That was a question I had on my mind almost everyday before I embarked on my 6-months long working holiday. I was working as an auditor back in my home country and knew I definitely did not want another office job. So, I set myself up to step out of my comfort zone and try jobs that I never thought I would do or even get a chance to back in my home country.
I was a…
1. Apple thinner
This was my first job in New Zealand! It was the season of Apple Thinning then when apples are already growing on trees but not to its full size yet. Apples are basically around the size of a prune then. Each bud on the aple tree has approximately 4 to 8 apples and the process of thinning is to remove enough apples from each bud to allow space for the remaining apples to grow to their fullest size. This enables apples to grow to be really sweet and big!
In New Zealand, it is common for seasonal workers to be paid by the higher of the minimum wage or the target set by your employer. So for this job, I was either paid by the number of trees we thin or the minimum wage per hour if we do not thin enough trees to meet the minimum wage. Each tree were also priced differently, so I would earn about approximately $1.40 for a small tree and $2.20 for a large tree.
A day as an Apple Thinner
I start at about 9am by driving all the way into the orchard and parking my car right beside the row of apple trees that I will thin for that day. So I literally drive to the door step of my workplace, great start!
Then comes the tough part. I pick up the ladder that’s around twice my height, and carry it to the tree I’m going to thin. Then I begin searching for buds and thinning those apples as I climb the ladder. I then climb back down to adjust the ladder if I cannot reach a certain bud, and this process repeats. Two people work on one tree at the same time, so imagine a circle and I’m covering half of that circle while my partner would cover the other half.
Each row has around 20 to 25 trees and in order to hit minimum wage, we need to thin about 11 small trees or 7 big trees in an hour’s time. Sounds easy but it is far from that!
I’m proud to say I lasted 2 full days on this job, but hear me out first! This job is really physically demanding especially for someone like me who is only 155cm tall. It requires height, strength and a pair of long hands which are extremely beneficial to be successful in this job. Of course, I have none of the above so I called it quits, and took back home a number of bruises on my knees and a huge bag of green apples I’ve thinned to make apple sauce out from it. Lasted me for weeks after that!
2. Raspberry picker
I was a raspberry picker in my second job this working holiday, and oh my, what a painful job it was to me. 3 major pain points:
- Raspberries plants are super prickly, so I gain a prick on my finger with every raspberry picked. Not fun.
- Raspberry orchards are also full of bees. I’m SOOOOOO not a fan of bees, so I was literally gasping each time I dive into a raspberry tree and reach for a raspberry, only to find a big fat bee buzzing out. NOT fun.
- Raspberries are super fragile and not easy to identify if it is already fully ripe. An unripe raspberry would be tougher to pick, so if you pinch it too hard and it’s unripe, you end up squishing it. If it’s too ripe, you end up having a bucket of squished raspberries too because it is too soft. Both are huge taboos to the raspberry orchard owner. NOT FUN.
So to save myself the trouble from pricks, bees and unhappy faces from the orchard owner, I called it quits again after a day. My shortest job ever.
The good thing about being a seasonal worker in a working holiday is that you are quite free to come and go as you want. However, do remember to take a good read at the contract you sign too, to make sure that you adhere to the binding clauses that might require you to give a week’s notice or so when you want to resign.
3a. Strawberry picker
I think strawberries are well-known for being the worse plant to be a picker for. It is literally back-breaking as the plants are not even to the height of my knees!!! Imagine bending over 45 to 55 degrees for over 6 hours each day, squatting across rows and rows of plants that does not seem to end. Typing this just reminds my back of that ache already.
Just see for yourself. Ouch…
The wind was also really strong when we were working that we had to buy wind-resistant ponchos to save us from the shivers at 6am in the morning. It was so painful but I lasted for a week here HAHA! You must be thinking when am I ever going to settle down? Be patient 🙂
This job really made me rethink about popping strawberries into my mouth now. One thing about strawberries is that they are grown so close to the ground that it is actually dirty. Strawberries also rot really quickly if it rains overnight or does not get picked in time when it’s ripe. They then attract fruit flies that are really not pleasing to the eyes. So, make sure you wash all your fruits you buy from supermarkets. It may look clean but really, we pick and pack it straight without cleaning it at all.
3b. Boysenberry/ Strawberry packer
This is under the same employer as the above picking job. We start picking from 6am till lunch time, before being packers indoors in the afternoon. We packed both strawberries and boysenberries that were probably picked on another farm. This is so much more bearable and I always looked forward to this afternoon session after the arduous morning.
Eventually, I decided to move on to another job because I cannot imagine myself picking strawberries for another 2 months. My back will probably not feel like mine anymore if I keep to it.
So what did I end up working as in this working holiday? Head on to Part 2 of my post next week to find out!
Jobs in New Zealand are mostly seasonal and so do your research on what kind of jobs are available during your time there. I was in New Zealand during summer to autumn, from November to April. Hence, most of the jobs available then are actually outdoors where we spend our days under scorching suns or running away from sudden gushes of rain or storm.
If you still cannot decide what kind of jobs to apply for or how you can find a job during your working holiday in New Zealand, hold on further till I get my post up on the tips I have gathered from working in 5 seasonal jobs there.