Flying Kiwis: A history of the OE, by Jude Wilson (Otago University Press, 2014), 295 pp., $45
I have a confession to make. It must colour my review of Jude Wilson’s Flying Kiwis, a generously illustrated history, in part based on oral interviews, of young New Zealanders going off on their ‘Overseas Experience’ from the 1950s to the present.
Unusually for a middle-class, university-bound New Zealander of my generation, I never took the OE. As an adult I have made five separate trips to Europe, but they were all after marrying and settling down to a job, so none of them really counts as an OE. But the OE was so pervasive in New Zealand that in reading through this book, I was startled to find photos of younger versions of people I know, boozing at the Oktoberfest or lounging about scruffily at London tourist spots. I read Flying Kiwis as somebody who heard all about the OE at second hand, from friends. And there’s another element of personal memory in my reading. When I was a child in the early 1960s, I travelled to Europe with my parents and a selection of siblings. I recognised much of the early1960s milieu that parts of this book evoke: sea-travel, the Overseas Visitors Club, Earl’s Court. But it was because I experienced these things as a child, not as an OE-er.