My first cultural shock with New Zealand culture did already occur before I even stepped foot on this beautiful island country. Once I had received my visa, I set out to find an apartment and was optimistic to line up a few acceptable viewings for the first few days to get the apartment search out of the way.*
So I got on TradeMe, the New Zealand equivalent of ebay, where many people and real estate firms advertise their properties that are for rent or even sale. After reading through a few ads, I figured out that the number of rooms of an apartment are given in terms of bedrooms just as in the US and Luxembourg thus making a 1-bedroom apartment an apartment with 1 bedroom, a living room and a separate kitchen unless specified that you have “open plan living” which makes the kitchen a part of the living room.
Compared to that, in Germany you usually provide the amount of rooms no matter whether bedrooms or living room plus kitchen and bathroom. Thus the standard abbreviation “ZKB” (Zimmer, Küche, Bad [room, kitchen, bathroom]) as in 1 ZKB or 5 ZKB.
That was the easy thing to figure out. Easy was also to learn what whiteware is. If whiteware is included, you do not have to worry about buying a fridge and a washing machine. Often, a drier is part of the deal, too, as can be a dish washer.
However, nowhere did I find mentioning of the actual size of the apartments in square meters. I would have even taken square feet. Really, nowhere. Sometimes advertizers put “spacious” in their ads. That was the only indication that this apartment might be a tad bigger than the rest, but you can’t really go by that. Therefore, you do have to look at each apartment and can’t decide from the start that one may be too small from the start.
Annoyingly, no landlord and realtor that I encountered actually knew the size of the apartments they were trying to rent. You just have to look at the apartment and decide whether you like the size or not, no matter how big it is. Of course, you could always estimate it on sight.
Even though I do not want to buy the property, I still want to know the price per square meter to have a point of comparison to other apartments. One landlady said the size is usually only provided for houses and of course for land, but not for apartments in general. Thus, when I asked how big the apartments were, everybody looked at me as if I was the first person to ever ask that question (which I probably was) and they always said something like “Well, as I am the landlord / realtor, I should probably know, but frankly, I don’t” and that was it and we moved on to another question.
I saw some hotly advertized apartments that had no view whatsoever, but had the same asking price as others where you could see the sky. In the city you do not really want to have your only window facing a warehouse or parking garage just 2 or 3 meters away from your window because you will never see the light of the day. Rooms with no window at all are also not recommendable except for bats and people with night vision.
A good thing about my apartment hunt is that I got to know a number of streets in Wellington.
But the cultural difference to renting in Germany or Luxembourg does not stop here. Rent is not calculated in months but in weeks. That makes it a bit of a hassle to convert it to a monthly rent all the time, but is better for the renter because the bond is also calculated in weeks and usually is between 3 and 4 weeks whereas in Germany and Luxembourg the bond is around 2.5 or 3 monthly rents. Therefore, you do not need to come up with so much money up front in New Zealand. Furthermore, you often only pay 1 or 2 weeks rent in advance and not the entire month. And if you do not have a fixed rental term, the contract can be cancelled within 3 weeks at best compared to 3 months back home.
A big bummer with the majority of apartments is that there is no storage space in a cellar. That is similar to the US where my apartments also did not have that luxury. In Germany and Luxembourg you expect that to be there and cellars, even in bigger apartment complexes are common, but not here. I guess, that will force me not to store many things. 😉 Units (bigger houses chopped up in smaller apartments) that are found in the suburbs or in older houses may have a garage that you could use as storage space, but not every house comes with a garage.
Finally, I found an apartment last night that is acceptable, especially in terms of rent. Now I have to send in my tenant application with two references and hope to be able to move in early next week.
* All observations and comparisons I make are based on my limited experience and that of friends etc. They do not necessarily reflect every aspect in any of the countries mentioned.