Working in New Zealand

A diverse range of people enjoy working in New Zealand..!

A diverse range of people enjoy working in New Zealand..!

While we develop ways to make travel a bigger part of our working life, it became a priority to find work in New Zealand in order to save up funds for the expensive adventure activities of South Island and if we could, break even on the expenses already incurred on our travels. Initial flight costs, buying a car, and travel insurance were the biggest chunks to be torn from the body of our budget and we had to factor in the possibility of not being able to resell our car when we decided to leave New Zealand as well as the exorbitant price of crossing the Cook Straight to the South and back with a car. Time to work abroad!

We’d been pro active and received working holiday visas before we left the UK which gave us until August 2015 to work with the option of extending another year after that.

In Wellington, Steve worked full time at a chain of cafés with stores around the world (not Starbucks!) as a barista while Nic worked part time at a vintage clothing store (one of many in hipster Wellington). From these two very different jobs and working schedules we’ll explain as best we can the pros and cons of working here as well as how this has influenced our experience of the city.

The first question we asked ourselves was “should we work at all?” The prospect of finding work and staying long-term in a city on the far side of the world is something we’ve never done before. Having had months of freedom with every day structured around things we wanted to see and do as well as being on the road the thought of stopping and losing a majority of the free time we had seemed like the kind of routine we had enjoyed escaping to go travelling. Essentially though it boiled down to a simple relocation. Same process as if you were moving across town except all your stuff is on your back so actually it turned out to be less stressful! No packing boxes or removal costs. Here’s how we did it…

In the summer, this patch became pedestrianised meaning the local sandwich bar

In the summer, this patch became pedestrianised meaning the local sandwich bar

Before you start looking, make sure you set up a bank account and IRD number (Inland Revenue- tax). You won’t be able to work without these. To get these you need proof of address. For travellers this can be tricky but if you’re Couchsurfing, ask your host if it’s ok to use their address. Most hostels will be fine with doing the same. They can write a simple letter saying that you are living there. With the IRD number, you don’t even need to receive the letter confirming your number. Just phone the department and ask for it.

We started looking for jobs properly when we stayed in Tauranga. We looked on TradeMe first of all (The Kiwi Ebay) and applied for around thirty jobs between us. We heard back from three and were offered one each. Steve’s interview took place over the phone, stopped in a lay-by while driving towards Napier! You can of course do the traditional walk around, handing out cvs or sign up with an agency.

Within a week we were living and working in Wellington which was a huge change of plan (sorry, Murray!) but ended up being one of our favourite parts of the trip.

For the full details on eligibility and how to apply, visit the Official Immigration site here. Terms will vary depending on your passport origin, age and the nature of your visit.

Weekly pay seems to be more common in New Zealand which can be really useful if you’re budgeting for trips on your days off.  New Zealand has a minimum wage and the rate is pretty decent (full details here) which means if you’ve found cheap or free accommodation you can easily save a good amount to use however you want.

You will be taxed but if you work over a certain amount of time you will be able to claim it back when you leave the country. Our advice is to open a savings bank account alongside your current account. Interest rates are currently a lot higher in New Zealand and if you have an instant access savings account meaning you can dip in and out of it as you please, you can earn enough for quite a few beers! Obviously, be really careful and take some time researching the most advantageous accounts. Make sure the terms match your plans or allow you the flexibility you need as a traveller.

We really enjoyed our time working in Wellington. Customers ranged from locals to travellers and expats so interesting conversations occurred regularly. We made friends, unearthed vital tips that didn’t appear in guidebooks while absorbing the local culture and vibe. The best way to experience a place and we were proud to call Wellington home.

Become one of the locals and spend a weekend enjoying music in the park... Photo by Steve Collier, 2015.

Become one of the locals and spend a weekend enjoying music in the park… Photo by Steve Collier, 2015.

The walk to work every day was a pleasure with the early morning stroll passing by the many talented buskers lining Cuba Street, many of whom you’ll likely see performing in bars and restaurants later that evening. Seriously, best buskers ever! The rock ‘n’ roll guy with the golden guitar, the Chinese man playing a traditional Erhu, the guy on sax playing the blues, the acoustic singer/ songwriters… Perfect start to the day.

Being forced to wake up early introduces you to the daily rhythm of the city. You pass bustling fruit and veg markets, street food vendors venting stomach rumbling scents to entice a second breakfast, café workers readying al fresco tables, long-boarders in suits cruising the main street… The walk home introduces you to the favourite bars and hang outs frequented by those in the know. Take note of these places.

Spending five days a week in the company of locals and non-locals alike illuminated how diverse the population of Wellington is, no matter how transient it is. There’s a saying there, “everyone in Wellington is from somewhere else!” This blend of cultures makes for some really interesting conversations.

The port is regularly visited by gigantic cruise liners meaning every now and then the streets are filled with camera-toting groups, eager to experience everything the city has to offer as quickly as possible. Shop owners will know when these peak periods are so be sure to expect a rush depending on where you’re working.

The working vibe seems to be far more relaxed than that of the UK and you’re more than likely to be charing a couple of beers with colleagues as the sun sets after a day’s graft.

There are downsides. Work is pretty tiring and at the end of the day, you may not want to go out and explore all the time. Also, if one of you works full time and the other part time, it can lead to some days on your own. Luckily, Welly is a safe, compact city so finding something to do is easy but some people may not be as confident on their own. Try and make your hours match if you can. It can also be tempting to spend more if you’re earning at the same time. By all means enjoy yourself but keep track of your money so you don’t end up with a smaller budget than when you started. If you have a hard day at work it can affect your mood but remember where you are and that mood should lighten soon enough.

We’d highly recommend working in New Zealand and indeed anywhere you find yourself. It’s a great way to ‘become’ a local, earn some travel funds, make lifelong friends and experience the country from a ground level. We certainly benefitted from working. If we hadn’t our trip would have been over a lot sooner, we wouldn’t have met such incredible people and we’d have fewer memories of our time there.

Have you worked abroad? Any questions or tips of your own? Don’t hesitate to get in touch in the comments below or via our Facebook page.

Until next time, stay tuned!


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