Firsthand: I quit my job in S'pore to work on a farm in New Zealand & I have no regrets

"It's a very special experience."

Ilyda Chua | December 30, 2023, 04:12 PM

Three months ago,  Jovi Tan packed her bags, left her job as a management trainee at a local bakery-café, and moved to New Zealand.

The 28-year-old has been working at a kiwi farm ever since. There, she harvests kiwi flowers while on a working holiday visa, earning roughly NZD$800 to 1,000 a week. 

It's a "simple job", but she loves it. Here, she shares about how she traded her career in high-powered Singapore for a life on the farm.

As told to Ilyda Chua

What do you work as now?

I work on a kiwi farm in New Zealand. I'm on a working holiday visa and have been here for three months.

The kiwis are in the "baby" stage now, so we pick the kiwi flowers. The flowers are made into pollen powder and sold.

We start at 7 or 8 and work until 5 or 6. It's a simple job, and they teach you [how to do it].

It's just that for nine or ten hours, you're doing the same thing. And you're under the sun, sometimes under the rain as well.

Every two hours there's a small break so you can just have a drink though.

Quite tiring, but it's very simple.

Why did you leave Singapore?

[In Singapore], I worked as a salesperson, pet caregiver, and pet consultant at a pet shop for years.

Then I worked as a management trainee at a bakery-café.

In the city, of course I can make a lot of money. But you see the people, you see the buildings...for me, it's so boring.

Some of my friends did this working holiday thing in Ireland, Australia, and the U.S.

So when I applied successfully for [a job] in New Zealand, I decided to quit my job in Singapore and come here for about half a year, and see how.

Working at a pet shop. Photo courtesy of Jovi Tan

What's it like working in New Zealand?

Compared to working in Singapore, [farm work] is not so tiring. It's a fun experience for me, because I love nature and animals a lot.

When I work here, you can see all the views and the scenery. It's not like working in a shopping mall. For me it's better.

And the pay actually is quite good. It depends because we can't work when it rains, but it's roughly NSD$800 to $1000 a week.

I also rent a room that I share with another person. It's NZD$140 a week.

On the farm, I met a lot of friends. Some from Germany, Uruguay, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. A lot of different countries, but all are youngsters.

Everyone is really chill and happy here. [Because it's a seasonal job] everyone here knows we'll only be doing this for a few months.

So we really cherish our time together.

All we care about is to enjoy our time, where we want to go after work, where we want to eat after work. (laughs)

Photo courtesy of Jovi Tan

How does it compare to Singapore?

In Singapore, it was quite stressful. When I was a management trainee at the café, I faced a lot of people every day.

Sometimes they complain, sometimes they scold's quite stressful.

I love the lifestyle here. There's more work-life balance.

On the weekends, we'll go to waterfalls and nearby attractions, do some hiking.

Last time, every day after work, we'd hike to a mountain at the peak and see the stars. And have dinner there or supper. It was really nice.

Photo courtesy of Jovi Tan

Photo courtesy of Jovi Tan

I also love cars. So I did about a week of learning how to repair cars at a mechanic's shop.

The only unhappiness here is [about] food. You can't find Asian food easily unless you're in town and it's very expensive. Even the locals think it's expensive so most people here just cook for themselves.

So we will always make nasi lemak ourselves.

Working in a mechanic's shop. Photo courtesy of Jovi Tan

What do you plan on doing after your visa expires?

After about half a year, I think I'll go back. I'm thinking of working in a pet shop again.

My boss here actually offered me a work visa to work in the kiwi farm for three years.

But my parents are in JB and my boyfriend is in Singapore. So they keep asking me to come back. (laughs)

There's a five-hour time difference between here and Singapore. At first, my boyfriend always complained that I didn't text him, didn't video call.

We argued a few times. But I told him it's just a once in a lifetime thing, I'm working, and I just want to enjoy it here.

It doesn't mean I'm forgetting him.

So slowly he got used to it. Now he's okay. (laughs)

Will you be sad to go back?

I really became happier here.

But at least I got to try everything I wanted to try. I tried a farm job here, so for me it's enough.

[When I was younger] I wished to have a farm. And now I know what it's like.

I still want to have a farm [in future]. I'm thinking about moving back to New Zealand next time.

The things here are quite expensive, about the same as Singapore, but the lifestyle here is more suitable for me.

Photo courtesy of Jovi Tan

What are your takeaways from this experience?

That you just need to be brave and not shy.

The Asians here are all quite shy, like if they need help at first. But after that we all learn how to ask for help.

We also learn from each other. It's all about learning.

My flatmate when she first came didn't even know how to cook or boil water.

But now, she can cook a lot of things. Just in a few weeks or months.

Will you consider another working holiday in future? Or recommend it to someone else?

After I go back to Singapore in February, I'll probably have to work to earn some money first, before I go for another working holiday.

I'm thinking of another working holiday in Canada.

But this time, I will invite my boyfriend. (laughs)

I'll definitely recommend it to Singaporeans. So far I've never heard anyone say they regret coming to New Zealand for a working holiday.

Actually for Singaporeans, it's very easy. You just apply for the visa and it's for a year.

And if you work in a faming industry, it can be extended to one year and three months.

I've told my Singaporean friends about [working holidays] before. But my Singaporean friends will say no lah, Singapore is very good already. They think that everything is very stable, everything is good, then got good food.

So they'll just come here for travel. I can understand that also.

But it's a very special experience.

Photo courtesy of Jovi Tan

Top image courtesy of Jovi Tan