Author Topic: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ  (Read 1139 times)

dreamer8887

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Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« on: January 13, 2017, 09:23:57 AM »
Hello! I am shamelessly ripping off the name of another thread I just read, "Talk to me about the Midwest".

I live in the Midwest! And we are contemplating a move to Dunedin, NZ. I realize it might be a long shot to find many Kiwis on this board, and Kiwis from such a small town are probably exceedingly rare. But hey, maybe some of you have been! Maybe some of you can give me some insights on live in NZ in general.

We are contemplating a move as I'm Australian and want to be closer to home. DH is thinking about doing a PhD to increase our mobility (currently I'm underemployed in the US and have been since we moved here 4 years ago. DH is very well employed but doesn't like idea of being tied to current company forever, and it feels risky to have all our eggs in that basket).

Pros of NZ:

- no international fees for students - PhD would only cost $27,000NZD max if (worst case/unlikely) he couldn't get funding
- PhD program there looks awesome (don't want to go into specifics of his field but it's niche and surprisingly Dunedin is an awesome place in terms of equipment/research)
- likely easy for me to get a good job in my field, due to connections + size of school (I'm a professor - currently work as glorified adjunct - we wouldn't move unless both of us had good offers)
- close to Australia, but a new adventure (we like adventures)
- great for outdoorsy people (we love camping, hiking)
- excellent coffee (this is seriously really important to us, haha - we can handle small towns but we love our weekly flat whites - we don't eat out at restaurants, that's our one treat and we love Saturday morning family dates at the awesome local coffee shop we have here)
- friendly people, so I've heard
- affordable healthcare

Things I'm worried about:

- quality of healthcare
- awful weather in Dunedin, so I hear - doesn't get hot (I love hot weather), and although winters are much milder than MidWest, apparently most houses don't have heating so that could actually be worse - this is my biggest hangup. I struggle so much with the long, harsh winters here but we have a lovely cosy condo with central heat and a fireplace so we're very spoiled...
- Dunedin is very small and apparently quite grey/rundown - could be a bit of a shock after living in shiny, affluent MidWest city with all the amenities (might help us shop less though)
- Dunedin is extremely hilly so difficult to bike/walk places (maybe could get electric bike for me- DH is hardcore enough to handle it)
- cost of flights to US (although we currently pay to fly to Australia every year to see my family, so that's kind of a fact of life wherever we live - and it's relatively cheap to get to Australia from Dunedin)

There are probably other things I haven't thought of. Would love to hear from some Kiwis!

For reference, I could also get a job in Australia pretty easily - and I think longterm that's my preference, but short-term, the PhD program that DH is far and away most excited about is in NZ.

mozar

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2017, 01:27:43 PM »
Not a Kiwi, but did spend two months traveling around the north and south island. I liked Dunedin. More so than Christchurch and Invercargill. It's a little bit more diverse due to the Otago museum. That might not matter to you though. I guess it would seem run down compared to how nice some midwestern cities are, but also didn't bother me because I'm from the east coast USA. Outdoorsy stuff is amazing with Fox Glacier and Wanaka etc. a few hours away. There's definitely a work to live spirit in NZ with people eyeing the weather report on Friday afternoon to see if they can get in some surfing before the sun goes down. Super windy though.
Embracing the absurd condition of human existence while also defiantly continuing to explore and search for meaning

Out of the Blue

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2017, 02:33:46 PM »
Kiwi here, but have never lived in Dunedin - I've visited, though. 

I'm not sure why you're concerned about the quality of healthcare here - the public healthcare system is very good in my experience (I've been hit by a car and spent 2 weeks in hospital here, and also had my wisdom teeth taken out in hospital here).  There can be some long waits in the public healthcare system for non-emergencies (I was on the waiting list for months for my wisdom teeth) so you can get private health insurance also, which is affordable.  I don't really know how it compares to other countries' healthcare systems but I've never heard that our healthcare is below par.

Yeah, Dunedin can get very cold.  A lot of overseas people complain about the poor insulation of houses in NZ - that's pretty much nationwide, not just Dunedin.   

Something else to consider - the cost of living in NZ is pretty high in relation to salaries.  A comparison of prices on numbeo.com may be useful.  In particular, our petrol is very high (because of excise taxes, but as a mustachian you probably wouldn't use too much of this), and groceries are more expensive too (check out New World and Countdown's brochures online to get an idea of the prices).  Dunedin should be a   bit more affordable but I think mostly just on the housing front - a lot of prices for other things are pretty similar nationwide. We also don't have tax-deferred retirement savings accounts - not sure what will happen with your US accounts when you move and if you can still continue to max out IRAs etc.  In my view, it's not the best place to be if you're trying to build up your stash ASAP but a nice place if you like the lifestyle here. Work-life balance is better than in the US also - 4 weeks annual leave is required for all jobs by law.  It's not very common for people to have to work weekends regularly for most 9-5 jobs. 

Out of the Blue

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2017, 02:35:07 PM »
There's also a Facebook group called "Kiwi Mustachians" that you may wish to ask questions in before your move.  We're a friendly bunch :)

dreamer8887

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2017, 02:44:59 PM »
Thanks so much, Mozar and OOB! Great to hear your respective perspectives.

I'm not on Facebook but I may re-activate my account if this move starts to look likely, it'll be a good way to reconnect with my Kiwi friends and meet new people.

My comment on the healthcare was not coming from a place of good research or due diligence, I just vaguely remember seeing on an expat forum that some Americans were complaining about the system. I'm glad to hear your feedback on that.

I didn't know that about retirement savings. We would probably only be there for 3-4 years max. And it definitely wouldn't be a decision motivated by maxing out our savings rate/amount, because DH would take a pay cut and yes had also heard cost of living is higher. It's more a lifestyle choice + adventure + looking further ahead, wanting to get more mobility for us as a couple by him having a PhD and me having a proper job for  a few years to develop my scholarship (I've focused on teaching for last 4 years and writing has fallen behind).

At least, I'm telling myself it would only be 3-4 years because that way it's more manageable emotionally! But we would be open to staying longer if it felt right.

appleblossom

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2017, 02:40:40 AM »
I spent 4 years in Dunedin for my undergraduate degrees, and it is fantastic!

Ask away and I can try to fill in the blanks.

Your concerns

Things I'm worried about:

- quality of healthcare this really isn't an issue. Dunedin hospital is a tertiary hospital, and is the main teaching hospital for the University Medical school. For the most part you will find that any care you require is very good, but you do need to keep in mind that as it is a public system it will be very different to the US, so access to specialists etc might be harder. The private sector, which can be paid outright or through private insurance is excellent and very fast. Things like Dental in Dunedin it is possible to get good care through the dental school at reduced rates

- awful weather in Dunedin, so I hear - doesn't get hot (I love hot weather), and although winters are much milder than MidWest, apparently most houses don't have heating so that could actually be worse - this is my biggest hangup. I struggle so much with the long, harsh winters here but we have a lovely cosy condo with central heat and a fireplace so we're very spoiled... No it doesn't get hot, but you can always drive to Central Otago if you want really hot in summer (up to 40C). You will find that most houses will have some form of heating (most likely heat pumps) and the new rules around rentals in NZ require a certain level of insulation. There are lots of old houses for rent to students, and some are pretty horrid, but I doubt you would be looking at those, and in the past 10 years there have been lots of purpose built student accomodation as well which is to a high standard. Houses in general are unlikely to have central heating, but if you look outside the student areas there is diverse housing stock so you wont neccessarily be stuck in something really cold. 

- Dunedin is very small and apparently quite grey/rundown - could be a bit of a shock after living in shiny, affluent MidWest city with all the amenities (might help us shop less though) True that it is unlikely to compare, but I wouldnt say it is grey and rundown. Because it is a university city there is some interesting culture going on. It would depend what you like to shop for but I dont think its missing anything in comparison to the rest of NZ.

- Dunedin is extremely hilly so difficult to bike/walk places (maybe could get electric bike for me- DH is hardcore enough to handle it) Actually the CBD and the University are pretty flat. The student areas around the Uni are flat and South Dunedin, St, Kilda and St Clair are all flat, so it is actually quite bikeable. I'm not sure what public transport is like there now, but it does exist. So depending on where you move it is entirely possible to bike or walk.

- cost of flights to US (although we currently pay to fly to Australia every year to see my family, so that's kind of a fact of life wherever we live - and it's relatively cheap to get to Australia from Dunedin) Unfortunately this is life in NZ :(

I think Dunedin is great. It is my second favourite city in NZ after Wellington where I currently live.
That part of the country is beautiful, and there are so many amazing things to do within a couple of hours drive.

Julard

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2017, 02:56:17 PM »
And I've heard they do an annual nude, midwinter rugby match...

Dicey

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2017, 02:11:59 AM »
Spent a lovely day there once. Was on a cruise and was traveling with a friend who had limited mobility. Local tourist office connected me with a lovely woman who ran private tours in her own (fully licensed) van. She had already left with two other passengers (who were also from our ship and also had mobility issues). She turned around and came back for us. At first she was kind of quiet and I thought the day would be a bust. She warmed up and the day proved to be fantastic. Highlights: she called ahead to the fish & chips place to order our lunch to pick up and take to a lovely lake to enjoy. Seems the fish had been pulled from that very lake that morning. She augmented that with the contents of a lovely hamper for a memorable lunch indeed. Regaled us with tales of her everyday life in Dunedin. Took us for Hokey Pokey Ice Cream at her neighborhood ice cream shop. Later opened up the neighborhood social hall (where she had a side gig running the place in the evenings) so we could use their clean, clean restrooms. Was so much fun to get a local perspective. At the end of the day, instead of dropping us at the pick-up point, drove us right back to the cruise ship, which was 100% out of her way. This was in 2010, before the birth of mustachianism. Turns out she was a badass mustachian before there was such a thing. Oh yeah, and the scenery was beautiful.
« Last Edit: March 21, 2017, 02:25:52 AM by Dicey »
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kiwidollabill

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2017, 02:03:44 AM »
How did I miss this.....

I live in Dunedin and finished a PhD at Otago a few years back....

Most of the major stuff has been said, but PM me if you want help with the details. 

P.S. I think it's the best small city/large town in the country.... :)

Dee18

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2017, 06:54:55 AM »
I visited Dunedin many years ago and loved it, partly because it smelled like chocolate, from the Cadbury factory.  Does it still smell like chocolate?

dreamer8887

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2017, 08:40:40 AM »
How did I miss this.....

I live in Dunedin and finished a PhD at Otago a few years back....

Most of the major stuff has been said, but PM me if you want help with the details. 

P.S. I think it's the best small city/large town in the country.... :)

Hey KiwiDollaBill, thanks for bumping my thread :) That was good timing actually, as it turns out we are flying out NEXT WEEK for a final-round interview. My family will be coming as well, which is awesome, as we'll all get a chance to see it before making a final decision.

I'm so glad to hear you're a fan. I may well have more questions once we've been in person. My main concern now that the process is moving along is that salaries are a lot lower than equivalent jobs in Australia. But we see this as a quality of life + long-term investment move, and there aren't any PhD programs in Oz that DH is interested in. 

Out of the Blue

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2017, 12:54:15 PM »
I visited Dunedin many years ago and loved it, partly because it smelled like chocolate, from the Cadbury factory.  Does it still smell like chocolate?

If it does now, not for much longer: http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/90535889/dunedins-cadbury-factory-to-close-mondelz-international-confirms

Dee18

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2017, 02:02:06 PM »
Thanks for the update Out of the Blue.  So sad to hear of the closure. 

Hoglet121

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2017, 03:53:42 PM »
Aucklander here - there is no doubt that the salaries here are much lower than in other parts of the world, but our experience (expat Brits) is that the cost of living is lower than what we were used to.

Our one point we really wished we knew before we arrived (and I know it's been mentioned) is that houses in NZ are (mostly) FREEZING. Only new houses have anything like a reasonable level of insulation. Ours is 20 years old and was woeful in that department, we've since done a lot of work to the insulation. We still don't have any heat source in it, we keep planning to put in a heat pump but the running costs are unattractive. Bear in mind we are in Auckland which is considerably warmer than Dunedin and we came from the not-remotely-warm UK. I'm not trying to put you off, just something to be aware of.

Healthcare is excellent. And not expensive.

dreamer8887

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #14 on: March 21, 2017, 12:36:05 PM »
Aucklander here - there is no doubt that the salaries here are much lower than in other parts of the world, but our experience (expat Brits) is that the cost of living is lower than what we were used to.

Our one point we really wished we knew before we arrived (and I know it's been mentioned) is that houses in NZ are (mostly) FREEZING. Only new houses have anything like a reasonable level of insulation. Ours is 20 years old and was woeful in that department, we've since done a lot of work to the insulation. We still don't have any heat source in it, we keep planning to put in a heat pump but the running costs are unattractive. Bear in mind we are in Auckland which is considerably warmer than Dunedin and we came from the not-remotely-warm UK. I'm not trying to put you off, just something to be aware of.

Healthcare is excellent. And not expensive.

Thanks for this! Follow up question: what would you say your average utilities are per month? That's something else to factor into account. I don't do well in the cold. Your mention of the running costs of heat pumps (which seem standard in Dunedin rentals, from the listings) made me nervous. For reference, our winter gas bill in Chicago is around $60-$80, and our electric around $30-$40. Internet is $50/month and we don't pay for water or trash collection directly.

Hoglet121

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #15 on: March 21, 2017, 03:42:03 PM »
Our utilities are approx:

Electricity: $100 per month in summer $150 per month in winter (my colleague runs a heat pump and her bill is never under $200, often $300+ in winter. She's also not remotely mustachian.)
Gas - We don't have gas at our place - so cooking, hot water etc is covered in electricity.
Refuse collection varies bay area, ours is $1.80 per 50L(ish) sack. Buy the sacks from the supermarket, put out as many or as few as you use, so we make one sack last 2 weeks usually, except in high summer when it gets stinky too quickly.
Water - latest bill was $116 for 3 months, there are 2 of us in our house. Includes sewerage.
Rates (council tax) varies by area and size of peroperty, ours is $1400 per year.
Internet and home phone - $99 per month for unlimited data.
Mobile phone - $16 per month with a cheapy plan, 300 mins to any NZ or Aus number, unlimited text, 500Mb data.
Garden - We used to pay $15 per month for garden waste disposal but we have compost heaps now.

Think that's about it (all prices are in NZ dollars) but if there's anything I've missed let me know.

Ocelot

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #16 on: March 22, 2017, 08:48:02 PM »
I grew up in Dunedin, moved away in approx. 2001 in my early 20s. Much has probably changed since I was there, but I can tell you that most of your concerns aren't big issues. The healthcare is good with a big teaching hospital that services most of the South Island and, as stated before, the main CBD area is flat, there are just some very hilly suburbs!

The main thing that would stop me moving back is the weather - it rains constantly, and ice on roads is a big issue if you live in a hilly suburb in winter. Roads don't get salted or cleared like they do in the US so it can stay dicey in spots for weeks at a time. The hot days are really great but there aren't that many of them. Sure, you can drive to Central Otago for some beautiful sunny days, but that's not your everyday life!
Also, by US standards, houses aren't well insulated or heated in NZ in general. My American wife would let me know about this constantly when we still lived there! I'm sure you could find a well-insulated and heated place but you'll have to look for it and it probably won't be cheap. My experience of Dunedin - although probably not totally transferable, as I grew up "financially challenged" and moved on to cheap student flats - was that I woke to a frozen water glass on the bedside table most winters.
None of this is insurmountable, and assuming you're financially OK fancier houses and clothes exist than what I ever had. But I would definitely want to take a trip there for a little while to check it out before I committed to moving, if I were you.

kei te pai

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Re: Talk to me about Dunedin, NZ
« Reply #17 on: March 23, 2017, 12:33:05 AM »
If you look for housing with a woodburner for heating you can be toasty warm all winter, for similar or less cost than electric heating. Dunedin is definitely at the cool end of the country, but summer days are long with daylight until 10pm.