While most migrants move to New Zealand in the hope of a better quality of life, some say the cost of living here has left them impoverished, trapped and, in some cases, almost broke.
A recent post in a social media group for British migrants in New Zealand warned that Aotearoa "is not the paradise some will lead you to believe", citing the high cost of food, buying and renting property and medical and dental care.
"Whatever you do, do not come here on a budget, you will have a miserable time and being 12,000 [miles] apart from your loved ones doesn't help in your time of need. If you do decide New Zealand is for you, please have a contingency fund for return tickets, just in case. So many come here, then can't afford to go back," the post read.
The message prompted a flurry of responses, with many saying the cost of living in New Zealand has required them to make compromises or sacrifices of some sort.
"Everything here is expensive. It's paradise … at a cost. I never expected my health bills to escalate. It's almost left me broke," one person said.
American expat Tara Germain, who moved to Auckland from Connecticut, said she continues to be shocked by the cost of living in New Zealand given "what you get for your money". She's also found salaries to be much lower than in the US "regardless of experience and education.
"I am also shocked at how much they expect in these roles for such little pay."
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Chenoa Rutledge said she didn't think she'd have to worry financially when moving from Japan to New Zealand and having previously lived in Hawaii as both are renowned for being expensive, but was unpleasantly surprised.
"The thing no-one tells you is that you are going to pay those high prices for substandard living. The downpayment for my house here could have bought an entire house in much of the US. Unlike here, that house would have had insulation, central heating, and double-paned windows.
"New Zealand is undoubtedly beautiful and has great healthcare perks, but in general it does sort of feel like settling since everything seems outdated or very behind other comparable countries."
While many Americans in New Zealand are grateful for the cheaper healthcare and education, however, the higher cost of property, food, petrol and consumer goods in Aotearoa is an issue for some.
Lauren Stanilov said she and her husband have been more frustrated than surprised by the cost of things in New Zealand.
"[We] often talk about how, considering what the two of us make and how we feel our expenses are very typical for two working adults … it sometimes feel like we should have more to show for it. I struggle with that statement because I feel like it reeks of privilege, and we acknowledge we have many advantages … that others don't have in establishing financial stability in their lives."
Nonetheless, she feels that many New Zealanders seem unwilling to acknowledge that the cost of living keeps a sizeable number of people "at the poverty level".
"That 'she'll be right' attitude is great in so many aspects, but when it comes to acceptable standards of living, I feel that a lot of things are overlooked or just accepted as the way they are when they're completely unacceptable and dangerous.
"The cost of living a 'normal' life (whatever that means from person to person) can add up to quite an amount, and the frustration, and restrictions, around that are what certainly get to us."
Natalie Wallis, who moved to Taupō from Australia with her Kiwi partner and their children, says the cost of living in New Zealand has "100 per cent changed our view" of the country.
The couple pay about twice as much in New Zealand for food and power, and also struggle with the cost of petrol.
"We don't see a future for our children here even though we would love to, because my partner's [New Zealand] born and we love the lifestyle - just not the price tag that comes with it. It's a bittersweet choice. It's awful to see so many families struggling and we don't want to end up being those people."
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Teodora Motatenau, who lived in six other countries, including the UK, before moving to New Zealand, said that while she finds NZ beautiful, the high cost of housing and childcare, among other things, have left her struggling financially.
"As a single parent there's no way you can live a decent life with medium or even high earnings as per New Zealand standards. Everyone expects you to rely on 'whanau and friends' [and] if you don't have any then bad luck. You're stuck. Childcare is overly expensive and you're judged if you work to make ends meet while having young kids."
Some said that, while they find New Zealand expensive, they are prepared to put up with the higher prices because of the lifestyle the country offers, in some cases adapting to straitened circumstances.
American Velma Kennedy says she and her family survive in Cambridge on less than a quarter of what they did in Minnesota.
"Being from Minnesota, [New Zealand is] expensive, especially real estate, shoes, clothing and beauty items. Not to mention petrol. There are many ways to economise though, and though it's been a bit of a challenge, it's not been awful for us to live on 19 per cent of the income we enjoyed in the States."
The family has kept expenses to a minimum by refraining from using the car (they sometimes go a week without it), opting for second-hand furniture, kids' rugby boots and other items, and adopting the Kiwi number-eight-wire mentality.
The sacrifices, she feels, are "100 per cent worth it" to be able to live in a country without the "animosity, impatience and greed" of the US.
Anna Phua said she finds New Zealand "much more" expensive than Singapore, which was named the third most expensive city in the world for expats in Mercer's 2019 Cost of Living Survey. Hong Kong was named the most expensive city, while Auckland and Wellington dropped to 89th and 114th on the list, largely thanks to currency fluctuations.
While Phua, who lives in Auckland with her partner, earns less in New Zealand, she has been able to save about a third of her wages by cutting back on eating out and travel. Despite feeling worse off financially, Phua said: "I still love New Zealand for the peace and the landscape. If I keep living in Singapore, my kids will never know what nature is. Every country has its pros and cons but New Zealand's pros outweigh the cons in my case."
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Income tax in New Zealand is higher than in Singapore with a top personal rate of 33 per cent compared with Singapore's 22 per cent, but Phua feels this may contribute to the better work-life balance many Kiwis have.
"No point working so hard and be taxed most of it!," she says.
Many of the expats consulted said they have been happier here since they learnt to accept and adjust to the higher prices.
Heather Murphy and her then-partner Martin arrived in New Zealand from Scotland in 2015 with $7000 and "no support". After securing a rental property and buying a car, they had very little left and, even though Martin found work fairly quickly, they struggled at first in their new "damp and cold" rental property. Things began to look up when they found a cheaper yet better insulated place to rent and had a bit more cash in the bank.
After a fun-filled Christmas in Taupō, they successfully applied for residency and, while they have since split up, Murphy is still glad she made the move.
"I definitely have had a better life than I would have staying in Scotland. I've been learning te reo Māori for three years and got a job in local government because of this … I have no desire to return to Scotland, not even for a holiday!"
Londoner Hamish Barber is preparing for a move to Auckland, and while he realises that New Zealand "isn't cheap", he feels he's done enough research to know what he's letting himself in for and hopes others contemplating a move too.
He has found property prices in Auckland to be on a par with those in London, but he feels you get more bang for your buck here.
"The price of food is expensive in New Zealand and, to be honest, we aren't looking forward to that, but we do realise we will have to change our mindset."
His main reasons for moving are to be able to offer his children a more "balanced school life", the easier access to beaches and outdoor activities, the "better work-life balance" and lower crime rate.
"I'm not saying New Zealand is heaven. But it's better than London."
Similarly, American expat Irene Kohlschein Yeiter, who lives in Tauranga, finds New Zealand "expensive but worth it". She says she has felt better about the prices here since, after several years of living here, she stopped comparing prices.
"The silver lining: On my parents' first visit I overheard my mum on the phone with my sister and she said 'Renie has to pay ten dollars for a chicken, so I'm going to tell her we never expect her to send gifts'."
Toyia Anuguiano, an American expat in Auckland, also finds New Zealand expensive, but admits she knew before moving here that she would most likely have to take a drop in salary.
"I didn't move her to get rich," she says, noting that while is making "significantly less" than she used to, she has a better work-like balance. While she's happy for this to be the case at this point in her life, she's not sure she wants things to remain this way forever.
"I do get bitter sometimes about the cost of living and I have considered moving elsewhere with better salaries and cost of living, but I've invested a lot of time and energy in settling here. I'm conflicted."