Category: Working

New Zealand – Jobs

Used: 2007/2008

One thing I oddly haven’t written about are the jobs I had while in New Zealand. Everyone starts their working holiday with something in mind, weather it’s what city they are working in or what kind of job they are going to get and it rarely works out as planned. In my head, if I was going to look for office work, it was going to be in Wellington as that seemed like a central part of the county and a beautiful city or I would buy a car and drive around the country, working from hostel to hostel, just discovering the whole country. Of course, things never work out at planned.

I haven’t talked much about my jobs since I had such a good time working and had such awesome jobs, I want to keep something to myself. But since it’s such a big part on why I came to New Zealand and a good reason why people should come and there isn’t that much info out there for Americans, I’ll write vaguely about my experience.

I’ll call them Job A, Job B and Job C.

After hanging out in Auckland for a week and getting settled and looking for work and a weekend trip up to Northland, I came back to Auckland on a Monday and on Tuesday resumed the job search. I was going to give myself another week or two before I would head down to Wellington and try my luck down south. In doing my daily search through jobs on which is one of New Zealand’s biggest job websites, I found the posting for Job A. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the post. Temp work, in television (which is something I wanted to get into when I returned to the US) and dealing with international contacts. Who better, then someone who was international? The posting was via Madison Recruitment whose paperwork I had seen another traveller in ACB carrying the previous week, so I knew they worked well with international clients. I applied immediatly and was called later that day to come in and take all the temp tests the next day. Wednesday, I went in and took all the tests and met with a consultant. She said that she thinks the job I applied for had been filled, but to keep them posted about my availbilty and they would keep me posted about potential jobs. This was early 2007, the job market in Auckland was bumping. They said they would probably place my quickly. Two days later, early Friday morning, I got a call from another consultant saying that the job I applied to was still available and they wanted to meet me later that day and was I still available. Absoultely! I went in, met with the department, had a really good feeling about it and later that day, got a call from Madison, saying they loved me (too!) and I got the job and I would start Monday! I was estatic! I even invested some of my mobile minutes to call my sister and tell her the news over the phone, instead of waiting till the weekend and call via a payphone and calling card. I was so happy!

The job was great and lasted until August, 2007. During my time at Job A, I met loads of people in other departments and there was another assistant going on maternity leave in October and her boss really wanted to hire me but there were two issues. One, they had to post the job so everyone could apply and two, the job would last longer then my current work permit allowed, so I would have to apply for a general work permit to cover the last 4 months of my time for Job C. I did and was approved in three weeks (more later).

I had a few weeks in between each job, but since Job C wasn’t a slam dunk (I still have to reinterview and pending that, get my work permit approved) Madison knew Job A was ending and they called me on my last day of work and see if I wanted to interview across the street at Job B for another temp job. I wasn’t dressed for it (it was Friday, so I was in jeans) but she said I could go like that, so off I went. The interview went well. I could tell they liked me as I interview pretty good and since this was a temp job for 4 weeks, this wasn’t a lifetime commitment anyway. They pretty much offered me the job on the spot and I would start Monday. How easy-peasy is that? Unfortunately, this job ended up kind of sucking. Lots of running around, I always seemed out of the loop as everyone was on their cell phones all day and I didn’t have a company phone. My computer was a turd. I never knew what was good enough for my boss. Other people on my floor and various other people in the company liked me but the two people I worked with the most, I just never felt like part of the team and they made no effort to include me in a lot of stuff. I worked my 4 weeks, they offered me another week and on the Wednesday of my 5th week, Madison called me to tell me that Job B was not asking me back for a 6th week (even though I still had two weeks until Job C would start). I was annoyed on how it went down, on Madison telling me I was essentially “fired” and not Job B and my boss pretty much didn’t even say goodbye when I left on Friday. But since the job annoyed me anyway, I got over it pretty quickly.

During those two weeks, I took my physical, got a new apartment, went to Wellington, got my immigration papers from Job C and submitted them for my permit.

Job C started in October and lasted 9 months. It was within the same company as Job A, so I already knew everyone which was awesome. I totally loved it. At this point in my life, it was the best company and jobs I had ever worked for. Job C was definatly something I would never do in the US, but I am so glad I did it while I was overseas, which is what a job while on a Working Holiday Visa should be. About half way in, I was asked if I wanted to stay on and do another assistant job, this one would be full time permanent when Job C was over, but I declined. I was ready to move on. I loved New Zealand and for the most part, the company, but as things happen when you work in a place for over a year, cracks were starting to appear and I was already getting exciting about what Australia would being.

Moral: I was in New Zealand for a total of 16 months on various work permits and working in Auckland for most of them. I had a fantastic time at some awesome jobs but it was time to move on. My memories are some of the best of my life and even now, 4 years later, I still look back fondly on them. I still think about the company I worked for in Jobs A/C and keep an eye on their job postings, just to see what is going on. One of the best times of my life.

New Zealand – Bank

Used: 2007/2008/2009

As part of my working holiday starter pack, it included info on how to open a bank account. The office gave me a registration sheet for ASB bank and essentially “sponsored” me. All I had to do with finish filling out the sheet with my details (I used the hostel as my “address”, which is really common) and went to the location on Wyndham and Hobson in Central Auckland to activate the account. I went to the bank on a mid-Monday morning and the place was empty. I was quickly helped as the people there knew exactly what to do. I was given a checking account and EFTPOS card right then an there. I had to call the 0800 number to cancel my paper statements so I wouldn’t be charged a monthly fee, which I was a little nervous about, having come from America and banks here are notorious for wait times and just a million hoops. But as I would soon learn, NZ is so super easy! I made the call later in the day and my account was quickly switched over and I would deal with my account solely online. And as soon as I got my IRD number, I could just go to any location and tell them it for tax purposes.

EFTPOS has to be one of the greatest things that America is missing (after the world-band SIM card, which we are finally getting on). Unfortunately, I don’t think EFTPOS would work well here as we are just a huge population and it works better with smaller numbers. But it would eliminate so much debt and just make things so much easier, but that is just not the American way. EFTPOS stands for Electronic Funds Transfer (at) Point of Sale. The card is just like a debit card, but with less security. My name isn’t on it but there is no Visa/MC logo on it either and the card can only be used in New Zealand. I am sure they have cards that are like our debit cards in the US, but since my bank account was the lowest on the totem pole, this is what they gave me. And it was perfect! You can use your EFTPOS card for EVERYTHING in New Zealand, even just a pack of gum. No one looks twice when you buy something for 50cents and put it on your card. Swipe your card, type in your pin, press checking and you are off! No service fee either for using your card (in 99% of the places I went). I used my card so much that not only did I not use my US credit card for about 6 months, but I walked around with the same $20 in my wallet for weeks on end before I spent it. The money is immediately taken out of your checking, so there is no fear of overdraft either.

No worries about ATM’s either. There is seriously like one of every bank in every town. Some people will say that other banks are more prevalent, but I was in cities most of the time and never ever had an issue. Taking money out of your banks ATM is free, of course. I don’t even know if my card would work in other machines, I knew better then to try (and get charged a pointless fee, which is like totally against my religion).

Since New Zealand is so small, a lot of the time when transferring money to another person, they just give you their account number and you can deposit money directly into their account. It doesn’t matter if they are at a different bank. I did this to pay for my electric bill and it was like auto-pay. I would get a paper bill once a month and it would say when the money is going into their account. Easy!

(Side-story: When I got back to the US and had a large refund check in NZ dollars to deposit, I went to my local Chase bank and asked if they could take it and they said no. Then I asked if she could get her manager to see if they knew what to do and she said no. They were of absolutely no help. This transaction made me miss the helpfulness of New Zealand so much!)

And talk about no bank lines! I rarely had to go and talk to a teller, but the few times I did, there was rarely a line, even during the “busy” lunch hour. Some instances I had to talk to a teller:

-To find out how my parents could wire me money. So freakin’ easy! They sent me money a few times (including a large dump before they came, so they could save on fees) and it only cost NZ$25 to accept the money on dumps ranging from $1000 to $3000 (not sure how much it covered).

-Before I went to Australia on holiday, I ordered a load of currency (which you can do online!), so I wouldn’t have to take any out of the ATM there. When I went to pick it up, besides no line, they were like, if you ever have to take out like less then $5000, just show up. No need to pre-order it, we’ve got it!

-I went to deposit some cash into my account and there was no line of course. So I go to the counter and the women tells me that if she accepts it straight out, they’ll charge me $3 for the service. But if I fill out a slip (paper waste) and pop my money in the plastic bag (plastic waste!) and then hand it to her, FREE! I was like, are you serious, rolling my eyes. And she returned it, knowing what a waste that is, but bank policy. I think normally I would have had to drop it in the box, but since the bank was dead empty, she did me a solid and took the money immediately. Even the employees know their system is kind of retarded.

-I bought some t-shirts off a New Zealand company and one way to pay is to deposit the money directly into their account with the reference being your order number. As soon as the money was received, they shipped and I got my shirts within 2 days! At first I couldn’t figure out how to send the money online, so I went to my closest branch, waited in line and when I told the teller my issue. She shut down her window, took me over to the general use computer they had in the lobby for online banking (for those who don’t have a computer, which are kind of a lot in New Zealand!) and showed me how to send money. You would never get that kind of personal attention in the US!

-Before I left New Zealand when my visa ran out, I went to the bank to ask about my account and since I was going over to Australia, they opened my account in Australia for me! All I had to do was go to the central Commonwealth Bank in Sydney and they would have everything for me. My experiences with them, coming up next. *Whoops, I switched some posts around and my Australia Bank post actually posted first. Sorry about that!*

Morel: Whew, I ended up saying a lot about ASB! I loved banking in NZ. So easy, so nice, never a hassle. When I closed my account after my trip back in 2008/09 because at that point I didn’t know when I would be back and I didn’t want to get charged anything if their account terms changed, I nearly cried when the lady cut my EFTPOS card. It was on its last leg anyway. Apparently, you are eligible for a new one every 2 years and I was just at that mark. I saved all my paperwork, if I ever go back and need an account in NZ, should be easy peasy to re-open it! I know I am not worried.

Australia – Bank

Used: 2008/2009

Banking in Australia was very smiler to New Zealand, but just for some reason, not as good. I joined Commonwealth Bank because it was just easy to open an account with my sister bank from New Zealand but when I was there, as far as I could tell, there was no free account option at any of the banks, which annoyed me right off the start. I only paid $4 for my account per month, but it was still annoying. They have EFTPOS in Australia, but it wasn’t as wide spread as it was in New Zealand and if they did accept it, almost every place (except for huge companies) charged a fee for the privilege, which sucked. Same with credit cards, but I was trying very hard not to use my cards because of the small fees and why should I when I was earning local money? I ended up paying cash for almost everything in Australia and was always going to the ATM, which thankfully are everywhere. I never had a problem with Comm Banks ATM’s except in Airlie Beach when it was out of money and I had to go to Cannovale to take out a wad. My EFTPOS card in Australia had my name on it, though they were used the same way. One thing I did at Comm Bank was open a savings account where I could get interest paid into my account. Since I saved so much in New Zealand and transferred it all over to Australia and put most of it in my savings and accumulated a little bit in interest in the 8 months I was there, which was kind of nice and sort of paid for the fee I had to pay for the accounts, is the way I looked at it.

Like New Zealand, everything was done online but I didn’t have to do anything to change it over, which was nice. It was also super easy to close my account, but I kept my card and chopped it up myself. I didn’t feel as attached to it, as I really didn’t use it that often, only to take out cash and rarely in my everyday life. Paying cash for everything was just easier in Australia so you didn’t have to worry about minimum charges or fees, which was annoying as a traveler to walk around with all that cash. Well, I would just take out enough cash for my time in each town as well as my first night in the next hostel and then decide how much I would need pay off the balance and just take out more. I knew the ATM like the back of my hand.

Moral: Australia was a slap in the face after coming from easy easy New Zealand. Between New Zealand and paying for everything on my (EFTPOS) card and in the US where I pay for everything on my (credit) card, having to pay cash for everything sucked. Australia is easier then the US in a lot of things, but not when it comes to paying for stuff.

Australia – Phones

Used: 2008/2009

I am going to say this first, I never really mastered Australia cell phone plans. Their pay as you go plans were really strange in my opinion. You pay like $29 or $39 or whatever and you get like all these various things in the package. Between Caps, plans and pre-paid, I never knew what was going on. Plus you have to top up like every month or 3 months, everything is different. New Zealand was so much easier where what you pay for is what you get. Anyway, there are loads more cell phone companies in Australia. The ones I delt with were Vodafone for my cell and Telstra for my payphones.

Fun side story that has to do with nothing: Okay, so when I was in Australia in July 2008, the iPhone was finally released. (PS. I have no idea when it was released in the US). It was a HUGE deal of course and the line at the ONE Apple store in Sydney for about 2-3 weeks was a block long. It was a huge to-do that iPhones be open to all teleco providers, unlike the US where it was on one network. Throughout the rest of the world, they have different cell phone rules and almost all phones are open to any network, unlike the US. iPhones started out on only a few networks (Voda being one of them) but within a month or so, they were available on all the networks. I liked that it that was, but it was so weird at the same time because I am so used to closed networks. I wish the US was more open with their phones and that pre-pay was more popular for people that hardly use their phones, like me.

Anyway, I did Voda for my cell because I had it in New Zealand and thought it would be fine for Australia too. So NOT TRUE! I mean, they were fine for the big cities, but in my travels down the East Coast, there were some towns where I wouldn’t get reception for days at a time. I didn’t mind it too much, but I can see it being a little annoying to others. Apparently the Optus network is “known” for being better in rural areas. How classic is that?! Anyway, another recc I would have for you is if you want a voda SIM card, go to Woolies and just pick one up there, instead of the actual Voda store. They are only $2 (v. like $10 at the Voda store) and it’s the same thing. And with all the different options, I never knew if I had enough money to make any sort of phone calls or whatever. But like NZ, everything incoming was free. When my parents would call me, I would get this really horrible echo on the line that I didn’t have in New Zealand, so I do blame Voda for that, so our conversations for 6 months weren’t the best.

Now the payphones on the other hand, were heaven! Just like olde skool New Zealand calls. Pop a 50cent piece in any phone booth, get your phone card and make as many calls as you want to the local 1300 number! 13xx numbers are kind of awesome! They are like nationwide local numbers. They cost the amount of a local phone call, but you never have to worry about being in the right area. 1800 numbers are free, like the US, but 13xx are more common. A little annoying about the lack of 1800 numbers, but I’ll take a 13xx number over a straight local number any day. Plus, I got to use my Global Gossip card so it was nice to have all my communication money in one place and I could top up locally at any GG store and not put money on my credit card. Sometimes I would actually make the calls at Global Gossip stores because the booths were a little more comfortable, but after a few weeks, I realized I could make the same calls at any public phone. And like how NZ used to be, I would try to make all my calls at one time and only use one 50cent piece.

Since my travels end up being 2 years (whoops!) and in my experience, 2 years is about the lifespan for a cell phone, I didn’t bring my phone home because I had no plans to go to a different-band country anytime soon and I also assumed the next time I do, I would have a tri-band phone anyway. The phone was still in fine working order, plus I still had a little less then AU$20 left on my SIM and I really wanted to get rid of that, so I posted the phone on gumtree and I sold the phone I had bought 2 years earlier in NZ for NZD$100 for AUD$30, plus my credit within a day. I actually sold it to an Aussie who liked having cheap phones, so everything worked out. I miss my little crap phone and wish they still sold them in the US, but it was time to move on.

Cheap phone

My awesome little phone! I miss you so much!

Once again, I can’t for the life of me find a picture of a phone booth in Australia either! And this kills me that I didn’t take any pictures! Guess I need to go back, just for a picture!

Moral: All cell phones are not created equal in Australia. Figure out your plan and pick a teleco that is right for you. None are going to kill you, but some just work better in the country vs. city. Talk to those who have been around the block to figure out which is right for you. Or if you get a starter pack, sometimes one will be included and you’ll survive.

New Zealand – Phones

Used: 2007/2008/2009

As if you didn’t know, I totally kick it olde skool when it comes to phones. I am not really a big fan of wireless, though of course, I see its positives and glad they exist, but if they weren’t everywhere, I probably wouldn’t notice.

As part of my starter pack, it included a New Zealand SIM card. The phone I had in the US, I had already had for 3 years before leaving and couldn’t make one call without it being plugged in (pointless!) and wasn’t tri-band anyway. I tossed it before I left. So when I arrived, I had the card, but no phone! Since the card was a Vodafone, I went to the nearest Voda store and bought the cheapest phone they had, and old skool Nokia that I don’t think they even sold in the States anymore. I loved it! Classic green screen, non-flip, can’t do anything but make calls, do text and play some games. Why don’t they sell these anymore? Anyway, the biggest downside was that it wasn’t tri-band so I was either going to keep it to only use overseas or toss it when I left. I had just arrived and wasn’t thinking that far ahead.

In New Zealand there are really only two cell phone companies, Vodafone and Telecom. They are pretty much the same and get the same reception everywhere, the only way you can tell the difference is by your number. 021 area codes are Voda and 027 are Telecoms. One thing that I love about international numbers that we don’t have in the US is you can tell by the area codes if the number is a cell or landline. When I told people that we didn’t have this in the US, they were shocked, how do you know the difference? they asked. I said we didn’t and you just had to know. Thinking about, this is crazy. How many text messages are wasted every year, just sent into outer space? It’s kind of weird that no one has complained about this yet.

My Voda SIM card was pay as you go and it was perfect. You always knew how much you had. Everything was just a straight payment. Incoming everything was free! Text within NZ were dirt cheap. Text to the US were like NZ$0.20, which is cheap. Calling was hella expensive, so I rarely did it. My parents always called me and it was cheap for both of is. Sometimes there were sales and it would cost like NZ$3.00 to call the US for 30 minutes and I would take full advantage of it. When I first arrived, you had to top up NZ$20 every 3 months or your number would expire and after I got my living and job situation sorted, I rarely had to make any calls, so my top ups would pile up. The last top-up I bought before I left when my work permit expired said it wouldn’t expire for 12 months, so something must have changed in the 18 months I was there. NICE! I got to use my same number when I came back to NZ after 6 months in Australia, no top-up needed.

The pay phones on the other hand, where owned by Telecom. When I first arrived, the hostel I stayed at told me how to make a call. You can buy two cards, one Telecom card with money on it and a phone card on top of it, or, instead of the Telecom card, just toss in NZ$0.70 per call and make as many local calls as you want on that money. 0800 numbers in NZ are expensive and it was a better deal to call the local number, but it was hard with no permenant landline, hence the extra money for the phone booth. For about 10 months this worked well for me when I would call my sister. We would text a time to meet up and I would head to my local phone booth, put in my Telecom card, it would take off 70cents, I would then dial the local Auckland number on my phone card and everything would connect. Even calling her cell in the US, calls were like 5cent a minute. Just another fun experience of being overseas!

When my sister and parents were in NZ about 10 months after I arrived, my sister wanted to call her boyfriend while she was here and I told her how to do it. After like one call of about 20 minutes, she was like, “That Telecom card was counting down money and we are almost out”. I was like, “no way, it should just take off 70cents a call and that’s it!”. I didn’t believe her. But after a few more calls, we were out of Telecom card. I even stood in the booth with her once while she was on the call to see. What the hell?!? I can’t afford this!

When I got back to work after the family left, I searched far and wide on Telecoms website for an explanation on what was happening. I couldn’t find anything, so I emailed them and they said they would respond within 7 days. In true New Zealand fashion I got an email response back the next day telling me what changed. Turns out THE DAY AFTER I made my last call via the payphone to my sister before she arrived, they changed pay phone fees and now charged per minute on top of the local calls. This was going to suuuuuck. It was a while before the hostels caught on to this change and for the rest of my time from January until June 2008, I had to make all my calls at work. And because of the winter time difference and we went on a 5 hour change, I had to wait until 6pm to call my sister and we talked a lot less in those months, but txt’d a lot more. Annoying, but part of going with the flow of traveling and learning to adapt to new environments.

When I returned for a holiday 6 months later, hostels had caught on to this new trend and most offered public landlines to make local phone calls only, which is helpful. I know what you are thinking, just use SKYPE! But to me, that is even more expensive. My parents nor my sister use it and I would then have to pay for computer time in a public hostel (like $3/hour) plus Skype fees on top of that. Not worth it, in my opinion.

I feel like such an idiot! In searching all my pictures, I can’t find a single picture of a New Zealand phone booth! This used to be my thing, I loved taking pictures of all the local phone booths in countries I traveled in. And I can’t find a single picture!! I wonder if I just never did, always thinking that I’d have plenty of time to do it, I’ll just do it later and I just never did. So weird of me! If I come across a picture, I’ll post it.

Moral: I wish Telecom had stuck to their old prices but in their email to me, they said they hadn’t raised prices in like 10 years, so in that way, I can understand the change. But people are always going to find ways around them and hostels have done it by offering free local calls on landlines. And in a choice on mobile phone in NZ, doesn’t really matter which you pick as they are both really smiler.

Used: 2007/2008/2009

A lot of Americans, especially the ones still in college, are totally hung up on Europe. What is it about our country that everyone has the dream to live and work in London? I’ll admit, I have been there, but after a summer bumming around, I am kind of off the continent and UK. It’s expensive and crowded! And in regards to working, the rules have changed to make it nearly next to impossible to do without having sponsorship. But you don’t speak another language and want to go somewhere they speak english? Oddly enough, it’s about as hard to get into Canada with no job as it is to go to Ireland. I think because of the map we see on everyday basis, we think Australia and New Zealand are soooo far away! But, at least from the West Coast, mentally, they are actually closer then Europe. And both countries have very open work visa requirements for the 18-30 (and in NZ, 35) set.

The point of the Working Holiday Visa (WHV) is to earn money in a country to be used for traveling within said country, so the money just gets poured back in. Don’t go expecting to earn your fortune. If that is your goal, this scheme is not for you. The dollar in both countries is weaker then the US and the goal for everyone should be to break even, to leave with no foreign money.

New Zealand

Why every American doesn’t take advantage of this work visa is beyond me. It’s open to all Americans ages 18-30 (if you are 31-35, you can get the same thing via BUNAC for a fee) as long as you answer some questions, there is an unlimited supply and the visa is FREE. That’s right. All you do is register your deets on the New Zealand Immigration website and if there are no black flags on you, almost everyone is approved within a day or so. I was approved within 24 hours. You then have 12 months to enter New Zealand and you are stamped with the permit on arrival which the immigration agent hand writes in the expiration date for another 12 months. And did I say that all this was FREE?! You are allowed to take any job for any length of time for the duration of your permit but don’t forget to budget in travel time as this is included on the permit because what is the point of traveling all this way and not seeing anything? New Zealand has tons to see, so there is no excuse. You only get one WHV in your life, so apply and travel wisely.

This is a picture of my WHV. No fancy stamps or stickers for New Zealand!


Up until fairly recently Americans were only limited to a 4 month WHV and it really encouraged fruit picking. Yeah, that really isn’t for me. When I got my final work assignment in New Zealand and started looking at traveling to Australia, I found out that Australia finally opened up the WHV scheme to Americans for 12 months! I nearly fell out of my chair when I read that. And not only do you not need to go through some sort of service, but like the New Zealand visa, can be applied for directly on the Australia immigration homepage. Because we are not part of the commonwealth, technically we are on something called the Work and Holiday visa, which is essentially the same thing. We are roped in with a couple of other random countries (like Turkey) but since we speak english and have a fairly decent university system, we are exempt from a lot of the requirements to get this visa. When I got the visa, the cost was AU$190, you needed to enter within 3 months and you needed to be in university or have graduated. I went to Australia on holiday and the moment I returned to New Zealand, I applied for my WHV so I could return in a month and was approved in like 5 hours. I even spent money and got my college transcript, but they never asked for it. I know now the price has gone up, you have 12 months from approval to enter and I think they took away the uni requirement. Check out the immigration website for all the latest details. The two downsides of the Aussie visa (v. the NZ one) is that this one costs (but still really cheap) and you are only allowed to stay with the same employer for 6 months (hardly a hardship when the point of the visa is to earn a little cash to travel around Australia!), Unlike our Commonwealth counterparts, we are not eligible for a 2nd year. When you enter Australia all they do is stamp you with an entry stamp. I would recommend heading to the nearest immigration house and getting an official sticker popped in your passport, so you have something to show your job, though it’s not required. I had a lot of entry (and exit) stamps in my passport, so it was handy. Plus, it’s a little souvenir for you!

I have a bunch of entrance and exit stamps and they all look the same but this is my "official" permit stamp

Sticker you should go and get once you arrive in Australia

Moral: Unless you have a really good reason to come back home after you finished one visa, you might as well do both! My one year away “accidentally” turned into 2 years and 2 weeks (Whoops!) and actually could have been longer, but that is another story for another day.