This week is pretty important as far as working holiday internet chatter goes. Tomorrow (or today, if you’re in the UK) the International Experience Canada (IEC) Working Holiday Visa applications for UK citizens open for 2015. The prize up for grabs is a 24 month visa (increased from 12 month in previous years) which will allow you to live and work anywhere in Canada. When I applied for my visa in 2010 they were released in January, ran out around June or July time, and then another bunch were released in September. Last year, there were three rounds of online submissions to make a total of 5,350 visas, and each round sold out within minutes. Literally, minutes. There are many, many reasons why working holidays are becoming more popular, and why more people are choosing to leave to the UK for Canada (and other great destinations) each year. Below are the top 5 things I think you should think about. And think about quickly.
1. You get to try a different lifestyle
There’s going on vacation, and then there’s living and working abroad. Spending two years (or even a few months) in another country is your chance to try something totally different and really immerse yourself in a different culture. You’ll make the ultimate transition from tourist to local and really get to know the city or country that you moved to. Even if you choose a seemingly similar destination without a language barrier, like most of Canada, you’ll be amazed at the cultural differences you experience and learn from. Whoever said that ‘the grass isn’t always greener’ clearly did not make the move from Southampton to Vancouver. How many times have you ever been on vacation and thought ‘I wonder what it would be like to live here?’ Now is your chance to find out.
2. It’s an opportunity to see the other side of the world
The best thing about living in Vancouver is that I have a whole new base on the West Coast. The sheer size of Canada does make me wish I’d made the most of cheap travel in Europe more, but it also means there’s so much more for me to see. Vancouver is the perfect springboard for destinations like the Rocky Mountains, Hawaii, Alaska, California, Mexico and even whittles previously long-haul trips like Australia, New Zealand or Hong Kong down to a single, direct flight. All of a sudden you’re looking further than Bournemouth beach for a weekend away, and when you do head back to good old Blighty you appreciate the best parts (mini cheddars, Ribena, cheese) much much more.
Today is my last full day of vacation and an apt opportunity to think about the things about the UK I’ve most enjoyed coming back to. I’ve found that it’s not until I’m back that I realize what I’ve missed, partly because I’m still in the holiday phase of loving everything about living in Vancouver. Now I’m packing my suitcase and preparing to leave it’s much easier to identify my favourite things about each place. This post will be accompanied by a second detailing what I miss about Vancouver when I’m back in the UK, but for now here are my top five things I miss about good old Blighty:
Sad, but true. Dairy products, and specifically cheese, are a lot more expensive in Vancouver (and Canada as a whole) than they are in the UK. And most other countries in the world it seems. The reason for this is a complex supply management system which uses minimum prices to protect Canadian farmers from cross-border imports. Prices are artificially high, particularly in comparison to the US and the UK. I’ve now stopped buying blocks of cheese (except on very special occasions) which, on the plus side, has got to be better for my waistline. It does however mean that cheese is one of the first things I eat when I’m back in the UK, and I just wish there weren’t laws banning me from taking it back in my suitcase.
2. Sky TV
This might be one of the little things, but it never fails to amaze me that the UK has a satellite interface that is far superior to those used in Canada/US in almost every conceivable way. I get my cable through Telus, though if I chose Shaw or Bell the results would be the same. A clunky, hard to use system that makes navigating channels and recording shows incredibly difficult. Sky on the other hand is clear, simple and impressively interactive. The idea of watching TV live from your PC or controlling almost every aspect of viewing from your iPad are no more than futuristic legends in Canada. Unfortunately, multiple providers means that one amazing system is unlikely to ever materialize in North America, so it looks like I’ll have to get used to it.