Barbora Pokorná and Lukáš Nápravník are two young Czechs who found their second home in New Zealand. The couple has been running a website called Czech Kiwis, where they share their knowledge about the country and provide all sorts of services for Czechs who want to travel, work or study there. I met with Lukáš and Bára during their recent visit to Prague and I started by asking them about their very first visit to New Zealand:
Bára: “It was in 2014 when we decided to travel to New Zealand. We wanted some change and we wanted to try a new life in the other hemisphere. We arrived there in October and we started living in Auckland.”
So you already went there with the intention to live there for a while. It wasn’t a tourist visit.
Lukáš: “We actually went to New Zealand and we both had a job already. We arrived there and I started my first job after one week."
Bára: “We both travelled on work visas, we had a work and a place to stay in Auckland, so it was easier than on working holiday visa.”
What did you do for a living here in the Czech Republic?
Bára: “I am a pharmacist and I worked in a clinical research for a pharmaceutical company and Lukáš was an IT consultant for Price Waterhouse Coopers. So it was quite easy to change because the job was the same in New Zealand, so we just transferred to a different country.”
But after some time, you decided to leave your job in New Zealand and start a very different career…
Lukáš: “That’s right. We had friends who came for a visit and during their three-week vacation they explored more of New Zealand than we did. We were staying in Auckland, working Monday through Friday, during the nights, and we didn’t really enjoy the country, so we decided to quit our jobs and travel.
“We already had our resident visas so it was easier because we could stay in New Zealand for as long as we wanted. We sold our car and bought a bigger one. We converted the car into a camper van and started to travel around the country.”
Bára: “Yes, that happened one year after we arrived in New Zealand. We changed our lives completely and decided to taste freedom.”
When you first arrived in New Zealand, what was your first impression of the country?
Lukáš: “I would say everything was much more relaxed. New Zealand is three times bigger than the Czech Republic but there are only 4.7 million people. So it is not really crowded, if you exclude Auckland and other busy cities. Everyone is much more friendly and relaxed. That’s probably the biggest difference, I would say.
Bára: “People don’t stress in New Zealand. If you meet someone, they always start talking to you.”
Would you say it is easy for foreigners to settle down in New Zealand?
Lukáš: “I would say it is getting more and more complicated because the rules are changing continuously but if you are lucky and you have a work experience in IT or other fields which are expected areas of the country’s future growth, it is quite easy to apply for and get a resident visa. It is a lot of paperwork but there is quite high change for qualified people to get residency in New Zealand.”
As you said earlier, you decided to leave your jobs and travel around the country. So what do you do for a living?
Lukáš: “During our travels we established an online blog called Czech Kiwis and it gradually turned into an online travel agency. We started selling air tickets, travel insurance and other services to Czechs travelling to New Zealand.”
So what kind of services do you offer?
Lukáš: “We focus on three main groups of people: people who want to move to New Zealand, get a work visa and stay in the country, people coming on working holidays visa and people who are actually living in New Zealand and they are part of the Czech community.
“We are basically leveraging our own experience from coming to New Zealand and going through the processes, such as application for tax and identification number, application for and setting up the bank account and all those basics. So the blog is full of these information, which are provided for free.
“And of course people need to buy air tickets to New Zealand, so we can help them with that. We can also provide travel insurance. If someone is coming on holidays, we can help them with their itinerary. We can help them arrange car rental and ferry crossing between the islands. There are plenty of other services we are considering.”
My impression is that New Zealand is quite popular with Czechs.
Bára: “Definitely. There are around 1,200 Czechs travelling to the country on working holidays visas each year.”
Are you in touch with the Czech community in New Zealand? How many Czechs actually live there?
Lukáš: “The estimate is about ten thousand people living in New Zealand. There are quite a lot of communities in the big cities, such as Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Tauranga, and they also have Czech schools for Czech children. So there is quite a big Czech community, actually.”
Are there some places which you particularly like or places which you still plan to visit?
Lukáš: “I think we both fell in love with South Island, which is less crowded. There are only 1.5 million people living on this big piece of land. There is lot of nature – you have mountains and lakes and you are always very close to the beach.
“We used a service called housesitting. It is a website where you can find people offering their houses for free if you help them to feed animals or do some housework while they are away. We spent two or two and a half month in Great Barrier Island. It is one hundred kilometres from Auckland, but it is like a completely different country. It is a very separated island and it is off the grid. There is no electric power other than solar or diesel, so you have to heat your water with firewood. I think there are only 800 people living on the island permanently. So it was really enjoyable.
“I remember one day we wanted to buy ice-cream so we went toa shop and suddenly we saw around twenty dolphins swimming in the bay. We threw away all our things and ran into the water. And then we stopped at some stage and the dolphins started coming in our direction. When we told the locals, they said: Yeah, it happens quite often. There are not many people actually go to explore Great Barrier Island, because it seems to be remote.”
Bára: “Great Barrier Island was really a great experience. It is the real New Zealand as it used to be, say, 50 years ago. People still greet each other. Auckland is a different story nowadays. It is a super city, very crowded. If someone wants to go to New Zealand, we recommend them to go outside Auckland and explore the country.
“The North Island and South Island are totally different. North Island is about volcanoes, beaches, and green hills with sheep while in the South Island there are mountains, wilderness and forests. There are still plenty of tracks we haven’t been to yet. So that is still on our list.”
We are now sitting in the studio of Czech Radio in Prague. How do you divide your time between New Zealand and the Czech Republic?
Bára: “Our aim is to live from summer to summer. We try to spend summer in the Czech Republic and visit our family and friends. To be honest, New Zealand winter is not my favourite. It is not very cold, only around ten degrees Celsius, but it is humid and wet. We are not used it. In the Czech Republic, it is freezing but when you walk inside a house, and you get warm. While in New Zealand, you walk inside the house and the temperature is still the same.
Lukáš: “Yes. There is nothing like double glazed windows, insulation. It is all very basic, but the people don’t mins. They still enjoy living there, they don’t do anything about it and they simply survive the winter.
Would you say New Zealand is a destination only for young and adventurous travellers or would you say it is also a place for families with children?
Lukáš: “I think that’s the main beauty of New Zealand. It’s a country which can be enjoyed by people of every age or budget. It is just a matter of planning. There are many beautiful places which are accessible by car. You can go into the wild for five days and not meet anyone. It is still possible.
Bára: “Even if you go on a road trip, just take a camper van and go on a road trip, it is still beautiful and you can see so many places. You can explore the wildlife with the family and see the seals and the penguins. So I think it is absolutely for everyone and everyone will find something to their liking.”
So where do you see yourselves in the future? Do you want to stay in New Zealand?
Bára: “Absolutely. We want to grow a family there. I think it is the best place for a family.”