Living in London vs life in New Zealand

The view from the London Eye

It seems you can never really go back home – because when you do, either it’s changed or you have.

That’s certainly my experience, having returned to New Zealand after living in the United Kingdom for the better part of five years. At times I feel like a foreigner in my own country – if this is even my home country any more – or like a Londoner living in Auckland.

But that’s not a bad thing; it’s certainly given me a fresh perspective on things.

I’ve written before about the sheer shock of going home for the first time in four years and about moving to Auckland and the future of Man vs World but this time I’m going to compare living in London with my new-found life in Auckland.

Population

The most obvious difference is New Zealand’s largest city is a heck of a lot less crowded than the UK’s.

Moving from a city of more than eight million people to another of just over one million is jarring. Where is everybody? Even on Friday and Saturday nights many of Auckland’s central city pubs, clubs and bars seem rather empty.

Still, it’s nice to have more room to move around. Shopping in Auckland is a dream, too, with the city’s main shopping street – Queen Street – standing in sharp contrast with London’s absolutely mental Oxford Street.

Sure, the shops aren’t as good – but I don’t care so long as I have room to move.

The Auckland Sky Tower at nightThings to do

There is always something on in London – but the same is true in Auckland, where in one week recently the city’s Vector Arena hosted the Black Keys, Mumford & Sons and Coldplay.

Sport is a way of life in NZ, too, so there is plenty of that on at any time of year – even if I do miss English Premier League football (the Australian A-League competition is like amateur hour in comparison).

Public television is really bad in New Zealand, too. It’s probably bad everywhere in the world but it’s especially painful here unless you really love The Big Bang Theory and (mostly Australian) reality TV shows.

At least television in the United Kingdom has more channels, more variety and higher production values. And don’t even get me started on Shortland Street, the embarrassingly popular New Zealand soap opera that’s on five nights a week here…

Quality of life

People seem healthier and happier in Auckland, with seemingly every man and his dog going jogging in their lunch hours, training for marathons in their spare time and playing social sport in the weekends.

In that way I prefer the London way of life, where time spent at the pub is never time wasted – especially if you’re at one of London’s best riverside pubs on a nice day.

The weather is better here, too, and the River Thames isn’t nearly as lovely as Auckland’s harbour, with plenty of beaches within a relatively short drive making up for the fact that the city’s parks are not nearly as grand as London’s.

Now, New Zealand isn’t nearly behind the times as many of my English friends think – but we definitely are behind the pack in one crucial area: the internet. It’s so very slow and expensive here.

London on Waitangi Day with a NZ flag - in front of WestminsterPublic transport

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of vehicle ownership in the world – and you can see why. Public transport is, by and large, severely lacking in most parts of the country. In Auckland it’s just okay.

It’s great to be driving a car again – I never wanted one in London because the traffic would be a nightmare, not to mention having to pay for parking all the time – but I do miss being able to have a couple of drinks after work and then catch the Tube or train home.

The traffic in Auckland isn’t so bad, either – but maybe that’s because it would take me an hour to get to work in London whereas even when the Auckland motorway is backed-up it only takes me roughly half an hour or so.

The cost of living

Weirdly, food is cheaper in central London than it is in even rural New Zealand. That includes milk, meat, fruit and veg. But it really does seem to taste better here – especially the meat, which is just so much more flavoursome.

The money is probably a lot better in London, too, but I get paid a little bit more in New Zealand than I did in the UK. But that probably says more about the British publishing industry, which was not in a good state when I arrived in mid-2008 or when I left at the end of 2011.

Rent is much, much cheaper in New Zealand. Even living in an apartment in central Auckland with a view of the harbour costs less each month than it did to live with six others in a flat in Putney in Southwest London.

The Auckland Hrabour Brige and waterfront from my apartment

So which is a better place to live – awesome Auckland or loud London? I honestly couldn’t tell you.

But I what I can say is travel is fun and living in a foreign country is one of the best things this Kiwi has ever done. I highly recommend it.

About Simon Petersen 284 Articles
Travel blogger, journalist, sports and movie fiend. Chronicling the life and times of a Kiwi at home and abroad.

19 Comments

  1. I am a NZer who has lived in Sydney for many years. My husband is British.
    We travel to London on holidays probably annually now. We also visit family in Hampshire and friends in Surrey and Somerset. It has got to the point where I now hate leaving the UK to come back to Sydney.
    I agree supermarket food is cheaper in London but then Sydney has become incredibly expensive, it’s a rip off! Sydney has also become a very hard city where everything “is about me”. It’s a very greedy city, traffic and transport fines are so ridiculously expensive they’re an obvious revenue raising exercise! NSW has also sadly become a police state, soooo over-regulated. Everything is punitive…the minute a rule is broken, the law is changed to prevent it, our choices and freedom to choose is being eroded. Sydney is over-rated, the price of real estate is stupid and a lot of people are moving away. In essence, they are over it!
    London is a huge city with 8 million + people but unlike Sydney, they haven’t lost their sense of caring or good manners. The politeness in the UK never ceases to amaze me. Keep it up Brits!

  2. I’m going back to Auckland after only living in the the UK for just a year. Seriously can’t afford to live here anymore – my sister is getting married in NZ and that meant time off so that equals no pay. Decided to move back today and am now feeling really depressed at the thought of going back. I’m looking forward to the quieter way of life in Auckland…but I’m so used to going out to different places around the UK at the weekend. I’m sure once I’m back I’ll be fine. Need to save up for my next adventure anyway.

  3. Nice article and I also feel like a stranger in Auckland after two years living in London, I’ve changed but Auckland really hasn’t. We bought a place out in west Auckland about a year ago and I’m finding it quite dulll compared to the exciting lifestyle my gf and I enjoyed in the UK. I do feel quite isolated here, it was so convenient being able to Europe via train or the Eurostar! We covered about 20 different cities in 2 years based in the UK.

    While the beaches, good weather & laid back lifestyle here in Nz is nice… I really miss the pubs, history, entertainment, night life, sporting events ,markets London has to offer.

    Job wise I’m earning more here in Auckland because of my UK experience I believe but there’s not much of a social scene at work and not much opportunity to travel given we live on the otherside of the world!

    We’re getting married soon and not sure if we want to stick around Auckland for too much longer as I don’t feel quite content in Auckland…something’s missing. I left my heart in London but obtaining a visa will be a hurdle without a uk passport! Not to mention convincing the missus to leave Auckland where most of our family & friends reside.

    • Hey, thanks for reading. It can be a bit rough coming back – especially this time of year, when it’s rainy and cold in Auckland – but it does get better. At least it did for me. I still miss the pubs and what not, but then if I was over there again I’d probably miss some things about living here, too. I know what you mean about not having a social scene at work; that’s probably the thing I miss the most these days – after work drinks on a Friday that go on into the night! All the best for your wedding, and I hope you either come to like your new life here or you move somewhere you like better after the wedding 😉

  4. I love the first sentence of your article. It really sums it up. I’m a British woman living in rural New Zealand. I’ve been here for just over two years. But my partner, who came with me two years ago, has just gone back to England and now wants to stay there permanently. He missed his family too much and was not happy with me earning more money than him. I’ve decided that I will stay here at least until the end of the year but probably for a good few more years if not forever. I do miss family and friends back in England but that’s a small price to pay for the lifestyle I have here. I live next to the beach here and I pay next to nothing in rent and take home far more than in the uk. My expenses here are much lower than in the uk. Here I find it easy to save. I will always be torn in my heart though. Having lived in England for 32 years prior it’s kind of in my blood. But I do believe that travel broadens the mind and brings you so many benefits. It’s worth the risk. Even if you feel like an outsider when you go back home. Sheryl Crow has a great line in one of her songs. She says ” somebody said you gotta get away, to wanna go back home again “. And that’s the way it should be.

    • Wow, I think this is probably the best comment ever. You’re very inspirational. At the end of the day, I guess you can’t go past that lame old cliche – ‘home is where the heart is’. It sounds like although you love and miss your family, you just love it here more. It also sounds to me like you’ve made the right decision. All the best!

  5. After 11 years, 8 months and 27 days I’m moving back to Auckland from London and quietly worried big time! Your article was very interesting, thanks!

    • After that long in London I’d be interested to know how you get on. Auckland has a good buzz about it these days but I’m sure it’s still going to feel tiny and quiet compared to London! All the best with the big move!

  6. I’ve heard New Zealand has far better meats than America. A Kiwi I met not long ago mentioned it’s all organic and far better managed/taken care of!

  7. I have lived in London and Auckland, but have to say it honestly that London with all its Issues and Recession, is STILL the place to be. Auckland may be a fantastic city, but it is very isolated.

    Getting from A to B in Auckland is a nightmare if you don’t own a car. And it does Rain a lot, I mean in London the skies are grey but you can wear a warm jacket & a hat, and still go outdoors, but in Auckland it actually pours down. On a positive front, you feel much more free in Auckland, less crowded and less stress….but then less money as well.

    Fundamentally, why not compare Auckland to Liverpool, Edinburgh or Birmingham, cities of same size and stature. Comparing with London is not fair, as they are in a different League alltogether !! London (along with NYC ofcourse) is often called the capital city of the World, don’t think its fair to compare it with Auckland.

    • Very good call, Mick! I’m only comparing the two because they’re the two cities I’ve lived in most recently. Also a huge percentage of New Zealanders, if they come home, are more likely to settle in Auckland than anywhere else in NZ – just due to its size and job opportunities. I agree though, they’re not in the same league for a lot of things!

  8. Great article Simon.

    I experienced many of the same things that you did when I moved back to Australia after 3 years in London. It’s funny how in some ways you adjust back to the old way of life, but there are certainly things that you can never get over. For me the big one is how expensive certain things are over in this part of the world, and also the sheer lack of people. It amazes me how much against density people are over here when we could be so much denser while still being so laid back.

  9. Hi

    We have just arrive back to Dunedin from living in London for 5 years, we have a 3 year old son (which was born in London) which is the main reason for the move back. The great NZ Lifestyle…….. and so he could get to know his cousins and grandparents. We knew it would be hard but we are finding it very hard and I miss ‘Home’, we are now thinking that we had a pretty good lifestyle over in London and actually it was great for a wee one to experience the travelling. We never run out of places to go and see!! If we had stayed we would have moved out further to get house as we were living in Wimbledon which was amazing and very kid friendly but if we wanted to buy would never afford it.

    We hadn’t planned to stay in Dunedin for to long, we have a house here and just wanted to come home sort it out and sell it then move on further north. As my partner is in the construction industry we were thinking of Christchurch. We went up for the weekend and definitely better than Dunedin more of a buzz and a bit more happening but still think we would get bored? We are know thinking north island or Australia or … of course back to London. All the benefits of coming home was to do with our son to be close to his grandparents and cousins but as they all live in Queenstown and Invercargill these places aren’t bigger enough for us so we will end up moving further away again!!! Not saying that London is perfect it has it pitfalls! But it the cost of living is cheaper we had a wee 2003 ford focus which we paid around £1500 and to buy the same here would be about $8000, crazy!! even the DIY for your houses is much more reasonable in the UK I miss markets and IKEA! Wall paper is about $80-90 here and about £15 at the max.

    Not sure why I am posting most likely just venting to someone who knows what I am going thought! I think Australia is going to be next try, but saying that most of the attraction of London is the travelling to Europe!!! What to do!?!?!?!

  10. I lived in London, but currently live in Queenstown NZ. I’ll be going back to London in 5 months (as NZ was only ever a temporary thing) but there are huge differences.

    I agree about the food – even supermarket shopping is more expensive here in NZ than it is in London. I find I spend £100 a week on food here (as a couple) – where as in London I could spend £50 a week for more food.

    I miss the hustle and bustle and the constant entertainment of London too – but then somethings like the view from my balcony in NZ, and the freshness of the air more than make up for that.

    It’s two different sides of the coin – I could never choose completely.

  11. Lovely comparison. While a part of me wants to live in a place like Aukland which has most benefits of being Ina city but with lesser people, I feel that eventually I would get bored because in the end I like the excitement of London and that there is always something happening.

    • Haha, I’m afraid that I might be the same way! At the moment Auckland is exciting because it’s new; give it a few more months and I might be really bored.

  12. Hi Simon, nice to meet you. I recent;y invited you to my “Quick Blog Tips” tribe on Triberr, glad to see you’ve joined.

    On your post, I noticed many of the same things when my wife and I lived in Australia for a couple of years. My wife is Australian and she first moved to the UK for a couple of years back in late 2004.

    Before moving to Australia, we lived and worked in Guildford, Surrey. It’s busy but not as much as London. Although I like a bit of peace and quiet, we lived in an extremely quiet area of Australia and it felt too isolated for me. Sure, it was a beautiful place with beaches just around the corner, and we bought a lovely 3 bedroom house for the equivalent of around £165k. But it was a long way from the UK, and I quite like the buzz of the UK. For now 🙂

    So when moving back to the UK, we said we would avoid Guildford as that would feel like retracing our steps, and set out to live and work in London. We’re now preparing to move from south west London to N2. I guess we just like to move around! 😀

    • And it’s nice to meet you, too! Thanks for the invite to your tribe. Haha, you must like to move around! But there’s nothing wrong with that. How are you ever going to find the perfect place to live if you don’t try out a few different places? Thanks for the comment.

      • London has become so Stressful in recent years. Even people in very well paid jobs are struggling… I have read that Auckland is much less stress and hectic, and has many more sunny days, and with so many beaches and outdoors lifestyle it offers more peace of mind than London would.

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