouble getting the job. She'd recommend others came to live here.

"I wouldn't want to go back and live in Fiji. But if you move to a new country you have to put 100 per cent in."

The survey, which polled those who arrived between August 2003 and the end of June last year, is the only tool the service has to monitor migrant progress.

"We will use information in this survey to help future migrants prepare for this adjustment," says Mary Anne Thompson, the deputy secretary of Workforce.

"Anyone who has lived in a new country knows how hard it canbe."

* SURVEY FINDINGS:

Likes

Climate, natural beauty, clean environment (selected by 85 per cent)
Friendly people and relaxed lifestyle (79 per cent)
Recreation and leisure activities (65 per cent)
Safety from crime and violence (59 per cent)
Ability to achieve a desired lifestyle (58 per cent)
Low population density (54 per cent)

Dislikes

Distance from home (40 per cent)
Bad driving/lack of road safety (35 per cent)
Poor public transport (32 per cent)
Poor quality of housing (22 per cent)
High cost of living (22 per cent)
Complicated tax system (19 per cent)

Shocks and surprises

High cost of housing (52 per cent)
High cost of living (44 per cent)
High cost of health care (37 per cent)
Low salaries and wages (31 per cent)
Poor public transport (30 per cent)

Source: Skilled Migrants: A Study of Settlement Outcomes, Department of Labour.

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