Christchurch, NZ: A Five Step Guide to Enjoying Your Working Holiday (or Visit)

January 1, 1970

by Talya Willson

If you’re looking at taking a working holiday in New Zealand, chances are you’re considering working in Christchurch, because of the employment oppertunities here due to the rebuild after the earthquakes.

Although the earthquakes are a tragedy, the sliver lining is that the rebuild has given Christchurch a breath of fresh air and generated a huge amount of employment for skilled and non-skilled workers alike; bringing a large number of travellers here to work. While a lot of them enjoy their time here, I tend to hear the same thing over and over again from many backpackers I meet; “Your city is broken, there’s nothing to do here.” But I don’t agree, I love living here; Christchurch was just dubbed the best place to live to enjoy the Kiwi lifestyle. Employment in NZ has been pretty hard to get over the last few years, especially in the North Island, so coming to Christchurch when your travel funds run out is a wise option. Here’s how to enjoy your time here (or probably anywhere else in NZ):

Step 1 – Move Out of Your Hostel

Hostels are an awesome way to make friends fast when you’re alone and new, but you tend to live in your little hostel bubble, and comfortable with only meeting the people passing through your room. You’ll never get a real feel for a place this way. Plus it’s far more expensive. When I first moved to Christchurch I lived and worked in a hostel for six months. Most of the people there were long term: working for a few months in the city. Pretty much everyone complained about how boring the city is, but the extent of their weekend activities involved drinking at home, going to the casino, and then napping off their hangover in the sun. Stay in your hostel for a few weeks while you find other accommodation and then move on. There’s plenty of flats (share houses) that accommodate for short term occupants/travellers. Or even better, try and nab a place with some locals!

Step 2 – Befriend Some Locals & Get Involved

Making friends with fellow backpackers is easy, but did you really fly half way across the world for that? It’s not that people here aren’t friendly; because we really are! We’ll be super keen to hear about your travels and your home country, but we’re a little more reserved and maybe even a little bit weary when it comes to making friends. Christchurch particularly so. I’ve been here for two years, and I still haven’t worked it out, people will be nice to you, but being friends with them is harder. Making friends as an adult can be hard too. But you have the advantage of being exotic, make that work for you. Befriend your workmates, join a sports team, a ride share up the mountain, or check out the couch surfing meet up (there’s usually around 30 people there despite what the online event says). Take up oppertunities when they arise and assume that everyone likes you. If someone invites you to their party or BBQ, chances are they aren’t just being polite, and they really want you to go. Kiwis are pretty straight up, and people are generally pretty curious about foreigners. Plus nabbing some local mates is the best way to meet more locals and learn about the best bars/cafes/beach spots etc to check out.

Step 3 – Embrace Our Broken Urban Landscape – (Because We Have)

Sure some parts of the city still look like a war zone, but we’ve made the most of it. There are a tonne of awesome bars and cafes to check out, and out of the rubble has come great initiatives and businesses. Here are a few of my faves:

The Dance-O-Mat: (Created by Gapfiller; an initiative who create awesome urban spaces in the city). For $2 plug your phone in and have full use of an outdoor dance floor complete with loud speakers, lights and disco ball – you’ll probably even make some new friends there.

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Smash Palace: What do you do when there’s no buildings left to have a bar in? Put one in a bus! Smash Palace is an outdoor bar with heaps of charm (and some Berlin vibes), but don’t worry, if it’s a chilly night there’s some covered seating hidden behind the bus (the bar), heaters and fires to keep you toasty, and if that’s not enough they’ll even lend you a blanket and a hot water bottle. The staff are super friendly and helpful, and there’s usually a band jamming here, as well as Couch Surfer meet ups on Wednesday nights.

Spectrum Streetart Festival: You might have noticed some of our incredible street art throughout the city. To answer your question; yes most of it is legal. And most of this is all thanks to Spectrum, an annual street art festival where artists from all over the world come to paint walls in our city, and collaborate on an exhibition in the YMCA. Obviously you can see the walls anytime, however the exhibition is generally only open for a few months at the start of the year.

Spectrum Streetart Festival, Christchurch YMCA.

Spectrum Streetart Festival, Christchurch YMCA.

Step 4 – Keep an Eye Out for Events and Get Involved

There’s always stuff going on in the city if you go looking. Riccarton Bush and Lyttelton both have great weekend markets, Bars such as The Dark Room usually have some great live music on, and there’s always some festival coming up; Matariki, Lyttelton Lights Festival, Holi, The Lantern Festival, etc, etc. Try stuff out even if it’s not your thing.

Me at the Holi Festival, The Commons, Christchurch

Me at the Holi Festival, The Commons, Christchurch

Step 5 – Embrace Our Outdoor Lifestyle

If you haven’t noticed already, Kiwi’s love to be outdoors – and you should too! Are you planning to come to NZ just to party? …Well you probably shouldn’t. We’re a sleepy bunch – from being outside all day, our bars usually shut at 3am, and our booze is expensive. In NZ the real magic happens in our great outdoors. In Christchurch we have all the benefits of a reasonably sized city with an awesome outdoor playground at our doorstep. Where else in the world can you ski in the morning and surf in the afternoon if you really want to? We’re right on the ocean, with some beautiful beaches for surfing and SUPing, the Port Hills are nestled into the city nicely for hiking and mountain biking, and the closest ski fields just an hour from the city, along with some awesome rock climbing/bouldering. Canterbury is also blessed with warm summers, and relatively sunny winters compared to some parts of the country, so there’s plenty to keep you busy here on your days off.

Snow & Sea, Lyttelton Harbour

Snow & Sea, Lyttelton Harbour

Christchurch has heaps on offer if you’re willing to go looking for it, so slip on your jandals and get amongst it to make the most of your time here!

Talya Willson

By Talya Willson

Us Willsons are famous for our aimless wandering... Whether that's in and out of the same room, or across foreign boarders. I've wandered across a large portion of Europe, Thailand and Australia, with the rest of the world on the list. I'm currently located in Christchurch, NZ, working for X-Ten Collective, a freestyle sports collective, and enjoying the Kiwi lifestyle.


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