Blog 030 Living In Wellington

By Mana Williams 20 Minutes 

“Cuba Street is where you trip on a latte and land in a tattoo parlor.” – Peter Wood, Architecture Professor.

With its bureaucratic corporate wear and it’s Courtney Place nightlife, the alternative trends, and Student Ville lifestyle, multi-cultural vibrancy, Wellington must be the most sprightly place in New Zealand. Looking at it with a closer lens, this chat will look at what Wellington has that makes it special. There are a few things that will be covered in depth here so it will likely take some time. Like reviews of all places, there are three categorical mentions that can be used to judge a place. These are people, climate, and affordability. These blanket rules are basic and I’ve noticed people usually consider these three things when assessing how appropriate it is for them to move.

Time for a story. So sit back for a second.

Last year I moved to Wellington. Late January, a whole month before University classes started. Backpacking and carrying on, looking to make friends and do as much as possible before the restriction of school began. It wasn’t long before I accomplished that, and thankfully I was able to secure myself a job which is pretty awesome. After I got into my job and started getting into University stuff, very quickly I saw how expensive living in the city was.

So we’ll start with affordability. One way to look at affordability is to compare the price of a two-litre bottle of milk. There was a contrast between the price of milk in Lower Hutt versus the price of milk in Wellington City central by $0.80. That has much to do with convenience. Stores like The Fix remaining open 24 hours per day, because of that there is a huge emphasis put on operating costs for the store as well as convenience. Small apartment lifestyles, student living or couples with children, corporates living away from their homes on a work contract, temporary residents such as backpackers often occupy the central city space. As a result of this, there is a little microclimate that gets people doing little purchases often rather than large purchases weekly. In comparison to places rural or small town regions, Wellingtonians visit grocery stores more frequently, usually because they don’t have an easy way of carrying their groceries home, or perhaps they don’t have enough cupboard space to accommodate a huge grocery shop. Because of this, Wellington has a little niche for small purchases and higher prices for things like two-litre bottles of milk.

If we take the price difference mechanism of milk and apply it to rent and the cost of living. The closer to the central business district you are, generally, the cost of living and the cost of renting is more expensive. Last November me and my flatmates went looking around the city to find a place to live. Our price expectation ranged from $170-$220 per person on a weekly basis. The $220 group usually related to the more expensive stuff or fully furnished apartments etc. In our case, we were looking for a place to live that was close enough to University so that we wouldn’t have to pay for public transport. So generally we looked at places close to the central business district. – Thanks to Lauren for managing to find us a home in the end.

So what makes Wellington different?

Wellington is surprisingly hilly and there are a few suburbs that aren’t realistically very far from the central business district but because they are behind hills or at the top of hills they generally fluctuate in prices due to the quality of living for: warmth, sunlight hours, vicinity to shopping centres, and closeness to University. Places like Karori aren’t actually far out of town but because the suburb is behind two sets of hills you have to drive over a hill and through a tunnel. We looked at buying here at the same $170-$200 range and we were able to get a beautiful house with five spacious bedrooms, and a top of the range dehumidifier system. Way more than some of the slum-like apartments we visited in the city at the same price margin. To put it bluntly, city life is pretty expensive at the best of times in Wellington, but it can fluctuate significantly from place to place.

There’s more than meets the latte.

Otherwise, coffee shops are plentiful in Wellington. It’s not uncommon to pass four or five coffee shops on your daily walk down the road. In a lot of ways it actually builds up a resilience to building people and growing a cultural diversity. Left Bank down Cuba Street and Capital market are like oriental shopping centers. Lambton Quay and The Terrace are like corporate hang out zones. Wellington people exist as all of these little collections of ethnic groups, there isn’t a noticeable Tall Poppy syndrome in Wellington. It’s kind of sad really that we are still today having to suffer through that sort of crap outside of Wellington in places like Christchurch and Blenheim. But I guess that’s why when most people who’ve lived in Wellington usually say they loved it or they enjoyed it thoroughly. There’s a place for politics but it’s not usually buried in the sand in Wellington.

So what are the people like?

There’s a massive vibrancy here. As I mentioned before it must be one of the most sprightly places in New Zealand. I say this because there is a place for everything, normal and not-so-normal. Who can say really what a person is allowed to be or practice? I once walked down Cuba Street heading across to work, and I was held up  by a drag queen who for those of you that don’t know is a person who dresses up as a queen, usually a guy of the male gender right, but this drag queen was driving a couch down the road, and the couch was on fire. There were five people pushing the couch around but it was honestly the most Wellington thing I’ve ever seen. It was only a Tuesday as well. The part I loved about it the most was that nobody really took any notice of it or even questioned them. That really epitomizes Wellingtonians and how little they care about what people are up to. We had a group of friends over at the flat last week and one person was talking about the fashion trends of students in Wellington or just everyday people wearing hugely alternative clothes. For those readers who don’t know what I mean by alternative, it’s in regards to the hipster fashion trends. If you still don’t know what that means, it usually refers to the various slit jeans and four black layers, ear piercings the size of a burger ring. All just a bit impractical, but again, nobody seems to care. Our friend piped up and made the comment that it’s more alternative to wear normal clothes than alternatives. Which means basically it’s weirder to be normal now. It kind of points out that the culture of Wellington is constantly dynamic and is changing every day. In short, Wellington people aren’t massively judgmental. You can be who you want to be and nobody will care too much.

How about climate?

It’s consistent. Either in a bad way or in a good way. Wellington City is a huge wind tunnel. That’s why it’s so notoriously windy. But if it’s wet, or if it’s windy, it’s not far to your nearest coffee shop, your nearest library, or even actually, home. So it’s not a massive factor that would be too concerning living in Wellington.

So overall, Wellington has a lot going for it. There are two Universities, it has every corporate opportunity available, Government resides here, drag queens on burning couches, and an international community.Wellington’s a little micro-climate and it offers up expensive accommodation and costly milk, but it’s convenient in many ways for you to get to where you need to go. So to be fair, I think living in Wellington, is pretty damn good.

So that’s today’s talk. I didn’t have heaps to say about Wellington so I thought I’d get it all down on one blog instead of three or two parts. So I hope you enjoyed it! Tomorrow I’ll be looking at Getting back into the swing of things at University. That should be fun…

As always…

Thanks for checking in.

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