Walk onto the Endless Journey – Working Holiday in Australia and Sweden

Wing (2015-2016/ 2019-2020 Australia/ Sweden)

Q: Where do you come from?
A: Hong Kong.

Q: When did you go on your working holiday?
A: 2015-16 Australia; 2019-20 Sweden.

Q: Where did you go for your working holiday and why?
A: I went to Australia for my first working holiday (WH) as many of my friends had also been to Australia for working holiday! Their amazing experiences sparked my interest in taking a working holiday in Australia. Australia is one of the few WH destinations with no visa quota restriction for Hong Kong youths. It is also an English-speaking country, which means I could adapt to the new environment more easily without experiencing language barriers.

I chose Sweden as my second WH destination. I would like to challenge myself by staying in a non-English speaking country and experiencing their authentic local lifestyles and culture. Sweden came up on the top of my list as it is one of the world's best place for Aurora Borealis and is frequently ranked the happiest country in the world.

Q: What kinds of jobs did you do, and what kinds of courses did you take during your working holiday?
A: During my WH in Australia, I worked in a variety of sectors and roles, such as a waitress in a sushi restaurant, a factory farm worker and a charity fundraiser. Job hunting is generally easy in Australia as there are no restrictions on the type of employment undertaken by working holidaymakers (WHMs). Job opportunities are VERY diverse and WHMs should be able to find job vacancies easily as long as you can speak English.

In Sweden, I had been working as a hostel receptionist, a hotel housekeeper, a waitress at Chinese restaurants and a part-time event helper of "Disney on Ice". As I wanted to learn a new language, I also attended the Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) course (a state-funded Swedish language course offered to immigrants) to learn basic Swedish and knowledge about Swedish society. Although SFI courses are designed for newly arrived immigrants (most of my classmates were immigrants or refugees from Middle East and Africa), WHMs with personal number (PN) are also eligible for the SFI programme.

Unless you know someone who can put you in touch with personal connections, job hunting in Sweden is challenging due to fierce competition and long waiting times. Although most Swedes speak fluent English, knowing English gives you no extra advantages among other international candidates. In addition, most employers have insufficient knowledge of WH and companies usually have a stringent hiring process. So DON'T be too picky about jobs!

Q: Tell us one of your most unforgettable memories in your working holiday.
A: I met an intersex person (i.e. persons born with ambiguous genitalia) in Australia for the first time in my life. I only saw them on TV show before and it was a shock to me. I realized that the world is big and my knowledge is still very limited. The public have very little knowledge about issues concerning intersex persons. If people are willing to learn more and step into the shoes of sexual minorities, misunderstanding and discrimination against the sexual minority community can be vastly eliminated.

Seeing Aurora is always on my bucket list and I fulfilled my dream in Sweden! I travelled to Kirura (the northernmost city in Sweden) to watch the northern lights with my nine Hong Kong friends. I had never travelled with such a large group of people before and we had so much fun!

Q: What is the greatest reward you have got from your working holiday?
Australia: I got to travel around Australia with my fundraising job. It was not a job with great money but fundraising agency provided accommodation and transport for us. It was fun talking to the locals and some of them even invited me for a beer or dinner. Before I went to Australia, I have never expected to see wild kangaroos hopping around in someone's backyard rather than a zoo!

Sweden: The Swedish class. I'm glad that I learnt a new language which enabled me to communicate with Swedes and became an invaluable asset to my life. I also become more tidy and organized after working as a housekeeper.

Q: Can you give a few tips for young people who wish to visit the working holiday destination of your choice?
I would recommend you to choose English-speaking countries like Australia and New Zealand as your first WH destination, unless you have a really clear picture of what's gonna happen and are ready to overcome language barriers. These countries usually have a sizeable expatriate population and are more "working holiday friendly" in terms of policies and protections. At least you would suffer less in opening bank account and getting your documents done!
I highly recommend you to use Gumtree for selling your unused or unwanted items. You can even find rental properties, second-hand cars and job openings there. (If you are going to Sweden, try Blocket!)

Try to arrive before your visa valid date to get the "personnummer" (PN, Swedish personal identity number). If you arrive after the visa valid date, you might not be able to get one as PN is only issued to people who are moving to Sweden for one year or more. Without PN, you might have troubles accessing health services, opening bank account, finding jobs and even registering supermarket membership!
Skills and working experiences matter in Sweden. Finding a job based on your strengths can definitely give yourself a better chance of landing a job. If you do not have relevant skills or experiences, perhaps you should start learning Swedish as even very basic Swedish may set you apart from other candidates. Bring extra funds with you (not just the SEK 15,000!) as job hunting takes time!
Apart from winter clothes, don't forget to pack your summer clothes as well. Summer temperatures in Stockholm can hit 35°C!

Q: Is there any extra thing you would like to tell us?
Backpack is a better idea than a suitcase. I assume you want to travel around rather than staying in one place for the whole year. If that's the case, backpack can be your good friend! But in either way, you should always pack smart!
Working Holiday = work first, travel after. When you work hard to earn money, remember to spend the money on travel before the exchange rates go further down (haha)!

Note: The views and comments expressed in individual sharings are the authors' own and do not reflect the views of the Labour Department. WHMs are advised to research thoroughly and check up for updated and verified information before departure.