In 2013 over half of New Zealand’s South Africans were living in Auckland. Much smaller numbers lived in Wellington, Hamilton and Christchurch.
Auckland’s appeal included its jobs, mild climate and expatriate population – many emigrants had friends and family already living there. In 2003 there were an estimated 20,000 on the North Shore, with another concentration in the eastern suburbs. Some antipathy was expressed toward Auckland’s South Africans as the demand for housing, fuelled in part by immigration, put prices beyond the reach of many people.
Work and assimilation
In 2013 nearly one-third of South Africans were professionals and 97% of the population over the age of 15 held formal qualifications. Many were doctors and nurses, or worked in insurance, information technology and publishing. Some used New Zealand as a stepping-stone to Australia: after three years immigrants could apply for New Zealand citizenship, which allowed them to live and work in Australia.
An LSD trip
Bruce, a South African immigrant, compares New Zealand to Australia:
‘My wife and I and two pre-school daughters arrived in New Zealand in 1994. We had actually emigrated to Australia but didn’t like it much. Australia is too “big”. We came to New Zealand on a five-week LSD [Look-See-Decide] trip, liked what we saw and decided that this was the country for us. I like the compactness of New Zealand. We go skiing in winter and camping every summer. I think that New Zealand offers South Africans a lot.’ 1
In terms of language, qualifications and cultural background South Africans have found many similarities with New Zealanders. On the other hand, South Africans’ forthright way of speaking has been perceived as arrogant by some New Zealanders, used to more indirect communication. Another issue many white South Africans faced was the assumption that they were racist, which probably stemmed from misunderstandings about their motives for emigrating. Most came for economic, safety and lifestyle reasons.