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From working holiday visa to a resident
I first came to New Zealand on a working holiday three years ago. As I’m the type who likes planning ahead, I started applying for jobs (mostly through the Seasonal Jobs New Zealand website) in October, hoping to start work in January. But when I was called up the next day by two different places asking if I could start work next week, I decided to delay the search!
In December I applied for two different cooking jobs, one at Mt. Cook Village and one in Wanaka. They both got back to me almost at once, and after googling photos of both areas (knowing almost nothing about New Zealand at the time), I decided to go with the Wanaka job! I had worked as a baker and breakfast cook the summer before, so I was an ideal candidate, and I was offered the job as a chef’s assistant at Kai Whakapai following a phone interview.
Honestly, I would have been happy with a fruit-picking job—anything to get me to New Zealand. But Kai Café was perfect.
I started my job the day after I arrived in Wanaka. The flat I had lined up fell through (there was a miscommunication, and the room I wanted wasn’t available), but I was able to sort out a much better (and cheaper!) place that same day. Basically I just sat at the lakefront while the flat-owner chatted to his mate, and next thing I knew I had a place to live!
That was my first introduction to how easy and straightforward most things are in New Zealand.
It was simple enough setting up a bank account with Westpac and getting an IRD number (required for anyone working in New Zealand), and then all I had to worry about was work and travel.
Working at Kai Café was wonderful. I had never been formally trained as a chef, yet I was given many opportunities to perform as a full chef, and the team was plenty of fun to work with. I had coworkers from Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Germany, and New Zealand, and the owners were never afraid to step in and wash dishes if we were busy.
Better still, with the high minimum wage and affordable cost of living, I was left with about $500 a week to spend on travel. I visited Mt. Cook, Milford Sound, Queenstown, Glenorchy, and the Catlins; did a canyoning tour, a horseback riding trip, a 4-wheeling excursion, and a whitewater sledging trip; and hiked up mountains and to backcountry huts most weekends. It was crazy! I started to think of my work-days as “down time” in between the hikes and adventures.
I worked at Kai Whakapai for three months, and afterwards spent three weeks traveling around as much of the South Island as I could see. If I had the chance to do it all again, I absolutely would. For me, it was comforting to have a home base to return to while I traveled, and a community to become familiar with. And I gained enough experience in my role that I was later hired as a proper chef at an upscale restaurant.
You can probably tell how much I loved New Zealand by the fact that I’m now a resident!
Submitted by: Rebecca Vickers Date submitted: 24/03/2016 11:39:14 a.m.