Once you actually arrive and get over the jet-lag, getting settled is the fun part of moving abroad. Naturally, you’ll want to take care of the basics first, such as figuring out where you’re going to live and how to get to the grocery store. The best piece of advice I got when we were searching for housing came from a German friend who had lived in Canada for a year for his job. He told me that spending a little more on housing was more than worth it for their family, because at the end of a long day of foreign-ness your house is your comfort zone where you just get to relax. I have never regretted spending a little more than I wanted to for our amazing apartment here. It has become my respite where I am comfortable and don’t have to worry about doing or saying the wrong thing. The other thing I would recommend not skimping on is INTERNET. There is nothing worse than skyping with someone who has a bad internet connection, and it’s even worse when you are negotiating time differences and little kids. Spend the money for a fast connection and you will NOT be sorry.
Exploring your new surroundings is the BEST part, and knowing you’ll only be there for a certain amount of time also forces you out the door to make sure you see all the highlights. There are of course several official touristy lists of things that you’ll want to check out see HERE and HERE, and then of course there are the Top 10 lists that everyone makes for what to see like HERE, HERE, and HERE. We always like to keep memberships to cool places to take the kids. Treat yourself to a Zoo Membership so you can go whenever you want, not stand in line to get in, and not feel bad for only seeing a fragment of the zoo before someone has a meltdown. The Auckland Zoo does look awesome, and you can check out their memberships HERE. We also like to have a membership at one or more indoor activities too, for the same reasons as above PLUS another option for when the weather makes being outside not so fun. The Auckland Museum looks like a really promising place, and their membership rates are pretty cheap for families as you can see HERE. Holy guacamole Auckland looks like a super amazing place to be when the weather is nice!! You are going to have a blast exploring all those outdoor adventures there.
Can I also tell you how jealous I am that you’re moving somewhere that English is the primary language? Yes, you’ll still have some communication difficulties, but surely they’ll be more occasional than regular. I can’t wait to hear about it actually. We really miss our library story times that we regularly attended at home, and our favorite one even started with a Maori welcome song! Reading kids’ books in German and then translating them is a challenge I wasn’t adequately prepared for as you can read about HERE. Getting a library card here has also been awesome though, and it is a great weekly outing for our girls to get to pick out books and movies. Bonus, getting a library card will prevent JJ from having to cart a crate of books all the way from the states. Here's a link to the Auckland city libraries for you to check out too.
The last thing I will say about getting settled is that Ex-Patriot Americans living in your new city can be great resources for questions. Here in Berlin there are a few message boards for Ex-Pats to communicate, and we’ve been lucky enough to meet up with some great Americans here. I do caution you against the ease of making only more American friends. Challenge yourself to mingle with the locals as much as possible while keeping ties to others who are in your same situation for grounding purposes. It is awesome to be able to chat about home and insane foreign stuff sometimes, and the effort required to make American vs. NZ friends is going to be different. You are awesomesauce and I’m sure you’re going to make some great friends during your time abroad no matter what their nationality. DO make friends though, because finding babysitters here has been the most AMAZING thing EVER for us. Date nights have been essential for surviving the stress and separation that living abroad has brought our way. PLUS: exploring the grown-up part of your new spot will be a much different experience.
Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!
I am happy to answer any questions I can, so please don’t hesitate to ask.
I would also recommend getting a nice guidebook for your new spot. Lonely Planet makes our favorites for exploring (NZ one can be found HERE), but there are many other ones to check out too.
Hip Hip Hooray, and on to the packing! J