The Laid-back Attitude of New Zealanders

In two weeks, I’m leaving New Zealand for six months. I’m flying with Tim to Switzerland via Singapore, before visiting his family in Germany; then flying to Ireland and visiting my family in England. We’re going to explore Scotland and Sweden; Spain and Italy. We’re going to spend a fairytale Christmas in Germany, before returning to New Zealand via Malaysia.

Will I miss New Zealand? I’m not sure. I feel like I’ll miss the attitude of its people more than the country itself, but time will tell. I’ve been craving a “proper” European Christmas for eighteen years. The sort of Christmas with snow flurrying through medieval villages, leaded windows glowing with amber light, markets infused with the aroma of roasted chestnuts, and church bells ringing with melancholy joy.

Maybe I’ve idealised it. There are some things New Zealand just can’t compete with. I’m looking forward to being surrounded by historical buildings once more. I’m looking forward to savouring the food of my childhood. I am, however, almost dreading returning to Edinburgh, the place in which my parents told me we were moving to New Zealand, and I threw the largest tantrum of my life.

I can still picture it, the Italian restaurant with the bright windows; the dark street gleaming with recent rain; the red-and-white-checked table cloths. My dad complaining that his pasta was “pap” whilst my sister fed hers to her imaginary dinosaur. The big reveal followed by me dashing into the ladies’ room and punching the hand dryer. I put the hand dryer on thinking no one would hear my sobs.

But anyway. I think I will miss New Zealand. I’ve lived here nearly two-thirds of my life and I love how laid-back the people are. It’s difficult to imagine the sorts of political scenes we’ve seen coming out of Europe happening here, purely because New Zealanders are less prone to being whipped into extreme states. New Zealand crowds are sometimes awkwardly apathetic.

They’re notoriously difficult to get a cheer out of. I’ve witnessed British and American entertainers trying and managing to elicit only a half-hearted “yay”. One American celebrity cried, “I love you guys!” in that fake way that American celebrities do, and you could almost hear the crowd thinking, “Bullshit. Now do what you’re here to do and you’ll deserve some applause, but don’t go thinking you’re better than us.”

The laid-back attitude of New Zealanders is no better exemplified than by a recent address by our prime minister. It was made from her couch, a few days after she’d given birth, holding her baby. Her voice was croaky and she wore no makeup. When she goes back to work – running the country – her partner will be a stay-at-home father.

Even if you didn’t vote for Labour, you have to agree that it’s a cool image for New Zealand, and I’ll miss being a part of it. I mean don’t get me wrong, New Zealand has its problems. There are still those that believe that our prime minister, as an unmarried mother, should not be celebrated. Just the other day, a friend of mine with a foreign accent was the victim of a shocking xenophobic attack.

On the whole, however, the voices of hatred seem quieter in New Zealand. How much of that is due to manipulation by the media, I don’t know. It will be interesting to compare for myself the general atmosphere in Britain, in Germany and in other European countries to the general atmosphere in New Zealand.

But now I must go. I must get back to working, packing up the house, cleaning, preparing for the trip AND being involved in my theatre troop’s latest show. We open in three days. Yes, life is hectic. Yes, I shall be very relieved to get to Europe and relax. We’ll be taking our trip a lot slower than we did last time!

To read more about our previous Euro trip, see A New Zealander’s View of Britain and European Stereotypes: Confirmed or Busted?

To read more about my infamous tantrum in Edinburgh, see Last Night of the Poms: The Story of Our Move to New Zealand.

To find out more about the show I’m involved in, see The Meteor Theatre.

Advertisements

10 Strange Things I Found When I Moved To New Zealand

POMS AWAY!

I moved to New Zealand when I was ten years old. Before that I lived in a small town in England, so while moving to New Zealand wasn’t a total shock to the system, there were still some things I found strange. Here’s a list of ten:

1) Houses without stairs

family-home-153089_640As someone who grew up surrounded by tall, narrow houses with pitiful gardens, the fact that New Zealand’s houses are mostly single-storied and set apart from one another threw me at first. The ten-year-old me actually started missing stairs. I was delighted to find that one of my new Kiwi friends lived in a multi-storied house! Of course, this was in a small town in New Zealand. The new houses going up around Auckland all have stairs, being built tall and narrow to save space.

2) People going around barefoot

pedicure-297792_640No one goes around barefoot in England, except at…

View original post 743 more words

Crossing the Ditch

koala at dreamworld

Much as New Zealanders claim to hate Australia, they seem to love going on holiday there. Of course, this is partly to do with Australia’s relative proximity to New Zealand. The rest of the world is so bloody far away, that visiting Australia is often referred to as “crossing the ditch” – aka the Tasman Sea.

I crossed the ditch when I was fifteen. I went to the Gold Coast for a couple of weeks with a friend and her family. It was the middle of winter, but the pavements were quite literally hot enough to fry an egg on. I sat on a grass verge and my armpit got bitten by an ant half the size of my finger. Yup, we were definitely in Australia.

sleeping koala

The main attractions of Australia’s Gold Coast are the theme parks, (Dreamworld, Movie World and Water World,) Australia Zoo and Surfer’s Paradise. Back then, I absolutely adored theme parks and, living in New Zealand, I missed them. (New Zealand’s only theme park, Rainbow’s End, seems really lame when you’ve been to the likes of Alton Towers and Disney World.)

Dreamworld was great. As well as the rides, there were tigers to marvel at and koalas to hold. You can’t go to Australia without holding a koala!

I forgot what an awkward smile those braces gave me…

Australia Zoo was great too. It’s certainly the most… umm… epic zoo I’ve ever been to. I even got to see Steve Irwin doing his whole “look at this croc – isn’t she a beauty?” thing. (He was still alive then.)

Surfer’s Paradise was exactly as you’d expect, all manicured palm trees and sunshine gleaming off of tanned abs. I much preferred the more peaceful beaches of New Zealand.

baby koala

See the baby koala face?

In fact, much as I enjoyed the holiday, I came away thinking that I most definitely preferred New Zealand to Australia. I could never live in Australia with its oppressive heat and homicidal wildlife. I prefer the singing of tui to the laughing of kookaburras. I’ve never felt any desire to go back to Australia. Instead, I can’t wait to see more of New Zealand.

Slanging Match – British vs New Zealand Slang

In three years, I will have lived in New Zealand for two thirds of my life. You’d think, therefore, that the days of hearing “deck” as “dick” and being laughed at for calling jandals “flip-flops” would be long gone.

Nope.

Just last week, I confused a room full of people by referring to a bottle of Coca-Cola as “pop”.

It never ends. My family immigrated to New Zealand when I was ten years old. I should, by now, be comfortable calling cossies “togs” and crisps “chips”. (And chips “hot chips”.) I simply can’t. I call lollies “sweets”, lollipops “lollies” and ice blocks “ice lollies”. (Or, weirdly, “lolly ices”, which I’ve just read is a Scouse thing. My mum’s from near Liverpool, so that makes sense, I guess.)

I call gumboots “wellies”, kindie “nursery” and sammies “sarnies”.

There are some Kiwi-isms I’ve picked up. I usually, for example, say “dairy” instead of “corner shop”, “college” instead of “high school” and “uni” instead of “college”. Some slang words are the same in New Zealand as they are in Britain. Ta, for example. Some, I honestly can’t remember whether they’re Kiwi, British or both.

“Is that a thing New Zealanders say?” I’ll ask my partner.

I’ll never forget the time I told some English friends I was popping to the dairy to get some milk. I ended up having to explain that a dairy was a corner shop and that, no, most New Zealanders don’t get their milk directly from the nearest dairy farm.

But that’s the vision the rest of the world has of New Zealand, isn’t it? We all live pure, bucolic lives free from traffic, tabloids and crass commercialism. When my partner went on an exchange to France, his host family asked him if he would like a glass of Coca-Cola. When he requested a glass of water instead, they replied, “Oh, of course, because the water is so pure in New Zealand. You’ve probably never even heard of Coca-Cola!”

Ha.

Ha.

If you want to read more about New Zealand slang, see 10 Silly Things Kiwis Say.

A Look Inside the Oldest Library in New Zealand

POMS AWAY!

You wouldn’t expect to find New Zealand’s first library down an unassuming street in Tauranga. Nor would you expect it to contain a secret trapdoor, under which treasures (and people) could be hidden in the event of attack. Imagine yourself crammed into the 1.8-metre-deep oubliette, trying not to make a sound as invading enemies stomp across the floorboards inches above your head, tearing your precious books from their shelves.

A Beautiful Book at the Elms Mission Station

Thankfully, the library was never actually attacked. It’s a tiny, wooden building on the edge of the Elms Mission Station, completed in 1839. The Elms, then known as Te Papa Mission Station, was established by the Reverend Alfred Brown, who was sent from England to educate the children of other New Zealand missionaries. Living at Te Papa was risky: the spot chosen for the mission station was prone to bouts of intertribal warfare.

Reverend Brown was keen to spread Christianity to…

View original post 451 more words

The Artistic Quirks of Katikati

Cherry Tree, Katikati, New Zealand

Katikati is a small town on State Highway 2. Like many small New Zealand towns, it has attempted to make itself more interesting by adopting a quirk. Paeroa has a giant L&P bottle; Bulls has bad puns; Katikati has murals. But I didn’t take any pictures of those. Instead, I was drawn to this courtyard.

Katikati

It’s in the middle of the town, surrounded by shops and cafés, and it’s quite a lovely place to sit.

Katikati

Speaking of lovely places to sit, here’s Katikati’s best sculpture, which doubles as a bench.

Katikati

The live one on the right is my partner, and I wasn’t the only one taking photos of him. In the time it took for me to get those pictures of the colourful courtyard above, he became quite the tourist attraction.

Katikati

He told me later that he noticed the shoes the statue wore were real. The paint was peeling off of one. He had the irresistibly creepy thought of what if he were to peel the paint off the statue’s hands or face… would he find real skin underneath? But let’s turn away from that potential horror movie, towards a haiku.

Katikati Haiku Pathway

That’s one of the haiku stones from Katikati’s Haiku Pathway. Nice idea, isn’t it? You follow the path through a riverside park, reading the poetry carved into the boulders along the way. If you need a break whilst driving from Auckland or the Coromandel to Tauranga, you could do a lot worse than Katikati. It even has a museum.

Katikati Museum

The Trippy Trees of WOMAD

Tree Lights WOMAD

WOMAD stands for World of Music and Dance, a massive hippy festival held in New Plymouth every March. My favourite thing about it isn’t the music, or the food, or the stalls selling endless floaty dresses. My favourite thing is the lights.

WOMAD

You see, WOMAD takes place in a park – Brooklands Park, to be precise – and when it gets dark, all the trees get lit up in weird and wonderful colours. Some have quirky decorations hung in them…

Tree Lights WOMAD

And some are merely part of the psychedelic scenery…

Tree Lights WOMAD

But this year, one tree out-did them all. It actually had moving images projected onto its branches.

Tree Lights WOMAD

As I stood before it, entranced, I slowly realised that there was music coming from inside the tree. I mean, obviously there was a speaker concealed somewhere, but I don’t know what I’d have done if I’d been stoned, as some festival-goers were!

Tree Lights WOMAD

Each image projected onto the tree was beautiful in its own way…

Tree Lights WOMAD

Except maybe this one – those things were crawling down towards you!

Tree Lights WOMAD

Even in daylight, however, some of the trees seemed rather trippy. Take this one, for example…

kids in creepy tree

The kids were having a grand, old time playing amidst its branches, but it kind of looked like the branches were grabbing them.

creepy tree

Maybe I’ve been playing too much Call of Cthulhu.