Living on a Working Holiday Visa in Auckland
I’ve been in Auckland for a year now and I feel it’s time to pass on my pearls of wisdom to other working travellers alike. Here are seven of my top tips:
Don’t live in the CBD (I hadn’t used this acronym since year 9 geography but that’s what the central part of the city is referred to as here – you have been warned)
Don’t be that person who lived on Queen Street the whole year and “didn’t quite make it to the South Island”. If you want to live in the hustle and bustle of a city, move to London, not the other side of the wold. Auckland is divided predominantly into 4 mini cities – the CBD, West, South and North (The North Shore). Housing is cheaper outside of the CBD and you’ll get more space and value for your money. The city buzz is great to work in 9-5 but I love escaping to the suburbs and the beach after work even more. The buses and trains are pretty reliable in Auckland, so providing you’re close to a bus stop or train station, you should have a reasonable commute.
Buy a car
If you live in the CBD, your chances of having parking included in your rent are slim to none. Space is limited in the city, but living slightly further out in the suburbs gives you a better chance of having a driveway or a street you can park on. Every Sunday, Ellerslie Racecourse hosts a car fair – hundreds of people turn up wanting to sell their car and similar numbers turn up wanting to buy one. They have onsite mechanics to check that the car you are about to purchase is working as it should, which is hugely helpful if your car knowledge is anything like mine. Decide the maximum you are prepared to pay for your car and withdraw it from the bank the night before. If you spot a car you like, you get to take it for a test drive, hand over the cash, and it’s all yours. With a UK license, we had to change the ownership at the post office, so be wary of that too. Once you have a car, it gives you the chance to explore the North Island in the weekend and drive out to the beach for a BBQ after work on a warm summer’s night.
Don’t get “any old job”
When I was 18, I worked in Australia for a year. I was young, fresh out of school and I didn’t care what I did, which meant I got to sell ice creams on Bondi Beach. I loved it, but I was 18 – I’m now 25 and have other priorities. Chances are, you will have to come home at some point, so make good use of your time here and go for a good job with decent prospects. If you’ve graduated, you probably had to make the tough decision of whether you wanted to stay at home and work on your “career” like your other friends now raking in the money in London or travel. You chose the latter, but part of you is probably thinking that you should be getting some solid work experience – you’re absolutely right, and you can do it here in Auckland. The great thing about a working holiday visa is that it allows you to go home with memories to last a lifetime and some valuable work experience – it’s a win-win situation. Here at Madison, we offer temporary assignments to people on working holiday visas but also offer fixed term contracts too. There are a lot of opportunities to get experience in what you studied or what you want your career to be. As a recruiter, we spot a good graduate from abroad a mile off, and will want to snap you up. Work on your CV and get yourself a good job – it’ll keep your parents happy too.
Get to know the locals
I was listening in on a sad and sorry conversation last Saturday night that got me thinking. I was at a friend’s house with a group of 10 girls who were all English (admittedly us English always manage to find each other and we stick together). They were talking about how all of their friends were English and were almost joking about how few Kiwis they knew. One girl asked “My English flatmate was born here, does that count as being friends with a Kiwi?” I had to resist from kindly telling her that “no, it doesn’t”. At Madison, I work with a few English people, but I also work with Canadians, Americans, Irish, Scottish, South Americans and a German – however, the majority are Kiwis. My boss is Kiwi and my team of 6 is made up of 3 Kiwis, a Canadian, myself and another English girl. It’s great to work alongside people from a different country to learn how it all works here – even if the majority of the exchange is mocking each other’s accents. Another great way to meet locals is through sport – I play in two netball teams over on the North Shore and everyone I play with is Kiwi. Yes, you should come to New Zealand for the views and the weather (on occasions), but you should also get to know the locals. Not only are you immersing yourself into Kiwi life, but you can also get some great tips from them on where to explore/eat/drink/dance/visit (one tip I got was to visit Kai Iwi lakes – when we visited it was packed with Kiwi families and not a single tourist in sight besides ourselves).
Go to recruitment agencies (and more specifically, to Madison!)
Before I came here, I was determined to get myself “sorted” before I’d even set foot in the country. As a result, I managed to set up a meeting with a recruiter for the first Monday I arrived. Unfortunately, I had a bad experience with a recruiter (a large multinational recruitment agency – mentioning no names of course) who made me feel inadequate and not worthy of his time, asking me “if I’d ever had a real job”. Not all experiences are good, but if you find the right recruiter, it certainly can be. When I came to register with Madison, it felt completely different; the offices were funky and the people were friendly, engaging and wanted to help me – and they did! Recruitment agencies have multiple roles on at a time; if you want to get into something less causal and more career focused, they can help with that too. People worry that temporary assignments mean you’ll work a day here and a day there, but our temporary roles run from 1 day right up until 12 months within all different divisions.
Make good use of your time off
The question I am asked every Friday afternoon in my office is “where are you venturing off to this weekend then?” Chances are, you’re going to get two days off per week, so it’s a really great chance to get out of Auckland and see what is going on around the North Island. What I love about living in Auckland is that everything is so close. Last weekend, I travelled four hours south to spend the weekend skiing in Turoa. The weekend before that, I travelled four hours north and spent the weekend up north sunning myself on 90 mile beach. There are some amazing places to tick off the list in the North Island that are manageable in a weekend if you are prepared to make the effort: Cape Reinga (5 hours), Taupo (4 hours), Rotorua (3 hours), Bay of Islands (3 hours), Mount Manganui (3 hours), Raglan (2 hours) and The Coromandel (3 hours), just to name a few. I’ve managed to get to all of these places in just a weekend, mainly by travelling down on the Friday night or being strict with my alarm on and setting off early Saturday morning. Yes, the drive can be annoying, but as soon as you arrive, you’re enjoying the weekend and you couldn’t feel further away from the city lights of Auckland. You can fit 5 people in most cars, so once you’ve split the driving you’re going to be driving for 1 hour, absolute maximum. You’ll get back to work Monday morning and feel like you’ve been away for weeks. I’ve always stayed in a Bach (a holiday home) that can be booked on bookabach.co.nz or Airbnb.co.nz.
Buy a good camera
New Zealand is one of the most, or THE most, beautiful place you will ever visit. As easy as it is to whip out your iPhone and Instagram some good mountain shots, it’s also a really smart idea to have a good camera too. In years to come, when you’re 3 kids down and locked into the daily grind (a horrible thought right now, I realise), you will want to be reminded of the days when you were young, wild and free. One way you can do that is to have that great picture you took of ‘the Remarkables’ blown up onto a canvas and displayed proudly over your mantelpiece. It’s not going to look so spectacular if it’s blurry and fixed in that square Instagram frame! Buy a good camera to give you the freedom to make good use your photos when you’re home.
Good luck, over and out!