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Ski MOUNT DOOM or take top coffee to the beach? Your choice

Swapping the City of London for New Zealand – work/life balance at last

eXpat Files What is it about New Zealand? Despite being in quite the oddest place, not being very big and living with the threat of volcanic nasties, it punches above its weight in so many ways. And as this week's eXpat files volunteer Christopher Mullard explains, it also offers a top place for a developer to move with his family.

How top? Once you get over the pay drop, the natural wonders and coffee make it all worthwhile.

Over to you, Christopher. Just don't mention the All Blacks, please?

The Register: What kind of work do you do, and with which technologies?

Christopher Mullard: I'm a server-side Java developer chiefly and have worked as a contractor and permie in the City (London) for too long.

The Register: Why did you decide to move to NZ?

Christopher Mullard: Mainly for a change in the pace of life, and to take our kids away from the retail-driven urban sprawl to a more relaxed, outdoors lifestyle.

The Register: How did you arrange your new gig?

Christopher Mullard: Talking to friends who have done something similar helped enormously with things like insurance and shipping agents. Otherwise just did a lot of research on the interwebs.

The Register: Pay: up or down?

Christopher Mullard: Hugely down, but that's what you get moving from the City to just about anywhere else.

The Register: How do workplaces differ between the UK and NZ?

Christopher Mullard: In New Zealand things are much more casual and work/life balance is an actual 'thing' rather than just lip service on a job spec. Every office seems to have table football and I've seen one with an indoor golf range.

I can see the sea from my office in Takapuna which still brings a smile to my face (lunchtime beach volleyball on Fridays!).

The Register: You've been there a while now: what still seems flat out crazy about New Zealand?

Christopher Mullard: Traffic in Auckland is pretty impressive given the size of the city (not in a good way) and house prices are doing the London thing too (which was a shock).

Positive crazy things - the beaches on the North Shore are pretty much empty even on weekends (and eye-achingly prettier than Brighton beach), sushi for lunch is cheaper than a sandwich and 100Mb fibre broadband is everywhere but some houses don't have mains supplied gas (and no one has central heating).

The Register: Will your expat gig be good for your career?

Christopher Mullard: There's a huge startup scene here, which is really different and a vast number of smaller tech companies - places I'm more and more interested in working at as I get on.

The Register: What's cheaper in NZ? What's more expensive?

Christopher Mullard: Wine, sushi and public transport (such as it is) are much cheaper. Coffee is about the same (but on a different planet from Starbucks and their ilk - Kiwis can do coffee). Anything imported is more expensive, which means your weekly grocery shop can be a shock, especially with kids.

The Register: What will you miss about NZ if you go home?

Christopher Mullard: The friendliness of everyone even in a large city. The amazing customer service, the beaches and countryside. Oh, and the sense of humour (see Air New Zealand safety films for an example).

The Register: What's your top tip to help new arrivals settle in?

Christopher Mullard: Find somewhere to live not too far from work (crazy traffic) and buy as soon as you can.

The Register: What advice would you offer someone considering the same move?

Christopher Mullard: If you can, try to arrange a job before you leave - most places are happy to interview over Skype.

Also be careful about importing prescription medicines - we had a nightmare with customs over those, and it delayed our clearance by weeks.

The Register: What can you do on the weekends in NZ that you can't do at home?

Christopher Mullard: Walk to the beach drinking amazing coffee, or drive to the Coromandel for some amazing trekking (called tramping here oddly), or up north to the Bay of Islands for stunning scenery and dive Poor Knights/the Rainbow Warrior wreck, or drive (admittedly for a quite a while) to Ruapehu, which is active [and was used as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies – Ed], for a spot of skiing/boarding. Endless choices.

Have you made a move like Christopher and his family? They make me do this weekly, so tell me about your adventures by dropping me an email. ®

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