My year in New Zealand on a working holiday visa

My year in New Zealand on a working holiday visa

Are you itching to get out of your country for a while but still need to support yourself financially? If your answer is, “YES!” then you will enjoy today’s interview with Diane Boyer, an American citizen who took advantage of a year abroad in New Zealand on a Work Holiday Visa.

WCIL:     Where did you first learn about a Working Holiday Visa?

Diane: I heard about the working holiday visa from friends of friends who were about to embark on one in England the same time I was about to travel to New Zealand.

WCIL:       What made you want to sign up for one?

Diane: Candidly, on my own, I don’t know if I ever would have done this. I’m from a small farm town in Idaho and had never been out of the United States previously. I’m a Type A, to-do list, “what’s next to accomplish” kind of girl. However, one of my friends, had the urge to go and after reading about it, I knew that before starting work full-time was when I should go. I knew that if I didn’t go then, I would never go.

Expat Stories Nelson New Zealand

WCIL:       What made you choose New Zealand?

Diane:  The length of the work visa. New Zealand allowed for a year. The other countries through the company I received my work visa from either were six months or countries I didn’t have an interest in living.

WCIL:      How long was your visa for?

Diane:  One year but I stayed for 10 months.

WCIL:      What did it feel like once you received your visa?

Diane:  At the time, I was finishing up university and while it helped cement my future abroad, I had so much on my mind that it was kind of like just another check off of the to-do list. I know, typing this, and looking back at this exciting time, that sounds terrible. But, I had tunnel vision to finish school!

WCIL:       Can you describe the moment when you officially bought your tickets for NZ?

Diane:  Yes, as an almost-graduating, broke college student, my first thought was “this is so much money!” After that, I was excited, it really started to feel as if it was about to happen.

Expat Stories Kiwi New Zealand

WCIL:       What did it feel like when you first arrived?

Diane: I felt exhausted after the brutal flight. It was a nonstop from LAX, so about 14 hours of flying time.

WCIL:       What kind of job(s) did you have while there?

Diane: The entire time I worked for a restaurant and pub.

WCIL:   Were you limited to only certain jobs or did the visa allow you to work any job you could get hired for?

Diane: While I can’t say for certain, I believe so. And it’s pretty hard to hide the American accent and I was candid that this wasn’t a long-term situation.

WCIL:   How was the experience of looking for accommodation?

Diane: I went to New Zealand with a friend and luckily, it was very easy finding accommodation. I think it was the timing of when we arrived, as well as Nelson seemed to have a lot of people like myself, visiting for holiday or etc.

Expat Stories New Zealand Lake

WCIL:   How was the experience meeting locals?

Diane: For the most part, the locals were not that friendly. There, I said it. The locals were polite, but they weren’t friendly. I understand that it was a combination of a lot of things, the current US political climate, New Zealand was receiving a lot of tourism due to Lord of the Rings and lots of people were moving to New Zealand. Yes, it was partly what I represented and partly because I have a polarizing personality. However, those that were not originally from New Zealand were friendly and I was able to better connect to them.

WCIL:   Tell us about some cool memories you have from your time there?

  1. The first time seeing the Abel Tasman National Park is still one of my top five most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I had never been in anything tropical before that.
  2. Going to the Wild Foods Festival in Hokitika and eating truly weird food that I would never eat again. Twenty-something Diane was a lot more adventurous, or maybe naïve.
  3. Hiking the Routeburn track. I’m not a big outdoorsy girl, but to do that for five days was among some of the greatest things I’ve ever done.
  4. The fantastic weather, but since there was a hole in the ozone, getting burnt the first time.
  5. The fresh produce was incredible and I was able to try things I had never had before such as kumara and feijoa.

Expat Stories New Zealand Scenery

WCIL:   Is there anything else you would like to share about your time there?

Diane: I would recommend everyone to do this. Each person, good or bad, has different experiences, but I think it’s good for everyone to do a working holiday or live in a different country. It opens your view of the world, humbles you or really makes you appreciate where you live now.

WCIL:What advice would you give anyone considering a work holiday visa?

Diane: I would 100% encourage anyone to do it.

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Alison Johnson

Alison is a travel junkie, digital nomad and the co-founder of She has lived in 7 countries on 4 continents and is passionate about opening the world up for others.

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