Natalie’s Story – From South Africa to New Zealand – Overseas Accountancy Jobs


 Natalie moved from South Africa to BDO in Auckland with assistance from Think Global Recruitment eight years ago and has been there ever since. She is now the National Head of Technical for BDO in New Zealand. This is her story.

“I wanted to leave South Africa, there were so many armed robberies that it was just a matter of time before something happened to me. I attended Think Global Recruitment’s Accountancy World Wide event where I had the chance to explore different country options and find out where I could work. For me, the choice was fairly easy.  I didn’t want to learn a new language, limiting the scope in Europe, UK & Canada seemed too cold and Australia just wasn’t that appealing. My family had moved to New Zealand and I had already been there on holiday and fell in love with the country. After talking to a Think Global Recruitment consultant, we were able to find a Technical Associate role based in Auckland.”

Working for BDO

“The big difference in New Zealand was the client base. They had much smaller sized clients to KPMG in South Africa. This meant that they didn’t have as many technical staff and therefore didn’t possess the same amount of knowledge. There was lots to learn, moving from SA GAAP to IFRS, but there were a few similarities too. It took about two years to get up to speed and required a lot of self-thought and thorough training. You’re trusted with more responsibility earlier on than you would have in South Africa. I’ve gone from one of many in a technical department to running one! Our specialism is quite unique and in short supply around the world.

Many entities in New Zealand no longer need to follow IFRS. The reporting standard has changed recently so many companies fall below the requirement to file accounts.  Only around 5% of businesses are required to file. Software companies are becoming the bigger competitors for clients. We liaise very closely with BDO in Australia as we count as part of their team. The Technical Department is much bigger over there, so there’s about 20 or 30 staff we can call on when needed. I arrived in New Zealand as a Senior Manager and have progressed up to the National Head of Technical, running the department, sitting within the National Office.”

The Social Side

“In the summer you aim to finish work by 5 pm and then you can go down to the beach for a few hours. The mentality here is to work hard but also ensure you get the right work/life balance. In the summer you aim to finish work by 5 pm and then you can go down to the beach for a few hours. Everyone really encourages you to have an outdoor life. I met my ‘Pommy’ husband here. I’m not sure I achieve the outdoor life as much as I should, but I am married to a computer nerd.

At BDO, people go out of their way to welcome you and show you the ropes. There’s a social club that hosts activities throughout the year and you always have a team meeting once a month which gives you a chance to catch up with other colleagues. You are welcomed as a Kiwi, that is until your team is playing the All Blacks, and if you lose you are sure to hear all about it!

You are welcomed as a Kiwi, that is until your team is playing the All Blacks. Our firm is very multicultural. The office is full of expats, and expats love to socialise. Most of the younger staff are Kiwis but when you reach the qualified level there are more international employees.

I’ve managed to visit a few of the Pacific Islands but there’s definitely more I want to see. We have international training in Kuala Lumpur every year and have been on other trips to Hong Kong as well as lots of places in Australia including Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Sunshine Coast and Brisbane.”

Comparing South Africa to New Zealand

“Don’t expect it to be the same, it’s not going to be. People are different, the history is different, culture is different, but that’s good. I miss my friends of course but in terms of my family, my mum and dad emigrated over here two years ago.  I miss the food but luckily there’s a great South African butchers close to where I work. I didn’t realise how stressed I was at home until I moved here. When you are there it is the norm to worry about your security, your job, your commute etc. In contrast, so often here I have accidently left the door open and nothing happens. You can walk down the street without a care in the world. I can honestly say I’ve not ever felt homesick. I was lucky enough to have had two overseas secondments to the US and UK. This helped me get used to being away from home and being open to experiencing new things.”

Natalie’s Advice

“Sort out your job before you arrive. The benefit of using Think Global Recruitment is that you have a job set up before you move. Others I know have moved and tried to find a job, which is extremely difficult. It also means that they have very different expectations as they haven’t been through an informative process.”

1. Do your homework

“Do your homework on the country and the firm as things will undoubtedly be different. I was surprised at how things are viewed here. A large part is due to the size of the country, the company sizes and the general outlook on life. If you think it will be the same you will struggle. If you come from a big city firm you may feel that you know best, but that won’t go down well with Kiwis.”

2. Be prepared for a change

“Being prepared isn’t just referring to the work but also for the smaller details, like paying your bills. Try to move a field you know as there is enough life learning to do to keep you busy. If you go into a business you are expected to know about local accounting and legislations so try to come prepared with knowledge on this.”

3. Know what you want to achieve

“Decide for yourself if this is a long term or short term move and what it is you want to achieve. You need those goals cemented in your mind before you come over. For the first couple of years you are going to be focused on finding your feet and becoming a new person, but never lose sight of your goals.”

We would like to thank Natalie for her story and wish her al the best for the future.

Please get in touch with us here if you would like to discuss moving overseas with one of our advisors.