What I’ve learnt from living and travelling in New Zealand

It had always been one of my dreams to visit New Zealand. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the incessant talking it up that my aunt (who has lived in Auckland for the past 10 years) had done, or due to the fact that it is literally, the furthest away I could be from my home country, and it was that ‘discovering the unknown’ dream I had.

Nevertheless, I got a chance to visit in early 2011, on a 16 day trip. I fell in love instantly, with many things I observed, which I will later explain. This lead me to pursue a working holiday visa for New Zealand

At the time, although I had wanted to live and work abroad, I never quite thought that it could happen. However, when I got home, and had a ‘holiday blues’ trip to Rome, I bit the bullet and commenced on the plans to get myself to New Zealand.

As I’ve said before, I am a pretty determined wee thing. When I set my mind to something, I work as hard as I need to, to achieve it. This is an attitude that was instilled in me, by my mum.

Haere Mai: Welcome to New Zealand. Arriving in Auckland in February 2011.
Haere Mai: Welcome to New Zealand. Arriving in Auckland in February 2011.

When I arrived here (in New Zealand) at the very beginning of 2012, I didn’t have any real expectations as such. I had never been to the South Island (my earlier visit was solely on the North Island). I had a job, with a one year visa, somewhere to live and a massive opportunity to see and do as much as I could. I didn’t at the time see myself staying longer than one year, but the time flew in, and I was offered a visa extension with my job, so took it.

Over the past few years, I’ve learnt a lot about myself, but also about this country, which I thought I’d share.

The people

The New Zealand Accent and Lingo
After I travelled to Philadelphia at the tender age of 17, and having had to repeat myself several times to be understood, I now unconsciously adapt my accent, depending on who I am talking to. I have a disgustingly posh phone voice at work, which often comes out rather English. I also have the knack of picking up accents very quickly … sometimes I will hear myself say something and stop to say ‘oh Abbi, that was very kiwi’ an example of this, was today, when I said the word hair.

Saying the word shit openly in everyday language. Not that it was really considered a swear word, but more of a distasteful word. But on one of my first weeks here, I heard on the radio in the weather report “the weather is a bit shit on a stick by the end of the week”

Phrases I’ve so quickly adopted

  • When someone asks you “how are you going” or “how you going” .. you don’t actually have to be going anywhere. It means “how are you” quite similar to in England saying “how are you doing” this point could be argued by saying well I’m not doing anything.
  • Eh! – Eh, aye or ay┬áis something which is tagged on to many sentences. For example – That was good fun aye? Almost like the person needs reassurance that what they’ve said is correct.
  • Do you wanna hang? As in hang out/spend time together?
  • Aye can also be used as slang for pardon. I am so guilty of this, as I used to say ha, or huh a lot at home prior to this. My flatmates says eh a lot, and I’ve picked it up too.
  • Adding ‘as’ into words, such as sweet as, or hot as. I used to do this a lot, but do it less now.
New Zealand is Sweet As
New Zealand is Sweet As

Lots of people call you darling here, which is quite nice, much nicer than my previous home of Lincolnshire in England, who used the term ‘duck’ as a term of endearment (as in ‘alright me duck’ and ‘thanks duck’).

Morning Tea and Afternoon Tea
A common part of daily language. Its not just “are you having a drink” “its is it time for morning tea or afternoon tea time yet?”, and this will not always refer to a drink. It often means something to eat.

Drinking coffee in a local coffee shop in Christchurch
Drinking coffee in a local coffee shop in Christchurch

Kiwi can do attitude
Kiwis won’t hire a bloke to do it, they do it on their own. You’ll often see others working together to build or fix something. Kiwis are very practical. They also work really hard, the daily working pattern in 40 hours per week (though people often work more), and get 4 weeks leave per year (as opposed to 5 in the UK).

Many of my friends, and people I’ve got to know well here, are really creative. Often involved in craft events, selling their own products. This creativity has been displayed publicly in the rebuild with art projects and murals around town.

Creativity at its best: a knitted container cover in Lyttelton, a combine community project, post earthquake
Creativity at its best: a knitted container cover in Lyttelton, a combine community project, post earthquake

Obsession with trade me
The New Zealand equivalent to eBay, everyone seems to use it. I’ll often hear people saying “I’ll look for it on trade me” or “I just need to check if I’ve won my item on trade me.”

Trade me: were kiwis by and sell
Trade me: were kiwis by and sell

Less complaining
In comparison to the UK, I feel people here do less complaining. People appear more friendly and positive. Especially in light of disaster, such as earthquakes. New Zealanders really came together to get Christchurch back on its feet, which I love.

They love the outdoors
You’ll often see people well into old age out running, hiking and biking up hills. I ran a road race once with an 83 year old, who had an artificial hip and knee, but was as fast as me!
Even if not old … New Zealanders are often out doing something. Children seem to get into their sport and outdoor activities at a very early age, and are often great at it.

Running in the Port Hills in Christchurch
Running in the Port Hills in Christchurch

Super friendly EVERYWHERE
New Zealand is one of the friendliest places I’ve been. Everyone is friendly. From bus drivers, to random passers by on the street, to people in shops. I remembered this from my first visit in 2011 and being in a shop in the Bay of Plenty and the shop assistant had a full on conversation with me, whist putting through my items. I know this can happen in many places, but the difference with here is that the person seems genuinely interested in how you are.

At times though, I can find this off putting, especially as soon as you enter the shop, and a sales assistant will smile at you and say ‘how you going?’. Sometimes, I just want to shop and go home, with minimal social interaction.

A similar thing happens on the phone. For example someone will call me at work and start the conversation like so “hey Abbi, it’s X here, how are you’ and I’ll reply with ‘good thanks, how are you’ (even if I’m not good, that’s what you say).

Everything is shortened
Kiwi’s like to shorten a lot of things. For example – Mansfield Avenue is Mansfield Ave, or Rolleston Ave. The town Palmerston North is known as Palmy. Hundy is used at times for one hundred (i.e ‘it’ll cost you a couple of hundy).

A lot of things in New Zealand remind me of the States such as ..

Phrases: ‘far out’, ‘Bucks’ (I.e 12 bucks) ‘Rad’
Cheesy adverts on TV!
You go to the DVD store or the movies rather than DVD shop or to the cinema.
Chips are crisps, and hot chips are fries, and they don’t put vinegar on their chips here Sun block or sunscreen
Ice block (rather than ice lollies)
Lollies are sweets.
A singlet is a vest top, and they wear pants not trousers.

Sense of community
Kiwis always appear to foster a huge sense of community, and many events are very family friendly/orientated. During any event, you’ll often get people bring their picnics, blankets and chairs down and hang out with friends/family.

Living in NZ

You live in a flat, unless it is a property with stairs. Most people refer to their “section” as a piece of land, and horses are out in the paddock, not a field.

It is actually quite expensive to live here. I was taken out to a restaurant on my first week at work, in a really upper class area, and paid $30 for a salad. I thought I’d have to live on beans on toast for the rest of the year. Luckily its not that expensive everywhere, but things like Dairy is really expensive, milk and yoghurts in particular.

New Zealand doesn’t have a great array of local foods. There are a number of choices to eat, from Thai to westernised foods. I’m not sure if New Zealand has a national dish, but the New Zealand lamb is rather nice. Its something I’ve only got into, since being here.

A few other things I’ve tried since being here are –
* Yams (small, and twisty), taste sweet. Almost like a mini turnip or Swede.

Yams, made in New Zealand. Like small wee worms, that taste sweet like a turnip.
Yams, made in New Zealand. Like small wee worms, that taste sweet like a turnip.

* Fairy bread – a simple children’s treat, often seen at parties, white bread, with butter, cut into triangles and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.
* Feijoa – also grown in South America. This has a sweet and aromatic flavour, about the size of an egg.

Feijoa fruit
Feijoa fruit

* Milo – A malted barley drink. Many older people drink this as standard, in replacement of coffee/tea. Some people add it to coffee to make a mocha type drink. Many children drink this too, and it also comes in a cereal form.
* Coffee – New Zealanders love their coffee, but don’t expect to rock up to a coffee shop and ask for a regular coffee. its all about the flat white, or long black. Added to this is when parents take their children to a coffee shop, they will grab a ‘fluffy’ for their kids, this usually costs 50 cents to $1, and is foamy milk.

Driving old cars
People here drive cars that are honestly older than I am and they are more expensive to buy, for the year they are. It is not compulsory to have insurance in New Zealand either.

Work life
You are paid twice a month, which is nice, but probably doesn’t help with budgeting.

Travelling in New Zealand, can be cheap, if you now how, but if you want to get out of the country, its quite costly. Whereas in Australia, you can at times snap up $100 flights deals from Perth to Indonesia. You can rarely fly out of the country for less than $300.

The Kia Ora Magazine on board an Air New Zealand flight.
The Kia Ora Magazine on board an Air New Zealand flight.

The weather
One day in New Zealand can be the hottest day on record, and the next, could be cold and raining. Sometimes you can get all four seasons in one day. Always pack a jacket. In June 2012, in my first year, we had snow and minus temperatures at the beginning, and 19 degrees and sun, at the end of the month.
Even though a day can start off cold, it can warm up. Layering your clothes is essential.

There is no central heating system in homes here, most people relay on a heat pump, generally situated in one room, of the house. Many houses don’t have double glazed windows, so its very cold in Winter.

In shorts and flip flops in June (a New Zealand Winter)
In shorts and flip flops in June (a New Zealand Winter)
June 2013 .. a few weeks earlier, snow in our garden.
June 2013 .. a few weeks earlier, snow in our garden.

I have genuinely loved living and travelling in this country. It is one of the most stunning places I’ve lived in, both the landscape and people. I’ve learnt to be more relaxed, enjoy the outdoors and grasp every opportunity given to me.

If you get the chance to visit New Zealand, do. It’ll provide you with great experiences and stories you can share for many years to come.

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