I love New Zealand, and I love it a lot. The country is beautifully pristine, and even though most of the interior area is sheep pasture, the fences and small walls only serve to make the landscape even more perfect, instead of marring it as those things so often do. The people are friendly and open, though they do have unique takes on what a “normal” amount of beer per person is, and the businesses are always eager to please the customer, even if some of the larger companies willingly charge Kiwi’s international rates on things as simple as milk and cheese. Here are a few of my thoughts from my five months in the country – there are many many more, but these few seem to float to the surface any time I discuss New Zealand with friends:
- Kiwi’s are some of the most laid back and friendly people I’ve met. They aren’t as eager to please as South Americans, they aren’t as “let me do that for you, do you want more food?” as Indian or Italian families, and they aren’t as friendly as Southerners from the United States, but almost all of the Kiwis that I met had this amazing vibrancy to them, and an honest to their friendlyness that shone through like a beacon
- On this theme, hitchhiking is alive and well in New Zealand. Its pretty much completely safe, from what I can tell, and its rare to go more than half an hour without someone picking you up, if you’re hitchhiking. People are friendly, and they like hearing new stories. It seems obvious, but picking up a hitchhiker is a simple way to meet new people and make new friends.
- Kiwis don’t like shoes. Seriously, sandals (or Jandals, as New Zealand calls them) are even too much most of the time. Instead, people go barefoot. Is it really any wonder that they filmed Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit here?
- On the Lord of the Rings note: the countryside is amazing. Driving through the main highways and back roads of New Zealand opens up an amazing countryside that’s straight out of a novel, and it makes driving quite difficult when the driver is constantly struck by the amazing nature of the landscape around them.
- Highways. They barely exist, and even then its only near the main cities. Between cities, even in the North Island, New Zealand “highways” are what we in the United States would call “small roads”. Two lanes, one in each direction, non-divided, and winding around the hills and valleys instead of simply blasting through them like we would do, the “main roads” are tiny things that cap your speed at 100kpm max (just below 60mph)
- Kiwis can drink. And when I say that they can drink, I mean alcohol, and in quantities that would (and probably have) killed an American. One of the first “drinky” party that I attended saw me stumbling home after knocking back nearly 25 drinks… and I had been far behind the Kiwis, who continued on for another hour or two after I left from what I hear.
- In New Zealand, there are two names for what Bostonians would term a “party”. First, a straight “Party” is a get together of people, where drinks may be served, but people generally don’t dance or anything – instead people sit around, chat, and get to know one another or catch up with long-lost friends. Second, a “drinky”, or a party which focuses on drinking booze, dancing, and rocking out like a star.
- The kiwi attitude on life is simple, and can generally be summed up with one phrase, “She’ll be right”. In the States, this would be translated to “Meh, everything will be ok in the end. Don’t worry about it”. And it really suits them I think – it’s backfired in the past with such disasters as the Christchurch Earthquakes, but it means that people don’t stress nearly as much about simple things, and Kiwi’s don’t have the insane “sue-happy” culture that is so prevalent in many of the US Cities.