The most obvious difference to me was the driving. Kiwis drive on the left side of the road. I've already driven on the "wrong side" before in England and Scotland but that was in the early 90s. All I remember is that regardless of what country I'm driving in, the driver always has to be closest to the center of the road. It took only about 48 hours to get used to that.
Thank goodness the gas and brake peddles are the same.
I'm still not completely confident where the left side of the car is. I put a pretty serious scrape into the left front hubcap of our rental car in Auckland - oops! "It was there when we rented it."
When reversing, I still tend to look over my right shoulder towards the driver-side window instead of over my left shoulder.
One thing I haven't gotten used to is that the indicator handle is on the right side of the steering wheel instead of the left side. It would be easy to spot our car in Palmerston North as we cruise this city that we barely know and suddenly careen across lanes with our windshield wipers going on double speed instead of our indicator lights .
There is one other aspect of driving on the opposite side of the road that occurs off the road. Walking around the hospital, I've startled a few people and split a few coffees as they steer around me in the corridors until I realized that like Canadians, people tend to walk on the same side of the corridor that they drive on. In Canada, everyone tends to walk on the right side of the corridor. In NZ, the Kiwis walk on the left.
If any of you come visit, please PLEASE bring me antiperspirant sticks. In NZ, deodorants and antiperspirants come only in roll-ons! Ewwww!
It seems acceptable for Kiwi kids and even some adults (more frequently in young adults) to walk around everywhere in bare feet - on the street, in the grocery store, in restaurants! A sizable proportion of the student body at the kid's school go barefoot rain or shine! Wierd!
Kiwi Sense of Humor
One of the things I most like about living here in New Zealand is their ... it's hard to be politically correct here ... broadened sense of what's appropriate. They're more relaxed, more laid back. We noticed this most in advertisements, most of which would never ever see the light of day in North America for fear of offending people (and being sued). Canadians and Americans definitely lose out. When the advertisements are funny, they're REALLY funny. When they're serious, they are often truly brutal. Here are a few samples.
I'm sure you've noticed how staid and boring the pre-flight safety videos are. Sure airline security is no joke bla bla bla bla. Check out how Air New Zealand briefs it's patrons.
Did you catch it? The BARE essentials of safety? Did you notice that the women were never visible below the shoulders? Were the men's nipples a little more visible than usual?
This next ad is famous among Kiwi's even though it's a few years old.
This is pretty standard fare for a beer company. Tui beer, whose slogan is "Distracting The Boys From The Task At Hand Since 1889" ran this commercial recently.
We haven't had too much difficulty understanding the Kiwi's, but there are a few differences in our expressions.
Flip-flops = Jandals
Spite/7-Up = Lemonade
Lemonade = Lemonade (but doesn't really exist)
Windbreaker = Windcheater
Cash = Do Ray Mi
Hike = Tramp
Pace of Life
Coming from a caffeine-fueled aggressive pace of life where I always drive over the speed limit and where every waking moment feels rushed, the Kiwi pace of life took some getting used to but is a hugely welcome change.
Like most of you back home, our lifestyle was to rise before dawn, guzzle caffeine-enriched coffee, speed to work/school, multi-task all day long, walk around checking our iPhones/Crackberries every 60 seconds, grumble loudly if plans go awry, speed back home again, take kids to hockey/football/soccer/figure skating 6 nights out of 7 and then collapse for less than the recommended amount of sleep.
Perhaps the most welcome change in New Zealand is that the pace of life is so much more relaxed. Starbucks is going out of business in New Zealand because people find it too strong. Almost everyone has a cell phone, but they are phones, not Blackberries or iPhones. And they are not glued to them. People drive below the speed limit. The kids start school at 9:00am with three snack breaks and finish by 3:00pm. Their school has a pool that they use at least three times per week. Their favorite part: NO HOMEWORK! Mom & Dad's favorite part: Trish and I can hang up our chauffeur caps - all the activities are part of after-school time: rugby, swimming, cricket, art, computers, music .... When we're all home, it's pure family time.
|Our kids had no idea what these were for|
Before leaving Canada, we had heard how wonderful the Kiwis were. Part of this is that everyone is keen to chat with you. Cashiers, barristas, waitresses, etc. all seem keen to engage you in conversation. I don't think they are particularly interested in foreigners, although the topic soon turns around their detection that my accent isn't Kiwi. However, they are equally courteous with each other and I've realized that they were not simply friendly with visitors. It's just the way they are. In my surly urban Canadian-ness, despite being on vacation, I treated the grocery store clerk's chit-chat with the customer in front of me with mild annoyance. "Helloooo? Waiting in line here! Time is precious!" [in my head thank god, but with pronounced eye-rolling]. But then I had my turn too and it's all good. No one seems rushed. There's time to chat. I've got a lot to learn.
All of you must have some guilty pleasure that you would love to do if the house was empty and all the chores were done, but months or years go by without you ever getting to indulge yourself. New Zealand has been good for that. I've made a significant dent into the National Geographics that I brought with me and we go out on walks as a family. I feel better about sleeping 7 hours a night instead of my usual 4-5.
No worries, mate.