A trip to New Zealand – what do you know?

I am back, dear Readers.

And what a fine time I had. I loved my time in NZ, so much so I plan to go again next January. (Summering in New Zealand sounds such a civilised thing to do.) Sorry Jo, Tassie has been bumped down on my list of places to visit.

I learnt a lot too.

You may recollect that I said, despite its closeness geographically, economically, socially, politically, well dang it closeness in everything, Aussies know very little about our Kiwi cousins. I think this about covers my pre-trip knowledge (something about proximity that may make us blasé about finding out stuff, perhaps?):

  • They have earthquakes. And geothermal activity. Poor Christchurch was badly damaged a few years ago.
  • The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies were filmed in NZ.
  • Rotorua has geysers.
  • They were part of the ANZACS (Hence the ANZACS were ANZACS and not just AACS! Der!)
  • There are fewer people in the whole of NZ than live in the greater Sydney area.
  • Their game of choice is rugby – and they are better at it than Aussies generally. And their colour is black. As a person who doesn’t follow sport, I know that other Aussies will know more about individual sports persons than I.
  • Maoris are the indigenous population.
  • Anyone Kiwi who is famous, we claim, unless they do something wrong, then we say they are a Kiwi, eg Russell Crowe.
  • The Finn brothers come from NZ. And their song “Six Months in a Leaky Boat” was banned in the UK for a time as the Falklands War was on – morale and all.
  • Because of the size of the country, they were able to track and identify the French spies who blew up the Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior.
  • Because of nuclear testing, NZ dropped out of the ANZUS Treaty for a while. LOUD CLAPS ALL AROUND FOR THEIR SOUND PRINCIPLES.
  • They invented bungy jumping.
  • One of their Prime Ministers said Kiwis migrating to Australia raised the IQ of both countries. (Ouch!)
  • When I was growing up, everyone who went to NZ came back with the green Tiki things, and I wanted one!
  • And they say “Fush and Chups” and pronounce six as sex.
  • And now, what do I know?

    Well for starters a lot more about their system of government, voting system and history. I am practically an expert now. (Go on, ask me about the early whalers? Or the Maori battalion in Crete in WWII. Or how many houses of Parliament they have.) The tours of the Parliament House and national museum were very enlightening.

    But here’s some other random things I discovered:

  • The air is so much fresher and softer! It smells like a meadow of freshly mown grass with hints of chamomile and wild flowers.
  • There is no quilt of air pollution hanging over their cities.
  • There are no creepy crawly nasties! Do you know how liberating it is for an Aussie to be able to walk though the bush and not worry about being bitten by a snake or a spider? It is second nature for Aussies not to walk in long grass at all. And as an Aussie you wouldn’t walk through the bush without being very observant. And in NZ you don’t have to keep fanning your face to swish away flies! Picnics or just sitting down on the ground in Australia are always a battle with ants. Not so in NZ.
  • The public gardens are amazing!!! On this side of the ditch we should just give up growing hydrangeas. They come in so many colours! And are so big. Both the shrubs and the flowers. My god! The flowers were the size of serving platters! If you only visit one garden it has to be the public garden of Hamilton. Fantasy land! They have gardens from different eras and countries. Look at the garden from Renaissance Italy!
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    Want to travel to another country? Well walk through this walkway:

    What about their roses?

    Even Mr Sans, who frankly my dears normally couldn’t give a damn was thoroughly impressed with these gardens. His favourite? The Victorian gardens and the Victorian Glasshouse:


  • Kiwis are more civic minded than Aussies. Case in point, their public gardens. The Botanic Garden of Taupo is the work of volunteers. Other gardens and parks had evidence of civic pride, eg grand gates erected by people in memory of a family member. In Napier (and I will write more about this beautiful Art Deco town in a later post), buildings were being restored by local business people, and while they might be able to rent the buildings out, given the apparent vacancy rate, they might not. And even with the potential to make money, the buildings were being restored to such a high level of historically accurate detail, not just a quick re plastering and bodgy paint job. It was clear is was about pride rather than a quick buck. The restorations were like a gift to the town! Even the workers in the Info Centre were volunteers.
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  • They don’t seem to have the element of deadbeats that we have. Very little graffiti and hardly any rubbish on the ground. Look at this pedestrian overpass! Can you see what is missing?
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    There’s no cage or high fence over the walkway! Imagine that happening in Sydney or Melbourne! We have to stop dickheads dropping things on cars, or climbing over to do graffiti.

    (Why do you think this is so? Is it their smaller population? Their rather homogeneous population, with only two main groups? Their history? That they don’t have the disconnect that large cities have?)

  • Most of their houses are built from wood. OK, they don’t have termites, which as my current house is wood I live in fear of! But wouldn’t brick be a better insulator?
  • They take more care with their schools. Lovely new buildings going up, well maintained grounds and buildings. Not the decrepit dumps we end up with here.
  • They don’t seem to do trees. As in, the towns and suburbs are relatively tree-less, like the Western suburbs of Sydney.
  • Their telegraph/power poles are made of cement – as they don’t have quick growing hardwood trees.
  • It’s quite cold. Well, for someone from Sydney. Makes for a cooler, more pleasant summer but too cool for swimming for me. Though I did have a couple of quick dips. Except for when it is windy, then it is bloody cold, and it was windy frequently. I took 4 singlet tops and two long sleeve tee-shirts. Wrong ratio. But don’t be fooled, as I was, that the sun isn’t strong. The cool air makes you forget about getting sun burnt. Cover up! Slip, slop and all that.
  • Maori is spoken/written a lot. Wh is pronounced as f. Which makes for some immature Aussie humour about the towns that start with Whaka.
  • Yeah, they do pronounce six as sex, and I know I am immature but it makes me smile. Do you think it is because we are Aussies and are known to laugh at their pronunciation of six that we were put in room 6 in two different hotels? We only ate fush and chups once, with Mr Sans Kiwi cousin. Her son’s sole memory of his stay with us several years ago was our sons repeatedly getting him to say fish and chips and then laughing. Mmm! Do you think immaturity and simple-minded humour is genetic?
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    11 thoughts on “A trip to New Zealand – what do you know?

    1. I loved this post! I’ve wanted to travel to New Zealand for the longest time…this might just tip me over into action. I especially love the comment about the air. I find Tasmania like that, too. You can literally smell the difference in that beautiful, unpolluted air. Hope you had a really fantastic break!

      • Go, go, go. (Opps sounds like Gadget.) Oh, the scenery! And no crowds! You’re from Sydney, aren’t you? You can find parking in central Auckland, no worries! Just think! And so friendly. Like Oz twenty years ago. I’m sold (but only to visit. More on why I wouldn’t live there later.)

      • As I said to Fiona, GO! It is beautiful. And it not crowded.

        You’re in Qld, yes? You won’t know yourself with no flies and ants and snakes. I can’t leave my mother’s door open in Qld lest a snake comes in! But it will be very cool for you.

    2. I’m so glad you enjoyed yourself! 🙂 NZ sounds like a great place to visit. I’m a little afraid to visit Australia now . . about the worst creature you’d encounter on a walk around here would be a mosquito!

      • Favourite thing of Aussies is to scare visitors from overseas with tales of dangerous creatures. You’re more likely to be run over anywhere. Yes, there are plenty of spidersand snakes. At my mother’s place we can’t leave the door open as a snake may come in. But really, it is fine. Except flies in Central Australia; they are so bad they send you mad.

    3. Huh. In Tassie we also do giant multicoloured hydrangeas, glorious roses, Art Deco AND Georgian towns, wooden houses and no smog. AND we can say ‘fish and chips’ properly. I will just go away to sulk now.

      • I think I’m living in the wrong state! But then I might have to face my kids leaving home and I know you wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

        Hope your Jan hols with your girls have been fun.

    4. It is quiet amazing what you discover or notice when you travel – SA also likes the cement (with metal) power poles, and there’s a few in WA/Perth but mainly just the ones with the most tension. I’ll take my nerdy pole knowledge elsewhere now!

      It is incredible to see there’s no fences on the pedestrian overpass, and I don’t know why they don’t need them (and we sorely do – I suppose when things happened, they came and put them up everywhere…?!)

      I just love wooden houses, but I do see your point re:coldness. Silly billies. Seriously though, no termites? That is so weird to think… The gardens were just lovely as well.

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