In September 1995, at the mere age of 5 years old, I left my country of birth, England. A country I would to this day never set eyes on again. My parents had decided it was time for a fresh start, we left our life and our family behind and ventured to what seemed like the end of the world.
Before long my accent was gone, I began school and I started my life in New Zealand. Memories of the UK fell into the distant past and I quickly began to discover that New Zealand wasn’t a bad place at all.
To this day Tauranga has remained to be one of my favourite places. It’s just incredibly peaceful and pleasant. There are around 2400 hours of sunshine in a year and enough sand and surf for any keen beachgoer. Summer in Tauranga made me quickly adopt the city as my home, and despite not having lived there for some time now, I still see it as my favourite place in New Zealand. I enjoyed walking on the beach in the summer and hiking up The Mount, especially when I had friends from other cities and places with me.
So What Is It I Love About New Zealand?
It’s really a unique place. It seems like a small country but the terrain is forever changing. In 2012 when I moved for 6 months from Hamilton (North Island) to Christchurch (South Island), I almost felt like I had moved countries again. Within one small pair of islands there is a horizon full of bush/forests, snowy alps, volcanoes on land, volcanoes at sea, hills, surf beaches, peaceful bays, glaciers and more.
I think one of the nicest things is that everywhere is so close to the sea or a large body of water. Sometimes surf and bays can be separated by a small spit of land like in Bowentown, Waihi Beach or Mount Maunganui. We used to spend the early afternoon swimming in the bay in the calm water and then after lunch head over to the surf beach with the camping ground square in the middle of both. It was perfect.
It is as diverse as it’s population. Now on my trips home I usually reside in Auckland, one thing I enjoy there is the food. Now spending so much time in the USA I can say that the food culture in New Zealand is amazing. The large Asian population in Auckland city provides a really good standard of Asian cuisine, actually I would rate the Dim Sum in Auckland among some of the best I have ever had. The cafe culture here is just awesome, I think what I really like is the quality of the food. Even our fast food seems to have much better standards than other places.
The agriculture in New Zealand means that fruit and vegetables, meat, dairy and seafood are all really great quality and that makes the food outstanding!
Generally speaking I have enjoyed growing up with the people in this country and have, for a long time, identified as one of them, a kiwi. I became a NZ Citizen very late, in 2008 in fact, a long time after moving to New Zealand. I think New Zealanders have a sense of ‘chill’, they are laid back to the point of probably being seen as lazy by foreigners. The lifestyle is easy going, they are creative and fun people.
New Zealand was more than a home to me, it really is a beautiful country. Although I have spread my wings again and am basing myself in the USA very soon, I will be visiting home frequently (probably in the summer). I think one of the only disadvantages for travellers is that it is so far away and can cost a lot to travel to, but for me it’s coming home so it’s a necessary expense!
The more I heard about the UK and how it was changing the less compelled I felt to make a trip home, my family went on numerous occasions but I never took the opportunity to go with them. Perhaps someday soon I will make the trip but I don’t think it will change the fact that I’m a kiwi at heart 🙂
Matt Hetherington is a 25-year-old travelling professional table tennis athlete from New Zealand. Born in the UK and now residing in the United States he operates two blogs, www.mhtabletennis.com for his table tennis fans and a new blog about his travel experiences, www.pongventure.com. He identifies as a kiwi and has represented New Zealand for his entire playing and coaching career.