Clothes shopping does not hold the same appeal for me as it did in England. Because of the size of the population, it is understandable that you do not get the same selection as you would in the UK. In addition to the limited choice, the often poor quality, means that the clothes do not wash well and are quickly worn out.
If you intend to stock up on clothes before you come (and I would strongly recommend it) then remember, there is less opportunity to ‘dress up’ so you will not need much in the way of evening wear. Leisure time is spent on more outdoor activities. There are plenty of jeans shops and trainers are easy enough to find. What you will not be able to find so readily, is machine washable winter jumpers and good quality sweatshirts and t/shirts as well as quality casual trousers and jackets. You will not find the choice of beachwear, aerobics/sportswear, nor nightwear.
A high percentage of people make their own clothes and I was struck by the amount of material shops around. Sewing machines are regularly advertised on TV and the lead up to Mother’s Day, which incidentally is held in May instead of March, sees sewing machines and appropriate worktables being offered up as every woman’s dream.
There is very little emphasis on children’s clothing, which makes life simpler and less expensive. Although “Reebok” and “Nike’ are here, along with other labels, the children are not slaves to them, and certainly not at such a young age as they are in the UK. The fashions are slow to change and very similar stock appears each season.
Shoes are not of the quality you will be used to. I have found the children’s school shoes manufactured in New Zealand to be relatively expensive and ill fitting. I have recently discovered a small outlet that stocks Clarke’s shoes, and the prices are very favourable.
Glassons, Katies, Clothing Warehouse, Top Shop, Paulls and Hallensteins are the main clothing chain-stores. The problem is they are all at the bottom end of the market. There is no equivalent to Marks & Spencers or BHS and the clothing industry has a long way to go before there is an equivalent to Next, Principals or Richard Shops.
Country Road and Esprit are both Australian chain-stores that offer better quality clothes, but the stock they carry is minimal and prices expensive.
It should be noted that there are shops that sell good quality fashionable styles, but they are not chain-stores, but privately owned. As a result the clothes can be very expensive. Many people buy new clothes when holidaying in Australia or Europe.
Supermarkets are fairly hassle free. Most have ample parking and assistants who smile and talk to you. Many have free coffee or iced water, some pack your shopping for you and it is rare to hear children crying, possibly because they often give out bread rolls to them. You never queue too long at the check-out. You can pay by cash or cheque but not credit card. EFTPOS (Electronic Funds Transfer at Point of Sale) is another way of paying, a card that debits your account straight away, similar to the Switch Card. You can also use it to draw cash wherever it is accepted.
The selection of convenience food is not as great as you would find in the UK. I have certainly done more cooking since I have been here.
Frozen desserts are a distant memory, here there is ice-cream or cheesecake. Meat is cheap, and fish plentiful. Much of the meat will not be as lean as you will be used to. Healthy eating is not a preoccupation. Fruit and vegetables are good value and in season you can buy 2lbs of kiwi fruit for 60p. You cannot get ‘out of season’ fruit and vegetables and it can be cheaper to buy from the growers, rather than from the supermarket.
My grocery bills are definitely cheaper, partly due to the fact that I cannot get convenience foods, which traditionally are always more expensive. But also because I have embraced the system of taking advantage of “specials” which are genuine reductions, brought about by the fierce competition amongst supermarkets.
There is not much selection in fruit squash and most people use packets of powdered drink which they mix with water - it’s full of sugar and colour. Ribena is very expensive. Coke and lemonade are often used to lead the price wars between the supermarkets with genuine Coke quite often on ’special’ at 95c for a 1.5 litre bottle.