From Strasbourg to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa

Expat interviews
  • Working Holiday Visa for New Zealand
Published on 2018-05-04 at 08:00 by Maria Iotova
Aby, arrived in New Zealand from Strasbourg on a Working Holiday Visa, grabbing the opportunity that the country offers to young expatriates who want to work in New Zealand with spare time to explore its beauty. There are many reasons why Aby chose New Zealand as her expat destination; one of them is the friendly and welcoming Kiwi people. She talks to about the flexibility that the Working Holiday Visa gives you and the best things about New Zealand. 

Hi Aby, please introduce yourself. Where are you from, what are you doing in New Zealand, and what were you doing before you arrived?

Hello, my name is Aby. I'm 29 years old, and I was born and raised in Strasbourg (a city also known as "The Crossroads of Europe") in the Alsace region, on the German border. By default, the area is multicultural, and both France and Germany have had their input in the area's laws, education, language, and holidays. That's why I have been passionate about travelling to countries with a “double culture". Between 2014 and 2015 I lived in Quebec, and now I am living in New Zealand. I draw comic books inspired by my trips, experiences, and adventures, and my ambition is to awake the desire in people to go out there and explore the world.

What brought you to New Zealand? How long have you been in the country?

I came to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa, a quick and easy way to get a year's permit for many countries. After my awesome experience in Canada, I wanted to try again but this time in a different country. So as I was going through the list of countries which offer the Working Holiday Visa scheme, I came across New Zealand, a multicultural country with proud people.

What is the process of moving to New Zealand?

Moving to New Zealand on a Working Holiday Visa is quite simple; you can obtain a one-year visa via the email. However, it was a long trip for me, so I had to prepare myself mentally. Also, before my departure, I had to deal with the formalities of informing my bank and social security back home and purchasing the right insurance.

What is your favourite thing about New Zealand, and what is your least favourite thing?

My English on arrival was not very good, but the people are very patient and attentive to foreigners who want to learn more about their culture. I, therefore, relearned English with them and caught their oh so special accent that makes them charming. I was also dazzled by the breathtaking landscapes and the incredible nature, which they cherish and preserve. Also, in New Zealand, you will find many endemic species such as colourful birds with beautiful voices and giant insects. New Zealand is a country of escape for the body and mind.

I don't like driving on the left, but that is not really a big problem!

How would you describe New Zealand in one sentence?

"We may not be a big country, we may not be very many, but you have never seen another place as beautiful in your life."

What has surprised you the most about New Zealand?

The tranquillity of everyday life that we do not find so much in Europe. There's no stress, they take their time, and take pleasures in the company of friends, great food, beautiful sunsets.

Expat in New Zealand

How is today's expat job market in New Zealand?

Do not expect to find your dream job as soon as you land. However, there is a lot of expatriation in New Zealand, and the market has adapted: the administrative procedures are simple and many jobs are open to expats and immigrants.

How easy or difficult it is to find accommodation in New Zealand, and what type of accommodation is available for expats?

It is not difficult to find accommodation in New Zealand. There is a lot of immigration in the country and, as always, New Zealand is adapting. There are many websites and groups, through which you can find flatshares for example.

What are the biggest holidays in New Zealand?

One holiday that has stayed in my mind is the "Poppy week" or “ANZAC”, in memory of the victims of World War I. For the whole week, people keep a poppy made of red cloth on their shirt, jumper, or jacket.

What is some essential etiquette in New Zealand?

Do not let yourself to stress out, be respectful of others and yourself, be open and loving, enjoy spending time with your friends and family. A typical expression in New Zealand is "sweet" meaning that everything is fine.

How do you find the lifestyle in New Zealand?

I find it relaxing. A detail that amuses me a lot is that Kiwis like to walk barefoot! In the supermarket or downtown, you can see people without shoes or socks (yes, the weather also allows it).

How is the transportation system in New Zealand? How do you move around?

New Zealanders move mainly by car, but they also use the plane, train, carpooling, and bus. Personally, I don't have a car, so I often take the bus, which is not very expensive, and I get to admire the landscapes.

How is everyday life for you in New Zealand?

I work as a cook in a restaurant on the South Island. When I am tired of work, I take two weeks off (yes my boss is the best!) and travel as per the recommendations of my landlady.

What old habits have you quit in New Zealand?

Smoking! New Zealand wants to become a non-smoking country by 2025. From the costly cigarette packs and difficulty in finding them to the limited spaces where smoking is allowed, I had to change my smoking habits, which is not so bad after all.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in New Zealand?

Life is not particularly expensive in New Zealand. It may seem expensive at first, but after one makes the currency conversion, quickly realises that prices are about the same as in Europe. For example, a bag of sliced bread costs between AUD2 and AUD5 depending on the brand and a bus trip between Blenheim and Christchurch costs AUD40.

French expat in New Zealand

What is something that you would like to do in New Zealand but haven't had the opportunity to do yet?

I would like to visit the Tongariro National Park again, as the last time I was there our hike was cancelled due to the bad weather.  It's a seven-hour hike among beautiful and dreamlike landscapes.

Please share your most memorable experience in New Zealand.

I did bungee jumping in Queenstown. I had never been into this sport, but when I went to Queenstown, I asked for the local specialty, and they told me “bungee". So I signed up. Honestly, I didn't like it very much but it was more about finding the courage to do it and having this once in a lifetime experience. I think this summarises my life in New Zealand: a jump into the unknown, a great experience, and incredible memories.

What do you miss the most about Strasbourg?

The food and especially the cheese and the French bread.

If you had to advise an expat on five items to bring with them to New Zealand, what would they be?

A good backpack, an open mind, love for nature, and a good mosquito repellent.

What are your plans for the future?

To release a new book on New Zealand, but unlike the one about Quebec, publish it in English and French. My boss offered me a work visa to stay in New Zealand, but even if I love this country, I still want to travel and discover new horizons.

What is one thing that you will take with you from New Zealand?

In addition to a small tattoo on my wrist, a Hei Manaia in Greenstone, which is a traditional jade pendant from New Zealand. He represents a spiritual guardian to accompany me in my future travels.

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