New Zealand Time – May 29th, 10:23 a.m.
Hello all! I thought I’d get one last posting in while still here in New Zealand. Today at 3 pm I leave Palmy, and at 8 pm it’s farewell to NZ. I am very excited to return home to Canada, to see everyone, to get up north for Steph’s wedding, and to get back into work and school. Needless to say, it wasn’t fun at ALL saying goodbye to Greg for 6 months. SIX MONTHS. That’s a whole half a year. !!! I’m putting forth a valiant effort not to have a complete emotional breakdown – I’ll save that for mid-October… It’s going to be strange, to say the least.
For the first time ever I’ll be leaving a cold south to return to a warm north. From the sounds of it, Southern Ontario is already beginning its annual roast. Meanwhile the weather here is growing cooler every day! The earth’s a bizarre place.
I’ve been reflecting this past week on my 4 month stay here – things I’ve learned about myself, this country, home, and the world. Greg and I chat quite a bit about the differences between NZ and Canada – things peculiar to NZ, products lacking, figures of speech, etc… I compiled the following list, just for fun, while Greg was toiling away at schoolwork the other day. It’s not entirely complete, of course, but it’s a pretty good start.
List Of NZ/Canada Differences OR NZ Oddities As Perceived From A Canadian Perspective:
- NZ electrical sockets switch on and off (a fantastic idea, I think!)
- NZ light switches are opposite to Canada’s – down=on, up=off
- the VAST majority of toilets have half and full flush buttons, depending…
- most public water faucets (in hostels, restaurants, etc.) have separate hot and cold taps (not very convenient)
- every town, big and small, has an Information Centre (“i-site”) with well-maintained public toilets
- No screens on windows or doors!
- Beer is only 4% alcohol – and their “light beer” is even lower.
- Let’s discuss coffee for a moment. Coffee costs on average an alarming $3.50 per cup – both Greg and I were shocked by the poor quality. Espressos, lattes and cappuccinos are the norm. (“Can’t I just get a regular cup of coffee?!”) Kiwis and those from Oz have their own special type of latte, a mix of espresso and steamed milk, called a “Flat White”. They have lots of independent fancy and/or trendy cafes, but nothing at all like our Tim Horton’s or Coffee Time. The cafes are actually quite awesome – if only the coffee was tastier.
- Milk is not labeled by percentage. It’s also absolutely heavenly – so creamy and fresh!! Some of the various types of milk include Trim, Super-trim, Lite, Extra-lite, Calci-trim. It’s been interesting trying to sort them all out. As far as we can tell, their “regular” milk is similar to our homogenized (but oh-so much more delicious). They also have many different flavoured milks, including strawberry, chocolate, banana, coffee, and lime. Lime milk is surprisingly good!!
- No tipping! It’s bizarre leaving a restaurant, a cab, the hairdressers, etc. without leaving a tip. I feel guilty about it, even though it’s not expected.
- Cereal is outrageously expensive. 7 dollars for a small box! Rice Krispies are called Rice Bubbles, and “Snap, Crackle and Pop” don’t look quite the same. Cheerios are made by Nestle here, and I’m assuming they’re relatively new to NZ based on the big “NEW!” splashed across the box. It gets even stranger…there’s only one kind of Cheerios available, and it’s not the original tasty yellow box kind. Based on the box art you’d think they were Multigrain, but they’re MUCH, much sweeter.
- Much to Greg’s dismay, Party Mix is not to be found.
- Much to my dismay, we couldn’t find Twizzlers anywhere.
- Fritos are kept in the International Food section of the grocery store.
- Pop: They have the basics: Coke, Pepsi, Sprite. Other than that it’s all different. There are many different brands of ginger beer – but we haven’t seen any root beer. L&P (Lemon and Paeroa) is a hugely popular NZ pop whose roots reach back into the 19th century. It’s slogan is “World Famous In New Zealand”. Naturally, it is now owned by the Coca-Cola company. Greg really enjoys it. They also have Fanta Orange Soda – not bad, tastes a bit more like oranges than Orange Crush. OH, and they have Pepsi Max!!
- While they do have Kraft Easy Mac, they DO NOT have good old Kraft Dinner!!
- This one nearly killed me — no dill pickles!!!!!!!! They have every kind of sweet gherkin you could ever desire, but no dills! That’s one of the first things I want when I get home.
- They always seem to have heaps of NZ green-shelled mussels on ice in the Seafood Department. YUM.
- Wine and beer is sold in the grocery store, and they have amazing sales. Liquor is sold in “Liquor King” stores.
- NZ’s temperature allows for the growth of feijoa trees. Originally from South America, the fruit grows in subtropical to temperate climates. Feijoas are kind of like kiwifruit, but so much tastier in my opinion. I’m hoping to find them at the Real Canadian Superstore.
- A Kiwi is the name of a much-loved, greatly endangered iconic NZ bird. It is also a nickname for a person from NZ. The fruit that we know as a kiwi is always referred to as a kiwifruit here.
- Everything is metric – you won’t find pounds used anywhere. This made things a bit difficult for me in the grocery store, trying to get a sense for the cost of fruit, or bulk food, or items from the deli.
- They don’t have Premium Plus saltine style crackers.
- You have to request ketchup or vinegar for your french fries- oh, sorry, your “chips”. They just eat them with a bit of salt.
- Potato Chip flavours: no ketchup, no dill pickle, no BBQ. They have salt & vinegar and salt & pepper, and a whole bunch of bizarre flavours such as chicken, garlic, and mint and lamb
- Hot-dog vendors: Instead of hot-dogs or sausages on a bun, they have “sausage sizzlers”, a sausage on one slice of regular white buttered bread, topped with some onions, mustard, and maybe sauerkraut.
- Palmerston North has a movie theatre called Cinema Gold that shows artsier movies and serves alcohol. Unfortunately, we never did get around to trying it out.
- This next one is something Greg and I both noticed soon after arriving: Kiwis tend not to smile or even make eye contact when they pass someone on the sidewalk. Neither of us even realized that it’s something we do until we arrived here and felt strange for trying! More often than not I exchange a cheerful “hello!” with people at home. Is this a possible explanation for why Canadians have the reputation for being so friendly? We acknowledge complete strangers with a smile as we walk down the street?
- At least here in Palmy, they don’t recycle nearly as much as we do. This came as a big surprise to me, after hearing so much about how “green-minded” NZ was.
- Driving – everyone knows by now that NZ drives on the left-hand side of the road. It’s very easy to get used to. The one thing I’m still not accustomed to is having to look in the wrong direction when walking across the street. We have the tendency to look left first. Not good when traffic’s then coming at you from behind. They also have roundabouts here rather than 4-way stops. They’re fabulous – they are so easy to follow and they keep traffic flowing. Driving in St. Kitts would be a lot safer and saner if they installed a few key roundabouts – specifically, one at the Fairview Mall/YMCA/PetSmart corner would be GREAT.
- License plates are all the same – NZ doesn’t have provinces or states.
- Television commercials and programs are much more liberal and…well, FUN than at home. Sexual innuendos and cheeky jokes are everywhere. It makes t.v. seem so much more real, and less fabricated. You really get a sense of this when an American television show comes on right after a NZ show. *Just a side note – even though it’s from Oz, I’m really going to miss Bert’s Family Feud.*
- Here in Palmy people (adults as well as kids!) go barefoot all over town – in shopping malls, grocery stores, the movies, out on the street. Greg and I saw a girl the other day walking across a parking lot in her socks! I think it’s the weirdest thing!!
- Kiwis have a lot of funny sayings, such as “Choice!” and “Sweet as!” Greg thought they were saying “sweet ass” like we do in North America, but they’re not. They have many other substitutes for ‘sweet’ bit, such as “cool as!”, “bad as!”, etc. They also say “Cheers!” after everything. They use it to say ‘thank-you’, ‘hello’, ‘good-bye’, ‘congrats’, ‘here’s your bill’, etc., etc.!
- There’s LOTS of bike-riding here, and everyone happily wears a helmet. There’s also a lot of scooters – lucky them, they can use them all year long.
- No one goes outside in the summertime without sunscreen on. For good reason – the hole in the ozone is very nearly directly above NZ. You can feel yourself roasting in seconds – literally!!
- It’s not a bathroom, a washroom or even a restroom – it’s a toilet. You ask where the bathroom is and they’ll give you the funniest look.
- They have their own version of Coronation Street. It’s called Shortland Street. 15 years running!
- NZ doesn’t have as much pizza as we do. There are some independent places, but not like in Canada. Someone asked me which pizza chain was the best in Canada – “Pizza Hut?” I tried to explain that we tend to favour independent, neighbourhood pizza joints – each family or person has their own favourite spot. The fellow didn’t quite understand what I meant, though. They don’t seem to have anything like it here.
- “Canada is to the United States as New Zealand is to Australia.” We’ve heard this sentiment everywhere. There is a universal, generally good-natured, rivalry between Kiwis and those from Oz. Kiwis resent being grouped with Australia just as much as Canada resents being grouped with the States.
- Something we encountered while staying in hostels, talking to fellow backpackers from all over the world: There is a strong anti-American sentiment all over the world. Several people offered their condolences to us for having to live right next door to the States! I even met Americans (2 women in their 30’s from Montana) who apologized to me on behalf of their country.
- When you say “hockey” they assume you mean field hockey. ‘Our’ hockey is always referred to as “ice hockey”. Not many kiwis know much about it, either. The sport of choice is rugby.
- There are not nearly as many commercials for alcohol.
- Gas is expensive – $1.60/litre on average.
- They have many of the same chocolate bars as we do at home, but there are a few differences. Mars bars all seem to be Mars Cool – no original Mars. They have a bar called “Moro”, caramel-chocolatey-goodness, mmmmmm. There’s Milo everything! Chocolate bars, drinks, energy bars….etc.
- They have muesli bars instead of granola bars.
- “Tea” or “Teatime” means supper. To a Kiwi, ‘supper’ means a bedtime snack, and ‘dinner’ sounds very formal.
- I’ll finish off with something I’ll miss terribly, second only to my Greg: Hokey Pokey ice cream!! Vanilla ice cream with small lumps of toffee mixed in. It’s made in NZ, and it’s the nation’s second favourite flavour next to vanilla. Ohhhh, it’s so delicious!! It’s reason enough for me to return someday. :)
Well, that’s my list. It’s now 10:18 am. I had better get a move on. I have 2 hours to shower and finish packing. It still seems completely unreal to me that I’m leaving. But then, it still seems unreal that I’m actually here in New Zealand. I have a loooong trip ahead of me. Hopefully there are some good movies to watch on the flight from Auckland to LA. Better yet, I might be able to sleep most of the trip.
That’s it then from Hollis in NZ. Take care, everyone.