This blog on New Caledonia is for those of you who ever wondered what life on a tiny island in the South Pacific might be like. Tired of bracing winter winds, the stress of an inner city or simply dreaming of a life change? This is a blog about what happens when, in the words of Yogi Berra, "you come to a fork in the road, [and] take it".

22 March 2007

Living in New Caledonia: The Pros and Cons

Photo (site of the new nickel mine) by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

A reader recently asked me about living in New Caledonia. He was interested in my pros and cons. Granted, we have only been here about 18 months, but here goes:

  • It feels like paradise every morning I wake up: everything is so beautiful, pleasant, and easy.
  • The weather - almost always sunny and warm.
  • The people - very kind, gentle and warm.
  • The ease of life - there is no stress in New Caledonia.
  • Living outside - this is a sports country, not unlike Australia. Everyone does sports!
  • Great place for kids - they really blossom here. There are parks, activities, groups, lots of outside possibilities and water sports courses for the young.
  • It is also easy to get outside Nouméa and see the island: there is lots to see and take advantage of!
  • One is exposed to a new culture: the Melanesians. It is very eye-opening!
  • An earlier post on the same topic: 7 things I love about living in New Caledonia.
  • It is expensive, yes.
  • Choices are limited in terms of commerce and health care.
  • I find the culture somewhat sexist. As an example, I ran into difficulty getting electricity turned on, as my "husband" had to make the request.
  • I don't always find that getting things done in New Caledonia is easy or efficient. For example, people still pay their bills in person here. There is no such thing as online banking.
  • English-speaking books and films are few and far between - though there is an English-language library, some films in English, and active associations for English-speakers.
  • It is hard for spouses to work here (as locals are hired first and foremost).
  • One has to cope with strikes - like grocery stores go on strike, bakeries, gas stations, garbage collectors. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, it can be slightly annoying.
But hands down, I LOVE living in New Caledonia and I fully appreciate the opportunity to be here. Now if I could only figure out a way to retire here ...


Jo said...

Julie, when you do figure out how to retire there- be sure to let us know!!!

simon kutcher said...

Hi there,

I am wondering about schooling options. If our children are native English speakers and are 5 and 6 years old. Are there any international schools there?

Julie said...

Hello Simon,

I checked with mothers currently on the island, and here are their reports:

Report 1
There is an international school now in Ducos for maternelle up to end of primary school level. Apparently people are happy with it, although expensive if you're not part of the SPC - they pay a part for their employees children.
I'm afraid I'm far from convinced for the moment of the benefit of the "bilingual" primary school opening up... apparently it's going to be french teachers doing the english part...

Report 2
J will no doubt fill you in on the new public school, bilingual option, which is happening this year at a school in the centre of town. I know little about it, but it is a fantastic development.

My eldest is about to start grade 2 (CE1) at the James Cook International School in Ducos. A new campus for grade 7 and above opens at Dumbea this year. Anyhow, JC has been great for E, she has really grown in confidence there (she is a very reserved girl), she enjoys the school community. Briefly, if a child is a native English speaker, she is taught maths and English in English (parallels for French native speakers), following an Australian curriculum (for the state of New South Wales). Other subjects are taught in a mix of French and English by the main class teacher. So E has 2 teachers, and mixes in with English speakers of other ages for her maths and english classes, in a small group. Seems to work, she is an obsessive reader. The school has had plenty of teething problems but seems to be working through these. I was unimpressed with one of the maternelle teachers last year, so Anna is staying at kindyschool for moyen and grande. Bugbears: Ducos is a horrible location for a school. Playground too small. Expensive! (we are fortunate that SPC, at least for now, gives us an education allowance) Medals: they do sport twice a week, being bussed out once a week to a pool/sports ground/horse riding etc. They have a library. Good school spirit. School camps, annual sports day, meet other english speaking mums, ... The main thing for us is that E is very happy there.

Hoping this helps, Simon. As I learn more, I can post it here or send you an e-mail.


Michael Maushak RN, BSN said...

How happy I am to find your blog. You say expensive, can you give examples such as housing, buying and renting.

I am so eager to find out more about New Caledonia. The first I heard about it was on McCail's Navy back in 1959 on b&W tv.

Julie said...

Dear Michael - My best advice for you for current prices is to go ahead and take a look at the online newspaper for New Caledonia (in French) at the section Annonces immo for an idea of prices. Good luck! - Julie

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie,

Seems an interesting life you lead there. My wife and I are both teachers in the international school system and have often thought about relocating to Nouvelle Caledonie.

However, it would seem that opportunities from what I read in your blog are limited for anglophones. Would I be correct in assuming that? We are both currently in Naimey, Niger and missing the sea after having previously lived in Cuba for quite some time before this latest venture.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Bonne annee,


Julie Harris said...

Dear M.,

Employment in New Caledonia can be a challenge for foreigners, yes. The policy is to hire locally, unless it can be proven that the candidate has skills that the local population do not possess.

The second problem is securing a visa. I'm not sure what your nationalities are, but your local embassy should be able to provide you with information about living and working in New Caledonia (a French territory).

Hoping this helps. Please do write to me at if you have further questions.


Elise Ducros - Maciejak said...

Wow, i'de love to live there. My dad's side of the family are from Noumea (Ducros) and we have lots of relatives there. Problem is i don't speak French! I wonder how hard it would be to learn French, get a job and bring up a child in New Caledonia.... just dreaming.

Julie Harris said...

Dreams can become reality, Elise, if you commit to them. :) Of all the things hardest to do in life, I wouldn't put learning French up at the top. If you have family here, that's already a start. I won't say that finding a job will be easy, but it is a great place to raise children. Keep dreaming and thinking. You might make it happen. :)

Cecilia Tirado Cerpa said...
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Julie Harris said...

Hi Cecilia,

Have you tried this site?

Hoping this helps!


Cecilia Tirado Cerpa said...
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Cecilia Tirado Cerpa said...
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Frederick Guyton said...
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Arc said...

Would it possible to open business at home? For example selling clothing?
I plan to move to noumea, but I cannot speak France. But I speak english fluently.

Julie Harris said...

Hi Arc - Yes, it should be possible to open a business at home. You'll just need to look into setting up your independent worker/business status (which is relatively easy in New Caledonia). You'll need someone to help you with the French part of the application process, but it should be pretty straight forward. Good luck! - Julie

Temporiser said...

I’m thinking about applying to work for a NGO based in New Caledonia, however, I can only speaks English. My partner who is unlikely to work can only speak English as well. Is the inability to be able to speak French likely to have a significant negative impact on our day to day lives?

Julie Harris said...

Hi Temporiser - Congratulations on thinking about moving to New Caledonia! It must be said that very little English is spoken in Noumea and even less on the rest of the island. If the NGO you are applying to has a wealth of English speakers (which one is it?), you'll have a community to socialise with and your partner will be able to make friends. But you'll both need to learn basic French to do things like set up Internet, get phones, go to the market, buy tickets to visit the outlying islands. I think you'll be able to manage, but the more French you learn in advance, the better! Hoping this helps - and wishing you all the best - Julie