Aside from the more obvious reasons why we like New Zealand—it’s tremendously beautiful, the people are friendly and sane, it’s environmentally friendly, they filmed Lord of the Rings here—here are a few other reasons we picked New Zealand.
1) It has a relatively short history. Particularly if I was going to write about a country, I wanted a country that hadn’t been around or settled for too long, not like say Italy, Greece or Egypt. The Maori, the local indigenous people, had only arrived here in New Zealand some 700 years ago. Before that it was un-populated. The Europeans only arrived in the 1800’s. Certainly one should be able to get a grasp on things here.
2) There aren’t a lot of poisonous things and deadly things that will eat you and kill you like in Australia. In fact, there are no snakes or large predators in New Zealand. I mean in Australia I would be afraid to go for a walk lest some crocodile would leap out of a billabong, grab me and then perform that death spiral thing on me, before leaving me under a log in the water to putrefy before eating me. Or the snakes! Aren’t most or all of the most poisonous snakes in the world in Australia? And some of them actually come at you, instead of sitting back and hissing or whatever, some of the Australian snakes are actually glad to bring it on. And there are a series of small spiders that will kill you too. Poisonous plants too. And if you go into the ocean, you have sharks and the box jellyfish. I just don’t think I could ever be completely comfortable being outside in Australia.
3) New Zealand has a “young” landscape or at least that’s what a geology book I was reading said. The earth formed 4.6 billion years ago. It always seemed to me that everything by definition has to be that old, but that’s just me. But anyway the rocks in New Zealand formed in the Cambrian Era, only 540 million years ago, and New Zealand separated from the other land masses a mere 80 million years ago. This is also related to my first point above. Just as I didn’t want a country with too much history, you don’t want a country that has too old of a landscape either.
4) They speak English. Of course, it’s a tad different from in the US but understandable and I actually find the accent here quite charming. To be fair, sometimes I don’t understand what people say so I just nod and smile. People here say that the way we speak is long and drawn-out (they should visit Louisiana), compared to their short clipped manner. When speaking, some Kiwis end their sentences with an upswing in intonation leaving you wondering if that was a question or not? When we visited New Zealand, people commented on our accent often thinking we were from Canada. Later Rebecca said to me, “I never thought I had an accent,” “Everyone has an accent,” I answered, “when they go somewhere different.”
5) New Zealand is far enough out of the mainstream of things to be safe. I mean it’s generally not on the radar of the US, China, Russia and the crazies in the Middle East. It has a l-o-w profile. Nothing going on here, just keep moving. If the you-know-what ever hits the fan, we might just be safe here.
6) It’s not too big in size. Not like China or Russia or Africa. Again, sort of related to reasons number one and three, it’s manageable in size. Not lots of time zones, not too much acreage and not packed too tightly with people. Manageable.
Part of all of the above is also related to the fact that I am a lazy writer. If we go, I don’t want to have too much material to have to work with; I don’t want to have to do lots of research. And I probably don’t talk to enough people either.
All the fine and beautiful nuances of the culture, people and land of New Zealand—can you expect me to grasp and understand them? Hmmm, probably not. I’ll probably miss most of them. They’ll go right on by. The depth of the history of the country and how it relates to England and Scotland. Don’t count on it. Never even been to the UK. Oh, and the depth of the Maori culture—don’t even go there, probably never ever could really understand all that and won’t pretend to. Making judgments on the briefest and sketchiest of facts and observations—yes, I do that too. Miss the important stuff and focus on superficialities like someone being enamored with all the knick-knacks in a tourist gift shop and missing the mountains and forests that lay just outside. Yep.
And prejudiced. You betcha. Not against people or cultures, but seeing things through my own warped limited United States viewpoint having been indoctrinated and living there my whole life.
It is also frowned upon to criticize a country where you have only just arrived. It’s like, hey, I beg your pardon but you only just arrived here, you really don’t have the right to make any judgments about anything. Have some respect. Or don’t you think you should have at least have lived here for a while.
But, hey, what fun is that? Isn’t that why we travel? To be shocked, surprised, in part to laugh at the way other people do things, to say, “Will you look at that!” Just like when other people come the United States and are shocked, surprised, intrigued and even disgusted with some of our habits.