By Megan McCormack
Living in a new country is certainly an interesting experience, as you find yourself constantly comparing everything in this new land to what you’re used to back home. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself laughing and going, “This is SO weird,” during my first month in New Zealand. Even now, when most of the things on this list have become normal to me, I still find myself doing it. So, for those of you considering a move or extended trip down under, these are just a few of the things you’ll find yourself growing accustomed to.
Construction is a way of life
It seems there’s almost ALWAYS construction going on, in your neighborhood, your mall, your local town, the closest motorway, or if you’re as lucky as me, ya know, all of the above. But that’s not a bad thing, because it means kiwis work hard to upkeep their country and continue building and rebuilding, especially with the amount of damage earthquakes can and often do bring about. Just be prepared; those neon vests sometimes haunt my dreams.
Oh, did you think that meant the motorways were more accessible and efficient? Sorry.
What it actually means is that there’s often ongoing construction on both your local motorways and the main motorway that runs through each part of the country, meaning that you’ll not only have to deal with one lane roads for a large part of any road trip, but you can also count on having construction delays, yay! Don’t worry though, the scenery makes any journey more worthwhile and tolerable.
Most neighborhoods have a “dairy.”
These will often have different brand logos plastered all over, like “four square” lottery and “tip top” ice cream, and won’t always say “dairy” on them (a thing I learned the hard way when I “couldn’t find any” but really just didn’t know what to look for). They serve as a small little convenience store right in your neighborhood, if you just can’t be bothered to drive into town (of course, keep in mind you’re likely paying extra for the convenience).
Politicians are actually approachable and present.
This has nothing to do with whether or not they’re present in their politics, it’s more of just a general observation that was striking to me, coming from a country with a government that’s far too large to attend to all the little everyday people, try as they might. Since New Zealand has a small population (nearly half as big as NYC alone), politicians can do a lot more and so I guess it should have been no surprise to me when I happened to meet the then-Prime Minister Bill English… on my second day in the country.
They love their roundabouts.
Initially, I LOATHED these with a fiery passion. They’re stressful and put all the control in the capabilities of drivers which is scary, okay? But now that I’ve sort of worked out their rhythm, I can appreciate their usefulness in terms of both less stopping for lights to turn green and an easy chance to turn around if you end up going the wrong direction (which I do, a lot).
They also love their sausages.
Seriously, I don’t know how or why, but people talk about sausages and eat sausages and crave sausages here more than I could have ever expected. If you’re having “cheerios” for dinner, rest assured, you’re not having cereal. If you’re having a treat for lunch one day, it could very well be a sausage roll. I even had someone ask me once, in complete seriousness, what my favorite sausage was and I was sat there confused beyond belief going, “uh, does a hot dog count?”
You won’t really see yellow school buses on the road, though there are lots of buses to get to and from cities (shout out Metlink!)
And, get this, you can PASS these buses — woohoo!
They know their birds
Even the kiwis I’ve met who have claimed that they’re “not really into birds” can still point out a tui to me, or tell me stories about kea birds stealing shiny jewelry out of tourists’ bags which, in fairness, they might say “is nothing” but that’s exactly the point!!! It’s nothing to them but I can’t even tell you what a robin looks like and I only guess it’s a woodpecker if it’s having a proper go at a tree.
You will encounter the Māori language and traditions in various ways, including in shops, in city names, in sport, and in conversation in certain parts of the country.
Which is really cool, and if you ever visit New Zealand you should definitely learn a bit more about the Māori culture, which is different than Samoan culture, of which a lot can be found here as well. Side note: Māori is not pronounced the way you’re pronouncing it, and you have the Māori influence to thank for all those crazy town names you scratch your head at… Wainuiomata anyone?
Bucket hats are not a fad, a joke, or a fashion statement. They are simply the rule.
So if you see a group of children walking around wearing bucket hats, that’s because their school mandates it. Yup, they produce bucket hats, often with their school name on it, for the kids to wear to protect themselves from the sun, which is stronger in New Zealand and Australia as a result of a hole in the Earth’s ozone.
Popular sports include underwater hockey, netball, cricket, and of course rugby.
Maybe I’m just ignorant but a lot of these sports weren’t on my radar at all before coming here. I knew rugby was prominent here, but had no clue cricket was played here and certainly no clue underwater hockey existed.
Yes, Christmas is BBQ time.
Oh the weather outside is frightful… nope. Wait. It’s delightful… this is weird? Summer, is that you? Is this Christmas in July or what? With that said, ugly sweaters are impossible to find so BRING YOUR OWN!
Kids are legally mandated to learn how to swim, and get lessons during school time.
Weird, but smart.
EVERYTHING IS ON A HILL.
I’m talking your house, your supermarket, your school, your basketball court. Okay, maybe this is a slight exaggeration but there is an absurd amount of little suburbs and houses up these gigantic hills that used to astonish me when I first came here, but now I’m more surprised if I find flat land. Also, use the hand brake. It’s not just there for kicks.
Keeping eggs in the fridge is optional. And so are shoes.
Yeah, I don’t get this one either, but you can walk around malls and grocery stores as barefoot as the day you were born and no one even bats an eye.
Pavlova is a national dish and don’t you forget it, @Australia.
Kiwis are very proud of claiming this dish as their own and naturally duke it out with anyone who says otherwise.
Schools tend to be set up in the courtyard style.
Meaning you have to go outside to get from A to B, and walk across the square “yards” to go in between classrooms, rather than just walking down a hall or staircase in a school that’s built from the ground up.
Lemonade is a fizzy drink.
One word: why?