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.
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.