Reaching out to other people, and feeling welcomed in return, is an important part of settling in to a new country.
While meeting people can be interesting and fun for its own sake, in New Zealand it can be much more - the key to finding somewhere to live, a job, a great tradesperson, the best shopping deals or the best place to have a holiday. That’s because we’re a country where a lot of business is done with people we know (or their brother or their Auntie).
When you’re new in a country, it’s often easier to stick with your own culture and make most of your friends among people who are like you - from your own country or ethnic group.
It’s true that other newcomers can provide valuable support in your early days here. It is good to have someone to talk to who understands what you are going through if things become difficult. Newcomers networks are a good place to find people who are likely to relate to your experiences.
But remember to also keep sowing the seeds of friendship with the wider community. Kiwis usually have a wide range of acquaintances and a small group of friends. This close group tends not to change much over time so you may need to be patient.
You’ll find the balance in your circle of friends between other new arrivals and Kiwis will change naturally over time as you become more settled and your life here evolves.
Start off by building up that circle of acquaintances and then see where that takes you.
Family and community
A good place to start meeting people is by exploring your family and community connections. It’s easier, because you can join in activities with them without waiting to be asked.
Contributing some of your time to community activities will repay your effort many times over.
To connect with people who share your interests there are a number of community directories you can use. You should also check our regional information.
The Community directory of the Office of Ethnic Affairs has links to organisations for arts and culture, education, sport, youth, women, business, faith groups, refugees, and ethnic groups. The Get Help site from the Citizens Advice Bureau also has a searchable directory of community organisations. New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils is an umbrella organisation for ethnic communities in New Zealand. Their website will tell you where to find their regional offices.
Workplaces in New Zealand are fairly social, and people will often chat about things that are happening in their personal lives. This is an easy place to make contacts, but often work relationships, while friendly, may not extend past the workplace.
Look for opportunities to get involved with social occasions. Some workplaces have sporting teams, or might do social team building exercises.
Find out if there is a social club and if not think about starting one. Kiwis value practical action over words: it’s part of the pioneer heritage. Taking the initiative and starting something will win respect.
Local projects where you work for a common benefit and shared goal are great at bringing people together and creating bonds.
There’s always a lot to be done in the community and the projects that community groups and school committees work on are usually very social.
Getting involved with school activities and fundraising activities or even the Board of Trustees has the added benefit of putting you in touch with your children’s teachers.
Another great way to get involved with your community is to get to know your neighbours. Having friendly faces around you can really help settle you in to life in New Zealand.
These informal local group offer various activities from coffee mornings to walking groups. There are newcomers groups around New Zealand. If there isn’t one nearby, you can get help with starting one.
Helping your children make friends and get involved in activities isn’t just important for them. It’s a great way for parents to meet other adults too.
In New Zealand, parents with children help each other a lot and it’s a great short cut to building up a circle of acquaintances who may become friends.
Libraries and council recreation centres are great places to find activities for the kids to get involved with. Check our Regional Information for contact details.
A website called Kiwifamilies run by a group of non-profit organisations has a comprehensive section on activities for children along with help and advice on parenting in New Zealand.
For parents in Auckland, Sport NZ and local councils run a website called Connect2Sport. It helps the migrant community there to connect to participate and volunteer in badminton and football.
Follow your interests
Getting involved in the hobbies and interests you had at home is an excellent way to meet new people. Search online for the New Zealand versions of the clubs and communities you used to be involved with - or try something new!
Yes, we’re crazy about sport so you’ll find lots of opportunities to join teams and meet people that way. Workplaces sometimes have sports teams, or you can join a club. If you don’t play sport you can always participate as a volunteer.
Check the Sports page of this website, or the Regional pages for information on local sports clubs.
Take a ‘night class’
A great institution in New Zealand is Adult and Community Education (ACE). It’s commonly referred to as night classes - even though many are held during the day.
ACE offers reasonably-priced tutored classes which don’t necessarily lead to a qualification but generally teach about a hobby or general interest topic.
BDS Book clubs
Book discussion group book clubs are a fun, informal way to meet new people and to learn more about the Kiwi way of life. The idea is to read a book on your own and then get together with a group of people each month to talk about what you have read and to chat about life in New Zealand. They have groups for people who have been learning English for a while and want to practise, as well as groups intercultural groups which are designed for people from a range of cultures and ethnic backgrounds.
To see local groups that are looking for members check their website or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Online and business networks
Online communities are great ways to share experiences and meet others, whether they are used to organise events or to give or get advice. Try the New to New Zealand Facebook as a start.
There’s also a website called ‘Meetup’ that lists a wide range of groups around New Zealand that you can join. It a great way to meet new people with similar interests to you - you can even start your own Meetup group. For example, there’s a Meetup group for International Spouses in Wellington.
You may also want to make connections with multi cultural communities in your area, both for hearing similar stories of people living in New Zealand, and for sharing your own. The Rotary has an E-Club, an online group, where you can do just that.
Other networks like Toastmasters, Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) network, and BNI are also good for building professional contacts. Check out the Job hunting tips page for more information about these.