Travel: Leaving New Zealand (again) – Returning to Europe; albeit with some hesitance

Last year I found myself working on a farm in Germany for several months. As the seasons changed from Autumn to Winter, I felt the draw to return home – to see family and friends that hadn’t seen in nearly three years, and attend a friends wedding. I booked a return flight, assuming I would find some work and save money and be able to return either back to the farm I was working on, or somewhere else in Europe. Truth be told, I hadn’t really thought the plan out, and the impulse to return home led me to some really great revisits with old friends and old places, and spending invaluable time with my Grandma, Mum, Brother, Dad and extended family. Those seven weeks spent in New Zealand summertime were great, albeit full of unsettled-ness as I tried to work out what to do next. Would I return to Europe? I had the return flight booked and this stayed in my head as something I couldn’t waste. Though while being home, the extent of my student loan debts that had been building up became increasingly aware to me, as did the life I was missing not being in my home country. Friends were settling down, moving up the ladder in their careers, pursuing hobbies – all while I continued to live a somewhat nomadic and financially irresponsible lifestyle. The down side to the life of the vagabond traveler became aware to me.

In Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

While I tried to find jobs or reasons to stay in New Zealand, I left the decision to the last minute, and under 11th hour pressure, it became impossible not to take the flight. It’s true – there may have been someone in my hearts interest pulling me to the other side of the world. So here I am, at Shanghai airport, on a seven hour stop over, waiting for a connecting flight to Paris and from there an overnight stop over before another flight to Hamburg – and I am unsure what is to come next. My financial debt still weighing heavily on my mind, I will try and find a job in Germany and save at least something to get back home. There’s more of Europe I would like to see – and I guess I’m in the privileged position where I can see more. Of course I’m well aware that at some point I need to settle and get a real job. Now that I’m 28, and have been living in this state of unsettled migration – it seems I’m nearly past the point that I can keep doing this, without have little to show for my future, in terms of assets, savings or the manifestation of longer term dreams.

Sitting in Shanghai Airport writing this blog on a seven hour stopover

So this is less of a travel blog and more of a discussion of the emotions of a person in their late 20s, torn between perceived responsibilities and youthful desires. I don’t think I was ever that great as a traveler anyhow, I enjoy being settled and being able to be productive in my hobbies, with music making or film making. I’m gaining experiences from this travel, but I think there is a point where I’m no longer traveling for the right reasons, I might just be running from real life. That being the life where I get a job, and am actually able to be of help to my family and friends and not just a stress and a hindrance. My family, particularly my Grandma and Mum supported me for the seven weeks I was in New Zealand, feeding and housing me and listening to my various anxieties. I owe them an incredible debt, one which I may never pay off. So as I depart into the next stages of my late-20s travel journey, I have some hesitance, and I wonder to an extent if my impulsive decisions may have taken me too far in this direction. It’s true there are many things that I don’t like about New Zealand – but I feel there might be some time soon that I have to commit myself to the place, and really make something substantial happen.

For now, I have a few more months (or maybe years) of wandering ahead of me. Here’s hoping this is productive wandering at least, maybe getting better at German, perhaps making some contacts for my music, writing songs and playing shows. And maybe some more good times with the person who holds my heart. If you’re ever reading those lists of why to quit your job and travel, as ideal as it may seem, just know that as I am expressing, there is a downside. The downside is the lack of stability, increased anxiety from not knowing where you’re heading next and a decreased foresight and security blanket for the future. At some point we all have to retire. I wonder if, looking back, I will be proud of my decision to keep traveling, or If I will wish past me put a little bit more effort into hardwork and preparing for the future. I’m guess it will be a little of both, as it currently is now.

Saying Goodbye to my family (Mum pictured here) at Auckland Airport

If I sound overly negative or pessimistic, perhaps that’s partially due to the worries i have of whether I’ll be able to find work in Germany, or if it will be more of the same. I have a habit of seeking out opportunities but then not following through – perhaps due to fear, or self-doubt. If this European adventure turns out alright, and I manage to find work and not completely crumble in a mess of abject poverty, perhaps I will have a more optimistic story to tell. I hope this is the case. For sure, it is not easy leaving the warm of home in summer, for the cold and uncertainty of an unknown Europe in winter. Maybe it is indeed madness, that someone would leave warmth and security, or something so uncertain as adventure.

The Warmth of New Zealand

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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.

view from london weather

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