Overseas experience (OE) is a New Zealand term for an extended overseas working holiday. Sometimes referred to as "The big OE" in reference to the extended duration of the travel - typically at least one year, and often extending far longer. It is believed to have been coined by New Zealand cartoonist and columnist Tom Scott.
A typical OE is mostly or entirely self-funded, occurs within a few years of university graduation, and centres on London. The typical OE traveller is in his or her early to mid 20s and middle class. Variations on this are not unusual. Many travellers have no university education, and are thus able to have their OE in their late teens or early 20s following a few years in the workforce. An increasingly popular alternative to London is to spend a year teaching English overseas, especially in Japan or South Korea. Enough Māori take OEs for there to be a permanent Māori culture group (Ngati Ranana) in London. The European OE usually includes travel within Europe and, recently, a pilgrimage to the Gallipoli battle site.
London's position as the default OE destination is probably a result of what historian James Belich calls 'recolonisation'. He describes how New Zealand developed very strong cultural ties to the United Kingdom, and London in particular, and as a result tended to see London as the centre of the universe and pay little attention to other places. During the 19th and early 20th centuries many white colonials in the British Empire viewed Britain as "Home" even if they had never been there. London, as the capital of Britain and the Empire, was especially attractive. From the late 1880s to the early 1900s 10,000 Australians and New Zealanders traveled to Britain each year, with the number doubling between the World Wars. British immigration law until the 1970s allowed Australians and New Zealanders to live and work in Britain as British citizens. The continuation of the trend may be residual recolonialism but in addition most New Zealanders have friends and often relatives in London, and its favourable working holiday scheme, proximity to the rest of Europe, and the fact that it is English-speaking also make Britain a desirable destination. In 2003 former Prime Minister Helen Clark described the OE to Britain as "an important tradition for many New Zealanders".
The abbreviation OE is sometimes spoken as if it is a formal qualification - as in "do you have your OE?" - because before 2004 the top secondary school qualification was UE - "University Entrance". The phrase also indicates that the trip is considered to be an important milestone rather than something frivolous. Large numbers of New Zealanders live and work in Australia but this is generally not considered to be an OE.
As New Zealand has visa arrangements with several countries including Britain, USA, Canada, Netherlands, and France, New Zealand citizens can apply for a working holiday visa to be able to work and live in those countries for (usually) up to a year. In order to be eligible for a working holiday visa, you need to be between 18 and 30 (sometimes 35) years of age. Some countries (like the USA) require applications to be made through organisations like IEP or CCUSA while other countries allow you to apply for the visa yourself. This also means that citizens from these countries can apply for a working holiday visa for New Zealand.
- "Unpacking essence of the Kiwi 'Overseas Experience'". Archived from the original on April 11, 2008. Retrieved 2009-07-24.
- "The "big OE" -- is it draining our talent: Kerr Inkson, Professor of Management at explains new research.". Retrieved 2009-07-24.
- "www.ngatiranana.org.uk/". Retrieved 2009-07-24.[dead link]
- Belich, James (March 2002). Paradise Reforged: A History of the New Zealanders from the 1880s to the Year 2000. University of Hawaii Press. p. 606. ISBN 978-0-8248-2542-3.
- Woollaeott, Angela (2001). To Try Her Fortune in London: Australian Women, Colonialism, and Modernity. Oxford University Press. pp. 4–6. ISBN 0-19-514268-3.
- "PM welcomes extended UK working holiday scheme". Retrieved 2009-07-24.