Why Living in Tauranga Ruins You for Life

I live in Tauranga, New Zealand. But not for much longer. The time has come to fly the nest.

To Hamilton.

Laugh all you want. Hamilton’s a nice place. (I’ve written about it here – fingers crossed I won’t have to eat my words!) But it’s not as nice as Tauranga.

Living in Tauranga has ruined me for anywhere else.

Just yesterday, we visited our local beach and took a few pictures.

Mount Beach 2Tauranga Rocks 4Pilot Bay

Yes, that’s our local beach. That’s Mount Maunganui, known locally as the Mount. Well, actually, as the Mount is situated at the end of a very narrow peninsula that has a beach on either side, that’s two of our many local beaches. And if you walk around the base of the Mount, you’ll find many more miniature beaches and so be able to claim your own private beach. God, I love living in Tauranga.

Mount Bench 2

Tauranga is the perfect place for a holiday. In fact, my family came here for a holiday about ten years ago. I never imagined we’d end up living here.

Mount Maunganui Beachside Holiday ParkThere’s a holiday park right at the foot of the Mount. (That’s it in the photograph.) If you ever hire a campervan in New Zealand, you should totally take it there.

There are hot pools right next-door. Locals get a discount, (you just have to take in a bill or something to prove you live in Tauranga,) but so do patrons of the holiday park.

Also, just across the road is a very nice ice cream parlour called Copenhagen Cones. This place even does baby cones for $1 – why, oh why can’t ALL ice cream parlours do this?

Proud TuiYesterday, we took advantage of the glorious spring weather to walk around the base of the Mount. The sun was really hot, but the Mount base track is partly shaded and you get a cooling breeze off the sea. The pohutukawa trees on both sides of the track were teeming with tuis showing off to attract mates. In summer, the track is resplendent with the Christmas-red blooms of the pohutukawa.

I found a wonderful place for a picnic.

Mount Bench

And I observed a native Kiwi in its natural habitat.

Native Kiwi

It was a good day.

Mount Base Track


Why New Zealand’s Got the Best Food in the World

I’ve been to France. I’ve been to Italy. I still think New Zealand’s got the best food in the world. Yes, it’s largely descended from the cuisine brought over by British settlers, but don’t let that cloud your judgement. It combines the most exquisite tastes of Europe, Asia and the Pacific with fresh Kiwi ingredients and fresh Kiwi innovation.

When you’re travelling around New Zealand, you’ll be astounded by the number cafés there are – and the number of cafés that serve quality, delicious food. You always hear about New Zealand’s ‘booming’ café culture, but it wasn’t until I visited Europe that I realised just how good New Zealand’s cafés are. If you want nice food of a lunchtime in a nice environment, but you don’t want to enter a proper restaurant, New Zealand has far more options than Europe does.

New Zealand’s famous for having great coffee, but it also has a great tea culture. There are certain places, such as Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty, where it is all but impossible to find a bad café. The quality of restaurants varies more. New Zealand does not have any Michelin stars, but it sure deserves some. Perhaps the fact that it doesn’t have any is a good thing – it means that you can experience main meals at New Zealand’s finest restaurants for $35 – $45. That’s like ₤20.


Of course, not all New Zealand food is classy. Iconic examples of Kiwi cuisine include:

  • the pie, (usually hand-sized, bought in a scorching plastic wrapper from a warmer in a dairy*, for a sum so small you’re better off not wondering what’s in it)
  • the chocolate fish, (a sickly, fish-shaped marshmallow in a chocolate shell)
  • Hokey Pokey ice-cream, (which is ice-cream with chunks of honeycomb toffee in it)
  • L&P, (or Lemon & Paeroa, a soft drink originally from the town of Paeroa that’s far nicer than your usual lemonade – when you’re in New Zealand, always choose it over Sprite if you can)
  • Marmite, (which, I’m told, is distinctly different from the British Marmite you get everywhere else in the world)
  • the kumara, (a kind of sweet potato introduce to New Zealand by the Maori)
  • the sausage sizzle, (which takes the cheapest, dodgiest sausages and makes them irresistible, usually to raise money for something)
  • pavlova, (a meringue-based dessert definitely not invented by the Australians)
  • fish and chips, (usually better than British fish and chips, due to the quality and freshness of the fish)


The sea plays a big part in the food of New Zealand. New Zealand is, after all, completely surrounded by it. Fresh seafood is easy to come by and New Zealand is famous for oysters, crayfish and whitebait fritters. But if, like me, you’re not that into seafood, (apart from fish and chips,) New Zealand is also famous for beef and lamb. A good lamb roast with mint sauce is a staple of the Kiwi family table. Then there’s the barbecue. It’s just not summer in New Zealand without the smell of a barbecue somewhere in the neighbourhood. Steak hissing as the onions caramelise, butter melting on the barbecued cobs of corn…

As well as producing the world’s best meat and seafood, New Zealand makes some pretty good wines. My parents recently spent their 25th wedding anniversary on Waiheke, an island off the coast of Auckland famous for its vineyards. There, they tasted wine that, in a blind tasting in France, had been judged better than Château Lafite.

To go with the wine, New Zealand also makes some pretty good cheeses, olive oils and avocado oils. But what makes New Zealand food the best in the world is not its imitation of European cuisine, it’s its variety – its fusion of world cuisine. New Zealand is a country of immigrants, a great many of which are Asian.


Asian food is abundant, especially in Auckland, and has greatly influenced the everyday and restaurant food of New Zealand. Sushi bars are everywhere. If you want a cheap, healthy, fresh and tasty lunch in New Zealand, is sushi is your best bet. If want a cheap dinner out, Asian restaurants offer huge plates of yummy food for $10 – $20. Thai restaurants are common, along with Indian and Chinese takeaways, but you also get lots of Japanese, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Korean places. The favoured curry in New Zealand is Butter Chicken.

But Kiwi cuisine doesn’t owe everything to its smorgasbord of Asian and European immigrants. New Zealand’s native inhabitants, the Maori, have their own methods of cooking that are practised to this day, and not just for tourists. The traditional hangi involves burying meat and vegetables in a pit with heated stones until they’re cooked. I’ve tried food done like this and it was so succulent. I’ve also tried (in Rotorua) corn-on-the-cob cooked in a natural volcanic hot pool – how cool is that?

A few months ago, I went to the Seriously Good Food Show, an expo in Tauranga that showcased some seriously good New Zealand produce. New Zealand may be a small country, but the food it produces can compete with and surpass the best from around the world.


* In New Zealand, as well as being a type of farm, a dairy is a convenience store – probably because it sells milk.

New Zealand’s New Flag?

Should New Zealand change its flag? This question (and the supplementary question ‘if so, what to?’) is annoying. It’s dividing the country and will end up costing us a lot of money. And I don’t even know what side I’m on!

Here are the main arguments for changing the flag:

  • It looks too much like Australia’s flag.
  • It represents a New Zealand that no longer exists, i.e. a child clinging to the skirts of Mother England.
  • It’s boring.

Here are the main arguments against changing the flag:

  • It would cause a lot of hassle.
  • There aren’t any great designs for a new one.
  • New Zealand’s war veterans, who fought proudly under the current flag, would take it as a giant middle finger.

The flag of Great Britain, also known as the Union Flag (because it’s only the Union Jack if it’s being flown at sea)

I’m English, so maybe I’m not the best person to be sticking my oar in, but I’ve lived in New Zealand since I was a kid, and I plan grow old here. At first, I was completely against changing the flag. Here’s why:

When I was ten years old, I was dragged kicking and screaming to the other side of the world. I hated being so far away from home, in a strange country where people went around barefoot and worshipped a sport I didn’t like, so, for me, the current New Zealand flag was a great comfort. I was in the furthest country in the world away from England, but the flag reminded me that my new country still had close ties to England. It was a home away from home.


The flag of New Zealand (flying in the wrong direction)

Of course, I realised this reasoning was entirely selfish. If I was a young New Zealander, I thought, I probably would want a new flag. I would want a flag that represented the country as it is now. New Zealand is an independent nation. It doesn’t exist in England’s shadow.

Or Australia’s, for that matter.

New Zealand is still part of the Commonwealth, but so’s Canada, and Canada has an awesome Union Flagless flag that no one ever mistakes for any other country’s. Why can’t we have a flag like Canada’s?


But I don’t want this flag. Yes, it’s kind of like Canada’s in that it boasts a rather striking piece of foliage, but a silver fern on a black background is the symbol of the All Blacks. A country’s flag should not just copy the symbol of its favourite sports team. Come on, New Zealand, you have an identity outside of rugby!

I quite like John Oliver’s flag ideas. Here’s my contribution:


What do you think?

Oh, come on, it’s no worse than any of the other proposed flags.

European Stereotypes – Confirmed or Busted?

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 I honestly expected to find that the whole German sausage thing was exaggerated. It isn’t exaggerated. There were sausage stands EVERYWHERE. Every restaurant had many types of sausage. We were served pea soup with a big, pink sausage in it. It was difficult to find a snack that wasn’t sausage-based. There were even several instances of marzipan made to look exactly like sausages. As if there weren’t enough actual sausages in the vicinity. This stereotype is definitely confirmed.

European Stereotype #3:

Italians are a little too into thievery – BUSTED!

colosseumEveryone we met, in every country except Italy, upon enquiring about our itinerary, warned us about Italy. “Don’t keep your wallet in your pocket,” they all said. “And don’t fall asleep on any trains,” some added. Apparently, Italy was swarming with thieves and gypsies and thieving gypsies. Except it wasn’t. We spent a week there and, despite being on high-alert due to paranoia, we didn’t see a single suspicious character anywhere. So either all these Italian thieves are very good, or this stereotype has been a tad exaggerated.

European Stereotype #4:

English food is bad – (sadly) CONFIRMED!

A medieval monk's dinner at Rufford Abbey. With one addition. I didn't put it there.

A medieval monk’s dinner at Rufford Abbey… with one addition… I didn’t put it there.

I was born in England and I’ve grown up with very good food, (thanks to my mum, who’s both English and a great cook,) so I was keen show my New Zealand-born boyfriend that English food isn’t actually that bad – it’s just a stereotype. Unfortunately, the two relatives we stayed with in England are both single males, so not the best examples food-wise. Worse, one of those males is the sort of old, set-in-their-ways Northerner who regards spaghetti bolognese as too foreign. The food we experienced in England, therefore, included pie and chips, egg and chips, spam and chips, Chinese takeaway and, of course, fish and chips. Not that fish and chips is bad, it’s just boring**. Even if it is covered in brown sauce.

“You have to have brown sauce,” my uncle told my boyfriend. “You’re in England.”

“What is brown sauce?” my boyfriend asked. “I mean… what’s in it?”

My uncle thought for a moment before offering, “Brown?”

Fish and chips is a popular meal in New Zealand too, but it tends to be better in New Zealand – tastier, fresher fish.

European Stereotype #5:

Germans have no sense of humour – BUSTED!

Germany: the only country in the world where you can take the Wank train to the top of Mount Wank.

Germany: the only country in the world where you can take the Wank train to the top of Mount Wank.

On our first night in Germany, the Germans we were staying with asked us if we liked Monty Python. We proceeded to watch Life of Brian in German. (I don’t understand German, but I know Life of Brian word-for-word.) In case you’re wondering how it translates: Schwanzus… Longus***.

European Stereotype #6:

The French are obsessed with cheese – (joyously) CONFIRMED!

The French love their cheese. I love my cheese. Being in France led me to overdose on cheese. I regret nothing.

The cheese aisle at a French supermarket. That's a quarter of it. And all so cheap!

The cheese aisle at a French supermarket. That’s a quarter of it. And all so cheap!

European Stereotype #7:

Belgium’s mainly beer and chocolate – CONFIRMED!

Bruges... it's like a f*****g fairytale or something.

Bruges… it’s like a f*****g fairytale or something.

As a country, Belgium is the butt of many jokes. Many people asked us, in all seriousness, why we would bother going there. Why? What – the best beer and chocolate in the world isn’t a good enough reason? Not to mention the chips and waffles! Well, okay, we went because In Bruges is one of our favourite films and Bruges looked awesome. (Bruges is in Belgium.) And it was awesome, apart from the fact that all the shops sold the same things. Bruges was like an endless Scooby-Doo corridor, but instead of plant-clock-plant-clock it was beer-chocolate-beer-chocolate-Flemish tapestries-chocolate-beer. We even found an antiques shop that also sold beer. (Yesterdays World, if you’re ever in Bruges – highly recommended.)

European Stereotype #8:

The English are reserved – CONFIRMED!

unionflagEven though my boyfriend found people in England to be far friendlier than international stereotyping had led him to believe****, they were still noticeably stiffer than people in New Zealand. I like to think that my years in New Zealand have somewhat softened my upper lip, but New Zealand is a descendant of England, and still reserved compared to, say, France. In fact, I didn’t realise just how reserved I was until we went to France and encountered the bisou. Or bisous – three of them in the Provence! I offered a certain teenage boy I’d just met my hand for a cordial shake. He ignored it and went straight in for a kiss.

“Oh, thank y-” I began to say, but was cut off by another kiss on my other cheek. “Oh, I see, we’re doing this, are-” And a third kiss. When he finally pulled away, I was like, “Oh, umm, right, jolly good.”

I’ve never felt more English in my life.

European Stereotype #9:

The French are rude – BUSTED!

IMGP1941We didn’t encounter any rude French people – not even in Paris. Everyone seemed very friendly and hospitable, even when we were butchering their language and being ignorant tourists. Maybe the whole rude French thing arose because French people are generally less reserved than the people who like to see them as rude?

European Stereotype #10:

German trains are always on time – BUSTED!

A clever chocolate advertisement in a German train station

A clever chocolate advertisement in a German train station

This is a LIE! You’d think such a well-oiled race of competent engineers could get their trains to run on time, but practically every train we caught was late. There were delays all over the place, and it wasn’t just a case of us exaggerating the bad. Ask any German. Tell a German this stereotype exists and they will laugh. Bitterly.

But the French trains! The French trains were all perfectly on time – often to the second! What is this alternate dimension we’ve wandered into? Opposite world?

There is one aspect of Germany that lived up to the efficiency stereotype. Have you ever heard of Ritter Sport? (That’s the sound of German expats salivating the world over.) It’s a brand of seriously nice chocolate, the motto of which is ‘Quadratisch. Praktisch. Gut.’ In English, ‘Square. Practical. Good.’ Sounds delicious. (Sarcasm aside, yes, it is.) And get this – it’s square and practical because it was designed to fit perfectly into the pocket of an army uniform. Now that’s efficient chocolate.

European Stereotype #11:

French and Italian drivers are crazy – CONFIRMED!

Ever seen an intersection packed with cars at all different angles, none of them giving an inch, all of them tooting angrily like it will possibly help? I hadn’t until I visited Continental Europe. I was aware of the stereotype, but I was still shocked when encountering it. I was shocked by the fact that Parisians deliberately leave their handbrakes off when they park, to allow other drivers to nudge their cars out of the way. I was shocked by Italian drivers pausing their cars casually on the road to fill up with petrol.

“Never take your car to Paris,” a German living near the French border said to me.

“Well, you shouldn’t take your car to any city. You get caught in traffic everywhere,” I said.

“No, I mean never take your car to Paris because it will get dented.”

It's easy not caring about time in Italy...

It’s easy not caring about time in Italy…

We didn’t experience many French or Italian roads, as we were travelling by train everywhere, but the one time we had to get a bus in Italy… well…

“Oh no,” I said, looking at the bus stop timetable. “We’ve missed it.”

“You haven’t missed it,” said an Austrian teacher, waiting to board the bus with his Classical Studies class. “Have you got your tickets?”

“We were just going to buy them on board,” my boyfriend said.

“You can’t buy them on board,” said the teacher. “You have to buy them from a tabacchi shop.”

There was a tabacchi shop on the other side of the road and a little way down, but the road was busy and it would take us ages to cross. There was no way we’d make it to the tabacchi, purchase the tickets without speaking Italian, and return to the bus stop before the bus arrived.

“Just go and buy them,” said the teacher. “This is Italy. You’ll be fine.”

In the end, we had time to make it to the tabacchi, purchase the tickets without speaking Italian, return to the bus stop, chat to the Austrian Classical Studies students, purchase an ice-cream and eat it before the bus arrived.

European Stereotype #12:

The English are obsessed with tea – CONFIRMED!


Just casually in the middle of Nottingham…

I already knew this one. Whenever you enter an English person’s home, tea is the first thing you’re offered, and it gets kind of awkward if you refuse. New Zealand has inherited England’s tea culture, but I didn’t realise quite how exclusive that culture is. On our entire European journey, we only stayed in one hotel that had a kettle and teabags in the room, and that was the hotel we stayed in for one night at Gatwick Airport, before we flew to Germany. (When checking out various hotel reviews online, I found the ones bemoaning the lack of tea-making facilities were invariable written by English people.)

In cafes all over Continental Europe, I asked for cups of tea. First of all, they were shocked I wanted tea, not coffee. Second, they were shocked I wanted black tea. Third, they were shocked I wanted black tea with milk. Fourth, they were shocked I wanted black tea with milk and no sugar. Usually, the closest I got to my idea of a proper cup of tea was Darjeeling with a little plastic pot of coffee cream.

European Stereotype #13:

In France, wine is cheaper than water – CONFIRMED!

Walks along the Seine...

Walks along the Seine…

I honestly thought this one was exaggerated. It’s not. It’s actually quite hard to stay hydrated in France.

If you go into a restaurant in New Zealand, you’ll automatically be given complimentary glasses of water. This isn’t the case in Europe. If you go into a restaurant in France and ask for water, you get given a strange look. The waiter begrudgingly brings some water and, later, when you get the bill, you discover it cost you five Euros. The next time, you specifically ask the waiter for tap water, only to be told that you can’t have tap water.

Now, how can a bottle of water be five Euros and a bottle of wine be four? There were even two-Euro bottles of wine in the supermarkets. And it was drinkable wine. In New Zealand, the cheapest bottle of supermarket wine is about seven dollars. The cheapest bottle of drinkable supermarket wine is about nine dollars. Nine dollars is about five-and-a-half Euros.

Yeah, alcohol is expensive in New Zealand. But at least Kiwis know how to make tea. Oh, and you don’t have to pay to use the public toilets here.

* Sausage covered in curry sauce. A perfectly acceptable meal.

** My boyfriend’s words, not mine. I am English and therefore believe the occasional meal of fish and chips to be the ambrosia of the proles. I also like chip butties.

*** The German version of Biggus Dickus: Schwanzus (tail, slang for penis) Longus (long).

**** We were in the North of England, not London, so maybe that had something to do with it?

Wanna bust some New Zealand stereotypes? Check out last week’s article, That’s in Australia, Right?

(Oh, that’s just reminded me: New Zealand isn’t the only country that’s constantly being mistaken for Australia. When we were in Austria, we kept seeing postcards and hats and things that said, ‘No kangaroos in Austria!’ We presumed it was for the benefit of American tourists.)

Instead, Austria has accordion-playing unicorns.

Instead, Austria has accordion-playing unicorns.