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The beginning of April in New Zealand is not supposed to be windy, cold and wet. At least this was what I thought it was supposed to be when I booked my flight from Singapore to Christchurch in the climate controlled comfort of my office in the CBD area of Singapore. Assumption number 1 of 3929384, one made by a naive citizen of year long hot, humid and sunny Singapore with its remarkably predictable and unchangeable weather, was rudely smashed as I exited Christchurch Airport.

 A light drizzle. Some wind. Chilly air.

ď Brilliant, nice light drizzleĒ, I thought, as I slipped my fleece jacket on top of my hoodie and waited for my bus. Welcome to New Zealand.

Weather Lesson Number 1.1 for any natives from sunnier climes (like me): New Zealandís weather is unbelievably unpredictable and changeable. Be prepared. Layers layers layers - Waterproof jacket / pants, fleece, shirt, base layer / thermals, gloves, beanie, hat, sunglasses, sun block cream.

You might be wondering why I wrote Lesson Number 1.1 above. Thatís because there were (and Iím sure are) many lessons learnt so far. LOL Ė Laugh Out Loud for the uninitiated and used in this context to take the piss out of myself.

As I sat in the relatively warm environs of the bus, I assumed that the light drizzle would surely peter out fairly soon. That would not be an unfair assumption to make in the context of Singapore. A light drizzle in Singapore usually abates after roughly half an hour to two hours. Nope. Not in Christchurch, New Zealand. I got off the bus to a rather heavier drizzle, just enough to wet all the backpacks and bags I was carrying and necessitating a troublesome extraction of the rain jacket. As you can see, I like making assumptions and Iím stubborn in that I donít quite learn my lesson when Iím proven wrong.

Weather Lesson Number 1.2 : Have your layers packed accessibly. Common sense.

THE first seasonal job: Excitement, trepidation, happiness

Finding my first seasonal job was surprisingly easy. In this day and age, 21st century Google Facebook internet age and all that, obviously the most convenient way of looking for a job is through the Internet. Some of the websites I used and still use regularly are:

Internet Tip Number 1: Use a mobile phone or tablet to access online websites in New Zealand. Why? Because, in stark contrast to the rest of the world (I think?), hostels here do not have free unlimited wifi. The hostels generally restrict usage to a measly 200MB or less, or none at all, in the price of accommodation. So you either pay lots or use your ration up within an hour if youíre on a laptop. Personally, I have no issues doing most of my internet surfing and searching on my rather small old and reliable (touch wood!) Samsung S2 and found that I never exceeded the measly limit. My roommates who were using their laptops busted their limits all the time. Use your smartphone to limit data consumption. Presumably, mobile friendly sites are less data intensive and more navigation friendly for smartphone users.

As I came to New Zealand specifically to look for jobs that would involve working outdoors, that certainly affected the type of work that I consider viable. It seems like 95% of young children in New Zealand are looked after by au pairs ie. nannies of foreign origin with questionable suitability. JOKING. 

I managed to find a grape picking job through the job search boards listed above within a week of arriving. From what I gather, April is the middle to end of the grape harvesting season around the South Island and so there were some jobs of that sort around. Fortunately for me, the job description matched my dream job Ė working on a vineyard outdoors in the beautiful autumn sunshine in wine country. Paradise on earth.  Ah, the naivete of youth. Or rather, of a tropical city boy.  

I arrived just before 8 am at the vineyard in Waipara Valley, about an hourís drive north of Christchurch, and found a fair few backpacker looking types waiting around for something. They were all dressed remarkably differently and yet all seemed the same. Odd isnít it? Shortly thereafter, we were given brief instructions on what needed to be done, ie. snipping bunches of grapes off the vines, and led on a short invigorating walk up and over a damn steep hill.

It was a beautiful day, the sun was out, cows were lowing in the distance, there was a random dog making his energetic and excited rounds amongst all the pickers, I was warm Ė a rather rare occurrence considering that it was raining every darn day in Christchurch in the past week. As for the work, it was repetitive but satisfying. Start on a row of vines, check each bunch of grapes for the colour (eg. Black for pinot noir grapes), snip, toss in bucket, move on to the next bunch. Repeat x 1000. Eat some grapes occasionally if you so desire. I loved it.

Apart from the work, which was simple and relaxing, it was wonderful meeting people from around the world and getting to know them, even if only for a little bit. I know itís clichťd, I know itís overused, but the reality is that all of these wonderful  and engaging people are likeminded individuals. Why else would you be in New Zealand? And this makes for great conversations and bloody good yarns.

Back to the grape picking Ė needless to say, this first day was an amazing experience for me seeing as I come from a tropical tiny island city-state with a population of 6 million and no vineyards. Couple that with a previous job which required no physical effort whatsoever apart from typing, talking, making telephone calls and enduring 12 hour days, and you have a recipe for Ė happiness! Firstly, I could understand how importance (obviously) the grape picking process is to the final product to be made from them Ė hopefully good wines. The satisfaction of seeing rows of vines picked clear was also tremendous as each day there was tangible and visible progress. In addition, there is an element of team effort and working with a group of people towards a common goal. That requires no explanation surely.  You also get to learn so much from the permanent staff on the vineyards, who were, certainly in Waipara, extremely generous and friendly and always more than willing to share their knowledge about everything and anything to do with wine, winemaking, vineyard work, grapes and ... the weather! And when the weather is great, just taking a moment to look up and around does wonders.

In my mind I see the rolling hills of Waipara extending out into the distance, a patchwork of pine trees and regular tidy squares of farmland, a myriad of greens under the sunshine and clouds, imagine a tiny breeze on your cheek and the crisp pure air with every breath. The smells are not overpowering but gentle Ė the softly fermenting odour of grape juice on your gloves, the animal smell on the breeze and the earthy full whiffs of soil and mud complement the stunning landscape. Imagine the sticky feel of grape juice on your fingers, the taste of perfectly ripe black pinot noir grapes that leave a teasing suggestion of the wine to come and the chirping of birds in the background.

It was an amazing experience under the hot and welcome golden sun. But what was it like in the unceasing rain? Iíll let you know when I get down to writing about that soon!

Iím still travelling and working around the South Island. Canít believe it has only been getting more amazing. Still loving it no matter the weather!

Submitted by: Jian Xi Teng
Date submitted: 27/05/2014 12:36:19 AM

Apple grading & stacking Fri Jun 8

Grape picking Fri Jun 8

Blueberry picking Fri Jun 8

Hop work in Motueka Tue May 16

Working as an apple packer in Motueka Mon May 9

Working for free accommodation in Wellington Thu Mar 24

From working holiday visa to a resident Thu Mar 24

From the big city to the field of kiwi fruit Thu Mar 24

Working with Kiwi fruit Thu Mar 24

The Christmas rush Mon Feb 29

Packing kiwifruit in Motueka Mon Feb 29

Asparagus picking Mon Feb 29

put on your work clothes, roll up your sleeves and get out there Tue May 27


The Gorilla Hut Sun May 26

Working in sales in NZ Mon May 13

Life as an apple picker Mon May 13

Marahau Sun May 5

hanging nets at isabel vinyard Mon Mar 25

Farm stay Tue Feb 5

Berry-Picking and Ice-Cream Making Tue Dec 18

Vineyard Work in Blenheim Sun Nov 25

Working As A "Milkman" Sat Aug 4

Being an au-pair Thu Aug 2

Grape harvesting in Central Otago Thu Aug 2

Whenever Wed Jun 6

Picking up the oil in Tauranga Mon May 21

Onion grading Sat May 12

Omarama, Place of Light Tue Apr 3

Napier or the job war Sun Apr 1

Some helpful tips Wed Feb 29

Fruit picking in Central Otago Mon Feb 27

Some useful tips Thu Feb 16

Fruit picking in Motueka Wed Jan 18

Where Do We Go From Here Tue Dec 20

Picked it, Packed it, Buggered Off! Tue Dec 20

Seasonal jobs COULD change your very life as you know it Tue Dec 20

I work to live, I donít live to work Mon Dec 19

I only had $100 to my name Sun Nov 20

Odd Jobs In Central Otago Sun Nov 20

Peach thinning working experience Sun Nov 20

The young vines were frosted over Sun Nov 20

The work found me Sun Nov 20

Working for Watties Factory Mon Oct 24

Working New Zealand from a different perspective Mon Oct 24

I had always been dreaming about coming to New Zealand Mon Oct 24

My first job in vineyards was stripping Mon Oct 24

My happiness was indescribable Tue Oct 18

Working in a Packhouse in Auckland Tue Oct 18

Working on a vineyard in Blenheim Tue Oct 18

Cycling in New Zealand not friendly Tue Oct 18

Fruit Picking Tips for New Zealand Mon Aug 22

Whale and Dolphin Watching Sat Aug 13

Cherry Picking in Central Otago Sat Aug 13

16 Argentinian people living there, it was awesome! Tue Jul 26

No one got payslips, really crazy Sat Jul 23

picked apples at first Sat Jul 23

In 18 months I have worked with kiwi fruits, apples, two epic ski seasons and a travelling carnival Sat Jul 23

cash-in-hand odd jobs Sat Jul 23

A rugby team weíve beaten twice at the Rugby World Cup? Letís go teasing them! Sat Jul 23

Talking to strangers about charity Sat Jul 23

Fresh out of college Sat Jul 23

Working trees for $350 per week Sat Jul 23

German Windsurf Instructor in New Zealand Sun Jul 17

Vineyard work in South Island New Zealand Sun Jul 17

We had idea, get visa, sell everything and just go to New Zealand Sun Jul 17


Wilding Pines Sun Jul 17

boss was very nice and friendly Sun May 8

Vintage in Central Otago - Working in the Wine Industry Sun May 8

Mr Apple packhouse experience Mon May 2

North Island Notes Wed Apr 20

Fruitpicking in Napier Wed Apr 20

blueberry harvest season Thu Apr 7

bbq on the beach and if you lucky see some Dolphis too Thu Apr 7

Mate! You are on fire!! Sun Mar 20

The real vineyard work lowdown Fri Mar 11

I had pretty much run out of cash Wed Mar 9

The Land of New Zealand Mon Feb 28

Work in backpackers in exchange for accommodation Sat Feb 26

heard cattle on motorbikes Fri Feb 18

Traditional Maori hangi Thu Feb 17

Fortune Fruit and spitting cherry pits competitions Tue Feb 15

When I got to Whangamata... Sat Feb 12

I could romanticize itÖ Tue Dec 7

I thought it sounded interesting Tue Dec 7

My New Zealand adventure :) Wed Nov 3

Well I am from Mexico... Mon Oct 25

~New Zealand has no bandits and the relaxed lifestyle is second to none~ Fri May 14

New Zealand's got cheap banks!! Mon Apr 26

Tips from Latvia...yes not Russia ;) Tue Mar 16

First Job Thinning Apples... Mon Mar 1

Damn recession! Wed Feb 10

Loving New Zealand.. Mon Feb 8

From aircrafts to vineyard work in New Zealand.. Mon Feb 8

A Czech in New Zealand.. Fri Feb 5

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