Cradled between hill country and the Pacific Ocean, toeing the Canterbury Plains that stretch to the Southern Alps, is Christchurch. New Zealand’s second-largest city has been rocked by a series of earthquakes since 2010, one of which claimed the lives of 180 people and tragically laid waste to the city’s architectural heritage, including its outstanding Christchurch Cathedral.
Known as New Zealand’s "Garden City," Christchurch is literally one big, rambling garden and, once its energetic rebuild program is complete, it will be more botanical than ever before. The city’s council has unveiled plans for a city encompassed within gardens, with a more compact and subtle (owing to height restrictions) central business district giving way to yet more parkland.
Today, despite the rubble, Christchurch continues to boast a vibrant business and cultural scene. Apart from central city and the Eastern suburbs, much of it survived the ravages of the earthquakes. In the city center you can find a fantastic array of restaurants, theaters, Maori cultural centers and galleries. Head out of town and you’ll stumble upon some of the country’s best vineyards, ski resorts and golf clubs.
The road infrastructure may have taken a battering, but getting around Christchurch is easy, particularly if you ditch four wheels in favor of two. More people cycle in Christchurch than in any other New Zealand city, owing to the fact that, post-quake, bikes offer a more reliable mode of transport. The city boasts 330km of on- and off-road cycle tracks, which makes the two-wheeled option an easy choice.
Christchurch’s clear blue skies are the norm, year round. Summers are generally mild and sunny with low humidity; its winters bring delicate morning frosts and clear, calm days, and in spring the garden city bursts into a breathtaking display of color. With a gratifying spectrum of recreational pursuits on offer, Christchurch is a city in which you can opt for action-packed outdoor living or a restful, leisurely lifestyle the entire year round.
What is special or unique about your city?
Christchurch remains a great place to live. Since the devastating earthquakes, people are moving to the Garden City to participate in the exciting rebuild. Most of the city center is now removed due to damage sustained during the earthquakes. Much of the surrounding area still offers the expansive public parks and gardens for which Christchurch is loved.
The city is located halfway down the East Coast of the South Island and only an hour to the foothills of the Southern Alps. Christchurch has a reputation for both its contrasting natural landscape and beauty. The backdrop of the mountains and access to the shore and beaches still remains highly attractive to those seeking world-class outdoor adventures and activities.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
When you fly into Christchurch, you will be surprised to see how close the Alps, the agricultural land, the Port Hills and the sea are to the city.
Christchurch is known for its resemblance to an English city. The careful town planning of the early settlers from England gave Christchurch wide streets, an abundance of trees and parks and impressive neo-Gothic architecture. The Christchurch rebuild is an exciting time to incorporate the old and the new.
Christchurch residents fervently support their sports teams. From late summer until spring, rugby is a popular topic of conversation and the popularity of the local Crusaders team is often shown with great displays of red and black flags throughout the city.
Are these impressions likely to change?
People will always remember the Christchurch that existed before the earthquakes. Everyone will be participating in and watching the birth of the new city.
What is the local language?
English is the official language of New Zealand; however, you will see many names in Maori and occasionally may hear Maori spoken, along with other languages from the South Pacific islands and Asia.
Here are a few Maori words that may be fun to learn as well as help you while you are here:
English - Maori
- hello = kia ora
- good bye = haere ra
- please = koa
- thank you = kia ora rawa atu
- good = ka pai
- bad = ka kino
- help = äwhinatia
- yes = äe
- no = käo
- food = kai
- water = wai
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
It would be difficult to live in New Zealand without speaking English, as most New Zealanders only speak English or Maori. Fortunately, there is a wide variety of English language schools throughout New Zealand.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
The main thing to remember is to respect the many diverse cultures in New Zealand. To avoid offending, please take note of the following:
- Casual dress is acceptable and usually preferred in most situations.
- Do not use the "V for victory" sign as it is considered offensive.
- Always try to be on time for appointments. Punctuality is considered _ good manners.
- Afternoon tea is between 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. and sweet items, such as cakes and biscuits, are served. The evening meal (dinner) is between 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. and a larger meal is served.
- Supper is an optional snack served much later in the evening. If you are invited over to friends for a meal and have been requested to bring a plate, this means that you are expected to bring a small plate of food appropriate for the meal you have been invited to.
- Tipping is not common here but it is acceptable if you wish to acknowledge good service.
- Cover your mouth if you must yawn; do not use toothpicks or spit in public.
- Ask permission before you attempt to photograph someone.
- When meeting someone or departing, use a firm handshake and make good eye contact.
- Avoid confusing or comparing New Zealand to Australia, as they are two distinct countries.
- Remember that New Zealand has strict smoking rules, and smoking is not allowed in any public building or public transport.
- Smoking is not permitted in any bars, cafes or restaurants, but smoking areas may be provided outside.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
The climate is highly variable; on any given day, you can expect to see examples of at least three of the year's seasons. Located in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand's seasons are reverse to those in the Northern Hemisphere. Here, the warmest months are December, January and February and the coldest are June, July and August. Summer can be very hot, particularly when the hot dry nor west wind blows and temperatures can soar to more than 30 degrees Celsius, but often the easterly sea breeze from the East can cool summer afternoons quickly. Glorious autumn days that are calm but still warm can follow a cool night and morning. Winter brings morning frosts followed by crisp sunny days and the occasional snowfall. There can also be winter smog. Spring heralds gentle spring weather, cool mornings and nights with warm days to show off Christchurch's spectacular spring gardens, both private and public.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Christchurch Council has a Mayor and 24 Councilors from 12 wards. Christchurch promotes recycling and everyone has the option of utilizing the recycling bins provided by their local council. Christchurch has pure untreated water from underground aquifers, making the water always cold and perfect to drink. Residents are asked to be aware of water conservation and not waste this natural resource.
New Zealand has a high regard for its natural beauty and New Zealanders are extremely protective of the flora and fauna.