Recently The Telegraph voted New Zealand the best place to live. And it’s not for the first time. We moved here from the UK in 2012 and on a regular basis my husband and I say to each other that we feel like it’s a privilege that we get to live here. If I were to vote on where is the best place to bring up children, I think I’d be hard pushed to find somewhere better than New Zealand.
As we have just passed our 4th NZ anniversary, and the country did just get a major accolade, I thought I would write a list of all the things that remind me I am an English woman in New Zealand. Not quite as sexy sounding as Sting but hopefully just as interesting.
- People are super friendly. Right from the minute we arrived in Christchurch airport and a lovely lady scooped up our tired selves and helped us stand after a 32 hour long trip, I have always been warmed by how friendly Kiwis are. They love to smile.
- Sometimes their accent really does sound like a foreign language. I remember in the early days their pronunciation of pear/pair, bed, router, ten and even my name made me ask for a translation. Now that my own children speak fluent New Zealand I can work out the words much quicker.
- As well as the accent they have added words, where frankly I think it’s totally unnecessary because the original one was just fine and not as silly sounding. Words such as; lolly (sweet), capsicum (pepper), togs (swimming costume), jandals (flip flops, OK maybe ours sounds just as silly), singlet (vest), jersey (seems to mean any kind of jumper, pull over, cardigan), I could go on, but I won’t.
- Having people round for a BBQ and not having steak on the grill means it is not really a BBQ. We were only told this a few months ago so I am horrified to think how many people were offended by our sub-standard BBQ’s during the first three summers!
- Christmas is on the beach, most people buy plastic trees, Christmas lights are ridiculous because it doesn’t get dark until you’re going to bed, pavlova is the traditional pudding and cherries replace clementines, Father Christmas is woefully over dressed for the weather, you’re likely to be up early and outside for the whole day, there is NO MULLED WINE! It’s just really odd.
- A night out is unlikely to go past 11pm. This may be because most of our friends over here have small children, but I have a feeling that across the ages a Kiwi would go home from a night out way earlier than their English peer. Which is probably why the streets feel a lot safer and are a lot cleaner!
- Rugby is referred to as football, while actual football is called soccer. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
- They don’t have pubs but they have awesome coffee shops, most of which roast their own coffee. I have to say, even though I am a decaf girl, I do pity UK friends on Facebook when they post about being in Costa Coffee.
- The availability of fruit and vegetables is effected by the seasons. I once went to three supermarkets to find a lime so I could make Key Lime Pie, only to be told by them all that they weren’t in season, so therefore not available. They looked at me like I was mad for asking. And if you want to buy peppers in March, expect to pay about $10 for one. Of course this means the standard of fruit and vegetables is way higher.
- On similar lines there are foods that only come on the shelves at certain points of the year. Recently I found out that marzipan is only stocked at Christmas time, and I had to hunt out a boutique bakery to buy some seriously expensive almond paste for my Simnel Cake. How can marzipan not be a basic, all-year round product???
- Your children don’t start school until they are five and a lot of children start school on their actual fifth birthday day. I am still so confused about the timings of schooling over here, I have to have it explained to me every year and I’m on the PTA!!
- There is no Marks and Spencer’s and nothing comes even close to it.
- This is a tough one…you are really far away from the UK. It’s really expensive and two days of travelling to get home. So if something big happens like your sister turns 40 or a great man, who was very special to you dies, you can’t be there.
- This also means you don’t see a lot of your family and friends for years at a time. However when they do come, they come for a really visit and it’s always in the Summer time so you get to travel and have fun on beaches and eat ice creams daily.
- An earthquake here is like rain in the UK, it happens on a regular basis. For Christchurch this means there is a very flat and quiet city centre and a lot of people who live with a significant amount of stress and anxiety.
- But then Kiwis are really positive people, they want to see the good side of everyone and everything so they are incredibly resilient in times of crisis and stress, which is a beautiful thing to witness.
- When going for a job, you most likely won’t find out what they would like to pay you until they offer you the job. Makes for uncomfortable discussions when the subject does finally come up!
- They don’t have Ben and Jerry’s or Haagan Dazs. They do have amazing, independent sellers of gelato but these places will not be open on a Friday night at 10pm – this is no good to me peoples.
- I have only seen the South Island and I am told the North Island has a very different landscape, but on all of our travels I find myself saying, this reminds me of the Lakes, or this is like Southern France or I feel like I am in Italy here. They have it all, plus the Remarkables.
- BUT they don’t have stately homes, really old cathedrals and cities like Bath or Chester or Durham.
- Everyone pays for everything with their Eftpos (Switch) card. In the early days I would apologise for having to pay for something that was $1.72 using my card, because you’d get kicked out of a place for trying that on in the UK. Over here, card payments are 99% of transactions, which is why I barely ever have cash on me.
- A new thing for us is that we will be spending a lot of time this year, painting wood. We bought a 100 year old weatherboard house, which when we first came we said looked like an oversized Wendy house. Sadly they are nowhere near as much fun when they need a re-paint.
- They are way better on customer service when selling you something, but they are very disappointed in you if you come back with a fault or criticism.
- If you send an email to someone, don’t necessarily expect a reply…ever. I have to say, I do miss the common courtesy and politeness of British society. I am thinking all my friends in the UK will be saying what, are you joking? But seriously you notice when it’s not there. Note, this doesn’t take away from my earlier statement that Kiwis are friendly, they absolutely are, but particularly in the area of getting back to you on email or by phone, they just don’t seem to have the same requirements.
- And finally, when you put all our differences apart, all these superficial trivialities and you get to have real friendships with people, you realise…we’re all just exactly the same.
Thanks for putting up with us these past four years New Zealand and England, I still miss you. Even when I am living in the best place to live in the world.