What is Expected from Me?
You will need to come with an open mind. There are many things you need to become accustomed to, including the customary practices and cultural protocols of the local community. The right attitude will take you a long way in blending with the local community and enjoying the working and living environment Cook Islands have to offer.
Rarotonga and Aitutaki are small isolated islands. You need to seriously discuss with your family/partner about relocation. Relocating to the Cook Islands will definitely be a lifestyle change for most people. However, without having the realistic expectations, a lot of expatriates have left the island feeling rather disappointed. Working on the island would be very different from holidaying on the island. While our visitors have enjoyed the laid-back, relaxed atmosphere of the Cook Islands, some expatriates may find this same atmosphere frustrating as a work environment.
The hassle and bustle of the city-life is left behind when you come to the Cook Islands, together with the usual conveniencies and luxuries. Aitutaki, Rarotonga and the Cook Islands will bring you closer to nature; provide a safe and tranquil environment and plenty of outdoor living. However, the Cook Islands do not provide an escape from work pressures. There is no shortage of new and interesting work challenges. However, if you are open to challenges, taking a proactive approach and positive outlook on making and accepting work and lifestyle changes, you will enjoy your job, your colleagues and your new island home.
Accommodation prices range from approximately:
$ 50 - $100 NZD a week for a room in a shared house
$100 - $150 NZD a week for a one bedroom furnished house/flat
$150 - $250 NZD for a 2 bedroom furnished house flat.
This can change, however, according to supply and demand. Standards of accommodation can vary greatly. You will be responsible for making your own accommodation arrangements.
Housing is normally a unit style in concrete block construction with tile flooring. It would be unusual for a house to have air conditioning and where this is offered it will be expensive.
There are several ways to locate housing. The local newspaper, The Cook Islands News, has a classifieds section listing available rental accommodation. There are also a number of rental agencies including Shekinah Services (email: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone: +682 26 004; fax: +682 26 005). You can also place an ad in the local paper by emailing the editor of the Cook Islands News. Information about this can be found on the website www.cinews.co.ck
Quite often new employees will find accommodation through word of mouth by asking fellow staff members.
Telephones, internet and TV can be connected through Bluesky www.bluesky.co.ck
Food and Shopping
There are two main supermarkets and several mini-marts on Rarotonga and fewer options available on Aitutaki. The majority of food is imported from New Zealand (by ship or airfreight) and therefore is more expensive.
The range is not as large as in New Zealand or Australia but has all the basic varieties. There is however a wide variety of local fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and meat. For the best fresh local produce visit the local market on a Saturday morning. Locally grown produce is often cheaper than what you would find in the supermarkets.
The main shops in town are generally open from 8am till 4pm, Monday to Friday and 8am till 12 noon on Saturdays. Some supermarkets are open 8am till 6pm Monday to Friday and from 8am to 4pm on Saturday.
The smaller village convenience stores tend to be open longer hours including Sundays before and after church (10am – 12 noon) but have a more limited range and generally higher prices. There are two petrol stations / grocery stores that are open 24 hours a day.
Shops do not have the same extensive variety that is found in New Zealand or Australia but the basic staple items are generally available.
There are 3 banks in the Cook Islands, ANZ, Bank of the South Pacific and the Bank of the Cook Islands, all open Monday to Friday, offering all the main banking services. Cash transfers can be arrange through Western Union.
What to bring
You may want to bring some personal items such as kitchen utensils etc with you although most rental homes are fully furnished. It is often best to wait and see what your accommodation has before spending the money on freight, insurance, duties etc. Electrical equipment is available on the island but at a slightly higher price. During this process we can provide you with the names of various freight companies to work with depending on what part of the world your articles are coming from.
We find that some staff prefer to bring their own bedroom and bath linen with them.
Toiletries are ready available throughout the island but there is not such an extensive range as you would find at home. You may want to bring a supply of your favorite toiletries and cosmetics.
You will need tropical weight clothing in summer with some warmer clothing for the winter months. A good raincoat is a must at any time of year. While the range of clothing available in the local shops is expanding the selection is still quite limited. You are recommended to bring work shoes (in black) and black trousers, shorts or skirts with you due to the lack of variety and sizes.
Most people get around the island by motor scooter; these can be purchased second hand or new. Second hand motor scooters range from about $750 - $1800 or $3000-$4000 new. They cost about $5 to fill with petrol. There is also a local bus service that runs all day at $2.50 per trip. You can buy multi passes that make it slightly cheaper around $1.50 per trip. Cars are available to purchase second hand ranging from $5000 - $18000 normally not more than 10 years old, although petrol does cost approximately $1.70 per litre, so it can become expensive to run.
Television Cook Islands has 2 free to air channels with a mixture on local content and overseas programs including the New Zealand News.
Bluesky and Sky Pacific offer paid for subscription services.
There are Video/DVD rental shops providing a variety of classics and new release movies.
Rarotonga has a movie theatre complex which has 3 theatres. There are also many local cafes and restaurants. There are several nightclubs and a number of good colorful local bars with live entertainment. There is never a shortage of places to go.
Around the island there is plenty to do. As well as the fabulous beaches and lagoons there are numerous bush walks, a waterfall to swim in, fishing, snorkeling, diving, golf as well as various churches and historical sites.
Full medical and dental services are available in Rarotonga. The Rarotonga and Aitutaki Hospitals can provide for most basic medical needs but for major medical or surgical needs people would have to fly to New Zealand or elsewhere.
Cook Island Schooling is based on the NZ curriculum and includes Cook Island Maori language lessons.
There are a number of Government schools on Rarotonga and Aitutaki and access to these schools is generally readily available. They range in size from 50 pupils to 500 pupils and there are small numbers of expatriate children at many of these schools.
On Rarotonga, St Josephs School is based in the town of Avarua and caters for children from pre-school to year 7. The Catholic Church operates Nukutere College, which is a full secondary school. There is also a Seventh Day Adventist primary & secondary school. The school charges minimal fees and is attended by a mix of students that usually includes a small number of expatriate children. There is also the Emmanuel Akateemia school that utilises a home schooling system.
There is also one privately run school on Rarotonga, which is popular with both local and expatriate children. Te Uki Ou School is a fee-paying School with a roll of around 200 students.
Weather in the Cook Islands
The Cook Islands has a tropical maritime environment. The period between November and June is the hotter season when temperatures are generally in the mid to high twenties. During this time, some people who have not previously lived in a tropical environment can find adapting to the heat and humidity a challenge.
Obviously with the beautiful waters around the Cook Islands snorkeling, diving or learning to dive is a must.
Most of the villages have sports grounds and clubs where you are able to join their sports teams. Some of the major sports played are; Rugby, Soccer, Cricket, Volleyball, Touch Football, Sailing, Triathlons etc.
There are also two commercial gyms on Rarotonga.
Cook Islands Culture
Cook Islanders are brought up in a community where the church plays a large part in the lives of many Cook Islanders.
The people are friendly and hospitable and enjoy a relaxed and mostly informal lifestyle.
People dress casually and comfortably with bright island style materials being popular. For formal occassions a suit and tie for men is common and a formal dress and a hat for the ladies.
While much of local life revolves around the beach, top less bathing for ladies is not acceptable.
The local musical talents are always visible, with music and dance an integral part of the culture.
Here are some useful links to other websites about the Cook Islands: