Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A small un-alphabetized glossary of naïve observations of the Northland, New Zealand—thus far


Fish.  Big fish.  BIG fish that can be caught from the coast line.

Seafood.  Yummy fresh seafood at even the small local grocer.  Cheap.  For when you don’t catch fish.

Sweet as.  Common slang- right on.  Awesome.  Commonly morphed into- cool as or during the complaints of the “frigid winters,” cold as.

Good on ya.  Common slang for “way to go.”

Bare feet.  Everywhere.  Kids all year.  Adults can be all year but typically more seasonal.  Sweet as.

Crackdowns.  Low tolerance for drinking and driving, drug offenses, crime, but a few of the locals vocalize that the penalties could be more harsh.  Overall, comparatively, there is a great sense of safety for our children.

Family-friendly activities.  There is no shortage of activities of all kinds going on for children and families, especially for what the locals perceive as a relatively rural area.  Markets are many and frequent and their focus varies—produce, art, craft, ethnic food, etc.  The arts and music are respected and opportunities for all are many.

Education. NZ ranks 7th in the world.  US 17th. UK 25th. Our 7 year old is making great strides in the short time he has been here and having great fun while doing so and we love the style, size and overall approach to learning thus far.

Libraries. The social hub of our community.  Great gathering spot, bistro, and oh yeah, place to check out books, movies, music and periodicals.

Coffee. The best we have had in many countries.  Bar none.  It all starts with the espresso.

Auckland. Beautiful city.  Almost half the population of NZ reside there.  Thus a very small country’s terrain appears extremely spacious.

Autos.  Non-pretentious. 

Laundry. Dries outside not insideWith a prevailing sense of taking care with the planet . . . and saving money on energy costs . . . it is the norm to hang out your laundry.  All year long.

Lambs.   Most know of my obsession with the the birthing of lambs surrounding us.  Apparently it isn’t just me.  There will be a farm day coming up where all school children will be able to bring and show off their baby . . . lambs.

Chooks.  This is NZ for chickens.  It is fairly common to have their own and supply themselves with eggs.  Beautiful pastel, yummy eggs.

Possums.  This isn’t America’s opossum but a cute, variety that is loathed in NZ because of it’s decimation of local birds.  And the fact it was brought over from Australia.

Animals. Interesting fact.  There are no animals native to NZ.  Just birds, which is why the national bird, Kiwi bird, is so adored.  He is a flightless bird that Kiwis will go to extraordinary lengths to protect. And he hasn’t even learned to say Thank You.

Dogs.  Even though it appears that virtually every Pakeha (white person) you meet is from the UK where dogs rate higher than humans, dogs are just not welcomed here.  Why?  The Kiwi bird.  The whole flightless bird thing means they live on the ground, lay on the ground and apparently can be great fodder for canines. 

Treks. AKA hikes.  There is amazingly gorgeous hiking opportunities at every turn and it is a common past time here.

Parks.  Validating the love of the great outdoors, there are phenomenal parks and reserves everywhere, many with great trekking opportunities.

Land and Sea. Great respect and focus on both.  Living off the land, respecting the land, combing the land, lazing on beaches, surfing, kayaking, sailing the sea, fishing the sea, diving the sea, in awe of the sea.

HAKA!  We LOVE the Haka and I don’t think it is a newcomer affliction.  NZ and the varying Iwi (Maori tribes) are extremely proud of them as well they should be.  Our kids learn and perform them in schools.  And of course they start every All Blacks game.  Google and observe if you aren’t familiar with the Haka.

Rugby.  All Blacks. ‘Nuff said.

Beetroot. Sliced pickled beets come on burgers in NZ.  Who would’ve thought?  Yummy.

Artists.  Amazing and everywhere.

Buskers.  Rampant for a city of 54,000

Alternative healers.  The norm, many and utilized frequently. Not so "alternative" here.

Gum Boots.  Just after catching on to calling them Wellies, a new name emerges.  They are waterproof boots good for rain and mud and named after them being worn in the gum fields.

Secondary roads. Stay off them, unless you have extra hours to kill.  And a death wish (especially if it rains).  Spoken from experience.

Community.  This small country’s schools, towns, and varying subgroups have an overarching theme of bonded community.  It is palpable.  And very pleasant.

Kindness.  I had read somewhere that Kiwis were not always extremely welcoming.  Au contraire.  We have found them to be extremely outgoing, kind, curious and helpful and have already made some amazing friends.

Postoffice. I mean, Bank.  I mean . . .   Kiwis use online banking even more than my online bank loving husband used it in the states.  Therefore the banks consist of little shops in plazas that consist of a combined post office and bank to make better use of resources. Quaint.Efficient.

Mail people. Ride bikes with baskets.  Quaint.  Efficient.

Gas. By US standards extremely expensive.  Around $8/gal.

Tobacco.  How to cut down on smoking?  Charge $17/pack of cigs.  No lie.

Meals out. Appear more expensive but actually include tax and tip so it evens out.  Yes you heard it right.  Restaurant staff actually earn a living wage so they don’t have to exist on tips.

Tips.  Not the norm.  I continue to ask, and am amazed to be turned down.


Minimum wage.  $13/hour

Housing prices.  Rent is paid weekly and seems relatively expensive to me, but you don’t hear lots of complaints.  The only thing I can figure out is that with the higher minimum wage, folks graduate to pay that actually may be sufficient to pay their bills.  Just a guess.

Climate. It is so interesting how relative climate is. I have now been here for the end of autumn, winter and the beginning of spring.  Many winter days it was colder in our house than outside since we only have a woodburner for heat and insulation isn’t a priority in the winterless north.  BUT, winter banter is just like in the dead of winter in the US.  Zoom to: it’s 50 degrees outside with a little wind. You approach a check out counter somewhere.  Check out person: Wow, it is really freezing out today isn’t it?  You: (laughing)  Uhm, not too bad.  If this is winter, bring it on.  Check out person: You’re not from these parts are you?    Word on the street is by next year, after a glorious summer, we will be joining ranks of the weather whiners.

Spirituality. There is a strong overriding spirituality consisting of connection with the earth, the rest of the earth’s occupants and nature, no matter what religious beliefs people hold.  That connection seems to go far in acceptance.  Amen.

Beauty.  Everywhere

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