Hilarious Misconceptions about New Zealand

Not Australia

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.



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.



As stated above, New Zealand and Australia are separate countries. How separate? Two thousand effing kilometres of effing salt water – that’s how separate! Would you like to build a bridge that’s two thousand kilometres long? Yes, Sydney has a harbour bridge. Yes, Auckland has one too. No, they do not join up.



No, you’re thinking of Australia again. New Zealand has absolutely no dangerous animals. Unless you count goats as dangerous. And maybe you should. I saw someone gored by a goat once, and that was in New Zealand. New Zealand did used to have a giant, man-eating eagle, but it went extinct centuries ago.



Let me put it this way: I live in New Zealand. I don’t know any farmers.



While New Zealanders like to see themselves as honest, unpretentious nature-lovers, New Zealand is still part of the Western world, and just as slave to its vices as any other First World country. People eat fast food, have flat screen televisions, and wrap their Christmas presents in shiny paper. (For some reason, my English grandmother thought that wrapping paper wouldn’t be available in New Zealand.) Rest assured that New Zealand’s cities are just as much rubbish-strewn concrete jungles as yours.



You couldn’t be reading this article if it wasn’t. While Internet access may be more expensive in New Zealand, as there are fewer people here to purchase it, it’s definitely present. For those New Zealanders that complain about how slow our Internet is: I’ve recently travelled through Britain and Europe, and their Internet is just as bad. So there you go.



This common misconception is New Zealand’s own fault. The “100% pure” campaign is stupid. New Zealand has so many great things it can advertise to tourists, so why say something that isn’t true? Tourists get the impression that New Zealand is somewhere you can, for example, frolic through pristine nature, drinking from clear, fresh streams as you go. The truth is you should NEVER drink directly from a stream in New Zealand. Intensive dairy farming has produced a national water pollution problem.

New Zealand simply isn’t the clean, green utopia that people think it is. It often seems that way because we have such a small population, but, per capita, our environmental record actually isn’t very impressive.



New Zealand, by area, is bigger than Great Britain, and it has a population of about four and a half million. Not everyone knows each other. They do say, however, that whereas the rest of the world has about six degrees of separation, New Zealand only has two. Still, New Zealand isn’t a village. You’d be silly to think, as many tourists do, that you’d be able to see the whole country in a week or two. That’s something to consider if you hire a car or campervan in New Zealand.



Again: Australia. The only kangaroos New Zealand has are in zoos. Our national animal is the kiwi. (Which can’t fly.)



No, now you’re confusing us with Germany! Kidding. Back in the days of Maori tribal warfare, cannibalism did take place, but New Zealand isn’t like Papua New Guinea or some lost island in the Pacific. There aren’t any “savage” tribes living deep in the bush, waiting to kidnap the unwary tourist and put them in the pot. New Zealand is a thoroughly modernised country.



New Zealand is not a medieval fantasy land! Nor is it “somewhere near Iceland”. (Maybe the people who think that are confusing New Zealand with Newfoundland?) We do not have any Vikings, nor did we back when the Vikings were out “viking”. Although it would be cool to find some archaeology suggesting that Vikings had sailed this far…



The primary language of New Zealand is English. It may be spoken in a lazy, mumbling way that makes it practically unintelligible, but, believe me, it’s English.



No. Not even all Maori speak Maori. Maori is an official language of New Zealand, however, and you’ll often find signs in both English and Maori. Some Maori words are used in everyday New Zealand English, such as “koha” – if you’re at a free concert, you might be asked for a koha, a small donation for the band.



This is so wrong that it’s wrong in two different ways. One: it’s AUCKland, not ORCland. The name has absolutely nothing to do with Lord of the Rings. It was named after the Earl of Auckland, who was Viceroy of India, in 1840. Two: Auckland is not the capital city of New Zealand – that’s Wellington.



Much as I wish this were true, it isn’t. New Zealand is chock-a-block full of amazingly beautiful scenery, much of which was used in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, but its towns and cities are quite ordinary. In fact, they look far lessLord of the Rings-y than many towns around Europe, due to the lack of historic buildings. Of course, there is one place in New Zealand that remains a perfect Lord of the Rings set: Hobbiton. I heartily recommend you go – it’s fantastic.



Hobbits don’t actually exist. J. R. R. Tolkien made them up. New Zealanders live in houses, although they differ slightly in style from European houses. Few homes here are built of brick; the wooden, colonial-style bungalow is more common. But while they might not live like hobbits, New Zealanders do tend to have tough feet from walking around barefoot…



If you’re the sort of unadventurous person who mistrusts “foreign” food, New Zealand is probably a good place for you to come. Everyday New Zealand food is very similar to the food you get in Britain and North America. New Zealand being a cultural melting pot, however, you can sample cuisine from practically anywhere in the world.



There are many New Zealanders who would say (in Internet comment sections) that New Zealand isn’t a democracy, but, political whinging aside, it is. It’s actually one of the better democracies in the world. Foreigners always seem surprised when you tell them that New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote. Well it was. Back in 1893.



You know the last one is a joke. At least I hope you do. If you don’t, you’re confusing New Zealand with Australia again. The middle one is also a joke. The first one, at least, is not unfounded: sheep shearing is a thing and it exists in New Zealand. Hardly anyone in the country has actually done it, but there are lots of places in New Zealand where tourists can watch sheep being sheared. I don’t see the appeal myself. Seriously – why would anyone pay to watch that?



Of course New Zealand isn’t paradise. It’s a country just like yours. There are good things and there are bad things. Well, okay, it’s probably closer to paradise than your country… I mean it does have an abundance of beautiful scenery… And, yes, it is one of the safest places on the planet… But, no, it’s not paradise. Sometimes it just seems like it.

Eating Out in Auckland Central

The centre of Auckland City is heaven for food lovers. There are delights from all over the world to suit every budget. Deciding where to eat is quite a challenge.

Last week I found myself standing on Queen Street, alone, with an entire day to fill. That evening, I would be meeting my boyfriend for a posh dinner to celebrate our third anniversary, but, as yet, I hadn’t had any breakfast. I set off in search of a nice café.

It was nine in the morning, so not that many places were open. I didn’t feel like a big breakfast. Besides, fry-ups tend to be unreasonably expensive in New Zealand cafés. I found a place that did bagels and toast, but I wasn’t sure. I was about to give up and get a cheese toastie from Starbucks when I found a lovely tapas bar tucked away behind Whitcoulls.

Mezze Bar on Durham Street East is very pleasing to look at. The décor is warm and welcoming with an interesting flair. It opens at seven in the morning on weekdays, and its range of breakfast dishes is impressive. I ended up having a plate of feta dipped in dukkah, with warm Turkish bread.

SushiUsually, when I’m out in Auckland, I’ll have sushi, it being the cheapest food you can get that’s also healthy. That day, I decided to treat myself a little. The plate of feta cost $10.

By lunchtime, I was keen for something hearty and filling, but not so filling that it would ruin my anniversary dinner. I ruled out Forte Street’s Velvet Burger on those grounds, despite the temptation. What I ended up having was not so healthy, but it sure did the trick.

No. 1 Pancake is somewhere every visitor to Auckland to go. It’s just a kiosk, and you have to queue on the pavement, but their Korean pancakes are cheap, satisfying and SO GOOD. It’s near the library, on the corner where Lorne Street meets the art gallery side of Wellesley Street. I always have the $3 sweet red bean pancake, but you can get savoury ones like beef and cheese too.

Having had the gorgeous Korean pancake, I forced myself to resist the delights of Toro Churro and Mrs Higgins Cookies on Queen Street. Distractions were provided by shopping.

My next culinary stop was Vulcan Lane’s Belgian Beer Café, The Occidental. It’s part of a chain, but a good chain. Their food is very nice, but of course it’s not what you go there for. When you sit down, you’re presented with a ‘Magna Carta Fermenta’ – a shockingly expensive beer menu. The cheapest tap beer there is about $8. If you want to try something more exotic, you’re looking at about $15 a bottle.

belgianbeerBut I’d already resolved to treat myself. I’d only have one, and the only beer I’ve found I actually like is Belgian beer. I was excited to see that The Occidental sold two of the beers I’d discovered and loved when my boyfriend and I were in Bruges. They were sold out of the coconut beer, so I had a bottle of Delirium Red – at 8.5%, it’s a good thing it’s so expensive. I suppose you could have one Delirium for the same price and alcoholic effect as three cheap beers.

My boyfriend joined me in the pub. I finished my Delirium feeling slightly peculiar, and was very glad I hadn’t consumed any other alcohol. Delirium’s logo of little, pink elephants dancing is certainly fitting.

A while later it was time for our anniversary dinner. The Foodstore, beautifully situated in Auckland’s Viaduct Basin, is my favourite restaurant for this reason: every dish I’ve ever sampled there has given me multiple food-gasms. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it. My starter was scampi tails and black pudding with cauliflower puree for $20. I relished every bite. For mains, we both had the $36 quail and truffle pie. I’ve never had such an exquisite pie. The quail was so soft and creamy.

Outside, golden city lights shimmered on the black water of the harbour. It was so romantic. The Viaduct Basin buzzes with fancy bars and eateries. My family likes sitting in the leather armchairs in front of the fireplace of Danny Doolans, an Irish bar with a flagstone floor. You have to do this in the afternoon, though, as it gets too clubby later on.

Around Auckland 018Unfortunately we couldn’t go for another drink, as we had to catch the train home. (Auckland trains don’t run late enough, in my opinion.) Our Auckland culinary adventure wasn’t over yet, though. A couple of days later, before we drove back to Hamilton, we met up with a friend for dinner. He showed us two awesome-looking areas to eat that I couldn’t believe I’d never found before.

The first was the City Works Depot. It’s an area of stylish sheds and fairy lights, just up Wellesley Street from Victoria Park. It includes the swanky (in a down-to-earth, Tracy-Island-toy-on-the-bar sort of way) craft beer brewery and bar, Brothers, and the Food Truck Garage, which aims to create delicious, healthy versions of fast food. Our friend swore they do the best burgers in town. (Even better than The White Lady burgers, he said, which is high praise indeed.)

We’d didn’t end up going there, though. Instead, our friend led us to Elliot Stables. The place looks like something out of a Victorian period drama; “an epicurean village”, according to the website. It’s basically a food court, but with sumptuous surroundings and picturesque dishes, rather than bright lights, plastic chairs and suspiciously radioactive-looking curry. You can get curry there, but it’s rather more upmarket. You can also get Spanish food, Italian food, French food, German food, Japanese food, Caribbean food… and lots of nice wine.

I want to go back to both the City Works Depot and Elliot Stables at some point to explore them properly.

Auckland 5When my money’s built up again, that is.

My Experience of the Auckland Sky Tower’s Revolving Restaurant

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

Nerds of New Zealand Unite for Armageddon

For me, Armageddon is an annual certainty. (I’m talking about the sci-fi/fantasy/anime/comic/gaming/cosplay convention, not the actual end of the world.) I usually go to the Auckland Armageddon, but I live in Hamilton now, and I’ve just experienced my first ‘Hamigeddon’.

The Hamilton Armageddon is, of course, a lot smaller than the Auckland Armageddon. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. It turned out to be my best Armageddon yet!

When we got there, I was shocked at the sheer length of the entry line. I mean you don’t expect Hamilton to have so many people, let alone so many nerds. It was with some trepidation that we trekked to the end of the queue. That trepidation was only increased by the presence of a Dalek screeching:


“It. Is. Three. Hours. To. The. Head. Of. The. Line!”

Thankfully, the Dalek was lying for comic effect. The line moved very quickly and it only took us fifteen minutes to get in.

Fifteen minutes and one jeer from a passing car full of Muggles with backward baseball caps. Apparently they didn’t like our costumes, many of which were quite excellent.

Once we were in, I immediately appreciated one difference from the Auckland Armageddon: I could move! I could actually get to each of the stalls without battling through a mass of sweaty bodies in anime costumes. I immediately set about sifting through the mountains of nerdy novelty items – what treasures would I find this year?

I always spend more than I should at Armageddon. After all, does anyone really need light-up lightsaber chopsticks or a Firefly/Serenity ‘leaf on the wind’ necklace?

Well, apparently, I do. My favourite mementos of this Armageddon, however, weren’t the Pikachu T-shirt, or the Game of Thrones dragon cuddly, or even the ornamental Sting heavily discounted because of its slightly damaged hilt. This year, my favourite Armageddon mementos were memories.

Me feeling a bit too much like Joffrey...

That’s me aiming a crossbow and feeling a little too much like Joffrey…

I had a great time shooting cushioned crossbow bolts at a heavily armoured Viking. I had an even greater time duelling my boyfriend in a combat ring with various LARP-safe weapons. After fighting each other, we went up against an experienced warrior: two on one.

“Unfair advantage,” a spectator observed. “Unfair for them, I mean.”

Indeed it was. We got pummelled.

Other activities on offer at this year’s Hamigeddon included lasertag, League of Legends, a cosplay parade, a Magic the Gathering tournament and a ‘Dinosaur vs. Zombie Alley’, which was kinda lame. I mean the zombie actors were quite good, but I didn’t see them fighting any dinosaurs.

Attribution: Gage Skidmore

John Rhys-Davies / Attribution: Gage Skidmore

For me, the absolute best part of this Armageddon was the John Rhys-Davies panel. Before he was Gimli in The Lord of the Rings, I mostly knew John Rhys-Davies for the Indiana Jones movies. In person, he was wonderful. He didn’t just sit there with the mike and answer awkward questions; he paced the stage and actively engaged with the audience. He gave both funny and intelligent answers, and he wasn’t above doing the ‘dwarf tossing’ line. He’s currently in New Zealand filming for the new epic fantasy series based on Terry Brooks’ Shannara, in which he plays an elf KING – take that, Orlando Bloom! (His words.)

Manu Bennett was fairly awesome too, going off on long, yet ultimately rewarding stories. He’s in Shannara as well, and he said he was stoked to be back in New Zealand.

mountain-310155_640Graham McTavish, or Dwalin from The Hobbit, said something particularly nice about New Zealand. It’s like one of those fantasy islands you draw as kid, an island that has everything you could possibly want on it. J.M. Barrie created Neverland to be like that. New Zealand is Neverland: adventure is never far away.

The funniest panel was with Martin Klebba, (the short guy in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies,) and Adam Brown, (Ori in the Hobbit movies, currently filming for the new Pirates of the Caribbean with Martin Klebba. I know – like we need ANOTHER Pirates of the Caribbean film! I got the impression that when Martin joked about it being just a paycheck at this stage, he wasn’t actually joking.)

clipart-orc-warrior-256x256-7ae3Many of Martin’s answers had Adam comically facepalming in despair. Like when he told a hall full of nerds that he’d never watched The Lord of the Rings, or Star Trek, or Doctor Who, or, in fact, anything represented at the convention, (except Pirates of the Caribbean.) He actually refuses to watch The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit on principle, and has a considerable amount of beef with Peter Jackson for not casting real little people as dwarves or hobbits.

You can kinda see his point, as there must be so few roles come up for little people that actually have a character beyond ‘little person’. There aren’t enough Tyrion Lannisters out there!

So, yeah, the 2015 Hamigeddon made for a very enjoyable weekend. I’ll definitely be going again next year. Hopefully, there’ll be some more interesting people coming – I’m still dreaming of the day New Zealand gets David Tennant or Nathan Fillion.

Interview with the Larper: Having a Larp in New Zealand

What Hobbiton’s Like

My review of New Zealand’s own vampire comedy, What We Do in the Shadows

Nerds of New Zealand Unite!

Nerds of New Zealand Unite!

The Mysterious Beauty of Bethells Beach

Te Henga, or Bethells Beach, is a properly mystical place. No wonder so many films, TV series, music videos and commercials are shot there. Being on the west coast of Auckland, its sunsets are especially spectacular. Many’s the time I’ve watched blazing threads of gold weave themselves into the pink sky above the wine-dark sea. I wouldn’t say it’s New Zealand’s best beach, but it’s pretty damn close.

The sand is a sparkling, bluish black that feels like velvet on your feet. As you walk along, you notice a haze over the dunes and the towering rocks that extend into the water – a mist over the ruins of a lost civilisation. A sort-of island – a chunk of cliff disconnected from the rest – rises out of the waves, cloaked in bush. The curves of its hills look like the Earth Mother sunbathing. Seriously, from the right angle you can see the swell of her breasts, stomach and colossal thighs.

A cave winks at you from the end of the beach – the left end, if you’re facing the sea. You can explore it at low tide. If you go right, you’ll find another cave waiting for you in O’Neills Bay. It’s a charming tunnel, a magical gateway to a “secret” beach beyond.

bethels 004

Bethells Beach is a great place to surf and bodyboard, but don’t do it when the Surf Life Saving people aren’t there. It really is dangerous. Keep between the flags and don’t go too far out. If you’ve got small children, they can swim in the lagoon. (Yes, there’s a lagoon. It’s really pretty.) Incidentally, the Surf Life Saving tower makes for a rather striking silhouette against the Bethells sunset.

Between the lagoon and the car park, there’s a locally owned outdoor café. The food’s nice, and during the summer months, on Friday nights, they host various local bands. It’s a lovely community event. People come with blankets and deckchairs, and sit around drinking and being served pizza, later getting up to dance on the sand.

The Bethells locals often complain about Aucklanders (city slickers) and tourists overrunning “their” beach. Some even warned me, (jokingly, I think,) about publishing this article. I’m flattered they think my blog reaches so many people.


Bethells Beach is a special place. It has the wild, rugged beauty of Auckland’s other west coast beaches, like Piha and Muriwai, but it also has a mysterious beauty. There’s something otherworldly about it; something that draws people back again and again. I’ve already written about the necessity of visiting the amazing Muriwai gannet colony when you’re in Auckland, but do that during day and then, before sunset, head to Bethells.


Top 10 English Foods an Expat Misses

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 English food shop. It’s easy nowadays. A few years ago, supermarkets started having English sections as well. The problem, of course, is they’re expensive. I miss them because they’ve gone from being ordinary, everyday biscuits to extra-special treats. The same can be said for Walkers Crisps and Galaxy Chocolate. (Come to think of it, moving to New Zealand was probably best for my health.)

9) Walkers Crisps

Here’s something you should know about New Zealand: Kiwis don’t know what crisps are. They call crisps ‘chips’. If you’re wondering what they call real chips to avoid confusion, they just add the adjective ‘hot’. That said, New Zealand does have some fairly decent brands of chips (that’s crisps, not hot chips,) but none of them are as good as Walkers. They don’t have Smoky Bacon or Prawn Cocktail or Worcester Sauce!

8) Galaxy Chocolate

New Zealand chocolate sucks. Actually, that’s not true. Whittaker’s is good. But I’ve yet to find a chocolate that tastes as good as Galaxy that isn’t from Belgium, Switzerland or Germany.

More Chocolate

7) Cadbury Mini Rolls

Cadbury exists in New Zealand, (although the chocolate tastes a little different,) but I’ve yet to find Mini Rolls, even in English food shops. I’ll always associate Mini Rolls with my grandma’s house in the small town I grew up in. Last time I was back in England, I stuffed my face with them.

6) Milky Bar Yoghurts

Another childhood favourite I simply can’t find in New Zealand is the Milky Bar Dessert, even though you can get Milky Bars here. The rest of my family find Milky Bar Desserts sickly, but I love them and so did my grandma. In fact, I might miss them the most.

5) English Sausages

sausage_linkNew Zealand sausages really don’t compare to English sausages. That’s not to say you can’t get nice sausages in New Zealand, but it’s harder than you’d think. People here drive out of their way to butchers that do good ones. My favourite sausages in the world come from the butchers’ in my home town, and they are a pinnacle of tastiness that has never been reached by any other sausage – they are my chipolatas.

When we moved to New Zealand, mum tried to serve me other chipolatas, but they were ordinary. I just wouldn’t stop talking about my chipolatas, about how we had them with cranberry jelly at Christmas… The first time I returned to England, (seven years after we had left,) I was most excited about tasting my chipolatas again. Mum warned me that they wouldn’t be as nice as I remembered, that I’d put them on a pedestal in my mind and would be disappointed. But I wasn’t. They were wonderful.

4) Custard Tarts

You can get custard tarts in New Zealand, (or, more commonly, custard slices,) but they’re gross. I can’t stand them. Yet English custard tarts from English bakeries are divine. Mum used to treat us to them when we went for the big shop on a Saturday. When we’d been in New Zealand a while, she spotted some custard tarts at a New Zealand bakery, so she got us some. They looked similar to our English custard tarts, except they were a disturbingly garish shade of yellow. And they tasted like a disturbingly garish shade of yellow.

Further disappointments led me to the sad conclusion that I’d never eat a nice custard tart again, but then my mum uncovered the Delia Smith custard tart recipe. That does the trick.

3) Penguins

I mean the chocolate biscuit bars, not the animals. New Zealand has England beat on the animals, I think. P-p-pick up a Penguin! To be fair, in this case, I think it’s the marketing I miss rather than the product. New Zealand has a very similar chocolate biscuit called a Tim Tam and, I hate to say, it’s better. Tim Tams have even been known to convert Germans – that’s high praise in the chocolate world.


2) Raspberries

You can get raspberries in New Zealand. Of course you can. But they’re EXPENSIVE. My god, they’re expensive! Why are they so expensive?!

I remember raspberries and blackberries being everywhere in England. People couldn’t get rid of them quickly enough. The fruit that people can’t get rid of quickly enough in New Zealand is the feijoa. If you move to New Zealand, you’d better learn to like it.

1) Fish and Chips

Fish are chips are as central to New Zealand culture as they are to English culture. In many ways, New Zealand fish and chips are better than English fish and chips, BUT New Zealand fish and chips don’t come with all the trimmings: Baked Beansmushy peas, curry sauce, brown sauce, salad cream… New Zealanders put tomato sauce on their ‘fush and chups’ and that’s it. And it’s Wattie’s tomato sauce, not Heinz. Although Wattie’s is Heinz anyway… I wonder if there’s a difference? Is the English stuff darker, or am I imagining it?

At the end of the day, there’s not actually all that much to miss in New Zealand, food-wise. The English staples of Sunday roasts, pies, fish and chips, tea and coffee, beer and wine, cakes and Indian takeaways are New Zealand staples too. Besides, overall, I’d say New Zealand has better food than England.

To read more about what I miss from England, see Top 20 Things a Brit in New Zealand Misses.

Sheep with Tea

New Zealanders drink a lot of tea and coffee…