It was mid May 2015 and the first part of our trip had ended. But only for a while! After traveling for exactly 7 months we started running out of money. We saved about 1500€ to make sure we would survive our first days in one of the most expensive countries in the world, and the rest got lost in the most amazing experience of our lives. I am sure most of you wonder how much money we spent on our 7-month-long travels, and here’s the shocking answer: less than 8.000€, both of us together, all plain tickets included from Sri Lanka on. And no, we didn’t sleep with cockroaches, nor on train stations, nor somewhere under bridges. We mostly slept in basic, but very decent rooms, but what really saved us a lot of money (and enriched our lives for some amazing experiences and beautiful people) was Couchsurfing. Apart from that we were brave and curious enough to eat mostly Asian street food, which gave us some stomach problems at the beginning, but after 7 months we learned how to choose the right place to eat. And finally we made it to New Zealand, safe and healthy, with about 1500€ in our pocket, which would be enough to survive about 3 weeks in Auckland. But absolutely not enough for the tickets back home if we couldn’t make it here …
It was mid autumn and we could feel the cold breeze on our still warm bodies that just recently arrived from Bali. When we stepped out of the terminal there was no one offering us a lift to the city. The public bus was in a visible spot and there was absolutely no doubt which way to go. Holding detailed directions on how to reach our Couchsurfing host’s home in our hands we boarded the bus. The only problem was that the bus costed about ten times more than any taxi in SE Asia …
We had no problems in reaching our Couchsurfing home, but the first thing we noticed when we walked into the house was that it was extremely cold in there. The house was made of wood, the windows were very basic with huge gaps in between, there was no proper heating system and everyone was wrapped in blankets. So … This is New Zealand … Really?! It certainly is.
Our host Gina accepted us with a big smile and she introduced us to her flatmates Annie, Sam and Jessie. They were making an Indian dinner and we were most welcome to join them. An Indian dinner and a cold house were the first two things to experience in New Zealand – sounds like a good start. But, honestly, the dinner was much more tasteful than any original dish I tried in India, which made me feel very much relieved.
Exhausted from the long journey we went to bed early, but there was no time to rest in Auckland. We were more than aware that we only had enough money to survive the next couple of weeks, and if we didn’t find a job soon we didn’t even know how we’d make it back home. We woke up early the next day and started preparing all the paper work we needed to activate our Working Holiday Visa and start searching for a job. Our plan was to spend three nights at Gina’s, but then we’d have to go to a hostel where the price for the cheapest room was 40 NZ$ per night. This was not fun at all!
The first thing we needed was the IRD number (Inland Revenue Department), which allows you to work legally in New Zealand. We had been told that it would take about ten days to get it (OMG!!!), so we went straight to the closest Post Office to apply for it. They asked for our Passports, but one document is not enough; you also need an International Driving Licence to be able to fill in the application. Neither of us had it, but our logic was somehow telling us that an ID in English should also work. Well, it didn’t. And here goes New Zealand again: the second document MUST be an International Driving Licence, which costs a fortune and a lot of time to get, or you can make yourself a so-called New Zealand +18 card, which takes about two weeks to be done. But we didn’t have two weeks, and desperate of not knowing how to work things out, we called directly to the IRD and told them about our problem. An extremely polite woman told us not to worry and gave us an appointment for the next day to sort things out. She told us to bring anything we had apart from our Passports, from Student Cards to a Library Card. The next day we showed up at the office and got our IRD numbers straight away, submitting our no longer valid Student Cards. That’s right, a valid ID in English didn’t work, while a simple Student Card made it happen – and that is how many things in New Zealand work.
The second thing we did is open up a bank account, and after 48h in New Zealand we were already legal to start working here. That’s the spirit!
On our third day, we started looking for a job. It was Saturday and we didn’t expect a response during the weekend, but we sent about 15 job applications each. Since we both have experience in hospitality, we mostly applied for waiting staff. We spent the weekend trying not to stress out too much when Geena suddenly offered us to spend another week at her place. We still can’t express how grateful we were for her offer. Apart from that it was really helpful considering our financial situation, we were happy that we could spend another week with her and her amazing flatmates. We really connected well with them, especially with Annie and Jessie with whom we spent most of our time and shared many interesting conversations. In the evenings, we cooked and played board games ’till late nights, and staying at their place was truly one of the most memorable Couchsurfing experiences ever.
The weekend was over, and on Monday we received our first phone call: they called from Non Solo Pizza to invite Nejc for an interview the very same day. He had nothing else to wear but dirty trekking trousers and a hoodie, but was able to make a great impression despite of his backpacker’s look. On Tuesday he already had a trial, and from then on he is a bartender in one of the poshest restaurants in the poshest district of Auckland, Parnell. It was a huge relieve for us when Nejc got a job, but I was lucky as well: I got a call to come for a trial on Wednesday and they hired me to work in a downtown cafe from Monday to Friday, only morning time. Sounds like a bingo, but it wasn’t as good as it seems …
On Friday we had to leave our Couchsurfing house, so we booked a room in the cheapest hostel we found. It was a private room with no windows, shared (dirty) bathroom and an even dirtier kitchen, there you go, 40$/night, a slap in the face. We immediately started looking for a place to stay for the next six months we were planning to spend in Auckland, and were completely shocked when we realized how ridiculously expensive the rents are here. They are actually so expensive that only few people can afford to live on their own, and that is why most people decide to live with flatmates and rent a room. However, what I find really nice here is that there are only few apartment blocks to be found in the city center; most of the Newzealanders live in houses in the suburbs, and living in a house is really a big part of their culture. The houses are spacious and each of them has a nice garden all around it, and this is one of the things why Auckland reminds me so much of my beloved Ljubljana: it is the only city apart from Ljubljana that has beautiful parks and green districts with houses only a stone’s throw away from the city center.
Fully occupied with our new jobs, we had to find some time to check the advertisements for renting a room and arrange viewings. We were surprised about the amount of ads saying that they don’t want couples, which made things even more difficult. Since Nejc is mostly working night time, we decided to rent a room somewhere near his work place so that he could walk back home in the middle of the night. We checked a couple of apartments and finally found a wonderful room in a big old house owned by a Japanese woman. It is located in the district of Parnell, which means it’s close to Nejc’s restaurant, but at the same time it’s also close to the city center and therefore to my own job, too. The room is spacious, overlooking the sea and the house has a pool! Renting this room was by far the best deal we came across when looking at the apartments, and we immediately decided to take it. The rent is, as you might expect, very shocking, 320 NZD/week (around 200€ – yes, per WEEK!!!), but it is almost impossible to find anything cheaper in Auckland. By the way, all the costs in New Zealand are weekly, including rents and salaries, which we actually find a very handy system.
Finally settled down in our new home we started to relax. We got to know our numerous flatmates from all over the world (Australia, France, Italy, Philippines, Canada, South Africa, Japan, India and Colombia) and were extremely happy to find out that they are amazing cooks. We actually all like cooking so much that we decided to have common dinners once a week where each of us prepares a small plate. We also met Annie a couple of times, but our Sundays are mostly reserved for our amazing Slovenian friends Eva and Marko. We met them, hmmmm, online let’s say, when I wrote a bunch of messages to Eva before we came in New Zealand, wanting to know everything about the city and the Working Holiday Visa. Then we finally met here and started hanging out together almost every week.
Everything seemed ok, but my awful, awful job. First of all, I wasn’t a waitress, but a machine. I was working in an extremely fast paced cafe where everyone was expected to be in ten places at the same time. My job was to do literally everything, but most of the time I was washing the dishes. Anyhow, the worst thing was not my position, but the people I worked with. The boss was simply horrible, but fortunately she was working in another cafe most of the time and I didn’t get to see her much. The biggest problem was my manager, a 26-year-old British guy who looked as if he was in his late 30-ies, and whom Nejc and me started calling Frankenstein due to his extremely unpleasant looks. Not only the appearance, his whole personality was just so extremely disagreeable. I really try to avoid saying bad things about other people, but can you believe me that there is not a single good thing to say about this person? A person who doesn’t smile when serving the customers, a person who doesn’t know how to communicate but with yelling to other employees, someone who has absolutely no idea of what the word “respect” means. So, after being disrespected for five weeks, I decided to run away from that place and find another job.
At first I thought it was going to be very difficult because there were not many offers on the website where all the job vacancies are advertised. Apart from that I had this fixed idea that I would try to find a job outside hospitality, no luck anyhow. Finally I decided to print my CVs, walk down the Parnell road and knock the doors of its countless cafes. After less than an hour, I had a job. They invited me for a trial the next morning, and from that moment on I am working in one of the most pleasant cafes ever. The people I work with, the owner, the boss, the chefs, every single person of our team is just so amazingly nice that it’s too good to be true. We get along together more than well and I am so damn happy to be working here.
It has been over a month now that we’ve been mostly working, and to tell you the truth there is not much more going on. Especially Nejc spends a lot of hours working (over 45h/week), while I have a bit more relaxed roster. Since I work in the mornings (starting at 7am) and Nejc works in the evenings, we don’t get to see each other much. We have Mondays off, while the rest of the days we leave ourselves post-its on the fridge to communicate with each other :). Oh, and we started dating again! There is a park near our work places, and it goes something like this:” What time do you finish tomorrow? At 3? Cool, I start at 4, let’s meet in the park!” That is basically the only way we get to see each other during the week :).
Well, congratulations if you made it ’till the end of this never-ending post, we’ll try to keep you updated more frequently, although, as I already said, there is not much going on to write about, and will probably be like this for the next three or four months. But in the meanwhile we’ll be making plans for our further curious adventures, starting again right here, in New Zaland. Next step is obtaining an International Driving License and buying a van. We’ll let you know how it goes …