reader report

Melbourne? Too dirty. Canada? Too cold.

DIDN'T LIKE IT: Tom Ricketts wasn't impressed by Melbourne.
DIDN'T LIKE IT: Tom Ricketts wasn't impressed by Melbourne.

I grew up in South Canterbury and Christchurch.

I know the rest of New Zealand calls us Cantabs one-eyed, so I guess it'll come as no surprise that I think Christchurch is the best place in the world. Or at least, it used to be, pre-quake.

Like a lot of teens fresh out of school, I yearned for an OE. A sick grandmother stopped me from going to Europe, but Melbourne was only three hours away. 

I had been to Melbourne before on holiday. It was this wonderful city with hidden alleyways to explore, novelty trams, art and culture at every turn, great food and awesome shopping.

So off I went, and so did a couple of my best friends. What could be better than that? Four good friends exploring a new city.

Unlike the other three, I didn't enjoy myself. Melbourne is dirty. It's not that there's litter all over the place, but there is a dirty brown river flowing through the middle of town, little greenery and lots of dust. The river is meant to be brown and most of Aussie is desert, but that's what I didn't like. No rolling green hills, no lush rainforests and no snowcapped mountains.

The public transport in Melbourne is amazing and nothing in New Zealand comes close. However, it's still not good enough. The novelty of the trams wears off pretty quickly after a week of 30-plus temperatures and 100 people crammed into a tram built for half that amount. Only the new trams have air-con, and the new trams only consist of about half the fleet.

I definitely got paid more and funnily enough, I found that as a Kiwi I was a very valued member of the staff. We have a bit of a reputation as being good workers over there, especially in my industry, travel. But with the experience I've gained, my salary here now compares well with Aussie.

As for general quality of life, I just find it much easier to live here. It's little things like being able to book a campsite on a beach a day before you go. Or being able to call your bank and do everything over the phone without having to go to a branch. Getting a doctor's appointment the same day you feel ill. Turning up to the pub and getting a good seat five minutes before the game. None of this was possible in Aussie.

Melbourne is a great city to holiday in. But living there is another kettle of fish.

Next up was Calgary, Canada.

A job opportunity took me there. I took a huge paycut to go. I wanted an OE.

When I landed, it was -15 degrees! A couple of days later, it was -40 degrees. I was throwing cups of hot water off my balcony and it was turning to vapour before it hit the ground.

Calgary has two seasons: hell frozen over from August to June, and the great thaw in July. I had never heard of a humidifier before I moved there. Dehumidifier sure, but a humidifier. A machine you fill up with water every night that pumps it into the air in a vain attempt to stop your eyes, nose, mouth and skin turning into sandpaper.

Then you have to get to work. Calgary has a rather laughable public transport system, much like Auckland. A couple of light rail lines and buses. But in Auckland (or anywhere in New Zealand), you don't have to trudge through a foot of snow to get to your stop, and certainly not in -20 degrees. Even if you have a car, you still have to plug it in overnight so it'll go the next morning.

Then there's the quality of life. Walk down the main street of Calgary on a Saturday and count the tumble weeds. Most people are at malls or underground shopping centres. It's too cold to go outside.

In the summer, walking down the street is depressing because all the shops open in to foyers of buildings, rather than the street.

The street is full of exhaust vents and rubbish bins. How this city makes it on to Quality of Life lists really dumbfounds me. I'm sure none of the people compiling these lists have actually lived in Calgary. 

Eager to return to my beloved Christchurch after five years abroad, I was devastated to arrive on February 28, 2011, never to see my city again.

My career has taken me to Auckland now and I actually really like it. Great weather, great atmosphere, great food and great people (mainly the Cantab refugees).

I strongly believe the Kiwi OE should be done by all, but I'm no way surprised by the recent increase of Kiwi's returning home. Not until you go overseas do you realise how lucky we are.