Adjusting to life in New Zealand

As Cyclone Lusi bears down on New Zealand's North Island in the middle of March, I'm reminded how upside-down things are in this tiny little country. Life in New Zealand so far has been quite pleasant. In a way, it's perfect for Joe and I -- a blend of American and British culture. I love the friendly nature and laid back lifestyle here, but occasionally miss the American conveniences I've grown accustomed to at home. (I'm sounding like one of those "stupid Americans" on House Hunters International right about now.)

The more I settle in and meet new people, the more I learn about and appreciate the little New Zealand nuances, and realize maybe I'll get used to living without my American conveniences. Here's a round up of New Zealandisms that I'm adjusting to.

1. Kiwi speak: Although I didn't have to learn a new language here, I have had to adjust to the lingo and the accent. From the moment we stepped off the plane and were greeted with "Kia Ora," I've seen how the Maori language and culture is infused into New Zealand life.

Maori Haka is performed by the All Blacks before every game.  Source

Maori Haka is performed by the All Blacks before every game. Source

Take a look at a map of New Zealand and you'll find it hard to pronounce most of the city names. They're mostly Maori. Sidenote: W-H-A is pronounced "Fuh", so Whakapapa is actually pronounced "Fuckapapa."





Other kiwi-isms:

"Sweet As"

  • "Sweet as" - Joe and I recently joined a "boot camp", and I when the instructor told me "sweet as", I almost choked on my water thinking he'd told me "sweet ass." "Sweet as" is probably one of the most common phrases I hear around here, often paired with "bro." It means "it's all good." When I hear it, I think "sweet as... what?" Still not sure. But it doesn't stop there. Kiwis tag "as" onto just about any adjective. Good as, hot as, hard as...
  • Chilly Bin = ice chest
  • Say "zed" for the letter "Z"
  • Good as gold
  • Tramping = hiking
  • They pronounce their vowels differently as well. For instance, I did a double take when I saw this commercial on TV for decks. (Deck is pronounced "dick"). This is the longer version...
How do you work this thing?  Source

How do you work this thing? Source

2. The ole washer-dryer: Yes, I've used a washer-dryer in England.  It's one machine for all your clothes cleaning needs. When I gave my mom a tour of the flat via facetime, she immediately said, "What's that in the bathroom? A washing machine? Where's the dryer?" One machine sounds like a great idea right? Not so much. It can't dry as much as it can wash, so after washing a full load, you're supposed to remove some of the wet clothes and only dry a portion of what you washed at a time. Not only that, but it can take upwards of 3 hours just to dry one round of clothes. This means using up tons of energy and paying high energy bills. So I've succumbed to the English/New Zealand ways of hanging up my clothes to try. It may not be the fastest way to do things, and yes, everything dries out wrinkled and stiff, but it's better for the environment! ;)

3. Keep left: After purchasing the Subaru, I was terrified to drive on the left side of the road and didn't want to drive anywhere alone. For the most part, I've finally adjusted to this new driving habit and actually find it quite fun. But I still sometimes have those moments where my brain switches back into American mode, and I walk up to the passenger side of the car when I'm the driver. I get most confused in parking lots and will sometimes catch myself driving on the right side. Oops!

4. Keep the change: In the states, I find we don't value our change. It's stashed in some random drawer in our car or sitting in a soap dish accumulating for years before we actually do something with it. In New Zealand, they have bills for fives, tens, twenties, fifties and hundreds. One dollar and two dollars are coins only. When I first arrived here, I kept wondering where my money was going. I'd count my bills and couldn't remember spending so much! Then I realized it was all going to my coin purse. Those gold ones are actually worth something! 2 coins can buy you an ice cream! Better hang onto those. Lastly, there are no pennies in the NZ currency. Totally weird or totally brilliant?

5. The tipping point: I've noticed most restaurants here don't have that little space on the receipt to leave a tip. I wasn't sure what was the best etiquette, so I did a little research and found that tips are not customary or required, but have slowly been working their way into New Zealand because of tourists who tip. A tip for exceptional service is generally around the 10%-15% range.

View from my window as Cyclone Lusi hits Hawkes Bay.

View from my window as Cyclone Lusi hits Hawkes Bay.

6. Swapping seasons: Your winter is our summer. After celebrating a chilly Christmas in Louisiana with my family, I escaped the brutal winter that hit the states and landed in sunny, 80 degree New Zealand summer. It's really thrown me off. It's March and I can slowly feel the cool breezes of fall making their way to the coast. End of summer/early fall also means hurricane season... or cyclone season in the South Pacific. I'm experiencing my first cyclone this weekend.

Bachelor Australia is EXACTLY like the American hit series.  Source

Bachelor Australia is EXACTLY like the American hit series. Source

7. Reality TV isn't so different: My roommates know, I looove myself some TV. I hate to admit it, but I just do! I'm a huge fan of Breaking Bad, Homeland, and True Detectives, but I can also seriously veg out on some trash TV. Luckily, I've found the equivalents here in New Zealand. Swap Bachelor for Bachelor Australia, HGTV Design Star for The Block Australia and Masterchef for The Great Food Race, and I'm happy.

8. Cost of goods: If there's one thing I miss more than anything, it's Trader Joe's. I miss the days of $90 groceries that would last me 2 weeks. These days $150-$200 gets me about 5 days worth of food. Although it may be a little high maintenance, I'm glad I stocked up on my favorite products and fought my mom on packing my favorite nail polish colors. Mascara here costs $21+ and a bottle of Essie nail polish $24. (WHAT!?) And unless you're planning living on fast food, the average cost of a decent meal is rarely less than $15.

$22.99 Ouch!

$22.99 Ouch!

Despite the adjustments (both good and bad), I wouldn't trade this experience for anything! New Zealand is a truly remarkable place, and its people have welcomed us with open arms. Dryer or no dryer, there's no place I'd rather be. New Zealand is sweet as. (Am I using that correctly?)