European Stereotypes – Confirmed or Busted?

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Are Germans sausage-obsessed sticklers for efficiency? Are the French rude cheese-eaters? Are the English a nation of reserved, tea-drinking, perpetually damp people? Join a New Zealander and a British-immigrant-to-New Zealand’s voyage of discovery…

(Well, actually, it was a train ride of discovery. Many train rides. Through Europe. It was awesome.)

European Stereotype #1:

It’s always raining in England – BUSTED!

I Rule BritanniaWe were in England for three weeks and it only rained twice!

The rest of time it was glorious – so glorious that the New Zealander complained it was too hot. He’s been telling everyone ever since that England is warmer and sunnier than New Zealand, so there you go.

Ruuule Britannia… Britannia rule the waves…

European Stereotype #2:

Germans are a little too into sausages –CONFIRMED!

It was inevitable that I’d eat at least one sausage in Germany, as I’d already promised to try currywurst*, but…

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Saying Goodbye

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It was like the classroom was under water.

Or I was trapped in a tank at the edge of it.

The din of the thirty or so ten year olds had become distorted, dancing around my head. My vision blurred.

I felt numb.

It was the last day before the summer holiday. Everyone else was excited; they didn’t care that I was leaving forever.

Nothing seemed real. The world was dissolving before my eyes.

My life was over.

“Abigail?”

I didn’t immediately register the voice of my headmistress. I had temporarily forgotten the name ‘Abigail’ belonged to me.

“Are you all right?”

How could I ever be all right again? Everything was being taken away from me: my friends, my grandparents, my sense of security… In a few short days, I would be ripped from my home and cast into a strange land that might as well be on another planet!

I looked up at my headmistress, but I didn’t articulate any of that. I couldn’t.

“I just wanted to wish you luck,” she said. “New Zealand won’t know what hit it!”

MirandaThat memory, sitting on the cupboard at the edge of Mr Lilley’s classroom, will be with me until I die. It was the moment it all came crashing down upon me: I was moving to New Zealand.

I suddenly realised what I had to lose. Of course, I’d known theoretically and had already gotten very upset about it on multiple occasions, but I’d never really felt the full impact of it until now.

castleWhen people ask me what I miss most about England, I always say, “Being able to visit a ruined castle every weekend.” As I was sitting on the cupboard at the edge of the classroom, though, the thought of leaving behind so many castles never even crossed my mind. It was the thought of leaving behind my friends and grandparents that broke through my numbness and caused my heart to start carving away at the inside of my chest.

That must surely be the worst part for any immigrant – leaving loved ones behind.

Flights to and from New Zealand are so expensive. It’s simply horrible to think that the thing that prevented me from seeing my grandma more before she died of Alzheimer’s was money. In the twelve years between me moving to New Zealand and her death, I saw her three times. When I lived in England, I saw her practically every day.

She was terrified of flying. We eventually persuaded her to visit us, with my dad’s brother accompanying her. Before she visited New Zealand, the furthest away she’d been from England was Jersey. (A small island between England and France.) I still remember her sitting on a blazing Mount Maunganui beach in her cardigan.

Pilot BayShe visited us once more after that. Then, when I was seventeen, I visited her in England. She hadn’t started to get Alzheimer’s then. She told me things about her life she’d never told me before. I suppose I’d been too young. She told me things that made her blush. We mostly just went for walks into town and stuffed ourselves with all the food I’d loved as a child.

That was the last time I saw her.

It was three or four years later that the Alzheimer’s came. My dad’s brother was left to bear the brunt of it. She ended up thinking he wasn’t her son – he was just someone who looked exactly like her son and was pretending to be him for evil gains. He had to put her in a home eventually. Some of the stories of what she got up to there are quite amusing, despite it all.

Then she was dying. My dad didn’t want me to call her; didn’t want me to remember her like that. But I was adamant. I called my uncle and he handed the phone to Gran.

And she knew me.

I mean she thought I was the little kid version of myself, but she knew me!

I got to say goodbye.

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Corsets, Clockwork and a Cicada

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Steampunk Market in Kihikihi, you say? I’m there!

Kihikihi is a small town half an hour south of Hamilton. I’d never been there before, but I’m very glad I went. The Steampunk Market took place in the old Town Hall, but there were other historic buildings to explore as well. These included one of the loveliest wooden churches I’ve seen in New Zealand!

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The name Kihikihi means ‘cicada’ – it’s onomatopoeic, you see. There’s a sculpture of a cicada outside the church, observing every car driving in and out of the town. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy walking around the town quite as much as I did.

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The market wasn’t very large, but there were lots of people there and lots of pretty costumes! Of course, there were corsets for sale. And an abundance of jewellery made out of watch cogs. And top hats and goggles and old bits of junk that looked vaguely cool. That’s what steampunk’s all about!

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Further along the street from the Town Hall, there was a colonial jail and house, which were open for viewing. It was a beautiful day. The white, wooden exteriors gleamed in the sunlight. On the veranda of the house, as there so often is, was an old woman spinning wool.

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Naturally I dressed up.

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I seriously can’t wait until we do another South Island campervan trip, because I want to visit the steampunk capital of New Zealand, Oamaru. Oamaru has a really cool Victorian Precinct selling books, antiques, jewellery and art. In the meantime, I’ll have to settle for historic villages closer to home, such as Howick.

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With its heritage trail and collection of second-hand shops, including a 1920s shop was unfortunately closed when we were there, Kihikihi might just be worth visiting – on your way down to Waitomo, perhaps?

Top 10 Places to Hunt Pokémon in Hamilton

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of a certain massively successful mobile game called Pokémon Go. Perhaps it made you wish you were living under a rock, but not me. I’m one of those people who purchased a smart phone just to play it, having never owned one before. I’m a child of the ’90s, you see. I played the Game Boy games, collected the cards, and watched the series whenever my parents didn’t turn it off.

Is it a good game? I wouldn’t go that far, but since starting it I’ve been walking approximately fifty kilometres a week. Okay, so maybe I would go that far – I’ve lost three kilos! My epic quest to catch ’em all has led me places I’ve never been before; down streets I’d never otherwise explore. I’ve lived in Hamilton nearly two years and feel I know it better now, all thanks to Pokémon.

So… where are the best spots to catch Pokémon in Hamilton? Here are the top ten places I’ve found:

1) Hamilton Gardens

Of course Hamilton’s best (and practically only) tourist attraction is teeming with Pokémon. The gardens are a joy to walk around anyway – I’ve said so many times before – and now there’s an added bonus.

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Check out the Hamilton Gardens

2) Hamilton Lake

While perhaps not devastatingly beautiful, Hamilton Lake is a fantastic place to go for walk. The path is perfect the whole way round, and it has a rather impressive playground. Of course, it’s a preferred hangout of water Pokémon.

Pukeko at Hamilton Lake
Check out Hamilton Lake

3) Memorial Park

Memorial Park can be almost as beautiful as the gardens. It – and its immediate neighbour, Parana Park – is absolutely full of Pokémon. I bet it’s never seen so many people in it at once, except during the ANZAC Day dawn service! Parking on the adjacent street has become a nightmare, and someone’s even had the foresight to set up a coffee cart. Some nights, there are hundreds of players wandering back and forth, eyes glued to their phones. It’s a beautiful thing. Rather satisfyingly, the gym in Memorial Park is a Spitfire.

Memorial Park, Hamilton
Check out Memorial Park

4) Along the River

The city of Hamilton is bisected by the Waikato River, and there are paths down both sides that go for miles. This is a great thing for residents of the city – one of the many reasons I love living here – and it’s not bad for Pokémon either. One particularly rich section, I’ve found, lies between the Fairfield and Pukete bridges on the west bank.

5) Garden Place

Garden Place is the city of Hamilton’s main square. The whole city centre’s okay for Pokémon, really, but Garden Place has a high density of PokéStops. You’ll often get lures there at lunchtime.

Garden Place, Hamilton

6) The Waikato Uni campus

I went to the University of Auckland, the students of which have sometimes been known to look down upon the University of Waikato. I was surprised, therefore, to find that the Waikato Uni campus is a lot nicer to walk around than the Auckland Uni campus. There are three lakes and plenty of Pokémon.

7) Victoria Street

This is Hamilton’s main street. Upon it, you’ll find an awesome statue of Riff Raff from Rocky Horror, which is now also a Pokémon gym.

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8) The Base

This is a huge shopping centre on the edge of Hamilton. The supply of Pokémon here is never-ending.

9) Five Cross Roads

This is just a collection of shops, mostly takeaways, at a roundabout where five roads meet. No reason to go there, really, but I was surprised at the sheer number of Pokémon.

10) Seddon Park

A cricket ground on the edge of the city centre, a walk around the perimeter of Seddon Park can yield great rewards Pokémon-wise. It’s next-door to the small-but-sweet Boyes Park, which has a rather striking feature fountain.

Boyes Park, Hamilton

You might say I’ve got far too much time on my hands, but it doesn’t feel like it! Besides, it’s an interesting way to keep myself fit. Nerds like me need all the encouragement we can get to go outside.

If you’re a fellow Hamiltonian Pokémon trainer, do please share the good spots you’ve found!

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Hilarious Misconceptions about New Zealand

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Over the years I’ve heard some pretty funny things about New Zealand. A worrying amount of these things were said in all seriousness. By adults.

The following list of Common Misconceptions about New Zealand comes from www.not-australia.co.nz. If you’ve got anything to add to it, leave a comment below.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #1: NEW ZEALAND IS PART OF AUSTRALIA

Of all the misconceptions about New Zealand, this is the most common. Australia and New Zealand are, in fact, two completely separate countries. Saying that New Zealand is part of Australia is like saying that Canada is part of the United States of America. It’s just wrong. Not to mention New Zealanders get rather tetchy about it.

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NEW ZEALAND MISCONCEPTION #2: AUCKLAND HAS A “HARBOUR BRIDGE” THAT LINKS IT TO SYDNEY

As stated above, New Zealand and Australia are separate countries. How separate? Two thousand effing kilometres of effing salt…

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Having a (Jane Austen) Ball in Hamilton

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that man dressed in Regency clothing is sure to make a woman swoon.

Well it works for me anyhow.

Jane Austen Regency Costume Ball 2This is one of the reasons I was so excited about attending Dance Folkus’ Jane Austen Ball last weekend, which took place in Matangi Hall in Hamilton. (See – things do happen in Hamilton!) Seeing my boyfriend dressed in the manner of Mr Darcy was, for me, a dream come true. By the end of the evening I was almost literally swooning, though this had more to do with the tightness of my own costume than the effect of his!

Jane Austen Regency Ball Costume 3The ball itself was wonderful. A $30 ticket got you an afternoon of Regency dance lessons, a beautifully decorated hall, a Regency band, a light supper and drinks all evening. Everyone was dressed up and, though many of us often forgot the dance steps, great…

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A New Zealander’s View of Britain

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Can’t believe it’s been two years since I was last in Europe. So much has changed since then.

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Hello, everyone! I just got back from my Grand Tour of Europe, so I’ve finally got time to write some new posts.

As you may know, I spent the last three months travelling with my Kiwi boyfriend, starting in my native Britain. In the last post I wrote before leaving New Zealand, (Back to Blighty, or Poms Away Up Top,) I said I was nervous about returning to England. Basically, I was worried that my boyfriend, spoiled by growing up amongst New Zealand’s spectacular nature, would think that my home was a bit rubbish.

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Well I’m glad to say he didn’t.

I actually had a great time seeing Britain through the eyes of a New Zealander, so let’s invert the usual format.

Instead of a British immigrant’s view of New Zealand, let’s investigate a New Zealander’s view of Britain.

So here, in no particular order, are some…

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