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 the key to much more - like finding somewhere to live, a job, a great tradesperson, the best shopping deals or the best place to have a holiday. That is because we are a country where a lot of business is done with people we know (or their brother or their auntie)!
When you are new in a country, it is 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 is 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 will 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 way to start meeting people is by exploring your family and community connections. It is 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.
There are a number of community directories you can use to connect with people who share your interests . You should also check our regional information pages.
- The Office of Ethnic Affairs has a Community directory with links to organisations for arts and culture, education, sport, youth, women, business, faith groups, refugees, and ethnic groups.
- The Citizens Advice Bureau has a Get Help site with a searchable directory of community organisations.
- Multicultural 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. 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 at work. If not, think about starting one. Kiwis value practical action over words: it is 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 is always a lot to be done in the community and the projects that community groups and school committees work on are usually very social.
- Roundtable is a club where young men (18–45 years) have fun, make friends and help in the community.
- Getting involved with school activities and fundraising activities, or even the school Board of Trustees, has the added benefit of putting you in touch with your children’s teachers.
Volunteering is a way you can combine meeting people with learning new skills and getting work experience in New Zealand, while helping your community.
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 into life in New Zealand.
These informal local groups offer various activities, from coffee mornings to walking groups. There are newcomers networks around New Zealand. If there are none nearby, you can get help with starting one.
Helping your children make friends and get involved in activities is not just important for them. It is a great way for parents to meet other adults too.
In New Zealand, parents with children help each other a lot. It is a great shortcut to building up a circle of acquaintances who may become friends.
- Libraries and council recreation centres are great places to find activities for your children to get involved with. Check our regional information pages for contact details.
- A website called Kiwifamilies, run by a group of non-profit organisations, has a comprehensive section on activities for children and 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 and 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, many of us are crazy about sport. You will 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 do not play sport you can always take part as a volunteer.
Check our Sports page 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 is commonly referred to as night classes - even though many are held during the day.
ACE offers reasonably-priced tutored classes which do not necessarily lead to a qualification but teach you about a hobby or general interest topic.
BDS book groups
Book discussion scheme (BDS) book groups are a fun, informal way to meet new people and to learn more about the Kiwi way of life. Each member reads a book on their own. When the group meets (each month), they talk about what everyone has read and chat about life in New Zealand.
There are groups for people who have been learning English for a while and want to practise, as well as intercultural groups 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 is also a website called ‘Meetup’. It lists a wide range of groups around New Zealand that you can join. It is a great way to meet new people with similar interests to you - you can even start your own Meetup group.
- You may also want to make connections with multi-cultural communities in your area to share your story and hear similar stories of people living in New Zealand. Rotary has an E-Club - an online group where you can do just that.
- BNI helps you build personal relationships with dozens of other qualified business professionals. Other networks like Toastmasters and Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW) are also good for building professional contacts. See our job hunting Tips for success page for more information.