Three Months in New Zealand

Friday, November 17, 2017



I am sitting on a terrace, looking at a palm tree in the backyard. The sun is stroking my face. Actually, no, this is an understatement: the sun is aggressively burning my skin, at least that’s what I feel, even though I just applied sunscreen. My laptop keyboard has become hot in mere minutes, so each stroke feels like a little burn on the top of my fingers. And my typing is pretty fast. I even have that in writing. So, that's a lot of burning.

Today marks three months since I landed in Aotearoa, or New Zealand if you please.  


I’ve been asked already why I didn’t post anything on New Zealand. Ever since coming here, I have published the two lengthiest, most in-depth pieces I have ever written: one on London, the other one on Berlin. (Making a break and going inside because it is just THAT HOT. It’s only 22 degrees Celsius, mind you. That’s what an ozone hole right above your head does.) So why would I devote my time to creating perfect guides to two cities that are so, so far away right now, while I’m casually failing to talk about the fact that I live on the other side of the world?!

The thing is: I was giving New Zealand a chance to talk about it positively. But three months have passed, and that is a lot of time.

As you might already know, I arrived on a Working Holiday Visa. The visa is for people under 30 who can then legally work in NZ—though they don’t have to. It’s up to the individual, really. A bunch of well-off young people come here and just travel around the two islands for a year, having an adventure of a lifetime. That’s what the visa is actually about: allowing you to travel around the country for an extended period of time, while you are simultaneously financing your own stay. The other group comes and works for a year, taking small breaks in between. That’s the group I belong to; or rather, the one I wanted to belong to.

I was equipped with countless experiences from other bloggers (for some reason, Working Holiday Visa is really popular with bloggers!) and people who I happened to know or just read about online. Nobody comes here on a Working Holiday Visa to score the job of a lifetime, or at least not at the very beginning; that much I knew, so I wasn’t hoping for one. But I knew there was an abundance of temporary jobs that could be found at any moment. Waiting tables, office administration, retail, data entry, customer service, that kind of stuff. I knew these are usually found through temporary job agencies, so I sent my CV to every Auckland based agency I could find online. Only one responded.

They invited me to an interview, and I must say, have been nothing but kind and positive and supportive. I did some tests for them, mostly on my ability to use MS Office, and then some more (that typing test, for example: I told you I had it in writing that I was fast). I signed an agreement about my criminal past (haha!) being checked. They contacted my two references and, as I was told by one, asked for a lot of info about me. Upon leaving the agency premises, I asked what the usual wait per candidate was. “It depends,” the lovely consultant said, “someone is lucky so they receive an offer after two days; others wait for two weeks.”

I’ve been waiting for three and a half weeks now; but I stay to remain positive, patient and hopeful, because what are my other options?  

In the meantime, I browse websites with job ads on a daily basis; I also apply to jobs on a daily basis. Only a handful of responses was received, saying “we regret to inform you that blah blah blah”; the majority just never writes back, so when I check the job posting a while after, it’s gone—that’s how I know for sure I didn’t even make it to the second round.

Some say it’s a bad time of the year, and new jobs will emerge in January. But it wasn’t that bad of a time when I first started my search. 



One day I got so desperate that I had my CV printed in a dozen copies, and went to a number of cafes and restaurants, putting on my brightest smile and saying: “Hi! I was wondering if you needed any new staff!”. Only the introverts among you will know how stressful this concept can be. Luckily, after the first restaurant the ice was broken, so it was much, much easier for the next ones. Apparently, I thought, people had liked this bright smile. The conversation would usually go like this:
— Yes! Yes, we do! 
— Great! Then I can leave my CV with you. Um, I don’t actually have any experience in waiting tables; but I’m a quick learner. (another bright smile, showing off those teeth that took a lot of braces induced pain to assemble)
— Oh, no worries! Are you available on weekends?
— Yes, I am! (still smiling)
— That’s great! And are you available immediately?
— Yes, I am! (still smiling; cheeks begin to hurt a little, but hey, it’s for the job!)
— That’s great, I’ll forward this to our manager, so you can expect a call soon!
— Lovely, thank you! Have a great day! (still smiling, of course)

I even had one manager look at my CV himself. He said he would give me a call later that same day.

You do realize where this is going, don’t you?

Nobody called.

I eventually did get a weekend job waiting tables at a cute café; but not one of those I greeted with my brightest smile. Totally not a psycho smile, in case you were wondering :)

The manager of this café I now work in had found my ad on one of the websites that connect temp workers and businesses. He invited me for an interview; I could tell right then that he wasn’t impressed. It felt as if I was a student taking an oral exam in a subject I know nothing about; and he was a professor who was trying his best to make me remember something; anything. Something like this:
— So… do you have any experience working in cafés?
— No.
— Have you ever served food?
— No.
— Do you have ANY experience in hospitality industry?
— No. 
— Umm… do you know how to make coffee?
— No.

There was one I answered to with a plain yes: “do you drink coffee?” (followed by a short presentation on JUST HOW MUCH I love coffee). I don’t know if this was what got me a yes on his side, but I was invited for a training weekend. It was indeed a baptism of fire; if you want to feel completely stupid and useless, I suggest you go for a job in a field you know absolutely nothing about. Luckily, though, it’s not rocket science; that, and, as the manager put it, “the skills can be trained, but the personality cannot; you’re hard-working, and that’s why I want you here”. 

So here I am every weekend, serving food, taking orders and doing a dozen of other things, while also trying to master the Kiwi English. 

That, ladies and gentlemen, was the three months in New Zealand in a nutshell. Unsuccessful. Slow. Anxious. This part time job is nowhere near to making a living. I am fortunate, though, to not have to pay for the accommodation, and that has been a huge relief. But still, I do as much as I can to change the situation and actually make a living, accommodation included. Only it doesn’t feel enough. Even when I apply to six jobs in a day (and make sure to tailor my motivational letters to each one of them!), it doesn’t feel enough. Then I mail my consultant at the agency, just to remind her of my existence. I’m keeping you in mind for any suitable role, she says.

I take a walk down the memory lane to my first month in Finland, when I really hated it there, and then soon after fell in love for life. Maybe it’s possible to have a similar experience here as well? The thing is, I don’t know if I could like New Zealand if I had a job. I am annoyed by its bad and unreliable public transport, for example. I don’t drive, unfortunately. I frown upon a mish-mash of architecture in central Auckland, that has borrowed a little from London, a little from New York, a little from Amsterdam and a little from everywhere else in the western world. Would it really matter if I was happier with my life? Would it be enough to know I’m surrounded by a sea and an ocean, and that I work five minutes away from the beach, which has always been a childhood dream? Maybe I’d be too busy eating out (and there’s so much good food around Auckland!) to notice that no two buildings go well together?

I don’t know; but I hope to find out soon.

One thing I do have in mind though: times like this are (supposedly) when you find out how strong you are. It’s hard not to burst in tears when a parent sends you a message saying “hey, listen: when things get too hard, just come home”; but it’s up to me what to do next. It’s either to check prices of flights back to Europe, or open yet another tab with job postings. Maybe nudge one of those agencies that never replied. Or print out those CVs again and put on my brightest smile, again: after all, now I do have experience in the hospitality industry. 


Tihana



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