Life and Style columnist for the NZ Herald

Lee Suckling: Alternative ways to live overseas

Just because you're over 30 doesn't mean your OE days have to be over. There are plenty of ways to add more stickers to your suitcase.
Photo / Thinkstock
Just because you're over 30 doesn't mean your OE days have to be over. There are plenty of ways to add more stickers to your suitcase. Photo / Thinkstock

They used to tell us the OE was a Kiwi rite of passage.

We'd kick in our grad jobs and book a one-way ticket to London, then live in Shepherd's Bush or Clapham (or Hackney for hipsters) and see out the two-year working holiday visa.

If we wanted to stay in the UK, it wasn't so hard - we'd get an employer to sponsor us or apply for one of the many other visas. Finally tired of Old Blighty after five or even 10 years, we'd make the pilgrimage back home with a CV that would blow all Kiwi employers away.

That was then. This is now.

The two-year working holiday visa still exists, but staying on in London any longer is near impossible today. The UK needs to reduce net migration down below 100,000 per year, but with recent EU expansion, much of that reduction needs to come from the Antipodes.

The skilled migrant visa - which many Kiwis qualified for pre-2011 via high levels of education and top earnings - no longer exists. And getting an employment sponsor is ever-difficult: the UK employer must be registered to sponsor, advertise and interview European applicants, and prove to the UK government that no EU citizen can fill that position. Such makes job-hunting a tough slog, and gives Kiwis only a fighting chance at raking up a résumé worth boasting back home.

Moreover, those who've stayed in New Zealand beyond 30 to build their careers will have missed the age cut-off for the UK working holiday scheme. All is not lost, however, for the modern O.E. needn't be to London. It's time to shrug off dreams of warm beer and 20-hour winter nights.

Take a wider look at what the rest of the globe has to offer New Zealanders with itchy feet and open minds:


An autumn day in Canada's capital city, Ottawa. Photo / Thinkstock

Canada isn't just for fans of skiing and ice hockey, it offers the culture and lifestyle of the USA without the extremism - something much more palatable for a Kiwi. The real draw card to Canada is its definition of "youth" for working holidaymakers - which goes right up to age 35. Those with Commonwealth-specific qualifications will have fewer problems working in Canadian systems than across the border. Vancouver, a stunning city with Hong Kong-esque spiralling skyscrapers and a fitness-centric vibe, is only one 12-hour flight from Auckland (making your new home seem not so far from the Land of the Long White Cloud). Toronto, for those interested in big business, is also just a short flight away from weekends in New York.


Colourful homes of San Francisco, California. Photo / Thinkstock

Don't write off the US altogether, though. While visiting America for more than three months is usually difficult, there's a loophole if you've recently completed any type of tertiary study from an accredited New Zealand educational intuition, including many vocational courses. While a 5-day snowboard instructor course won't count, most courses from New Zealand universities and polytechnics will. There is no age limit on this visa, and you can work in the US for up to 12 months. Perhaps it's time to reconsider that postgraduate diploma?

Czech Republic

One of the many stone bridges in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo / Thinkstock

If you're in love with the idea of Europe but over 30, you probably think all is lost without a job sponsor. Not true, as the Czech Republic's working holiday visa, like that of Canada, allows you to apply for entry up until your 35th birthday. There are worse places in Europe to spend a year than Prague: a riverside city with 1100 years of history to discover. Prague is classified as an "Alpha-global" city (comparable to Berlin and Rome), and those in science, research, high-tech, digital, and gaming industries shouldn't struggle to find work. And don't forget, beer is cheaper than water in Prague.


The bustling street markets in Hong Kong. Photo / Thinkstock

The Orient is right on our doorstep, but seldom considered an OE destination except for those who wish to teach English. Several Asian countries, including China and Hong Kong, Japan, and Malaysia, subscribe to a 12-month working holiday scheme. Comparable to London, Asian countries offer valuable experience in financial, legal, and business sectors. All of which will prove beneficial when returning home to job-hunt amongst companies with Asian import/export goals. If you're over 30 you can't get a working holiday visa in any Asian countries, but a quick TEFL course will allow you to teach English (though many Asian countries will only hire Kiwis under 40).


Coumeenole beach in County Kerry, Ireland. Photo / Thinkstock

A great option for those who've exhausted their UK visa but want another year of cobbled streets and Magners cider, Ireland offers the glories of Britain in a more manageable package. Though still in recovery mode from the Global Financial Crisis, Dublin provides the typical OE opportunities - from pulling pints to international law. Trains across Ireland will let you see the Emerald Isle in all its glory, and Kiwis with thick wetsuits will find some of the best surfing spots in the world on the northwest coast. Unfortunately, the cut-off on Ireland is the same as the UK, so jump on this one quickly if you're pushing the big three-oh.

Have you done an OE that's a bit different? Share your experience with us in the comment section below.

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Life and Style columnist for the NZ Herald

Writer Lee Suckling pens his opinionated thoughts every Wednesday, covering issues surrounding Generation Y, New Zealand's gay community, and the ethical dilemmas presented every day to those living in a tech-centric modern world. Outside of the New Zealand Herald, Lee writes for a range of magazines and newspapers across New Zealand, Australia, and the UK.

Read more by Lee Suckling

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