Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Why

So, why does someone quit their job, sell their possessions, and move about as far as you can possibly go without NASA's help?

If you're reading this in New Zealand, all I have to say is "OE".

But for anyone else: In NZ there is a tradition called the O.E. (Overseas Experience). The typical OE involves a student-age person moving to England for maybe a year or two. You can go anywhere for your OE, and be any age, but going to London in your early 20s is the norm. It's estimated that perhaps a quarter of all New Zealanders are overseas at any time.

Why is this so culturally ingrained? NZ is extremely isolated and it can feel like a very small place. Wikipedia reports that the London Metropolitan area alone has over three times as many people as our whole nation. The UK has interesting and diverse countries all around it, while New Zealand has the culturally similar Australia.

So Kiwis flock to England, mostly on a Working Holiday visa. The Working Holiday visa enables Kiwis under 31 to spend 2 years in the UK. There are conditions - you can't work in your field of expertize, and you can only work for 1 of the 2 years. In essence, it ensures that you're young enough to survive the rigours of living on the poverty line while in the UK.

However, current statistics suggest that increasing numbers of Kiwis are waiting until later in life for their OE. Friends of mine did their OE straight after university. Because they had little work experience and skant savings at that time in life, they ended up living with maybe 5 people to a bedroom in a rough area on the outskirts of the city. It sounded a bit grim at the time, and sounds even worse now that I'm a little older.

But I do find myself envying the adventure they had. So now, as they drift home, buy houses, and have families, I find myself wanting to play catchup. Well, to be specific, I'll pass on the boozing and living in a slum, but I do want to check out the history. I'm fascinated by the European history.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Bon voyage James! I hope you found it in your heart to let the bell bird live. Looking forward reading more about your travels.