If you want to wake up to the sound of bagpipes and spot the Loch Ness Monster, you’ve come to the right place. Can you picture yourself working and travelling in the UK for a whole year? Then you’ll love our chat with Canadian Kate Fields. She’s currently on a Working Holiday Visa in Kirmir, Scotland, the birthplace of JM Berry, the author of Peter Pan! She fills us in on the magical world of Scotland and how you too can make a life there.
What drove you to apply for Working Holiday Visa in Scotland?
“I was in a rut. Work wasn’t going great, and I was in a not-so-perfect relationship. So I was like, you know what? Now’s the time for a change. I quit my job, broke up with my boyfriend, and in March of 2019, I applied for my Working Holiday Visa. Since 15, I’ve always wanted to go to the UK, but I could never quite put my finger on why. Maybe because it’s where my ancestors came from.
Fast forward, and I’ve been in Scotland since January of 2020, so right before lockdown hit. Now I’m on a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Working Holiday Visa.”
What jobs are available for people with a Working Holiday Visa in Scotland?
“Seasonal, temporary jobs are the main source of employment. I went through an agency to help me find a job at an adventure camp working outside with children. Some other easy-to-get jobs are hospitality-based. Some of my friends got into bars and kitchens and shops, and some went back to the camps. You might also be able to find a job as a teacher. When we moved into the city, I got a job in a restaurant before the second lockdown hit. Now I’m working in a call centre where I hear accents from all over the country.”
How did you make friends in Scotland?
“I met a lot of friends through my first job. Many people were from the UK, but there were also a lot of internationals on similar visas. We were only there for about six weeks before the lockdown hit, but I kept in contact. Many of us ended up moving to the same city, so we still got to spend time together. I’ve also made friends through the Scottish boyfriend that I met. So his friends have become my friends as well.”
Another excellent tool for making friends is the “Canadians in the UK” Facebook group or the “Canadians in Scotland” Facebook group. If you’re feeling homesick, it’s always nice to reach out to people from home.
Now that you’ve been living there for a while, what are the main differences between Scotland and Canada?
“Apart from driving on the left and using miles instead of kilometres per hour in the UK, there’s not a lot of big changes. It’s a lot of little things. For example, we have our washing machines in the kitchen. The kettle is always hot and plugged in. And then you can turn individual outlets on or off using a little power switch. I learned this the hard way when I woke up and discovered my electronics weren’t charging. Keep in mind that many buildings are older than they are in Canada, so you don’t always get great Wi-Fi or cell phone service. It’s one of those; you have to stand by the window sometimes to get service.”
Would you say that the money earned during your Working Holiday Visa was enough to cover your cost of living there?
“Yep. When I came over initially, I planned to live in on-site accommodations at work, so money wasn’t really something I had to worry about. I ended up sharing a flat with my Scottish boyfriend for a year. That’s when I got a job in a call center. Both of our minimum wage jobs paid enough to get us by to have our flat, pay our bills, get a cat and save for holidays.
Looking back, I would have liked to save more before coming over just to have a safety net. I had some but not enough, which I realized after travelling around for a couple of weeks. But I managed by being thrifty.”
What are your tips and tricks to travel cheap in Scotland?
“The meal deals in any of the shops are going to be your best friend. For lunch, you can walk into any grocery store or pharmacy and get a sandwich, a bag of crisps, and a juice-like bottle of pop for like 4 pounds. And for tea or dinner, there’s a pub chain called Weather Spoons (we call it Spoons) where you can get a burger, fries and an alcoholic drink for about 8 pounds. So 12 pounds for your two main meals.
In terms of activities, there are a lot of free options. Look online for free haunted walking tours through Edinburgh, or sign up for the Heritage Trust, which grants you access to many historical places around Scotland. You can head south to Hadrian’s Wall that separates Scotland and England or cross the border to Stonehenge.”
Did you take advantage of the travel part of your Working Holiday Visa?
“Yes. We did England this year. I’m going to Glasgow this weekend. I’m heading to Dublin next month. The Moult in November. I was raised in the travel industry because my mom works in it, so I’ve done nothing but travel my entire life. I came to travel and spent 18 months pretty much on lockdown, so now I’m making up for it.”
What were your favourite places to visit in Scotland?
“Edinburgh is my number one. There’s just so much to do there when it comes to the history, the culture, the food. It’s kind of got this small-town feel, despite it being one of Scotland’s larger cities.
Another one I would say is this cute little town called Pitlochry. Plenty of whiskey distilleries. They’ve got some local jewellers as well. It’s perfect if you want a quaint, intimate village that isn’t as popular as the others.
Next, I would definitely hit up the castles in Inverness. Of course, near Inverness, you can go spotting for Nessie at Loch Ness. We went out looking. We didn’t have any luck that day, although we thought we had seen her.
If you can rent a car for a day, you can drive through the Glens. It’s more or less the Highlands. So you’re going to get those rolling hills, the steep Munros and the gorgeous views. That’s also where you can hit the Glenfinnan viaduct, which was made famous as the Harry Potter Bridge.
What advice would you give to someone who would like to do a Working Holiday Visa in Scotland?
“I’ve been wanting to come to the UK since I was 15. I put off my trip for years and years, and then I finally did it when I was 27. I believe everything happens for a reason because that’s when I ended up meeting my fiancé.
Do it while you can, because it’s something that you’re probably going to regret if you don’t do it.”
You too can have a year of adventure abroad! If you are a Canadian between the ages of 18 and 35 and you want to travel and work abroad after the pandemic, you’ll find all the details on how to apply for every country, including Scotland, on the International Experience Canada website.
The NomadTALKS are proudly presented by International Experience Canada (a Government of Canada program).
▶ ️ For even more inspiration, listen to our #NomadTALKS series on YouTube, where we talk with other Canadians who have travelled and worked abroad.
The original interview was conducted by Safia Dodard and compiled by Britney Claveau. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.