Why we called it quits on our Canada working holiday

Why we called it quits on our Canada working holiday

In October 2014, we started a working holiday in Canada that was meant to last a year. We ended up back home in New Zealand after three months. Here’s our story of why Canada wasn’t the place for us.

Ever since visiting the United States for the first time together in 2011, we had wanted to return to live and work there. The country just resonated with us – we loved the affordable lifestyle (yes, it does depend where you live, but in general compared to New Zealand, it’s cheap!), the vibrant cities, and the incredible variety of landscapes. For us, coming from little old New Zealand, the US seemed like a land of opportunity – and we’re sure it is for many people.

Manhattan skyline

Manhattan skyline

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible for New Zealanders to live and work there. In many other countries like Canada, the UK, parts of Europe and South America, Kiwis under about 30 can quite easily get working holiday visas, which allow us to live in said country and work for a year or two. But for some reason (I’m looking at you, US Government) there’s no such thing available for young New Zealanders in the States. The irony is, young Americans can live and work in New Zealand for a year under a working holiday scheme! Totally unfair.

Anyway. Rant over.

So we settled. We decided to travel in the US for some of 2014, and then live and work in Canada under the working holiday visa there for a year. Canada and the US are neighbours, so we thought that while in Canada we could explore that country as well as spend lots of time in the States. In a previous post, we wrote about how to get the working holiday visa and set up in Canada.

We spent a wonderful six months travelling around the eastern US, fell in love with New York City (what we would give to live there…) and generally had a lot of fun. When our tourist visa ran out, we headed to Vancouver, British Columbia via the beaches of Mexico (have to love those cheap flights from the East Coast!).

NYC from the air in a helicopter

NYC from the air

Getting into Canada with a working holiday visa as a New Zealander is a pretty simple process (covered in more detail here). However, finding decent work on a working holiday visa isn’t so easy, and this, among other things, was what led to us quitting Canada.

Finding work

Under the working holiday visa, you can apply for any job you want, which is awesome. You can work at a ski resort, in a café, in an office, build houses, or whatever takes your fancy. What is not so awesome is that many employers, especially those advertising for more qualified or experienced people, may not want to hire people that are only going to be around for a year. Unlike Australians, who can renew their visa as many times as they like until they’re 30, New Zealanders only have that single year.

A further issue for us was that we had decided to visit New Zealand for a friend’s wedding three months after arriving in Vancouver, so we could hardly apply for long term jobs and then ask for a month off after such a short time working!

Sun dogs on Blackcomb

Sun dogs on Blackcomb

We wanted good jobs too. Coming from well-paid jobs in New Zealand, and seeing as we were going to be living in Vancouver for a year, we didn’t really want to be stuck working in retail or hospitality. As a trained climate scientist, I was looking for work in my area of expertise. But unfortunately at the time we were applying for jobs, there were zero opportunities in that space, especially for people on a working holiday visa. So, in light of this, I got a crappily paid sales job (that I flat out hated from day one) to get me through until we headed home.

Shaun, a qualified builder in New Zealand, found it pretty easy to get work, but the wages in Vancouver were about a third lower than what he was paid in New Zealand. This was primarily because he isn’t a so-called ‘Journeyman’ who has Canadian qualifications, hence the limitation on earning potential in that industry.

Montreal old town

Montreal old town

The cost of living in Vancouver

Vancouver is one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in. We knew this before we decided to live there, and so we weren’t shocked at all – we actually found it cheaper to live in than our home city of Auckland! However, the wages just don’t match up with the cost of living. Minimum wage sits at about $10.50, which gets pretty stretched when you have to pay hundreds of dollars in rent and food each week! We were working in lower paying jobs than we had at home, but our outgoings per week were pretty similar, so we just weren’t saving the kind of money we would have liked for future travel (and our upcoming wedding!).

best food in vancouver

Meat & Bread porchetta sandwich

You can’t travel much while working full-time, and Canada is a bloody big place

We had figured that living in Canada would present this awesome opportunity to do heaps of travel in an exciting new country as well as visit the US. But we were quite wrong. It seems really stupid to say this, but seeing as we had full time jobs in Vancouver, we couldn’t do a lot of travel outside the city (especially given our limited earnings). So it didn’t feel much different to living at home, except that we were living in a new city (which was cool and not to be forgotten! Vancouver is a very nice place to live).

And one other really dumb thing that we never really thought about was that Canada is so bloody huge. If you only have weekends in which to escape the city, it’s quite hard to get anywhere in Canada! We would only want to drive a couple of hours after work on a Friday, and from Vancouver there aren’t many places within only a few hours’ drive – Whistler, Vancouver Island, and into the top of the US are really the only viable options (and we are gutted we didn’t make it to the Island). Before arriving in Canada, we envisaged camping weekends in the Rockies, wine tasting in the Okanagan, etc. etc. However, we found this just too hard in the short time we had off work. And aside from that, it was autumn and heading into winter when we were there – so the weather wasn’t on our side.

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

Vancouver’s rain sucks

Yeah, it really does. And apparently, we totally arrived at the wrong time of year for weather! October through December are the rainiest months of the year, and we sure saw a whole lot of that. It’s a shame, because Vancouver is a really great city, and I imagine that it would be an absolutely fantastic place to be in the summer – all the parks, beaches, hiking and mountain biking trails close by… But we just didn’t see it. At one point, it rained for two weeks solid. With no breaks. Serious! In the end, we just couldn’t deal with it. I think if we had arrived in the summer, our outlook on the place would’ve been much different.

Back in New Zealand

So in the end, while on our visit to New Zealand, we truly realised what a great place our home country is. Aside from the high cost of living, our lifestyles here are fantastic. The majority of our friends and family are here. We can go on bush walks half an hour from downtown Auckland, and to fantastic beaches ten minutes from where we live. There are many places to visit within a couple of hours of driving.

We earn more, and therefore can afford to do things we couldn’t do in Canada. Of course it’s not all about the money, but sometimes it makes a big difference. One of the major things for us living overseas was that we wanted to experience life overseas – going out for drinks, dinner, shows, and so on. We just couldn’t afford to. So we made the big decision to stay in New Zealand and call it quits on Canada. Yes, it sucks that it didn’t work out there, as much as we wanted it to. But we think we have made the right decision for us at this point in our lives.

Sailing in the Bay of Islands

Sailing in the Bay of Islands

We’re loving being back home. We’re always going to be travellers, and living in New Zealand isn’t going to change that. It’s a little further away and more expensive to get to other countries, but it’s not impossible! We are also lucky to have quickly found jobs since we have been back – I’ve restarted my Climate Scientist position at the company I used to work for, and Shaun has landed a great job as a manager for a construction company.

We really liked Canada, as much as this post may not seem like it. The people we met were amazing, and there were many, many great things about being there. It just wasn’t the right place for us to live at that time. We look forward to returning to Canada one day purely for travel – we’ve left a lot to explore!

Have you ever moved to a country and left soon afterwards? Where was it, and why did you leave?

Skiing at Whistler Blackcomb

Skiing at Whistler Blackcomb

. . .

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  1. Great post! A couple of my best friends recently quit Vancouver after only 7 months for similar reasons. I visited them for two weeks and probably did more travel on that trip than they managed to with jobs the entire 7 months. Love your blog, you have a new follower in me!

    • Petra

      Thanks so much Sarah! It’s comforting to know that others have had a similar experience to us – we feel a bit bad leaving Canada but in the end it just was the right thing to do. Glad to have you as a new follower! 🙂

      • Miss Trolley Dolly

        Wow you’re a climate scientist and you complained about the weather? Lol. Go settle in Mars then.

        Also, do get the right visa honey. WHV does not give you the same work entitlement and privileges as expats have been over the years.

        If you’re on a youth work and holiday program, you’re basically on a backpacker’s visa scheme (temporary resident). You don’t have that many options but to wait at cafes or washing dishes or even cleaning toilets like many did. Otherwise girl how you gonna pay rent?

        Please note that Vancouver, B.C is economically competitive and geographically its located within the West Coast hemisphere. Sometimes it’ll rain for weeks due to our semi tropical semi coastal climate and temperatures. Sometimes it stays warm and sunny as California would.

        Minimum wages of $10-$13 are remunerated by corporations and industries commonly towards non skilled professions or odd casual jobs, which caters to high schoolers, beginners and fresh graduates. This isn’t how NZ and Australia are economically and financially regulated and shaped. In North America we are financially controlled and organized by champagne socialists and ironfist capitalists ripping off the working class and foreign employees. But then again this is the western pacific and our economic model set by policymakers have always been and will continue to be the bastards of Imperialism.

        Skilled professionals in CA and the US are paid higher than most inexperienced candidates. Canada’s average minimum wage for semi skilled to skilled professionals are between $22 to $30 an hour depending on the labor market indicators. U.S foreign employees are paid depending on their skill and experience, as they are assessed by employers.

        My first job in CA was a Harvest Supervisor (Agricultural laborer) at the berry farms in Surrey, B.C. Gurl I was paid $13 an hour and had to drive 30-40 minutes a day for an 8 hour work 6 days a week. But unlike you I only had a college certificate and I was in the aviation industry so upon arriving in CA on a Spouse visa I had to wait for a year to get back into the airlines. It’s hard for everybody else. But that’s life.

        -An American married to Canadian citizen, lived and worked in Australia for 2 years & loved it.

  2. Love your honesty guys! This is a fantastic reminder that if you are not happy, all you have to do is make the decision to change it! Regardless of cutting short your time in Canada, it still sounds like you did plenty and made the best of your time there. I am finding it interesting how my perception of home changes as I travel. I have been on the road in Asia for six months now and definitely have a new found appreciation for our beautiful little country of NZ. I’m not quite ready to move back yet, but its comforting to know that one day I definitely will. It is home, after all!

    • Petra

      Thanks Christie! Yes that’s what we reckoned – we weren’t happy so there’s no point in continuing on the same road! It’s funny how you find appreciation of home while you’re away, it makes it even more special to come from a country like New Zealand I think! 🙂

    • I totally agree with Christie! I totally admire your honestly, and it’s true that if you are unhappy you just have to make the decision to change it! I enjoyed reading your story and I’m glad it ended in further appreciation for your home country rather than depression or unemployment!

  3. The U.S. has a reciprocal visa agreement with Australia. Sucks there isn’t the same with NZ. I’ve been in Melbourne now for about 4 months on the working holiday visa and I feel the same way. Finding a job really, really sucked. I had one for 2.5 weeks. Now I’m just trying to find more writing stuff online so I won’t be so location dependent.
    It’s great that you guys loved NY. I’m always glad to hear that from non-Americans.

    • Petra

      Yeah it’s such a bummer! Sucks to hear about your job situation Melissa, I really hope you get sorted soon. It’s a tough ride settling overseas, and if you make it that’s great! And gosh, NYC is our favourite city in the world… SO amazing!

  4. Hi Petra,

    Have you guys thought about doing the online bit?

    The world is mine – and my wife Kelli’s – office 😉 We’re from New Jersey so we’ve been to NYC about 200 times lol….and love it. Right now we’re in Bali for 4 months, doing a house sit. Offline work in various lands rocks but once you build up a few online income streams you’re tied down to nowhere. We’ve been digital nomads for about 46 months now and am enjoying the lifestyle more each day.

    Ideas: freelance writing, freelance coaching (based on your talents/aptitudes), web design, or any other skill you choose to teach yourself. You can also add sponsored post and advertising streams to your blog as you generate more chedda through the prior income streams.

    All the best, and keep on inspiring guys!


    • Petra

      Thanks for your comment Ryan! Your situation sounds great. It’s something that we may work on in the future – it seems like the ideal kind of lifestyle really. But for this point in our lives, New Zealand is where it’s at, and we’re pretty happy with it! 🙂

  5. As an Aucklander, living in London, who recently visited Vancouver, I gotta say I was surprised at how expensive Vancouver was. I expected that moving to London but Canada I thought would be more reasonable.

    I’ve been living in London for 5 months and whilst I love it, I’m definitely not going to stay the 5 years I had intended. I miss Auckland!

    • Petra

      Hi Colette, I totally agree – Vancouver is seriously expensive. I can’t believe you thought it was expensive coming from London! Auckland is easy to miss, right? We really have it all here 🙂

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  7. Inspiring read on what it really means to be an expat. Living in Toronto I understand how expensive it can be, even for a local it’s hard to find steady employment after finishing even a Masters program. I wish you nothing but the best in your future travels, I just hope we haven;t turned you both off of Canada for good!

    • Petra

      Thanks Andrea! We definitely haven’t been turned off Canada for good, we’d love to visit again some day and just travel around the country. That’s crazy that locals have a hard time finding work too, not just travellers!

  8. Scott

    Thanks for an insightful post on temporary work in Canada !

    This is the sad reality for many educated Canadians as well – having to take on 2 or 3 minimum wage jobs in order to survive. Yes, Canada is big, the weather sucks, and full-time work leaves little time for exploration. We create all sorts of barriers to make professional employment difficult. As a Canadian, I’m shocked some Canadian cities consistently rank in the ‘best’ in the world to live – I’ve enjoyed a higher standard of living in Third World countries, including a 13 year stint in Latin America. Be lucky Toronto wasn’t on your travels.

    RE- USA : Countries like NZ have the odds stacked against them; unless you are a member of a NAFTA country, a temporary work visa (J-1 or H2-B ) is only attainable for low-level service jobs, for ‘select’ countries; a model the USA exploits to the maximum. Canada is not far off this mark; which is a shameful.

    I’m happy you did have the opportunity to see some of Canada – great pictures and congrats on your upcoming wedding!

    • Petra

      Thanks Scott! That’s crazy – can’t believe it’s so hard for Canadians to find work too. I’m sure a lot of these Canadian cities (and others in the ‘best to live’ lists) are fantastic, but perhaps at only certain times of year (summer) and for people that can happily afford to live there! NZ is such a small country so it’s not that surprising we miss out on these visas – at least we still have lots of working holiday opportunities elsewhere in the world!

  9. When I was under 30 I thought about doing something similar. I loved Canada, but just don’t think I could handle the cold weather! And yes, I know why you would want to live in NYC!!!!

    • Petra

      You’re right, that weather is so hard to deal with! Thank goodness we were in Vancouver, not further inland where it gets so much colder! NYC is so great, we can’t get enough of that city!

  10. I’d love to live in NYC for a year or two too but not willing to take the risk/make the sacrifices to do so.

    Haven’t been to Vancouver or any of the PNW (on the bucket list!) but we both adore Toronto. However, I know I wouldn’t survive a Canadian winter.

    • Petra

      Vancouver and the PNW is lovely (what we saw of it) but we prefer to travel there rather than live! Couldn’t handle the rain! We haven’t been to Toronto but have heard good things – we’ll definitely have to visit one day!

  11. Jub

    Interesting! Looks like this isn’t which makes me feel better too. I was in Vancouver for 6 months before calling it quits. Was working at FedEx (via temp agency) for 30 hours a week, $13/hour.

    Was there from May – November, so the summer was awesome. Domestic flights aren’t cheap in Canada either, and going via US isn’t always practical right!

    • Petra

      Thanks for your comment! Canada’s wages are crappy, right? Lucky you being there in the summer though, I bet it was amazing. Agree that going via the US doesn’t always work!

  12. Lina

    This was a great post.

    I’m currently on a working holiday in Toronto heading back to London tomorrow, lasting about a month and a half in Canada before traveling a bit of the states and now heading home.

    Despite the exchange rate being amazing, nothing is cheap if anything some things are more expensive and finding a job was just ridiculous, in terms of the experience required and the way some companies hire. I had to choose between doing casual jobs and hardly making no money, or attempting to get a career related role which didn’t happen. Was truly disappointed.

    When you know it’s not for you, re-evaluate your options and make the decision that’s best for you. Glad you guys made that decision and glad to follow in the same path.

    Thanks again for the post, glad to hear someone talk about the other side of a working holiday experience.

    • Petra

      Sad to hear your working holiday didn’t work out Lina. But it’s good to know that you felt the same way as us despite being in a different part of Canada – we had wondered if we were giving up too quickly by not giving other cities a go!

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  14. Hi Petra,
    I just found your blog via the NZBloggers fb page, and found this post super interesting. My (now husband) and I also did the Vancouver thing, back in 2011. We lived in Van for 3 months before we kiiiind of quit too – except instead of moving home to NZ, we moved up to Whistler. Similar situation to yours, we couldn’t get professional jobs (the Canadians just DON’T GET the working holiday visa thing like the Brits do!) – I ended up working in retail, Jase ended up working in a bike hire store (I’m qualified in PR & Marketing and had 8 years experience, Jase is a Chartered Accountant). We loved Vancouver – and we could have gotten by on the poor wages, but at the end of the day it was kind of similar to NZ for us! We decided that if we were going to do the year out thing, we needed to REALLY change life up – so we bought a van, moved to Whistler and got jobs on the mountain. In a seasonal town they rely on foreign workers, so we found jobs really easily. Jase made a killing as a bartender in tips, I was able to transfer with the company I was working for in Van and I worked night shifts – which meant we spent our days snowboarding or doing yoga, and then working in the evenings. It was AWESOME. We actually managed to save up enough money to take our clapped out van for a few roadtrips too. At the end of a year we were ready to move on though – both of us were a bit sick of not being taken seriously/ professionally and we were ready to be “adults” again. We are so glad we did it though…although moving from the never-never-land of Whistler on to London was a harsh way to come crashing back down again.

    Good on you guys for realising what was important to you and changing things up. Life is too short to be miserable, and I hear you on the rain. I bought a really expensive raincoat in Vancouver – it’s bloody gorgeous and I have worn it tonnes for the 4 years since. But the fact is – I was absolutely broke and yet I was desperate for some shelter. Ugh, that RAIN!

    Love your blog, you have a new follower (currently in Albania!) xx

    • Petra

      Glad you found our blog Leah! It’s so interesting to read about your time in Canada. We were tempted to move to Whistler too but circumstances meant that it wouldn’t have been the right move for us. Sounds like you had an amazing time there, we sure loved the week that we spent there skiing over Christmas. Oh gosh, that rain! Worst of my life… Happy travels in Albania, sounds like you’re living the dream 🙂

  15. Alyson

    Great blog and something I am very much relating to right now. I am a Canadian living in Bristol, England for a working holiday. I’ve been here about a month but I’ve already bought my ticket home for September. I like it here but things are not working out exactly as I thought they would! I imagined feeling so excited about travelling and seeing new things and while this is still sometimes the case, I can’t afford to do much of it. I start a (slightly above) minimum wage job on Tuesday and I’m hoping that’ll be enough to keep me going until I head on home. Unfortunately, working such a low-end job means I can’t travel around as much as I wanted and essentially, I’m living the same life as I was back home, just in a different place and all alone. I intend to keep travelling though and hopefully you will, too!!

    • Petra

      Thanks for your comment Alyson. I’m sorry to hear of your experience in the UK, it sounds a lot like our Canada experience. It just seems a bit pointless living overseas away from friends and family if you’re not actually earning enough to travel, doesn’t it? I totally get where you’re coming from. Hopefully you’ll get to see a bit before you go home, or maybe return another day to just travel around and not work! That’s our goal too – we loved Canada but just not for working there 🙂

  16. Being a frequent traveler to Vancouver, I am very familiar with your plight! When the sun shines, Vancouver is awesome, it’s just unfortunate that it is far and few between. You also make a great point how spread out everything is. It’s difficult to take a quick weekend trip without 2/3rds of that time dedicated to the commute. I do love Canada though, with Vancouver and Toronto being some of my favorite places. Just a shame that everything costs so darn much!!

    • Petra

      Totally agree, Carey. The rain is so depressing! Canada is a great country and we hope to return one day purely for travel – we’d love to do a massive road trip across the whole country!

  17. I’m from the other coast, and it would have been much easier for you to travel to some great places around the Maritimes on the weekend s, then exploring huge British Columbia (which is also beautiful). Sorry your experience wasn’t the best, but it sounds like you’ve learned a lot, and hopefully your next adventure of living overseas will be better.

    I started out in Taiwan when I initially moved to Asia. Realized very quickly that teaching there meant teaching very very young kids. They were lovely, but not my idea of a job that I could like in the long term. Moved on withing 6 months, and 15 years later, I am still in Asia 🙂

  18. Hello,

    NZ is the best country in the world. Why who you ever want to move elsewhere?:) I would love to go there again… i really did’t think NZ is expensive, but then again i live in the most expensive city in the world…

    Best of luck,

  19. I totally understand where you’re coming from and I live in Canada. It’s a huge country with so much to see, and being close to the U.S. with even more to see! Unfortunately most people (including myself) don’t get many holidays, making traveling very hard. It’s not a great system and, though I’m sad you had to cut your time in Canada short, I’m not surprised to hear it. I hope you can make it back and see the rest of his beautiful country!

    • Petra

      Hey Amanda, thanks for your comment! It’s interesting to hear a Canadian agree with us 🙂 we do hope to return to Canada some day to do a big road trip or something!

  20. Hi Petra and Shaun, well done to you both for trying a new life, and there is certainly no shame in deciding this wasn’t for you – it’s a braver decision to return and reintegrate into the life you’d left than to plod on in jobs and a lifestyle that was making you unhappy. And at least you’ve now gained a greater appreciation of New Zealand…sometimes there really is no place like home!

    Good luck with your future travels 🙂

    Emmalene ???

    • Petra

      Thanks for your comment Emmalene. It’s great to get reassurance that we made the right decision! Absolutely agree – New Zealand is a great country and we are proud to call it home!

  21. After reading this been a Kiwi myself have applied for a Canada WHV but seems abit off putting, but i kinda have to disagree on NZ paying good wages compared to Australia its not great but cost of living in NZ can be cheaper for certain stuff.

  22. Yesterday I remembered this post while posting our latest post on “the most expensive city in the world” 🙂 You guys should definetely check Luanda’s prices before saying NZ is expensive:)

  23. Great post! I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one to bail on a working holiday! I’m Canadian and recently had to call it quits on my working holiday in Ireland after two months. The Canadian dollar was pitifully low so my money didn’t last long. Jobs were hard to find. And then I somehow lost my suitcase on bus trip. I never got it back. So I gave up due to bad luck and lack of preparation on my part. I was so relieved to go home. I know exactly how you feel being back on home soil! Ireland was amazing and I still had an awesome time. My experience there hasn’t dampened my desire to travel. I had a great time on a working holiday in England years ago and I’m eager to try another country. In fact, I was thinking New Zealand. Good luck in all your future travels!

    • Petra

      Thanks Kathleen! It’s great to know that others have had a similar experience to us. It hasn’t deterred us from travelling either! Hope you decide to come to NZ 🙂

  24. I’m Canadian, from Alberta and although I’m super bummed you guys decided to leave I do understand where you are coming from. Canada is a beautiful country, I love it (obviously) but the distances make travelling to interesting new locations difficult. From Edmonton (our home city) to the beautiful mountain town of Jasper is five hours! For us the distances are just standard but I would love it if we could drive to Jasper, or Banff, or Panorama, or the Okanagon in just a few hours and then have the whole weekend there. It’s not uncommon for my buddies and I to drive 7 hours to get somewhere in the mountains for a golfing trip.

    That is what I did love about our time travelling around New Zealand is how it is a lot like Western Canada but compressed. You can get to the ocean in only a few hours no matter where you are 🙂

    • Petra

      Thanks Ross! Yep I think we are quite spoiled in NZ with how close things are together. We complain when we have to drive a couple of hours to get from the coast to the mountains! We would love to visit Canada another time though and just go on a road trip 🙂

  25. Great post! Off course I am totally biased as I find New Zealand the most beautiful country in the world and haven’t visited Canada (yet;). But other than that, it really matters where your family and friends are and what kind of lifestyle you can have in a certain country. It’s okay to work hard but you don’t live to work, you work to live!

    • Petra

      Absolutely agree Lotte 🙂 it’s a hard decision sometimes! But in our case, we made the right one. Definitely recommend travelling to Canada – it’s lovely!

  26. Marshall

    An interesting read! I stumbled on this article while talking to some frustrated French travellers who were discussing the difficulty of getting a visa, and that there had been recent law changes that should make it easier. I can relate to your experience in reverse. I am a Canadian in NZ. I like the others hope you give Canada another shot, because it seems like your stay was I’ll informed for a variety of reasons. Canada is not set up for working holiday schemes, (much to my chagrin NZ does tourism way better) and like any country if you are seeking professional work you need qualifications assessed ahead of time. This can be expensive and time consuming. I had to do this through NZQA, otherwise I would have been in the same boat as you. This visa is not really designed for what you were planning a full on work visa is more what you might have tried for professional work. But again these are pricey. Canada in the fall/winter is not for the feint of heart either and I am baffled at the number of people who look no further than Van city and Toronto. If you ever give Canada another go, feel free to drop me a line and hopefully your next experience will be a more positive one. I have loved my time in your country and would like to encourage positive experiences in mine

      • Petra

        Hi Dave, I’m not sure what you mean by this? I know plenty of people who have gone overseas on these types of visas and found ‘career’ jobs, if that’s what you mean.

  27. Robert and Grace

    This was great for us to read. Thank you! It is very reassuring as our situation is almost the exact same. My wife grace and I have been here on a working holiday visa from england since may. We started in toronto where we lived off pretty much nothing. Then managed to scrap together for vancouver where we have been barely getting by. We feel like we are settling for a life out here that we wouldn’t settle for back home. Plus we don’tdrive so can’t get anywhere. We weren’t sure whether leaving was the right thing or if we were just staying in canada for the sake of it. Reading this has totally reassured us we are making the right decision to go home (even thought is a great country) Thanks again.

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  29. This is such an interesting read because we are Canadian’s and experienced the exact opposite! We were in new Zealand for only about five months before we had to call it quits because we couldn’t actually even find work in retail or hospo! Hopefully you give some other places in Canada a try in the future because there is a lot more work in Alberta! Interesting to see the opposite though.

    Venessa & Andy
    Toques & Boots

    • Petra

      That’s so interesting that you had the same experience in NZ! I guess similar living costs (high) means you have to find work or else get out! Hope you manage to come back to NZ sometime, we would love to return to Canada too!

  30. Bryony

    Great post guys! My boyfriend and I spent last year working and travelling Australia and when our visas ran out in September we moved to sunny Wellington! We have to return to the UK for a wedding in August and so that will be crunch time for us to decide the next step…. We both had great jobs in our fields while in Melbourne – but finding jobs in NZ on a working holiday visa has been super difficult. My boyfriend has been contracting since we moved here and just isnt making the money we need to do all the great travelling we had planned!! Our next option was Canada but I am being drawn back to the UK where I have guarenteed friends lol…. I have heard so many great things about working in Canada, but we want to get back into ‘good’ jobs and I know now from experience how hard that is when you are on working holiday visas.

    Great post – feel free to share any NZ north island tips too 🙂 🙂

    • Petra

      Thanks Bryony! It can be super hard to call it quits – but we found it was the right decision for us. We’re loving being back in NZ! North Island tips: Tongariro Crossing, Bay of Islands beaches, Coromandel beaches, Pinnacles hike in Coromandel (we did it on Saturday!), East Cape/Hawke’s Bay road trip, Hawke’s Bay wineries… So much to do here!

  31. Came across this post at a similar moment in time for us right now. My boyfriend and I are Canadian and have come to the UK to work and travel. I have been able to get a full time teaching job and overall had a great experience so far but his story is not so great. He’s had so many tests, exams, and courses to do to prove he is qualified (even though he has shown all necessary documents). His agent has been nothing but added problems and he has yet to start work. We have been eating through our savings and wondering when will it finally turn around, if or when to turn it in. Your comment about how huge Canada is and how you can’t go very far to ‘explore’ on the weekends is why we are here. It’s more practical to hop on a cheap flight or train over the weekend in the EU which you can’t do back home. We originally looked at going to NZ since he could get a nursing job there but it was too difficult to obtain a teaching position and we also didn’t want to do random jobs that made it difficult for you in Canada. We are hoping to get through it soon! xx

  32. Mari

    Nice to have found this post. I’m in my eight month of working holiday visa in Canada (I’m Costa Rican)…and I have found it really tough to go through with it. Still unsure that I will stay the whole year! It has been a true effort to not leave, I guess I feel like I have something to learn here. As a tropical creature I have found the weather very challenging, it is also a very expensive country. Have tried to find jobs in my career but it hasn’t happened. It has been great as a life experience and I have learn lots…but definitely it is not the place for me in the long term

    • Petra

      Thanks Mari, glad you found the post useful. I’m sure you’re having trouble with the weather – we’re from a much cooler country and we struggled! Good luck, I hope whatever decision you make is the best one for you 🙂

  33. L

    I feel the same way about living in China. I really thought we could travel a lot more but its hard with only two days off a week. We will stay until the end of our contract but I definitely can’t wait to leave and start traveling again.

  34. Cal

    It’s great and at the same time bad to hear everyone is having similar experiences to us currently. We are Irish and living in Vancouver, we have been in Canada around 4 months and we have just booked our flights back to Dublin. It really is exceptionally disappointing and I feel a little misleading that Canada is advertising itself as having so much opportunity – maybe for Canadians but at the first mention of a Visa they don’t want to know – we aren’t total idiots either, girlfriend has a degree and I have 2! Regardless, what someone said above about if you aren’t happy, change it – perfect advice to anyone no matter where they are. Also great to see people haven’t been put off visiting Canada, even though we can’t wait to get back home and get proper jobs I 100% would come back here and cannot wait to under different circumstances, there is so much to see plus the price is flights to the US is criminal (in a good way). Final words – whilst this isn’t so much travelling advice but more general – if anyone reading this hasn’t been to Vegas, go, go now, BOOK IT!

    • Petra

      Hey Cal, what a shame you had a similar experience to us in Canada. It seems to be a great place for certain people and not so for others like us! It’s great you’re keen to go back and travel there though – it certainly is a fantastic country. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  35. This had given me a lot to think about….Looking at doing the same thing now but not sure how I could find work that would pay the bills in Vancouver…In the US now and would so love to stay. SIgh. Probably should come back to NZ and work on that student loan instead. Great honest piece and very helpful!

  36. Clive Shaw

    So you want a high paying part time job where you your employer will let you wander all over the country and travel or leave at the drop of a hat with great weather. Retail , hospitality and “crapilly paid” sales jobs are not for you.
    Let me know when you find such a place. It ain’t Auckland

    • Petra

      Hi Clive, now that we are back in Auckland and working full-time jobs, we travel during the weekends to places close to home and take advantage of our 4 weeks of annual leave per year to do an overseas trip. It’s entirely possible to have a good job and travel too – it just depends on your priorities.

  37. Nice Blog! Despite 926 Investigations, Only 3 Employers found guilty of manipulating Foreign Workers Program? With relaxation in Foreign Workers Program in Canada, Immigrants may find it easy to apply for Canada Work Visa.

    • Petra

      Yes, the recent change from a one year to two year working holiday visa would make it much more attractive to employers. Pity we only had the one year visa!

  38. Clive Shaw

    Living in Australia and New Zealand we have had it too good by world standards for so long. I think your expectations are too high.How many backpackers do you guys employ in NZ? With Vancouver now over 50% asian and climbing there will be constant pressure on wagers at the bottom end to compete with the USA and Asia. Real estate will continue to climb as it has in Vancouver, Sydney Melbourne and Auckland. Vancouver real estate went up 18% last year. The $10 an hour basic wage will over time become the norm in these cities as we struggle to compete in Asia even in “crapilly paid” sales jobs.

  39. I loved reading this post 🙂
    However, now I’m nervous for moving to Canada! I’ve just applied for the 2-year working Visa (as Kiwi’s can now get 2 years instead of 1) and I’ll be up and leaving my new job in hopes of finding a good one over there!
    I’ll most likely be going solo as well so now I’m not sure how I’ll cope with their high price of living.

    • Petra

      Best of luck Sarah! It’s so much better that kiwis can now get a 2 year visa. Some friends of ours got really good engineering jobs on that visa so hopefully you’ll be fine! You could always find a room in a flat instead of living alone to cut down on the cost of living. I’d say it’s about the same as it is in Auckland (but with cheaper food) so if you live in AKL you’ll probably not find it too different 🙂

  40. scaredbutwilling

    Hi there!
    Well, I’m a bit disappointed. I’m from Chile, one of the most stable Latin American countries. My country has agreements with the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.
    I was (am) so fascinated about Canada, its culture, its tourist attractions, nature, the language, everything…but I guess I prefer the truth so I don’t deal with any unpleasant surprises along the way.

    I guess that reinforces my idea of applying for either Australia or New Zealand first…it seems there are more opportunities there…weird, I though the bigger the country, the more opportunities

    Thank you for sharing your experience!
    I hope you find new and exciting traveling opportunities

    • Petra

      Hey, don’t take our word as gospel! This is just what we experienced and many others have a different experience altogether. I encourage you to do your research 🙂 but being from NZ, of course I would encourage you to visit my beautiful country! 🙂

  41. Nice blog. I’ve had similar experiences to you, except I’ve had them a few times, I’m a yank who’s done working holidays in NZ (twice), OZ(twice), and Canada(3 times).

    Out of all my experiences, there has been ONE country where I have consistently succeeded in finding GOOD JOBS (professional, good paying, comfy jobs). You guessed it, your country: NZ or Aotearoa.

    In OZ and Canada it was hard to find good work, but of course some work in retail, hospitality, and fruit picking was available. It’s interesting to hear that others have had these experiences with Canada also. It sounds like Canada is hard for everyone including the Canadians and residents that already live there.

    It sounds gutsy, but I might try Canada again, since americans can stay up to 2 years now. And I will most likely go home to New Zealand again, since I had good luck with jobs there before! Auckland’s awesome. Thanks for sharing.

  42. Marsi

    I think you went into the whole experience with the wrong mindset. Work and travel basically consists of doing shitty jobs for shitty money and still wanting to travel a lot. I’m a German currently in NZ on a WHV and we get treated like absolute expendable shit by Kiwis when it comes to jobs (no sick pay, no guaranteed terms, minimum wage or less, etc.). It just makes sense that nationals get priority for actual well-paying jobs, and I think this applies to any other country as well.

    • Petra

      I have to disagree with you there, although I’m sorry you’re having a bad experience. I know plenty of people who have gotten great jobs in many countries under working holiday programs. It just didn’t work for us.

  43. Benjamin

    Great blog! You should’ve come to Montreal(that where I’m from ;). I don’t know though how easy you would’ve got work since most of the employers here ask employees to speak at least a little bit of french since it’s a bilingual city, but it’s a lot cheaper to live here than in Vancouver, that’s for sure! We have a great music scenes with cool bars and cool people!

    I lived in Auckland a year and a half ago for a video games company that opened a new office there(I was working already for them in Montreal) but unfortunately the headquarters in Paris decided to close the studio altogether, therefore, for a lot of different reasons, I had to come back home, sadly. Point is though : I really, really loved New Zealand. I’m currently planing to move back indefinitely(probably in Wellington, but hey, if work calls for Auckland, I’d go there again without blinking haha).

    I think it’s always cool to see the different perspectives from people. Like, for example, I know that Canada is portrayed as a country of opportunities (which can be true), but as a foreigner in New Zealand, I found that your country has a lot more benefits than ours.

    Starting by the wages : Better chances to have a higher salary, minimum wage is better, you pay way less taxes on your incomes, I’ve seen people get raised 2$ more an hour after one year(you will never see that here in general)…you’re lucky if you get like 50 cents or something. And one other thing that I’ve noticed…when an employer likes you, they will try to keep you with them instead of our North American mentality which is ”If you don’t like the job or want to leave, no problem, there’s a line behind you who would take your place”. My girlfriend worked at Jack Tar as a waitress for the time we were there and her boss was really really cool and relax, making coffee for his employees in the morning, giving them free food and drinks, etc she NEVER was that considerate by an employer here. She was pretty blown by that haha

    Holidays(as we call here vacations) : In Canada, the law states that the minimum days off an employer can give you is 10 days. In NZ? 20! It’s a HUGE difference if you have kids, want to travel or just take some damn time off haha Two weeks is nothing in a year and a lot of people struggle with that here, especially since we have harsh winters. It’s not uncommon to hear people say things like ”I’m so tired, I can’t wait for my vacations…in 2 months.” 4 weeks should the minimum everywhere in my opinion cause it gives you more management of your time and people are less stressed when they know that they can take(for example) one week with the kids, one week to stay home and relax and another two weeks to travel. Oh and you have the 5 sick leaves days minimum that we don’t have… which brings the other point.

    Healthcare : Yup. I know I know, our GPs are free but….BUT….you can wait freaking 8 hours to see a doctor in a clinic for a 15 minutes rendez-vous. And since most employers don’t give sick days, you have to take on your 10 days holiday. If not, you just lost 8 hours on your pay. Unless you’re dying, going directly to the emergency in a hospital can be a really long wait also to see a doctor(sometimes 8-10 hours depending). I know this because before I started working as a video editor, I was a caregiver so yeah…not that great for a country that has free healthcare. I mean it’s awesome for sure, but we’re FAR from other countries that has that, quality wise. I’ve seen one doctor in Auckland, paid 17$(that’s NOTHING…that’s like two beers at a bar haha), waited 15 mins, saw the doctor for another 15 mins, took my medecine(which was 5$…it’s crazy cheap..I didn’t have any insurance..I was just on my work visa…here it’s reimbursed at 68% + a franchise you have to pay before..so for a big cold medecine, it could cost 35$-45$ after waiting 8 hours and maybe lost a day of work..(see what I mean?) and left back to work.

    WEATHER and scenery : Will not go on too long about it, but let just say that your winter at 10 degrees Celsius during the day is like our fall so for me, it was heaven haha I’m used to like -25 during winter! And man…did I love your scenery! There’s always something close to see! That’s a big plus for NZ. You can ride like 20 minutes and you are on a beach or in a mountain. It’s craaaazy!

    Rent : I know it’s more expensive, but since salaries are better, at least you can rent a house with a backyard, a view, etc. Here we live most of time in apartments(I’m lucky though because mine is great for the price) all stuck together that can be pricey for the size with no soundproofing, etc. With the exact salary in NZ, I was able to afford something a I wouldn’t be able to do here. The ONLY thing though : PLEASE INSULATE MORE YOUR HOUSES haha I had to get used to it haha

    There are other plus to your countries, but I think my post is already(maybe too) long haha Kiwis are people also! I think Canadians and New Zealanders have that in common : We’re pretty friendly! You’re even more laid back(read all the points above to know why..in my opinion of course!) than us and I fell in love with that 🙂

    I hope we can move in the next months! If it’s not by another work visa provided by an employer, we’ll probably just take the Working Holida visa(I’m 33 but I can have it for two years until 35!) and try to settle 🙂


    • Benjamin

      Made a mistake haha ”Kiwis are people also!” was supposed to be ”Kiwis are great people also!” Sorry!!

  44. Sara

    Hey, this is quite insightful. I’m planning on moving to Toronto in October (WHV). If anyone has any tips, please let me know. Thanks!

  45. Anonymous

    I feel like if you guys did 1% of research then most of the issues you encountered are completey avoidable.
    Not really a problem with working in Canada, just your lack of insight, research and planning.

  46. Mitja

    Hi guys,

    Despite your article I still want to go to Canada soon 🙂 I just came from NZ and it was awsome, you really do live in a greatest country in a world!
    When I was in NZ, there was few working hostel, which provide you a work if you stay there. And there is very easy to get a job, as long as you dont mind to work for a minimum wage and trying to have a fun even with shitty jobs 🙂

    Are there any working hostel in Canada as well? I am just a regular guy without a Master degree and english is foreign language for me, so do you think it would be hard for me ? I would prefer to stay in hostel or something like that, have some company, hanging out with people, have fun as I will travel alone 🙂


  47. Cat

    This article bothers me. If you were coming to Canada to explore more of the US, while choosing to live in the most expensive city in the country, you were setting yourself up for a bad time.

  48. OnTheFence

    Interesting read, also everyone’s comments are in most cases pretty insightful.

    I’m Australian and have just begun a 2-year working holiday in Toronto. Been here for just under 3 months and still haven’t found any work.

    I’m now in a weird place where i feel like i want to push through as I don’t want to be defeated and also have no strong desire to return home, but also i don’t want to over invest in this if its not working as i’m already about 5k down in rent, food, transport etc. I guess my worry would be that I stay another couple of months and without finding work having a pretty crappy time and just accrue more loss without being able to truely enjoy my stay.

    I like Canada, but just like the author of this story i had traveled the USA extensively and naively thought that Canada would just be more or less the same.

    Currently everyday is spent at the library applying for jobs and i no longer have enough money to actually go out and enjoy the city.

    Trying to stay positive, however as this article may suggest i’m kind of struggling in that department today!

    Any advice?!

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