I moved to New Zealand from Seattle – for most of my life I’ve lived in the country and that’s usually where I feel most comfortable. But for personal reasons I moved to ‘the city’ a little over a year before I left the U.S It was expensive but I was less than two miles from work, had no grass to mow, no house to take care of and the city of Seattle at my doorstep. I had a 24 hour concierge, an exercise room, a parking spot, and a club room with a nice deck for shared use by the residents.
Apartment living is easy to get used to in Seattle. Many of my friends and coworkers lived nearby and we were surrounded by other professionals. The restaurants and bars tended to be more upscale — finding “fast” food was a bit difficult but it was like a little community with the pizza restaurant on the corner providing our own private ‘Cheers’ episodes.
We started realizing Auckland would be different when we reached out to several rental and real estate companies to get help finding an apartment and nobody responded. When I had been looking in Seattle, I got a call back within 10 minutes of my first inquiry. My requirements weren’t that extreme I didn’t think – furnished apartment, 2 bedroom, one parking spot (carpark), near my new office in the central business district. We wanted to have some viewings lined up before we got to Auckland but gave up on that after several inquiries resulted in no response.
When we arrived in New Zealand we finally found someone to show us an apartment, we met them at a scheduled time and were surprised that we weren’t the only ones there to see it. Apparently ‘viewings’ aren’t personal here and you see the apartment along with anyone else who is interested. So it was us along with three college students. That visit was eye opening – after the college students left we had a frank conversation with the rental agent. She said (and our research backed it up) that finding something like we had in Seattle would require a significant increase in what we were willing to pay than the range we gave her.
After looking at a few places we settled on a 1 bedroom (with additional closet extension thing that will work as a place for visitors to sleep) with a parking spot. No gym, no concierge, no club room with nice deck, etc. And the rate is still a little more in New Zealand dollars than our old place was in USD. But on the upside, it is brand new construction and we have a nice view of the harbor so I can sit on the couch and get used to the feel of my new home.
We realized the other big difference the first day we moved in – apartment living in Auckland is nothing like where we lived in Seattle. The building and residential streets are full of international students, they are everywhere. The stores and restaurants nearby cater to the population that lives here, not to professionals. The student couple next door got in a huge fight on our first night – screaming and yelling so we went to check on them. The girlfriend opened the door in her pajamas, tears running down her cheeks and holding a teddy bear.
Nobody at my work lives in downtown Auckland and they think it is funny that I do — such the naive American :-). So we’ll see how this works out. I still love being able to walk to work though and maybe being around so many college students will be good for me.