In the third of a five-part series on what it is to be a New Zealander, we find travel is a big part of our DNA.

Kiwis are an outward-looking, globe-trotting bunch who want to explore the world, with many planning to move overseas for work, new research shows.

The survey by Colmar Brunton shows travel is a big part of the New Zealand psyche, in part because of our country's geographical isolation.

Of the 1009 survey respondents, 85 per cent said they wanted to travel internationally for leisure, with 49 per cent planning to visit Europe, 35 per cent North America, 33 per cent Australia, 18 per cent the Pacific Islands and 15 per cent the United Kingdom.

University of Auckland historian Associate Professor Caroline Daley said the fact so many Kiwis were interested in travel indicated New Zealanders were open-minded and outward-looking.


"It's positive the number of people who want to go and eat different food, see different things, learn about the history of other places, have a new cultural experience."

The survey showed more than a third of people were prepared to go to countries where the language was not English.

"I think New Zealanders have always been outward-looking. We know that we're a long way from other places ... and we've always made efforts to be connected."

That ethos was long-standing, she said.

New Zealand had at least a 150-year history of reflecting news, culture, entertainment, fashion and other trends from overseas.

The survey also found 17 per cent of respondents intended to move to another country for employment, with 58 per cent of those nominating Australia, followed by the UK (23 per cent), the US (17 per cent) and Canada (9 per cent).

Dr Tahu Kukutai, of the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis at the University of Waikato, said 650,000 Kiwis lived and worked overseas.

"We're a really high mobility country - we have a lot of population churn. On the one hand we have an increasing inward flow of immigrants so now we have one of the highest proportions in the OECD in terms of our foreign-born population."

Almost a quarter are born outside New Zealand, but at the same time there was a large share of the Kiwi population living in other countries. Maori were highly mobile with one in five living overseas. This differs from other countries where movement abroad was not commonly seen among indigenous populations such as Australian Aborigines, American Indians or Canada's First Nations.

Dr Kukutai said that made New Zealand unique but she said there were reasons behind emigration, with economic factors at the forefront.

"The growing income gap between New Zealand and Australia just means it operates as a vacuum - it pulls people over."

She said that despite New Zealand's higher cost of living, Kiwis still had money to travel and that - combined with our geographic isolation and easy entry to Australia - meant that leaving New Zealand was an attractive option for many.

The survey also found that if employment opportunities and cost of living were equal across New Zealand, 22 per cent of respondents would choose to live in Auckland, compared to Wellington (11 per cent), followed by Christchurch (8 per cent).

Among those Aucklanders who answered the question, 55 per cent would stay in New Zealand's biggest city, while only 5 per cent of those not living in Auckland would choose to live there.

The series
Monday: What makes us Kiwi
Yesterday: Lifestyle versus cost of living
Today: Travel and moving overseas for employment
Tomorrow: Pride and culture
Friday: Intellect and success.