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Key Differences Between Working in New Zealand vs. the United States

Beyond Blogs New Zealand Vs The United States Ft

Despite both starting as a British colony, speaking English and having red, white and blue flags, there are many notable differences between New Zealand and the United States. Is it jandals or flip flops? Chips or French fries? Similarly, there are also some major differences between American and New Zealand workplaces, which anyone who has moved between the two countries is bound to notice. Below are just a few changes you could expect when working in New Zealand versus the United States.


As an American, it is easy to work in New Zealand if you are under 31 years old. Simply apply for the Working Holiday Visa (typically the easiest option for those looking to test the waters), and you’ll have 12 months to live and work in New Zealand. Unfortunately, the process is not as simple the other way around. In order to work in the States, New Zealanders need to win the “Green Card” lottery or get sponsored by an employer to secure a nonimmigrant work visa.

Friday Drinks

Every company I have worked for in Auckland has Happy Hour on Friday. Some start at 4pm, others at 5pm, but either way it is a great way to unwind from a week at work with colleagues. This would not happen in the States. Is this because Americans are over-worked and don’t take enough vacation, so they just want to get home to their families? Perhaps. It could also be because it is very easy for organisations to get into legal trouble for any incidents that occur as a result of alcoholic beverages off the clock.

Holiday Time

When it comes to holidays, Kiwis definitely have the upper hand – we are guaranteed four weeks paid leave per year, plus a total of 11 public holidays. The U.S. doesn’t have a mandatory legal entitlement for annual leave, but instead it is left to the discretion of individual employers. It varies from organisation to organisation, but the average employee in the U.S. will get around 10 days of paid leave per year. There are also only seven public holidays throughout the year, bringing the count to an average of 31 days (New Zealand) versus 17 days (USA). Unlike New Zealand, even with less holiday time, Americans are not encouraged to take the leave they have (it’s almost frowned upon!), nor is there an office shut down over the Christmas period. On top of that, your holidays aren’t guaranteed to roll over year to year, meaning more time gets unused and lost in the States.

Sick Leave

After working for an employer for six months, Kiwis are granted five days of sick leave. Generally, there is no mandate for employers to supply sick leave in America, however, this does vary by State. Only 10 out of the 50 states have laws requiring companies to offer paid sick leave!

On top of that, the mentality around taking sick leave is much different. In America, people often feel as though they need to show up and prove how sick they are to warrant a day off. In New Zealand, employers are more trusting and would prefer you to stay home to prevent others from getting sick. It’s much more of a ‘take care of yourself and the work will get done’ kind of attitude.

Maternity Leave

Again, Kiwis win this category. By law, an employee can take up to 22 weeks of paid leave (it will increase to 26 weeks in 2020). Mothers (or fathers if they’re the primary carer) can take time off work for up to a year, as their job is saved for them up to 12 months. Partners are also able to take up to two weeks of unpaid leave, and some are able to negotiate for part of that time to be paid.

The USA, on the other hand, has the lowest level of maternity leave in the industrialised world. Again, there is no paid leave guaranteed; it varies according to the employer and state. The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the sole Federal law that addresses maternity leave, merely guaranteeing 12 weeks of unpaid leave – and even then, this only applies to organisations with more than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

Traveling to Work

Anyone working in a major city will know they will have a moderate to long commute. The difference between Americans and Kiwis is that the problem is vocalised a lot more here. Take Auckland for example, an almost daily conversation in the office is how bad the traffic is. Even New Yorkers love the phrase ‘NYC traffic is a nightmare,’ yet they don't dwell on it. Yes, crawling traffic is not fun for anyone, but you should expect it as part of the daily grind, here.

If you are American and want to try the “Kiwi” way of life, please get in contact with me – with so many options available Down Under, I’d be happy to assist you in securing a temporary job when you arrive.

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