In the late 90s I left a junior job in the white hot sepulchre of Kiwi commercial radio for an equally junior job writing about tech and telecoms for the Dominion.

Then, in late '98, I got drunk with a mate from the territorials and we decided to spend the next ANZAC Day at the Gallipoli battlefields. We even spat in our hands and shook on it to seal the deal.

This took place at the Loaded Hog in Wellington at about 2am, so it was all very classy as far as life-changing moments go.

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I got the visas and the jabs and we buggered off to Europe on a one way ticket to Istanbul in time to see sunrise over Chunuk Bair on 25 April 1999.

My first port of call for long-term work was Dublin, which was just beginning to get both literally and metaphorically drunk on the fumes of its hubristic boom years.

Mark Hucke is a Kiwi living in London.
Mark Hucke is a Kiwi living in London.

To be frank - and with all due respect to talented, hard working blonde (sic) Alex Hazlehurt - it would have been pretty presumptuous and arrogant of me to roll into a new city and assume I would get a job in 'the media', whether I wanted to witter away on air or write to a daily deadline.

These are generally jobs for local people who know their patch and speak the language. Also, there isn't the same novelty value in hiring NZ 'talent' in Europe as we Kiwis seem to apply to hiring blow-ins from the old world (or simply re-hiring Paul Henry until he has his next racism malfunction, natch).

Media employment is generally a tough gig to get here in the UK, even if you're a local. There are literally thousands of interns working in media roles for free, usually with the bank of mama and papa in reserve. Then there are Oxbridge graduates with a few years experience, who happen to share a college tie with that HR guy from the Beeb. Then there are the ones with the family connections. Then there's all those pesky brunettes in management.

I did a bit of freelance piece work for a magazine or two when I first got to Europe, but instead of pushing at an industry's locked door I took what I knew - tech and writing - and I transferred it into corporate communications work; first building an intranet for a bank then getting into grittier big-ticket strategic 'comms' roles.

I'm still in the same game, because I'm in effect still on my OE. Which starts to feel a bit tenuous after 16 years, but it's true. This line of work is something I stumbled into in the early days of my time here and it's no life dream. It has however afforded me the freedom to do what I set out to when I came to Europe all those years ago: travel loads, see a lot of the world and enjoy myself along the way.

Honestly, there are plenty of moments when I wish I'd got back into more life affirming work, especially after my wife passed away a few years back. But then needs-must and London is not a cheap place to live.

I've been able to afford two trips home this year, first to see my awesome one-year-old nephew in Wellington and then to wish my battle-hardened 80 year old dad 'good luck' before he had an engine rebuild at Auckland hospital. He's in Kumeu and doing well, by the way. Thank you Auckland.

So, yeah. Having a job and a decent income rather than the dream job and scavenging for spare cash has its advantages I guess, even if it feels a bit like a cop-out at times.

In answer to your question, no, the OE is not dead. In the 1970's Britain joined the EEC and Kiwis had a collective hissy fit. Who'll buy our fine lamb? How will we fund this glorious dam? Then we sorted ourselves out, we adapted and we moved on. It's the same with the OE of the 21st century. If you're under 30 you can get working holiday visas to enjoy living in amazing countries all over the world, many of which have big cities that are infinitely more suited to a short working holiday than London. That said, my adopted long-term interim home is fantastic and if you're happy to flex your choice of work (and try not to use your hair as a sales feature during interviews) you'll have no worries getting a job.

One final thought: a young woman voluntarily objectifying herself in the media industry is just sad, however light-hearted 'I'm blonde!' is meant to be. It's an industry that's still struggling to rise above gender disparity, patriarchy and quite awful sexual exploitation of young women for commercial or more sinister reasons. Alex, you're a smart lady and you can do better. Good luck in London and kia kaha.

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