May 04, 2007 Features & Images » Feature Story

A working holiday 

Foreign workers are crucial to Whistler's success, and are likely to become more important in the years ahead

By Mike Crane

Sitting in Vancouver International Airport my senses are heightened as I daydream about what the immediate future holds. After a flight across the Pacific, I will be touching down on foreign soil; soil that for the next year of my life will be called home.

Like many Canadians, I will be fortunate enough to be taking part in an international exchange program that offers the chance to dive head first into a foreign culture and undoubtedly experience the opportunity of a lifetime.

Only a month ago I was queued up in the Japanese consulate waiting to put in my working holiday visa application to the next stern-faced visa officer. Four days later the visa that would grant me the privilege of working and residing in Japan for one year would be ready for pick up. My only requirements were to have a return plane ticket, some money in the bank and to be between 18 and 30 years of age.

With working holiday visa in hand and a job lined up through a previous boss at the Chateau Whistler, I would go on to be the first and only foreign cook working at a luxurious Yokohama bay hotel, a Western culinary creator amongst 120 Japanese cooks and chefs.

Leaping head first into the deep waters of Japanese culture, the life I had come to know in Whistler seemed far, far away. Days were spent commuting to work, on a packed commuter train, to a job where I no longer spoke my first language; in effect picking up a new skill that I now use on a daily basis back in Whistler. Downtime was spent exploring the urban sprawl of the 20-odd million residents of Tokyo and Yokohama and enjoying the many amazing aspects of Japanese culture, using every opportunity to check out every corner of my temporary backyard.

While I was working, breathing and living the Japanese life, I often pondered the thoughts of those Japanese who had opted to spend their working holiday in Whistler.

My time abroad would go on to give me some of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my life to date. And liking it so much I went on to experience both Australia and France under the working holiday visa program. By the time they were over, my working holiday adventures would take me from the peak of Mt. Fuji, to the depths of the Great Barrier Reef, and from top of the Eiffel Tower, to lazing on fine sandy beaches under the warmth of a glowing Mediterranean sun, all while working and soaking in the varied aspects of these unique cultures.

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