Top 10 English Foods an Expat Misses

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Ask any expat in any country to list what they miss about home, they’re guaranteed to include items of food. While British immigrants to New Zealand are luckier than most (in that New Zealand cuisine is practically the same as British cuisine,) there are many English foods I miss.

10) Hobnobs

The first time my nana visited us, after our first Christmas in New Zealand, I begged her to bring Hobnobs and Hovis Digestives. (She did, along with a tray of Cadbury Creme Eggs that caused a great stir at customs, even though Creme Eggs are readily available in New Zealand. At the time we joked that Union Flagthey probably looked like grenades in the x-ray machine, although, in retrospect, they probably looked like real eggs, which New Zealand customs would find far more frightening.) You can actually get Hobnobs and Digestives in New Zealand, if you can find a speciality…

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Taitua Arboretum (with an international forestry expert!)

Chinese Archway, Taitua Arboretum, Hamilton, New Zealand

It’s a beautiful day in Hamilton. The sun’s shining with all the warmth of summer. What a wonderful day to stroll around Taitua Arboretum!

Pity we went yesterday when the weather wasn’t so good.

“Not a sky in the clouds,” a friend of mine said.

Ah well. We still enjoyed it.

FlowersTaitua Arboretum is a few minute’s drive out of Hamilton, towards Raglan. It’s free to enter and contains many hundreds of species of trees, both indigenous and exotic.

Now it just so happens that my partner’s uncle, who’s in New Zealand for a visit and was with us yesterday, is an international forestry expert. So what did Dr Alexander Hinrichs think of Taitua Arboretum?

“It’s pretty nice,” he said as we set out along the main track, umbrellas in hand.

The first place of note we came to was a ring of redwood trees, towering over us as one would expect redwoods to do. Inside the ring would be a nice place for a picnic on a more clement day.

Colourful TreeOn we went, the path carpeted with chestnuts. We were accompanied on our walk by a number of chickens. It was rather amusing to see them sheltering under a fir tree when the rain became too heavy. Even the ducks on the various ponds we passed were seeking shelter.

“It’s a diverse collection,” our international forestry expert commented. “Obviously not planted with any scientific thought, but it’s interesting. I like it.”

According to the leaflet we collected at the entrance, Taitua Arboretum was developed by a husband and wife who sourced many of the trees during their world travels.

It’s a good walk. Not as beautiful as the Hamilton Gardens, but different. Fewer people. More like a bush walk. There are 2.3 kilometres of walking tracks and bridges, according to the leaflet, and it seems a popular place for people to take their dogs.

SculptureThe bamboo tunnel was cool. There was a Chinese archway, a tranquil pond and an intriguing sculpture…

I became rather excited when I saw a stone circle highlighted on the map, but, unfortunately, my excitement was somewhat misguided. (Does anyone know of any properly nice stone circles in New Zealand? Being a British history nerd I rather miss them. Obviously, there won’t be any ancient ones, as New Zealand wasn’t even inhabited by humans in the Neolithic, but maybe a modern enthusiast has built a “fake” one somewhere?)

There was also a classical ruin in the arboretum – fake, of course, but fun. I’m all for building follies – mock ruins of ancient buildings, such as Greek temples or medieval castles. I want to have one in my own garden one day, (though it will probably have to be a small one.) The Taitua ruin isn’t amazing or anything, but it’s a nice idea and I wouldn’t mind having a picnic there one day.

Classical Temple Folly, Taitua Arboretum, Hamilton, New Zealand

We’re all quite keen to go back to Taitua Arboretum on a sunny day. I don’t know if it’s worth travelling to Hamilton solely to visit it, but if you’re in Hamilton anyway then definitely go. You could combine it with a trip to Hamilton Zoo or the breathtaking Bridal Veil Falls.

The Cult of New Zealand Infallible – healthy patriotism or sinister brainwashing?

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Here’s a story from when I first moved to New Zealand. I’m interested to know what people think about it. Am I making something out of nothing, or is it representative of an underlying issue in Kiwi culture?

First of all, let me say that I love New Zealand. I love living here; I want to grow old here. I genuinely believe that it’s one of the best countries in the world in which to live.

Last week, I had an article published on the New Zealand news site Stuff:

‘Bring a Plate’: Settling into life in New Zealand

In it, I share some of the experiences I had moving to New Zealand at the age of ten, in (what I hope comes across as) a light-heartedly humorous manner. I also state that fifteen years on, as I never lost my English accent, I’m still seen as an outsider and, as such, can’t say a single bad thing about New Zealand – even in jest – without being called a whinging pom and told to go home.

I went on to say that while New Zealand has its problems, every country has its problems, and, comparatively, New Zealand has it pretty damn good.

This sparked a rather interesting debate in the comments section.

New Zealand FlagYou see, there are some New Zealanders who are so fiercely patriotic that they’re blind to New Zealand’s faults, and fall upon anyone who criticises any aspect of their country like a pack of angry wolves. These are the New Zealanders who have been fully brainwashed and indoctrinated into the Cult of New Zealand Infallible. The New Zealanders who comment with over the top smugness on the steady stream of articles aimed at massaging the New Zealand ego. (More on that later.)

And there are some New Zealanders who, possibly in an act of rebellion against the Cult, fall like a pack of angry wolves upon anyone who dares to suggest that New Zealand can actually be quite a nice place to live in.

(I’ve had my fair share of both commenting on this blog, but I usually the delete ones that stoop to nasty personal attacks, because fuck ’em. Don’t worry – most of the comments and private messages I get are from lovely people saying lovely things.)

Now here’s where my story comes in.

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When I first arrived in New Zealand, I was placed in a combined Year Five and Six class at the local primary school. I remember having to learn all the songs the class was regularly made to sing.

The New Zealand national anthem was sung at the start of every assembly, which I found strange because, at my primary school in England, we’d never sung the English national anthem. I didn’t even know how to sing it.

I found the songs we sang in class even stranger.

Did anyone else sing these songs at primary school? Do you remember them? Songs like this one:

Christmas on the beach

Christmas on the beach

Pack your picnic hamper up, we’re going to have a feeeast

Underneath the huuuge pohutukawa tree

Chriiistmas on the beeeach…

And this one:

New Zealand is cool, man

New Zealand is choice

New Zealand is the place to be for all the girls and boys…

And so on.

A lot of songs about how wonderful life in New Zealand is. Songs that drill into the heads of the nation’s children just how lucky they are to live in the best country on God’s earth.

Sounds almost sinister when you put it like that, doesn’t it?

At my primary school in England, we never sang songs about how lucky we were to live in England.

(If you went to an English primary school and you did actually sing songs like that, tell me in the comments section below. I’m genuinely interested. Maybe you sang Jerusalem at assembly or something? Bear in mind that I didn’t go to a posh school. I’ll also take this opportunity to pre-empt any “that’s because England’s so shite everyone already knows they’re not lucky to live there” jokes.)

But it’s not just primary schools. There’s always stuff in the New Zealand news about how great New Zealand is. You get lots of adverts that rely on stroking the Kiwi ego to sell you stuff. Whenever there’s an interview with, say, a big American actor, there’ll be questions like, “Have you ever been to New Zealand? It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” And if they awkwardly reply, “Yeah, I’ve heard it’s beautiful,” there’ll be a whopping, bold headline:

BIG AMERICAN ACTOR SAYS NEW ZEALAND IS BEAUTIFUL

We’re always being told we don’t know how lucky we are to live in New Zealand.

Why? Does New Zealand have some sort of massive inferiority complex? Do we have to continuously pat each other on back, because if we don’t we’ll just look at the rest of the world and go, “Oh, we’re so small, what’s the point in even trying to compete on the world stage?” We’re lucky the rest of the world even notices our existence sometimes. We’re tucked so far into the bottom corner of other countries’ world maps that heaps of them miss New Zealand out entirely.

Seriously. There’s a whole website dedicated to it. Very funny.

So, anyway, here’s my question: are those songs my classmates and I were made to sing at primary school a cynical attempt at cultural brainwashing? At indoctrinating Kiwi kids into the Cult of New Zealand Infallible? At teaching them to believe that New Zealand is a perfect country and we don’t need to question anything about it? We don’t need to improve things? We’re all really happy here and our chocolate ration has definitely gone up compared to last year?

Or are they nice, little songs about the importance of valuing what we have? Life is good. Relax. Be what you want to be.

That’s the Kiwi way.

Why New Zealand Made Me Write

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I’ve nearly finished my novel. (For real this time.) And I’m terrified. This world and these characters have been consuming my life for nearly two decades. (I’m only twenty-four.) They’ve been my reason for living – my only reason until I met Tim. But the novel might never have happened if my family hadn’t moved to New Zealand.

When I was a little kid, living in England, I never dreamed of being a writer. My parents were teachers, so I wanted to be a teacher. I went to dance lessons, so I wanted to be a ballerina. I went to violin lessons, so I wanted to be Vanessa-Mae. Then, when I was six, my nana gave a notebook. It was a very ordinary-looking notebook, but it had a hardcover. That made all the difference.

Books with hardcovers, my six-year-old brain thought, are for Very Special Stories. So I sat down…

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Shipping Your Car to New Zealand: A Step by Step Breakdown

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(This is a guest post by Jenna Oppenheimer.)

The need for international vehicle transport is intimidating for anyone unfamiliar with the process. There are so many details that mustn’t be ignored and trying to follow a foreign import policy can be extremely confusing. However, if you allow professional transporters to manage the overseas shipping process, the entire experience will be much less stressful and demanding. In fact, it is practically impossible to import a vehicle into New Zealand any other way. Fortunately, auto shipping services are cost effective and advantageous.

TruckAnyone can take advantage of overseas transport services to get a vehicle from the United States to New Zealand. What restricts some individuals from gaining permission for their automobiles to enter the country is the lack of compliance with the set import policies. A transporter is familiar of these policies. Even with the knowledge the transport company holds, calling the Embassy of New Zealand is highly suggested. The laws for import are in constant risk of change. You must be in compliance with the most recent policy in place.

If you need help with shipping your car overseas, you can contact A-1 Auto Transport International to help you throughout the process.

Step One: Schedule Your Transport and Call the Embassy

phone-293995_960_720Schedule your transport with a reputable international shipping company at least two months in advance. Then, call the Embassy for the set of laws regarding vehicle importation. There are several other matters that you must remain in control of too, if you wish to meet the strict deadlines you’re given during the preparation process. Your transport company will help you meet the import policy requirements and even go as far as collecting the pertinent proof needed for Customs’ approval.

Step Two: Collecting Proof for Customs

Collecting proof for Customs is often time consuming. With this being said, New Zealand happens to be one of the most easygoing countries when it comes to vehicle importation. There are hardly any restrictions set on the vehicles allowed to enter the country and it just so happens that New Zealand is one of the very few countries that remain duty-free. The only thing truly required aside from the standard documentation is proof that the vehicle passed the NZTA inspection. Below, are some of the forms you will need to present to Customs.

  • Vehicle Title and Registration
  • Proof of Insurance
  • License and Passport
  • Original Purchasing Invoice
  • Bill of Lading
  • An Accurate Odometer Reading
  • Visa or Work Permit

Step Three: Organize and Ready the Vehicle for Overseas Transport

fuel-meter-311685_960_720The transport company will always help you with the process of shipping, yet there are a few things they need you to be responsible for. The tasks requested by the transport company are to ensure the safety of the vehicle and those caring for it while it makes its way to its new home in New Zealand. The prepping should only take a day or so at most. The automobile will need to be cleaned inside and out. All fluids and tires should be topped off, except for the fuel. The gas tank should read no more than ¼ full. Alarm systems should be disabled and if asked, the battery should also be disengaged.

It is also highly suggested and even sometimes obligatory that a personal inspection is done before transport. Pictures of the vehicle should be taken and any damages the vehicle suffers from should be noted. This will help with your final inspection after the vehicle’s arrival in New Zealand so that you can assure that no further damages were attained during its international travels.

Step Four: The Drop Off and Pick Up

car-312338_960_720When all facets of the auto import policy have been addressed for the Customs office to give their certification of approval and the car has been prepped for transport, the vehicle is ready to take off. Drop the vehicle off at the designated terminal or port if you didn’t purchase door to door services. Make sure you arrive on schedule.

As the automobile makes its way towards New Zealand borders, it can be witnessed through real-time satellite tracking services. These services are usually free of charge and very beneficial. It is crucial that you are at the port the day that the vehicle is due to arrive. Tracking services will help you monitor the vehicle’s progression during the shipping process so that you are more aware of its arrival, although an auto transport is good at sending out reminders and alerts.

crate-310787_960_720When you pick your vehicle up from port, you should give it a quick yet thorough inspection. Make sure that there are no new markings that could have been due to the shipping process. If you see anything of concern, inform the transport company in case it is necessary to file an insurance claim.

Jenna Oppenheimer, a native to Florida, USA, calls the paradise of Costa Rica home. She enjoys the natural beauty of her present country and spends much of her time surfing in the ocean, hiking in the mountains, or writing about her travel experiences. She is 22 years old and previously attended Florida Atlantic University where she studied for a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology.

Jazzing It Up for Easter

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Every Easter since 1963, the sunny city of Tauranga has hosted New Zealand’s National Jazz Festival. My parents live in Tauranga, so, of course, they always go. This year, I went with them.

Despite the bad weather warnings, Easter 2016 was scorching. There were lots of ladies in absolutely lovely dresses! Everyone was having a great time, drinking cold beers and sparkling wines, and dancing to the various different saxophones.

At the Tauranga Jazz Festival 2016

Five stages were set up at intervals along the Strand, Tauranga’s main street of bars and restaurants. It overlooks the harbourfront, where there’s a fantastic playground for kids. This weekend, there were a few fairground rides as well. Unfortunately, I was too big for the bouncy castle!

It cost a gold coin to enter. My family headed for our favourite pub, Brew, passing this quirky pop-up bar along the way…

At the Tauranga Jazz Festival 2016

It was quite crowded. Well of course it was. The Jazz Festival gets over 60,000 people attending now. (It takes place over a few days in a few different locations.) The atmosphere was great. I mean loud music and crowds aren’t necessarily my thing, but it was okay sitting at the edge of things with a nice glass of bubbly.

So if you’re coming to New Zealand and you find yourself in the Bay of Plenty area around Easter, head to Tauranga. There’s lots to do round there anyway. Check out my 10 Free Things to Do around Tauranga article for inspiration.

A Tortoise Hood Ornament on a Vintage Car

And, oh yeah, there were vintage cars there as well. I thought this was quite sweet.

Auckland to Christchurch by Campervan

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POMS AWAY!

A friend of mine is on an epic journey. He’s just arrived in New Zealand from Europe. He’s picked up a campervan hire in Auckland and he’s taking it all the way down to Christchurch. Naturally he asked me for advice: where should he stop along the way? I was only too happy to help.

1) The Waitakere Ranges Regional Park

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I often tell people the first place you should go in New Zealand (if you’ve landed in Auckland) is the Arataki Visitor Centre. It’s a great place to learn about New Zealand, especially if you’re interested in bush walks – an integral part of the New Zealand experience. The Arataki Visitor Centre is located in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, just half an hour’s drive west of the centre of Auckland City. It provides easy access to a multitude of bush walks, short and long; relaxing and…

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