Journal: A Kiwi in London, looking back on ’15

A few months ago, I wrote a blog on London weather. In it I complained that it had proved to be nowhere near as cold as I was told it would be. I had predicted eating my words, that it would get cold, and I had expected this by mid-December. It’s now at the end of December and about to pass into a new year, and yet I’m still not freezing. We had one Saturday that felt especially cold in the middle of November, but largely, the winter months have been underwhelming.

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Perhaps global warming is therefore doing it’s thing. I’ll try not spend the whole of my last blog of 2015 discussing the weather, but perhaps my interest in doing so shows just how the British have rubbed off on me. I’ve been in London six months now, and I feel I’m pretty used to the place now. The gimmick of being in the biggest Great Britain city has now worn off, and what was once unique is now commonplace. I no longer find the underground an interesting experience, instead it is a bore. I still find the European architecture, the mix of Georgian, Victorian and Industrial influences inspiring, although I much less frequently find new interesting places in London to explore. I frequently find myself at Oxford Circus, surrounded by shuffling tourists blocking my path and slowing my down – basically I’m finding complaining a standard part of my day to day behavior. That could only mean the London mind-set has rubbed off on me.

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I’m still happy I’ve moved to London, even though I do find myself missing things back on the other side of the world. I made some good friends living in Auckland, as well as many old friends back in Dunedin, of whom I miss equally, as well as my old job and lifestyle. I tend to get caught up in nostalgia and not appreciate what I’m doing in the present, but at the same time I think it’s good to remember where you’ve came from. I don’t plan to get lost permanently on this side of the world, but at least I can think fondly on having conquered the fear of moving out of my home country. When I move back, which I will inevitably do, I can look back on this experience with a sense of accomplishment.

I can look back on my 2015 adventures with pride. One year ago I was irritating my friends and family, quizzing them as to whether they thought I should move overseas. I had a Glastonbury ticket, but as late as March I was still dithering as to whether or not I would really leave.  For some reason I was able to pull the trigger and I don’t regret it. There’s a lot I’ve had to leave behind, but a lot I’ve gained as well. Experiencing Glastonbury, seeing Greece, Holland, France and Italy are just a few of the unexpected surprises that this year held. Not to mention experiencing being part of the UK workforce, working for major international companies, and making new friends on this side of the world. Back in June I started a series of blogs called, A Season Of Firsts – this tracked my progress making it from New Zealand to United Kingdom in more detail.

It was already an action packed year, even before this whole UK experience. Back in February, I managed to reunite with my high school band, Incarnate. This was also not something I’d ever counted on, given that I moved to a different city as them, and the rest of the members moved onto new projects (although I played with several of the members briefly after Incarnate as Ignite The Helix, a project which is still active). It was great to literally get the band back together, and the strong turnout we received at Dunedin (NZ) venue, Chicks Hotel was gratifying. We filmed this gig from a few angles, and I’m proud of the final result. Incarnate was a particularly memorably part of my music career, and I hope it won’t be the last time we play together (if it is, this gig was a good way to end the short life of our passionate young metal band).

I attended a lot of concerts through-out the year as well. Laneway kicked things off in January with memorable sets from Ariel Pink, Future Islands and Flying Lotus, later I was to see Drake at Vector Arena – and perhaps the most suprisingly entertaining musical event of the first half of the year was Auckland’s second Westfest. This mini-Soundwave for New Zealand featured such metal and rock big names as Soundgarden, Faith No More, Judas Priest and Lamb Of God. The organizers may have sold slightly less tickets than expected (there’s a rumour that losses ran into the millions) but those that attended received a great day of entertainment. Norwegian band Mayhem headlined a smaller stage during Faith No More, and as I had a high school fascination with this band, I was grateful to have the opportunity to see them live. At the after party I ran into Necrobutcher, original bassist of the band, who turned out to be a really cool guy. It’s not often you get to share Vodka with a member of an infamous band and discuss some pretty serious stuff. I wrote a blog on this as well, and I hope the band won’t object to me sharing some of my thoughts on their career. The music continued through-out the year, I wrote about Glastonbury here, and most recently Peaches, who played a great sold at show at Camden’s Electric Ballroom.

I’ve also managed to continue film and music projects throughout the year. In June, I filmed two music videos, one for Ignite The Helix (featuring members of Incarnate) and one for my rap project, Posse In Effect. Posse In Effect’s video for We Came Here To Party, off our second EP Lazarus has been completed and is now out of the public to digest (any views would be much appreciated). This is a slapstick comedy short film, and perhaps more disco/rock than rap. Directed by Andy Weston and myself, it was filmed in Melbourne and shot on a variety of DSLR’s (but mostly the Canon M3) so the footage is a little inconsistent, but I feel the humour was well executed. I also managed to include some footage shot in Athens, within a dream sequence. The video for Ignite The Helix’s Throwing Scissors is nearing completion, but still requires a few re-edits. I hope to have this released in the next few months, upon the release of the song (as the band is still putting the finishing touches on their debut EP).

I’m not sure if this blog will have been interesting to anyone but myself, but looking back on 2015 I realize, I’ve achieved a great deal I’m proud of. London’s not all bad, and though I’m glad I came here, I won’t feel negative to return home soon. I look forward to 2016 and whatever it will bring – and I hope for all of us, it will be as easy a year as any could possibly be. Lets hope the war in Syria ends without too high a casualty rate as well, and that the refugee situation does not get any worse, to get political. I also hope the New Zealand flag doesn’t change. More from me later, for now, 2015 is just another year of “auld lang syne” (good tune, Robbie Burns). 

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Travel Blog: A brief tour of Crete and Athens

There has been a lot discussed in the media recently about the economic crisis in Greece – making it seem not the most appealing of holiday destinations. No doubt statistically, the country is not in the best state. Unemployment has reached 26% this year, thousands are homeless and 20% of shops in Athens are empty. Does this make it wrong to visit such troubled country for recreational purposes? On the surface, maybe so. But upon visiting Crete and Athens recently, I did not encounter a hostile and unwelcoming environment. In contrary, locals were welcoming and our experiences were nothing but positive. Greece is beautiful, and even if only visiting for a short few days as I did – you’ll find a lot of take away.

My itinerary was irrationally rushed. After finishing work on a Wednesday, I departed London to arrive on the Cretian city of Heraklion at two in the morning, their time. I was to spend two days in Crete, before flying Friday night to Athens. After a sleep in a backpackers I would have one day and night in Athens before flying back to London, with a day stop over to explore Rome on the way home. I would recommend spending a great deal more time in Greece, particularly Crete. There is a lot to take in and I only scratched the surface. I managed to see plenty of the ruins and historical sites, but something had to be sacrificed – in my case this was the beaches. Coming to the end of Summer this was not necessarily a terrible thing – I did manage one swim at a great spot just outside our Air BnB accommodation at Amoudara, yet if I am to return, I would most definitely make more of the Mediterranean sea.

heraklion venetian fortress

On my first day in Crete we hired a car at a discount price, and set off to explore the streets of Heraklion and drive the coast to the seaside town of Elounda. Before the leaving, we were given some insight into life on Crete, with the owner car rental business explaining to us that the depression had not hit Crete as hard as mainland cities such as Athens, due to the still booming tourist trade. We did however get a nice discount on the car hire price, perhaps due to it being the end of tourist season and to entice business in that bit more. If you do head to Greece at the right time, you’ll find it fairly affordable, accommodation as well as food and drink.

A flock of Kiwis with no previously experience driving on the right side of the road and in completely foreign country was probably not the most responsible group to be hiring a car, though we somehow we made our way from Heraklion to Elounda on the east coast in one piece. This was a great experience in of itself, tackling the aggressive Greek traffic while cruising past some amazing mediterranean vistas.  Once at Elounda we took a boat over to Spinalonga island, home to ruins of a 16th century Venetian military fort, and which was used as a leper colony in the early 20th century, before being abandoned in the 1950s. The ruins are fascinating and some good climbing is to be had. The town of Elounda is a charming seaside community in of itself with some nice restaraunts, and apparently beaches nearby. We did not stay long however – with Spinalonga taking up most of the day the sun was soon setting and it was time to return to Heraklion.

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Back in Heraklion we stopped at our accommodation before heading out to dinner. A friend attempted to have a hot shower – in order to do this the hot water had to be turned at the main switchboard, as all water is heated by solar panels in Amoudara. The wrong switch was flicked at the mains, blowing the fuse in our accommodation and cutting off all electricity to the dismay of several of our group. With our cellphones needing a charge before the next day’s adventures – stress levels were about to run high. This potentially awkward situation had silver linings however, as the incident served as a glimpse into the generosity of Cretian hospitality. Several of the neighbours gathered to help fix the blown fuse – and going out of their way, eventually taking a fuse out of their houses and installing it in ours. Due to a significant language barrier, it was not immediately apparent how he had fixed our fuse board – until we looked in the corridor and saw his house, the apartment across the hallway from ours. His wife was standing in his doorway, in the dark, holding a candle. He had sacrificed power for his own house in order to fix the outage we had created in ours. A touching scene you couldn’t stage if you tried. We were taken away by this hospitality – we thanked them as best we could and a bottle of wine and chocolates were bought for the man and his wife. We hope they shared it and forgave our New Zealand bluntness, as we left with our tale between our legs and resumed our previously plans of heading to a cretian restaurant.

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My friends had been in Crete for several days before I arrived and had developed some connections with the locals – the restaurant we visited that night becoming their local. At the time I was unable to decipher the name of the restaurant, being in Greek text, but I’ve since found it on trip advisor. It’s called kritiki Spiti and can be found here http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g670533-d2446337-Reviews-Kritiki_Spiti-Amoudara_Crete.html#photos. They had brilliant Cretan cuisine and introduced us all to a fantastic local drink – Raki. Raki is similar to vodka or tequila and works well with cucumber and a hint of lemon – a cocktail known as a Rakitini. I would say a visit to Crete is worth it for sampling the food alone. Restaurants will bring out complimentary bred, olives, cheese and dips before you’ve even ordered. Of the mains we tried, the Lamb and Artichoke was a big hit, Rabbit and Goat meat being on the menu as well, worth it if you’re willing to experience outside the usual meats. On the day of our group leaving Heraklion, we walked past the restaurant that became my groups favourite, waving goodbye to the old man who worked at and perhaps owned the establishment. He called us in, offering us a bottle of home brewed Honey Mead as a gift (which would later drink by the docs at Chania). His humour was a little controversial by Western standings, with flirtatious jokes aimed at my female friends being the standard, but this was taken to be in good humour rather than sexual harassment, with the culture and generation gap being the excuse.

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In another example of Cretan hospitality, a taxi driver for example went out of his way to take me on a little tour of Heraklion where I stayed the first night, stopping for 40 minutes as I visited Knossus but charging me not a terrible amount extra to take me afterwards to the Venetian fortress at the harbour entrance. I gave him a tip – and yes the taxi still cost significantly more than public transport, but the conversation with a local of Heraklion seemed well worth it and more than I would have gained from a cheaper bus ride.

My time in Crete came to an early end, with a plane to Athens to catch on only my second night on the island. We had to catch the plane from Chania, the other major Cretan city, which had a larger and more organised vibe than Heraklion, and another spectacular wharf fort area, compliments of the Venetians. After hanging out of the pier, making friends with local stray dogs and getting a buzz going from the Honey Mead and Raki, the airport called and it was time for the mainland stage of the adventure.

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I have equally good things to say about Athens, even though my time there was criminally short. Athens is for sure faster and bigger than Crete, and the failing economy makes itself apparent in the amount of graffiti and the general level of cleanliness. That is only surface observations, but I was not in Athens long enough to gain any deep understanding of the situation there. My first impressions involved the tube ride out of the airport, which seemed an organised public transport system not dissimilar from London’s. The Greek government had obviously pumped some funding into this. Once inside the city we headed straight for the backpackers as this was now night-time, stopping first to get a snack. A pastry feta and spinach option was my choice, which seemed a suitably Greek choice of fast food. Athens smelt pretty bad, or at least our area. Kind of like piss, to be precise. So rather than hang around this not so great smelling city square, we opted to sleep in preparation for the next day.IMG_1140

For our one complete day in Athens, we chose to begin with a free walking tour of the city, which took us by the monuments and back alley areas and gave us an understanding of the city and it’s history packed into a brief few hours. It was a good introduction and exposed us to parts of the city we would not have thought to visit, such as the museum for Melina Mercouri. Our tour guide, who was a high school teacher, part time studying for a History PHD and taking tours on the weekends, shared his own insight into Greek politics and society, taking us not only to the old monuments but also to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to watch the changing of the guards. The guard tradition was not particularly moving, though our guides insights into the currently political zeitgeist, with far right parties of fascist comparison gaining traction. He seemed dismayed that Greece, the birthplace of democracy, would be continually plagued by un-democratic political influence.

We tipped our guide and were then left on our own to explore the city. Getting stuck into the ruins, we managed to tick off several of the main areas. These included the massive columns of the Temple of Zeus, the impressive remains of the Temple of Hephaestus in the Agora, a brief visit to the Archeological Museum of the Athenain Agora and then of course, the Acropolis. The Acropolis is particularly spectacular and with to see such old structures still in any condition at all is a transcendent experience. Sitting up there, looking at the Parthenon, one could only imagine how powerful and dominating these structures would have appeared to the peasants down below, three thousand years earlier. The gods must really have appeared to be watching over the city.

View from Acropolis

Exhausted from the sightseeing, we briefly rested at our accommodation before heading out for one last Greek dinner. The authentic restaurant we stumbled upon had a musical theme, with some seriously good Greek folk musicians jamming just beside where we ate. The food was good, perhaps not great, but the entertainment was excellent, completed with a waiter smashing plates and throwing napkins in appreciation. If you’re ever in Athens, the restaurant was just off the city centre and called “Taverna tou Psirri”, it can be found on trip advisor here http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g189400-d1503450-Reviews-Taverna_Tou_Psirri-Athens_Attica.html. We invited all our new friends gathered during the early walking tour to join us, and the meal was thus extended with more and more drinks ordered. As we all had early flights, rather than sleep we opted to stay out exploring Athens some more, and consuming a few more beverages. This basically ended up with us all on the roof of a backpackers, talking smack and staring at the Acropolis in the distance. Perhaps an image that will be burnt into my mind for some time, contributed self-indulgently to the fact I turned 26 earlier that day.

The next morning I dragged my half-alive self back to the airport, not quite ready to say goodbye to Greece but being forced to due to a pre-booked itinerary. I had organised a stopover in Rome but in hindsight this time would have been better spent exploring Athens that bit longer. I spent an afternoon exploring Rome, but I had left my heart in Greece. For now, I will be an advocate of Greece over Italy as preferred holiday spot, but of course I will have to explore both in more detail later.

Arch of hadrian

TL;DR – Crete as we experienced it is a warm, varied and culturally interesting place. Athens was equally awe inspiring, with the obvious draw card being the share amount of Ancient ruins, some still in good condition. The locals we encountered in Athens were communicative and friendly, local customs are full of life and while there is some poverty most people seem to be getting on with their lives and the overall vibe is safe. I would encourage people to visit Greece – inject your holiday savings into their economy and learn more about what this historic Mediterranean nation has to offer.

Observations on London: The Weather

British people love to talk about the weather. This is no secret. Living in London, the locals constantly complain about the cold days, the overcast days, the wet days, and if a hot day comes along, they’ll complain that it’s too hot. Although it is true that London weather isn’t the best in the world, the time I’ve spent here so far I’ve been a little underwhelmed. London weather is quite manageable, if not calm and pleasant the majority of the time. Far from the completely miserable conditions Londoners act like they live in most of the time. Auckland seemed wetter. Dunedin seemed just as cold. Admittedly I’ve only been here four months, and just in time for one of the better summers in recent British history, so I may have just got lucky. It does make me wonder why British people are so much more obsessed with the weather than other nations of a similar climate (New Zealand being one of these).

Another horrible London day in Hampstead Heath

Probably it’s just that English people like a good moan, or so my co-worker has suggested as a reason for the London obsession about discussing the weather. It is the most obvious and consistent topic one can moan about, so I guess the theory makes some sense. But I would be a hypocrite if I claimed it was only the British over here complaining about the weather, because as this blog proves, the immigrants, over-stayers and ex-pats are doing it too. I guess I’m only going to raise more questions than give answers here, but is England weather so bad that it deserves all this attention?

When I first arrived, I was greeted by blue skies and sunshine. Not exactly the image of England I had been expecting based on the images of this country I had seen broadcast on TV back home. Coronation Street always seemed grey and grim, the same with most crime dramas and the news reporting never delved much into British weather. I was warned before I arrived about how bad British weather is, so much so that one of the large reasons for me delaying my UK arrival was due to fear of weather. To my surprise, almost all of the first three months I’ve spent here have been in pleasant conditions. A British heat wave was reported on New Zealand televisions back in 2012, but the way it was reported seemed only a few days exception to the depressing norm. It barely rained the whole of June to September, which is more than can be said for my first summer in Auckland where I was constantly caught in torrential downpours. Forward to the present time in London, and although late October is seeing the climate getting colder, it’s bearable and not even as cold as my home town Dunedin would have been in early Winter.

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The view outside my work window – The Westway

For example, we are nearing the start of November and on this particular day at 4.30, it’s not terribly cold and sky has plenty of colour to it. The grey British sky that I was expecting to see constantly seems to be partly a stereotype. Perhaps I got the wrong end of the stick, and London weather was always calm. Or could it be evidence of climate change, global warming or whatever name you like to use, that things are getting calmer around these parts. I can’t claim to be an expert of the weather of this country though – I’m yet to experience Wales or Scotland, which I’m sure is where all the really turbulent weather is found.

There is much to suggest that I am currently merely inexperienced and the bad weather has not yet hit. I am start to have to wear coats, and the sun is setting much earlier. I must admit that some nights after work, sitting outside having a pint with the work mates, it’s been pretty damn cold. But I’m adjusting. My friends and co-workers say that the worst is yet to come, so I’m bracing myself. Will it turn out that like other things in London, the worst weather will be a little bit over-hyped? (on a side note, other over-hyped things include – Hyde Park, the coolness of Hackney/Shoreditch, the quality of the local bands & the general social scene). Although I’m betting on a harmless winter, I will update you all in another few months time with word of whether things have gotten any worse. It won’t be long I’m sure that I’ll be eating my words.

Basically, if I can say anything constructive on the topic of British weather, it would be: don’t let it put you off coming over here. There’s plenty of other reasons to be turned off moving or visiting England, but the weather I don’t think should be the dominant reason. Unless you’re from California or Hawaii and you’ve never had grey skies and some cold ever in your life. But if you’re from a normal place like Auckland, Toronto or even Melbourne – London is probably on par with whatever weather conditions you’ve already faced. The winters are kind of cold, but not horrifically miserable and the summers are actually quite pleasant. Or at least so my fairly naive experience has led me to believe.

People reluctantly leaving their London houses

 

 

How to live and work in the UK! – Steps to getting the visa

Before you head off on your ‘O.E.’ (if you’re a Kiwi the classic adventure is working in the UK), the first and most obvious step is to obtain the legal right to live and work in that country. As an Australasian or Commonwealth citizen one way to obtain this is via the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa, which allows a member of the commonwealth to work in the UK for 2 years.

If your parents or grandparents were born in the UK you can obtain a 5-year Ancestral visa. Of course, if you or your parents were born there, you most probably can get citizenship.

I successfully got my Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa back in June and have now successfully managed to get set up in London. I feel therefore I can be of some help sharing my experiences.

Application

You can apply for this at this website: https://www.gov.uk/tier-5-youth-mobility

Keep in mind that in order to be eligible for the Tier 5 visa, you must be between 18 – 31, from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Monaco, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Republic of Korea and have not secured the visa in the past. You must have proof of funds of £1,890 Pounds and apply outside the UK.

Also, you can only apply for this visa within 3-months of when you plan to enter the UK. If you submit the application and pay the fee, your visa will start from the date you set, within that three months, regardless of whether you’ve entered the UK or not. It therefore pays to apply for the visa once you have a definite date of arrival.

You can not get this visa more than once. So make sure you’re ready to go before you apply.

In saying that, it is relatively easy to obtain the right to work in the UK. These are the steps I took to gain the Youth Mobility Visa.

Filling out the visa

Start an application online: https://www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk/

Fill in your personal details. You’ll need this information:

  • Current passport number and details
  • Previous passport details if you have them
  • An address and contact details to give of someone in UK
  • Your past UK and international travel details of the last 10 years
  • Details of your parents, their DOB, etc
  • Details about children/dependent’s you may have
  • Past UK medical treatment details
  • Proof of funds for £1,890 Pounds

There are a few tricky questions within the application, one of these I encountered was regarding your passport. Place of Issue I was initial confused about as there wasn’t a section on the passport that stated that. I eventually decided to put New Zealand for Place of Issue, and Issuing Authority as DIA WLG. My visa got approved so it must have been correct.

You have to claim points towards the visa, to show you’re of the correct nationality, the right age, and have enough funds. You can work out the calculation for this here: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/pointscalculator

If you can’t be bothered doing the calculations – fair enough. The points as you list them on your application are:

  • Age Requirement = 10 points
  • Maintenance Requirement = 10 points
  • Nationality Requirement = 30 points

Biometric Appointment

After filling out your form, you sign an online confirmation and then proceed to choose a date to get your biometrics taken. Biometrics are a scan of your finger prints. Once you have chosen a date, you have to pay for the application. This costs $426NZD

You can generally get an appointment within just a couple of days. When you head off to get your biometrics taken, make sure you have these documents:

  • your current valid passport
  • a passport sized photograph of yourself taken to UK passport specs (wise to get this done professionally)
  • a bank statement showing you have at least £1,890 in savings
  • the print out of your application
  • a print out of your biometric appointment confirmation
  • Two courier bags with postage pre-paid, one to send off to UK immigration, the other you send with you application so that they can send your passport back (hopefully with the visa inside)

You must at this stage check if you have to pay an Immigration Health Surcharge. This is a recent addition to the application process, and citizens from New Zealand do not have to pay this surcharge. You do however have to include an IHS reference number, confirming that you’ve either payed or are exempt from paying. This can be obtained here: https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application/pay

The IHS reference number is then written on the front of your application, which seems odd to me, but that probably shows how new this addition to the application is, the fact they haven’t included a section in the application for it.

Sending Application

In New Zealand the options of where to head to do your biometric appointment are:

Immigration New Zealand
39 Paramount Drive
Henderson
Auckland

Immigration New Zealand
110 Wrights Road
Addington 8024
Christchurch

BHC Wellington
Immigration New Zealand
Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment
Level 2 Kordia House, 109 – 125 Willis Street
Wellington

Because I lived in Auckland, it’s probably no surprise that I headed out to the Auckland Immigration office. Being out in West Auckland, it’s a fairly out of the way from where most of us live and work in the center of the city and it took a good hour commute to get out to the appointment. The appointment itself was very quick and painless. The man there had a look at my documents, took my finger prints and then stamped my application front page.

At this stage I headed straight off to the nearest NZ post store, double and triple checked that I had all the documents correct, made sure I had a courier bag with postage paid for include inside for them to send the passport back to me with, and then I sent it all off, crossing my fingers and my toes.

Biometric Residence Permit

Also, as of the 31st of May, instead of straight given a sticker in your visa that states you are able to work in the UK for two years, you will be given a vignette that allows you to enter the UK within 30 days of the date you gave as your start date. Once there you pick up your biometric residence permit, or BRP from a post office near to the address you gave on your application. You can apply for another 30 day vignette to pick up the BRP if you enter the UK after the initial 30 days have expired. I did not have to go through this as I applied before the BRP came into effect, and my man Chris from Aussie Nomad is a lot more knowledgeable in this than me, so head over to his site for more information. Alternatively email the UK immigration department in charge of all this, if you need any more information: BRPCollection@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Wait times

The visa arrived relatively quickly. These are the dates of my process:

  • Sent application off: 6th May
  • Biometric Appointment: 11th May
  • Sent documents off: 11th May
  • Received email from UK immigration station decision had been made: May 25th
  • Received visa: May 29th

I had put on my visa the start date of 8th of June, although I was quite worried about it arriving in time for when I actually left the country, which was the 15th of June. Turns out I needn’t be, as it all arrived well before when I needed it.

Living in London

I’ve now been living in London for nearly two months, so I can probably offer some advice for how to get prepared moving to this city and country. I will do a larger guide later but the one thing I can stress for now, is that it is EXPENSIVE. People say that London is one of the most expensive places on the planet, and they’re not lying. I would recommend taking well above the amount required for proof of funds. Depending on your situation when you arrive, if you are traveling or sight seeing first, make sure you have enough funds to cover your adventures. I brought some where roughly around $10 000 NZD and I have chewed through most of this, perhaps somewhat due to attending music festivals. The exchange rate is also not great, as I write this something like 2.4 New Zealand Dollars equal one British Pound Sterling. In saying that, I didn’t spend a lot on accommodation when I arrived, having had a family member to stay with for the first few weeks. I would recommend greatly finding a friends couch to doss on for a few weeks at the very least, until you find a job and have some sort of income rolling in.

Accommodation isn’t hard to find, but it is overpriced. Jobs likewise, there are plenty of them, but most are low paying bar or cafe type jobs. London can be hard on a low wage. Once you start earning pounds, I’m sure it gets easier, but as I write this I’m still awaiting my first pay – a month into the job.

Not to put anyone off, London is great and if you want the adventure, come along. But be prepared for this place to leave a nasty hole in your wallet though, at least at the beginning.

Other Guides

There are many guides already available on the internet that give exhaustive information for what this involves. The best of these, or the one I referred to the most, was by The Aussie Nomad. Chris who runs the site is a great guy, spending a lot of his own time and effort answering questions in the comment section of his Tier 5 Youth Mobility guide. He’s answered many of my questions – so I suggest you head in the direction of his website for extra advice.

new zealander in london

A Season Of Firsts part V: First day in London and it’s a toilet-less Blur

The ‘A Season Of Firsts’ series of blogs is me accounting my experience of relocating from New Zealand to the United Kingdom to work and travel.

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Unwrapping the bags at Gatwick

On the 20th of June, 7am in the morning, I arrived in London. That’s over a month ago, so any thoughts I’ll be sharing on this iconic city will be from the mindset of the jaded recent arrival, rather than the completely naive and fresh London immigrant.

London has very few public toilets. This was my first major revelation about the place, and one that would strongly taint my initial first impressions of the city. Making my way from Gatwick to a hostel in a suburb I had no idea about, dealing with the underground for the first time, trying to use Google Maps and orientate myself with a 24 KG pack on my back; this was all hard enough. Let alone with a full bladder, and seemingly no way of emptying it. I skipped the toilets at Gatwick assuming I would easily be able to find one on the way. This is one of the largest cities in the world after all. The only one to be found at London Bridge Underground Station required coins, and I didn’t yet have any Great Britain Pounds to my name. There was none to be found at my next stop of Rotherhithe either. This is now a good hour and a half after I boarded the express train from Gatwick into the city. London looked nice, but I’d not yet seen any major landmarks yet, just suburbs of brick houses and a grey-ish sky. It was beginning to seem a particularly anti-climatic entrance to the city, but one that in it’s own way was quintessentially London.

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My introduction to London

I didn’t make it all the way to the Hostel, I had to dive into the first bushy area I could find and illegally relieve myself, making the most of the one of the conveniences of the male gender. Now able to think straight, I soon found my hostel and proceeded to the next mission of getting some Pounds in hand. Turns out withdrawing money from a New Zealand Debit Card was an equally frustrating endeavor, with the ATM in the hostel spitting my card back at me without handing over any paper. Off I went to find the nearest Barclay’s which were apparently fee-less. I got lost, ended up at a small Thameside mall, and gave in to the first ATM I saw. I would soon find out that there was no avoiding bank charges when withdrawing from an overseas account in the UK. So advice for anyone traveling soon; take all the cash with you.

My first day in London was therefore suitable un-restful. That afternoon, on my return to the hostel I would receive a message from a friend. Blur were playing Hyde Park that afternoon, so it was off to that. Being unaware of the time it takes to travel throughout London, and lacking in any sense of direction I gave up on trying to navigate the tubes and instead booked an Uber. Probably the best decision I made my first day in London, as the Uber got me right to Bethnal Green Station early. I met up with my friends and was able to head to Hyde Park together, right on time to see all the support acts. I wasn’t too tired at this stage; I had slept enough on the plane from Dubai to London, but I was completely overwhelmed by having finally made it to the British metropolis I had been anticipating for sometime. Being overwhelmed I was unable to truly appreciate seeing Blur live, or appreciate what it was like to actually be standing in Hyde Park. In fact, it didn’t seem that special. Turns out Hyde Park is just another park, which happened to have a large stage situated upon in, and a lot of people milling around listening to music.

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We’ve made it to a concert

It may not have the wisest idea to go to a large music festival the day of arrival in a completely foreign city twenty four hours from home. But regardless, Blur were amazing, and maybe one day I’ll see them when I’m not confused – and truth be told, slightly drunk. The ciders were flowing, the exchanging of dollars for pounds were taking place, and my slightly hedonistic first Great Britain summer was had begun. How else do you spend your time in London, then spend all your money on music, arts, performances and substances? I should add, before I sound too jaded, that Blur at Hyde Park was a great concert that well lived up to expectations. The set-list was huge, the new songs sounded great side by side with the old classics and they even made time for fan favorites like Stereotypes. But the whole thing was a bit of a.. fog. Too much entertainment, too soon.

blur hyde park

It was all a Blur

It would not be long until I would have a job yet again. Applying for positions before arrival turned out to be a wise option, and within days of touching down I would have my first interview. Finding a flat was not easy, and for someone looking to keep costs to a minimum I soon learned I would have to settle. London is no place for indecision and my problem solving skills were immediately tested. Savings would not last long, and as I sit writing this, I’m wracked with doubt about how I’m going to avoid expensive meals and drinking sessions yet still remain social. Still another month to go until that first paycheck comes.

If you take anything from my experience, it’s to be prepared. For the bank charges and for the lack of toilets. Learn from my mistakes – use the Airport toilet before you hop on the train to the city. London is a hard enough city without having to deal with a bursting bladder and no options to empty it.

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Disregarding the puns – Blur are awesome