I’m a Canadian who recently came back from two years living and working in London. In the six months I’ve been back, some people have been asking me about how I managed to do it.
It’s understandable that they’d be interested. Wanderlust can strike anyone, any time, and anywhere — even in places as beautiful as my hometown of Vancouver, BC, and the gig economy makes it much easier to get by with just a laptop and an internet connection. Part of it may be a generational change. Whatever their reasons, it seems like everyone is interested in moving abroad for a period of time.
But what always surprises the people I talk to is how simple it actually is to get a visa. The whole process was the easiest thing ever — the requirements are that you have to be under 30 years old, have access to $3,000 in the bank, and be a citizen of a Commonwealth country, like Canada, Australia, or the United Kingdom. It’s called a working holiday visa, and it’s valid for two years.
The most difficult part of the application process is the requirement that applicants must list everywhere they’ve visited in the past 10 years!
Once you’re there
It’s great living in the UK as a Canadian. Everyone loves Canadians, and when people found out that I was from Vancouver, they’d say “Wow, why are you here? Isn’t that the best place to live in the world?” There’s a lot of recognition, and that feels good.
The only restriction with the two-year working visa is people are unwilling to hire you for permanent jobs, so you can only really apply for contract jobs.
When it comes to finding a job, the important thing to know is that everything goes through recruitment agencies. I had four jobs within one year. Two of those were through a recruitment agency, and one of those was for a recruitment agency.
Try checking out career conferences and fairs to see what kinds of jobs are available. There’s a lot of those in the UK, and that gives you a good idea of what companies are out there, that you wouldn’t necessarily see otherwise.
So why go abroad at all?
From a practical perspective, there are just a lot more opportunities. It isn’t always easy to see when you live there, but Vancouver is a very small city. Canada’s largest city is Toronto, and that city is pretty small too, if you compare it with London or New York.
There are so many jobs out there so you can basically do whatever you want — it just depends on how long you want to wait for that job to open up. Even if you move from a big city to a smaller city, it’s about those kind of different opportunities that you wouldn’t get from living in a big city. So many people move to BC to work on the mountains for a ski season or two — an opportunity you wouldn’t necessarily have in Australia or the UK.
But it isn’t all about professional development. A lot of people that I speak to want to move abroad because of their career, but it shouldn’t just be about their career. You should make time to actually explore that city and meet the people that live there. What Vancouver offers compared even to what Toronto offers is completely different.
In the case of London, it’s especially interesting because a lot of people are there temporarily — they’re not there long-term. They are living there on a two-year work visa, or they’re on a sponsored work visa. It’s an amazing experience to meet all those different kinds of people, with different backgrounds, from different industries.
Not to mention all of the opportunities to travel in the UK and around Europe.
Practice being bold
Having the boldness to move somewhere new completely on your own, throwing yourself out there, and being independent — it develops you as a person.
Living abroad, you get a chance to start from scratch, which is something you probably won’t get to experience very often in your life. You get to know who you are, and how you respond to an unfamiliar place. The worst case scenario? You have an adventure and then head home maybe a little poorer financially, but a richer person.
Fortune favours the bold. Go out there and grab life with both hands.