Photography and travel blog

Observations/Thoughts on New Zealand

Overall, I found the Kiwis to be affable and friendly. They often said hello when you walked past them on the street. They were also quick for a smile which I found disarming.

I did, however, find the Kiwis to be overall simple-minded when it came to ethnicity and nationality. They seemingly had difficulty reconciling the fact that I was a Canadian of Korean descent. To them, the two were disparate entities. Personally, I found this disappointing because I expect and do encounter such small-mindedness from a homogeneous country but NZ is fairly multicultural. But most of the Asian immigration has happened in the present decade so I think they are undergoing an adjustment period and consequently, there is some anti-Asian sentiment or at least prejudice occurring from a lack of cultural understanding. I could pick up little subtleties that went past the non-native speaker. On a few occasions, I witnessed a Kiwi talking condescendingly to an obvious immigrant. And in a not so subtle way, my airport shuttle driver went off on a diatribe about Asians from Asia and how they were responsible for the increase in violence and how they couldn’t drive. But off course, there exist many Kiwis who are very open-minded.

New Zealand is just about the easiest country for a person to travel in since tourism is a large part of their economy. Every town and city, big or small, have an i-site where tourists can book tours, accommodation and transportation at no cost. Each i-site, hotel, hostel are full of pamphlets about different destinations and activities. At times, the sheer volume of pamphlets became overwhelming. What makes one company different than another? I think the country killed quite a few trees to make those pamphlets. I’ve also never seen so many souvenir shops in my life!

One of the more annoying aspects of travelling through NZ was the tendency to try to give every town or site historical importance, cultural significance, a culinary speciality, positioning or something in order to lure tourists. This site is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Akaroa is the most French city, Christchurch the most English. This is the fourth oldest site of its kind in New Zealand. Additionally, every little town seemed to have a museum devoted to its (non) history.

I’m not a shopper but the lack of shopping variety frustrated even me. Every town seemed to have the exact same stores. In fact, I can easily produce a list:
Grocery stores – Pak ‘n’ save, Countdown, New World, Foodtown, Four Square, Woolworths, FreshChoice
CD Stores – CD+DVD store, Real Groovy
Bookstores – Paper Plus, Dymocks, Whitcoulls, Borders
Electronics – Noel Leeming, Bond + Bond, Dick Smith
Wal-mart type store – The Warehouse
Department store – Farmers
Bakery – Brumby’s
Office supplies – OfficeMax
Outdoor/Travel – Kathmandu, Snowgum, Mountain Design, Bivouac, MacPac
Video Rental – Video EZY

The dearth of CD stores was especially frustrating as I searched in vain for the new Stereolab album which I badly wanted to hear.

Goods are very expensive in NZ. The main reason being they are an isolated island nation. Books, in particular, were extremely expensive. So I stuck to trade-ins at hostels or secondhand shops. However, even at the latter, books were outrageously priced. Make-up was also about triple the price at home, as was my favourite face cream. Sometimes you don’t realize you have a good thing until you discover it’s worse somewhere else. In NZ, you have to pay for DVD and music CD rentals! And an Australian told me that she’d been in libraries where you had to pay to borrow books. I’m not sure if that’s true, but if it is, NZ is seriously discouraging reading with that and the price of books.

As I mentioned in another post, I think New Zealand has many similarities with Canada. I believe both have inferiority and superiority complexes from living in the shadow of a bigger, more powerful neighbour. We both think, justifiably, that we have a better lifestyle than our neighbours. However, we struggle with our place in the world and are constantly trying to sing the praises of our nations’ accomplishments. I had the (mis)fortune of being in NZ during the Olympics and the coverage was the worst I’d ever seen. Everything was about how courageous a Kiwi athlete was, how they had the most medals per capita etc. It was tiring.

Some more observations

  • Most Kiwi smokers roll their own cigarettes as it’s cheaper than buying them pre-rolled
  • Kiwis pronounce their e’s differently and ai’s different. For example, Ben is Bee-en, Chair is Chee-eir, Eleven is eeleeven. A Kiwi I met told me a funny story. She was in Canada and called her mobile company. She had to talk in one of those automatic machines and it couldn’t understand her. Defeated, she had her Canadian friend talk into the machine.
  • Most older Kiwis have a British accent while the younger generation have a more, to my ears, Australian accent
  • There are always two varieties of bread: sandwich, toast. So, they will sell Multigrain Sandwich or Multigrain Toast bread. Someone told me the difference was the thickness of a slice, but it looked the same to me
  • Kiwis drive like maniacs by developed country standards. They don’t slow down when turning the corners on winding roads. And they have right-of-way so if you are in their way they won’t slow down. You better run!

Kiwi slang

  • A Dairy = What we would call a convenience store, corner store, mini market
  • Sweet as = This is the weirdest Kiwi term. One of my Magic bus drivers kept using these words at the end of every sentence. I wondered if he was saying Sweetest or Sweet Ass. Does Sweet As make grammatical sense? I saw a T-Shirt with this definition: I confirm that what you are proposing is good by me. But the Kiwis that did say Sweet As seemed to say it more randomly. For example, “We’re going to the store. Sweet as…”
  • Good on you = Good for you
  • Choice = Very good
  • How you going? = How are you? or How’s it going?
  • Freephone = Toll-free phone
  • Tramping = Hiking
  • Capsicum = Pepper
  • Courgette = Zucchini
  • Tomato sauce = Ketchup
  • Jandal = Flip flop
  • Lolly = Any type of candy, be it gummies, hard candy or whatever
  • Kumara = Sweet potato (it’s actually a variety of sweet potato)
  • Rice Bubbles = Rice Krispies

Just like the stereotypical Canadian, Kiwis also use “eh” at the end of their sentences

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