New Zealand – The Truth

Articles > New Zealand – The Truth

We asked one of our clients a motor mechanic and his wife a teacher’s assistant to tell us about their life in New Zealand after 3 years, this is their response to our questions, I hope you find their answers interesting.

(Ruan – Please tell us about your typical day and working environment etc to give South Africans a feel of what life is like in NZ for a tradesmen compared to South Africa.)

I’ve worked for the same company since we arrived in New Zealand almost three years ago. I’m definitely working harder and gaining more experience in New Zealand than I did in South Africa. The main reason for that is that Kiwis are very specific when it comes to the way they do repairs on vehicles here. For example, in South Africa, motor mechanics are generally taught to replace parts rather than disassemble them and try and find the actual problem. In New Zealand, we disassemble the faulty part, try and find out why it’s faulty and then repair it if possible. I honestly feel that I’ve learnt more since I’ve been in NZ than I did in almost ten years as a mechanic in South Africa.

As far as my daily life as a motor mechanic is concerned, in South Africa you get set daily targets. When you work in a workshop in South Africa, you’ll find the manager of that specific branch will tell you how many hours you need to put in for that month and you must reach that target. For example, you generally need to work between 160 hours and 180 hours per month to achieve the goal you’ve been set. Each particular job will have been timed and you are meant to complete each task within that time limit. As I mentioned before, that involves removed a faulty part and replacing it with a new one.

In New Zealand, they don’t work like that. You are given a job where you disassemble the actual component, find the fault and fix it. In New Zealand I’m learning how everything works inside the component which has obviously increased my skills levels considerably. As an Afrikaans speaker, I initially found it hard to learn all the component names in English but again, I was very happy to expand my skills.

One important point I’d like to make is that during my first year or may be more, I found a big culture difference in the way we worked in South Africa and the way things are done here. It took me a while to change my mindset from the way I used to do things to how things are done in New Zealand. I had to tell myself, I’m not in South Africa anymore and I must change my way of thinking to fit in with the way things are done in New Zealand. I know that there’s no way that a South African can walk into a workshop and immediately do what these guys do. It will take time to learn from others in the workshop and to open your mind to new ways of doing things.

Working hours for me have been slightly different in that in South Africa I didn’t work on Saturdays but here I work every second Saturday morning so that customers’ who are working are able to get their vehicles seen to at weekends.

One thing I had never heard of until I came to New Zealand was a Warrant of Fitness. It’s a thorough vehicle safety check which takes place at various intervals depending on the age of your car – anywhere from 6 months to three years. It is something which Kiwis take extremely seriously to ensure that the vehicles that are on the road are safe.

I have now completed my Warrant of Fitness exam and practical and it was by far the hardest exam I’ve ever taken. The examiner told me before I took it that the failure rate was 80% and the pass mark was 95%. I’ve gained an in-depth knowledge of everything related to motor vehicles through this, plus all the laws associated with motor vehicles and their components. I felt as if I’d been awarded a law degree when I’d finished!

I’m so pleased that I took the Warrant of Fitness exam and not just because my hourly rate automatically increased. There’s generally only one Warrant of Fitness inspector in a workshop and only around 8,000 category 2 and 4 WOF inspectors in the whole of New Zealand. Obviously, this is great for me should I want to look for another job. The Warrant of Fitness keeps me really busy as not only do I complete the inspection but, should I find anything wrong, I then fix the problem. When you think of the lack of checks on vehicles in South Africa, it’s not surprising that there are so many accidents.

Another point I’d like to make is the difference in management styles in both countries. Many managers in South Africa are extremely difficult when it comes to holidays and time off. You often have to explain where you’re going, why you’re going etc etc, to the point where you often want to turn round and say, “don’t worry, I won’t go on holiday”, or, “I won’t go to the dentist.” The attitude in New Zealand is so different. When you ask your employer for time off, they don’t have a problem at all and just put it in their day planner and off you go.

I remember in my last job in South Africa, when the owner used to visit the workshop; everyone was in a panic, rushing round making sure everything was in order. Where I work now, when the owner comes round, he talks to every single person in the workshop and asks you how you are and if you have any problems. This never happened to me in South Africa. The difference between management/owner styles in New Zealand and South Africa is like day and night.

People in New Zealand are non-judgemental and friendly. My experience in South Africa is that professional people, such as lawyers and doctors, don’t socialise with trades people. In New Zealand it’s totally different; you’ll get people from every profession sitting at the same table, chatting away happily to each other. People in New Zealand have respect for you as a person rather than for your profession. There’s no judgement.

It’s been a great three years. We’ve learnt a lot as a family and, at times it hasn’t been easy, but we are really happy that we moved to New Zealand.

(Cindy please tell us about your working day)

In South Africa, my workday started at 7am and I finished at 6pm. It was a long day. In New Zealand, my day starts at 9am which means I can take Ruan to school on my way to work and I finish at 5.30pm. My role within my school is to work with the 2 ½ to 3 ½ year olds.

We have four different roles as teachers in our classroom – Inside, Outside, Nappies and Sleepers or Float. Each teacher will be responsible each week for a specific role and my job includes setting up the classroom according to the children’s interests, needs and age. For example, at the moment, our children in Kindy are interested in transport and use imaginative play, so the classroom is set up accordingly.

Each child has his/her own routine so there’s no set timetable for inside time, outside time etc. It makes it an extremely hands-on job. In the beginning I found it quite an adjustment, as in South Africa I’d always worked in a nursery school environment that stuck to a timetable where every child in a set age group did the same things at the same time. Here, the child can sleep when they want, play when they want and wander outside when they want. You certainly have to keep your eyes open!

When the children move on to the next class (3 ½ +), the day is a little more structured with mat time and sleep time etc. Also, they encourage the children to learn about what they’re interested in at the time. The subject may change from day to day or, if the children are really interested in a subject, the same subject will be discussed for as long as there’s interest. For example, at the moment, volcanoes and explosions are big in that classroom.

I’ve learnt so much from New Zealand’s Early Learning Programme (Te Wha-riki) and from working in my Kindy and attending various workshops. I’ve gained so much knowledge. The education system here revolves around the children far more than it does in South Africa. As teachers you try and encourage children to learn about what interests them because obviously, they’ll absorb more information if it’s a subject they love. In South Africa there’s a very basic set curriculum at this early age. In SA they will be assessed by completing an easy jigsaw puzzle and be able to thread three beads etc. Here they do the same sort of assessments, but it’s not forced on the children like it is in South Africa.

We do short excursions with the children. We take them to the nearby park, or a run around the car park or take them on a bus ride around the block, especially right now they’re interested in transport. We didn’t do that in South Africa. We had people coming into the schools to talk about animals for example, but we never took the children out for excursions. In New Zealand, the children get far more real-life experience, and they happily ask if we can all go for a walk to the park or for a run around the car park.

As I said earlier, I’ve learnt so much about early education during my three years in New Zealand, far more than I learnt in ten years in South Africa. I also appreciate the fact that I can drop my son off at school every morning and we are able to spend much more time together as a family.

(Could you both talk about a child’s typical day and school environment etc to give South Africans a feel of what a child’s life is like in New Zealand compared to South Africa)

Children start school at the age of five in New Zealand and our son, Ruvan, is seven and absolutely loves school. He starts school at 9am and finishes at 3pm and then he goes to After School Care at his school until 6pm because we both work full time. There’s never been a day when he’s said he doesn’t want to go to school. When we pick him up from school, he enthusiastically tells us all about his day, giving us the highlights.

Family and friends in South Africa frequently comment on how fluent Ruvan’s English is and how large his vocabulary is for a seven-year-old. They also point out how he has grown in confidence since he’s been in New Zealand. As children in South Africa usually start school at the age of seven rather than five, it’s natural that little Kiwis are going to be ahead of the game. Ruvan did go to a bilingual school in South Africa, so he spoke English and Afrikaans at school, but at home and with friends we always spoke Afrikaans. We still speak Afrikaans at home, but Ruvan usually replies in English! When he does speak in Afrikaans, it comes out with a lovely New Zealand accent.

Ruvan’s school subjects concentrate on maths, reading, writing and science. The school has its own swimming pool and also people come in from outside to give the kids experience with various sports. Ruvan loves swimming and touch rugby. Rugby, water sports and basketball are very big here and soccer also has a place but it’s obviously not as big as rugby.

Moving on to fees. In South Africa you pay school fees, plus books and stationery. In New Zealand, your child initially needs a student visa to enable him/her to go to school. You get 30 hours a week free schooling in a government school (six hours a day, five days a week) which means Ruvan gets free schooling. Schools ask parents for an annual donation of around $30. Parents are also asked to contribute towards sporting activities such as swimming and touch rugby, but the contribution is small.

Aftercare is very expensive. At the moment, Ruvan goes from 3pm until 6pm five days a week and, during school holidays, he’s there all day enjoying the school holiday programme. It costs around $350 a week for the school holiday programme and $21 per day for after care. Remember, that the end of year holidays are around 6 or 7 weeks long, so that’s a big expense that you may have to factor into your annual budget. It’s affordable as long you budget. Other school holidays are two weeks long.

All in all, we are happy with our experience of the New Zealand education system, but Ruvan is only seven, so we’ve got many years to go. The most important thing for us is that he’s happy at school and is learning a lot.

(Could you please both talk about travelling around NZ to give South Africans a feel of the lifestyle you enjoy in NZ compared to SA)

We find holidays in New Zealand much more relaxing than we did in South Africa. We always seemed to be in rush in SA, making sure we got back to where we were staying way before it got dark just in case we broke down or something untoward happened. We don’t think about these things anymore, as we know we’re living in a safe country where we can go hiking safely and travel safely. A couple of times we’ve gone away and deliberately left our windows ajar to keep the house aired and have never had a problem with break-ins. Burglaries just doesn’t happen here. We don’t have burglar bars or alarm systems because we don’t need them.

We have travelled around the whole of South Island, but we haven’t been to North Island yet. Last December, mates of ours who’ve lived in New Zealand – South Island – for over 20 years, invited us to join them on a road trip around South Island. The roads are well maintained but there are lots and lots of twists and turns, so the going can be pretty slow. You won’t find any litter along the sides of roads, whether you’re in the middle of the countryside or in a city. Everywhere is clean and well kept.

We started off from our home in Christchurch and had an eight-hour drive to Balaclutha and camped for two nights. It was an absolute joy to know that once we’d pitched our tents and set up camp, we could put our shoes on, go for long walks or get in the car and drive around for the whole day and come back to our camp and everything would be exactly as we left it. One point to make regarding camping and braaing is that many sites only allow you to cook on gas due to the risk of fire. However, there are camping sites that allow you to use wood and charcoal, so just check on each website before you book. The camping websites also give you a comprehensive list of what’s available at each site and what’s allowed and what’s not allowed.

The next day we moved on to Invercargill and Bluff, the most southerly point on South Island, and stayed on a farm for two nights and explored the area. From there we went to Te Anau for New Year’s Eve and then went on to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is an awesome place to visit. It was just like walking into a Jurassic Park movie. The mountains, lakes, waterfalls, forests and scenery were amazing, no wonder so many people visit here. Going on one of the cruises is a great way to see everything.

We then moved up the west coast visiting the small towns, before arriving at the most northern point of South Island – Golden Bay, Farewell Spit. It’s one of the top five places to visit on South Island, with beautiful blue flag beaches. We drove through the countryside into the hills and parked, before walking down to visit Split Apple Rock. Even though we had all our gear with us, including our suitcases in the car and our camping equipment on the roof of our vehicle, we knew it would be safe while we walked down to the ocean. Split Apple Rock is a rock which sits in ocean and is looks just like an apple that’s been cut in half. It’s well worth the walk.
We moved on to Nelson, a small city which seems to suit retired people and then on to the wineries of Blenheim before camping in Kaikoura for two nights. We visit here a lot from home as it’s a stony beach that allows quad bikes and 4x4s which means we can drive to the ocean and fish from the beach – surf casting.

One thing we noticed on our travels was wherever there were roadworks, there were always clearly marked detours with a maximum speed limit of 30kph. The New Zealand Transport Agency’s website and app tells you which roads are closed and gives you alternative routes and will also tell you when they expect the roads to be reopened. If future roadworks are planned, electronic bill boards will give you the expected dates so you know way in advance exactly what delays to expect on your route and plan accordingly.

Throughout our ten-day trip around South Island, we had our tents strapped to the roof and the rest of our belongs in the vehicle. Or, if we were camping, we’d set up camp and then put everything in the tents and go off and explore. Not once did we feel worried that anything would be stolen.

One final point, wherever you stay in New Zealand, whether it’s a B & B, camp site or hotel, there are always facilities for children – playgrounds, jumping castles, pools and game rooms – so no matter what the weather, the kids won’t be bored. It’s a great place to travel around and you always feel safe and relaxed.

I hope you found this interesting.

Happy New Year

If you are a tradesman, I suggest you contact Trade-Recruitment they are assisting South African tradesmen to secure job offers from New Zealand employers and it’s a FREE service: