Thursday, 26 February 2015

How to... Get into New Zealand (as a Vet)

Dear anyone who wants to know,

Over the course of my stay here a few of you have asked about what life is like here and how one might get into the beautiful country of New Zealand. Having received very helpful advise myself before getting in I think now is the time to pass on what I have been taught, as well as what I learnt from my experience. 

This will all be written primarily with a view of a British Veterinarian trying to get into NZ. Some of it may/may not be applicable to anyone else trying to get in for other work, but I hope its mostly useful across the board.

This is a combination of messages I've sent to various people:

Job hunting:
Finding a job was pretty easy, though I have landed on my feet- just used google, found an advert and got an interview etc. They were very helpful ensuring I had flights and initial accommodation organised. Its also a large practice with total 5 farm, 4 equine and 3 smallies vets, and very sociable. I've had a few friends come here and find themselves with 1 other vet in a small office. But same as any job, look at what you're offered and don't just jump at any offer- there are lots of animals here and not many vets, so there are a lot of jobs available here.
Even if you can't find one via the internet from the UK, I've met a few people who came over here with a plan to just travel round as a holiday and potentially pick up a job whilst about.
Visa: Visa was very easy to get, they're keen to have more vets here, we're on a special list to be let into the country. Depending on time you'd want to spend here has a few requirements, but was like doing the Dick Vet annual portfolio, just had to get all the paperwork together. The people at immigration are very friendly & helpful- there's lots of info on their website and they'll help with any application (EVERYONE's very helpful. 23 years of UK customer service did not prepare me for how helpful everyone is). It was worth me ringing them before hand too as they were busy that week but they were able to fast track my application before my flights etc. There are also 12 month working visas which have less paperwork attached. If you want to just come visit and potentially think about picking up a job these can be great, and can be extended for if you want to stay longer.
Culture: Moving over here was really easy, but as I said earlier, the sociable, helpful practice made it so. I don't have any friends or family here, never been to NZ before, so was all a steep learning curve. The culture's enough like Britain to not be a shock, just took time to get my head around it all. The immigration website was helpful telling me what differences to be prepared for. There's info on work-life and what people expect of you. There's some stuff examples on there of NZ media, you might also be able to find some podcasts or stuff on YouTube. Tbh I just got stuck in, had a few things planned out before I got here, tried to keep an open mind, and carried on from there.
When in Rome...

Before you get here: It was useful getting stuff done before coming here. There's enough to worry about with work being different from what we were taught and a new social scene. Got my bank account organised via the internet from the UK (NZ's TSB [not the same as UK TSB] are who I used, helpful and friendly, just had to pop into a branch here to finish opening the accout.). Equally I had a look into getting a phone organised here-but its all off the shelf here, easy as. For all my official documents I asked the practice if I could use their address as my NZ address, which made it much easier to get everything sorted, plus there's always someone to pick up my post.
You're not in Kansas anymore: I got quite home sick around Christmas, but Emma Stuart was here too so we spent it together. A few things from home helped me get through all that, and there are a few English/British shops here so you can get odds and ends when you miss stuff. There's lots of new, interesting stuff to try here though, so it was mostly just a matter of trying the new stuff out, and continuing to do so until one enjoys the country so much that one learns to love it.

NB- PEOPLE AT HOME WILL MISS YOU! Preparing mothers seems to be a necessity, but also all the rest of your family and friends are important. Try not to simply disappear. Go out, see some of Britain, visit as many family & friends as possible, and plan how you're going to stay in touch with them (Skype, Email, YouTube, Facebook, Blog, Parcels). This isn't uni- there are no random long weekends at home to catch up, and Skype time can be limited (because of the time difference). I tried to send some sort of email to my parents & sister everyday, then every other day, then once or twice a week. Doesn't need to be much, just something. Some of you will be great at this, its those of you who, like me, know you're terrible at it, who need to find a way that's simple, fast, and ENJOYABLE. Don't make it a ball & chain. Whilst you're visiting people keep and open mind towards friends of friends who are here. I've found contacting such people, even out of the blue, to be an excellent way to find out about NZ from a mixture of view points. Some of them might even offer you somewhere to stay whilst you're travelling round, & I've met some lovely people this way.
Going Solo: Trinkets sound silly- little figurines or pictures that remind you of home- but they're useful at the end of a crap day. Life's not perfect, you will get tired, sorry to break it to you but you're no Superman/Superwoman, and NZ's in the wrong time zone for simply calling home. Personally I have Rory- the tiger-teddy bear I bought in my first month at uni from a charity shop. He's far too big for any sensible person to bring (about 3ftx1ftx1ft) but I figured I could buy essentials in NZ (its a 1st world country, K-mart & The Warehouse have everything you'll need for cheap). There are a number of solo backpackers have the really good idea of having a sensibly sized teddy bear (perhaps wearing a jacket of your national flag) that they can have in the pictures of things they go see. Makes the pictures personal without having to find someone else (some of the best spots are very isolated) to take it for you (and its not a silly, badly framed selfie). Usual rules apply for going off-piste though, ensure someone knows where you are going, and when to expect you back. Not everywhere here has phone signal, emergency services are not always available. If you want to go a long way into the wilderness alone, one can rent or buy emergency signalling devices that work anywhere. Contact the Department of Conservation for information.
"There's so much room for activities!" Research some things to do and see in my first few weeks, found some groups in Facebook, and talked to a lot of people who had previously been here or had contact in the country. Meant I had things to do outside of work too, without having to plan once here. Find out what you can do nearby wherever you are hoping to be working. The Department of Conservation (DOC) and tourism websites are great for this, generally being well written and with maps etc. There's no Ordnance Survey here, instead its "Topo"- Topographical maps, which are relatively cheap and their website has them all uploaded. I've found them useful for work and play- I've 4 with little notes attached where client's farms are. There's also, of course, myriad books and websites to look at. I had my first week here planned out before I got here so I would keep active despite the jet lag, and it gave me a chance to see what was local to where I would be working.
The most flattering pic of Emma I could find. 
Tongoriro Crossing, Christmas Eve
Jet Lag:
This should be terrible, but the flight was horrendous. I didn't sleep during the 38 hours of flying and being in airports. I arrived at 5pm though, rented a car, drove to a youth hostel, and passed out for 12 hours. After that I woke up feeling fine. I'm sure there's proper ways to deal with it, but nearly dying of sleep deprivation worked for me.
The later stuff you can work out for yourself, you're a grown up, everyone's helpful, you won't end up being homeless...but for your first few days-
Hostels & "Backpackers" are really nice here, and very cheap. There's a few bad ones out there, so go find some reviews online, and maybe book your first few nights so you're all prepared. Usually locals/staff will be happy to put you up for a wee while though, its just that kind of a society- and if you get the chance go for it, a great way to intro you to Kiwis and their lives.
Also, for when you're travelling, DOC has some beautiful/rustic huts in its parks (voluntary payment), as well as there being "freedom camping"sites, where one can camp or caravan for free. See the DOC website for details.

Who ate all the...:
Basically same as UK, with some USA influence. Take Aways here are basically less than half the price of the UK, and the portions are normal sized (not, I need something to remind me of Christmas dinner sized). This is great for busy days, After-Hours, etc. Fish & Chips for 3GBP! Thai food for 6GBP! Steak & Chips for 8GDP!
Make sure you take up running/walking!
Oh, and NZ loves pies. They are exquisite, and with lots of variety. So, yeh, take up running.
Ooh, and McDonalds (AKA "Maccas")has proper food in this country- including pies, and some decent burgers containing vegetables and the like. Its weird. Take up running.

They also like putting a fried egg and beetroot in stuff, which I love.

Some places have Taverns, some Bars, we have Pubs. The beer is something you'll just have to try out. There's no stout, per se, and there's some cultural emphasis on lager, but it all fits in with the environment and the weather.

Emma & I at the Tui Brewery

Sun, Showers, and Sh*t Tonne of Wind:
Depends on where you are, of course, but NZ is, like the UK, and island. So the ocean delivers wind, rain, and humidity. The temperature doesn't change that much, statistically, but the high humidity makes the high 20s feel like 30s. Technically NZ is on the opposite side to Madrid though, so its quite warm all year round. There's the odd bit of snow & hail, and lots up in the mountains, though, so a decent amount of skiing is available, as well as surfing.
Hunting & Fishing:
There's a store here called Hunting & Fishing. Still haven't been. Anyway... people here go hunting and fishing. There's lots of "pests", such as escaped deer and pigs that need eating, and they haven't yet fished out the waters like the EU has. Ergo, if you're into either (or just a "free"meal) go get 'em.
Anything else?
I doubt this will matter to anyone, but its something I find culturally interesting, and still haven't quite got my head around it.
The majority of Kiwis (the people of NZ) are in relationships. As in, nearly all of them-seems to be the given default. Noone I've spoken to quite knows why, its just a thing here, and those of us from Britain have found it kind of weird. I don't know how they all manage to be in relationships (surely you spend sometime being single & looking? or have a freedom break?), but that's how it seems to be.
The only place this isn't true is in the rural South Island, where Emma Stuart was working. Round her there were hardly any women, and lots of guys, so she had pick of the litter. Guys, if you're looking, advice includes, spending time with backpackers, universities, and moving to Auckland. 
Personally I'm just running round enjoying NZ too much to think about it.

Hope that helps some of you, and hopefully I'll see some of you over here one day!

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