Some things here do have a distinctive British feel. Sometimes I feel like I’m even in a British comedy. For example, I stopped at a hardware store in Katikati, a small town outside Tauranga, to buy an extension cord. Now this wasn’t a big store.
“G’day, may I help you?” the proprietor at the counter welcomed me.
“Yes, I was looking for an extension cord.”
He paused for a few moments, thinking, pondering, considering. I wondered how hard this could be. It was such a small store.
“Hmmm, let’s see, that would be in electric,” he finally slowly surmised lifting his eyebrows slightly. I felt like saying “Hey, you don’t have that much in this tiny store, and you hardly have real departments or anything.”
“Very well then,” he continued, “this way.” I followed him one aisle over from where we were standing, and indeed there was an array of extension cords hung on a rack.
“Now would that be a one meter or two meter cord?”
I dunno, I thought. You know just a regular extension cord.
“Two meter I guess.”
“Alright then.” And he handed me an extension cord of the appropriate length.
Just then another customer, a woman, came into the shop.
“One moment please,” he excused himself. Then I could hear him directing the woman to paint, one aisle over from where I was in electric. Looking over I could see several dozen cans of various-colored paint arrayed in ‘paint’.
After looking around through several other departments in the store, I paid for my extension cord with a handful of the chunky New Zealand two-dollar coins.
Everybody here wears black. It truly is the Kiwis’ favorite color. In fact, it is their only color. A typical woman out exercising wears black tights and a black top. If it is cool or windy, this will be supplemented with a black windbreaker. Raining—a black raincoat. Sunny—a black cap. The men are the same.
Same thing for people at work. Black pants, black jackets for men and black skirts and dresses for women are all the rage.
The only variation is that city workers and construction workers are required to wear bright yellow or orange jackets so they can be seen. This is because if left on their own, they would all dress completely in black even while working on the roads at night. Not a good idea. So there are two colors: black and fluorescent yellow/orange.
Someone from Jamaica or Africa would look distinctly out of place here. Purple, green, blue, magenta, chartreuse—those colors haven’t been invented here yet.
We were even in downtown Auckland in the fashion district. Shops were advertising the new styles. Black, black, black. Black tops, black skirts, black dresses, black business suits. A little white thrown in for contrast sometime, but mostly black.
The rugby team, oh yeah, they’re called the All-Blacks and wear black uniforms.
Windshield wiper blades—you know how when your windshield wipers go bad and start squeaking and streaking all over, when with every wipe they leave that big curvilinear smudge right across where you have to see and you decide to replace them. Well, here you go to an auto parts store and just give them your license plate number. That’s right, no need to tell them what kind of car you have or sort through the array of various wiper blades like in the US: standard, deluxe, long-lasting, short-lasting, double-bladed, rain, rain and snow.
Here they look up what kind of car you have with your license plate number. The license plate stays with the car and identifies it. That’s also why when you buy a used car here it’s very important to make sure the license plate isn’t some inappropriate vanity plate for you—PMS24-7, HOR5-SH1T, or EAT ME—because you got to keep it.
Anyway they look up your car on a computer and give you two precut lengths of wiper blade material wrapped in plastic for $19. You don’t get the easy whole snap-on new wiper blade assembly. That apparently stays with the car too.
No shirt, no shoes, no service.
There is one thing that I have yet to see in New Zealand, that is the ubiquitous ‘no shirt, no shoes, no service’ sign you see everywhere in the United States. That’s because a fair number of people do go barefoot here, and all year long even in winter. And it’s not just kids but adults too. It is not terribly uncommon to see someone reasonably well dressed or children bundled up in large down coats or walking outside in the cold rain—barefoot.
At first I thought it was probably leftover from the Maori going barefoot and now applies to everyone.
But now I’m beginning to think it’s because shoes are so expensive. Before moving here, I had read comments by numerous people about the high price of shoes. Buy shoes before you come, they said. Bring lots of shoes. Now I understand. I’ve seen women’s shoes for $499. Reasonable quality men’s dress shoes are several hundred dollars.
But wait, going barefoot, I also seem to recall that the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings went barefoot – maybe that has something to do with it too.
One of Rebecca’s friends and her husband are coming here to visit Rebecca and see the country. They arranged for a time-share in Turangi by mistake.
See, unfortunately we live in Tauranga, not Turangi. That’s why you have to learn your Maori words here. The population of the Tauranga, where we live on the coast, is 115,000 and the total population of the Bay of Plenty region where it resides is 275,000.
Turangi (other spelling) is a small town with a population of 3500 people in the center of the North Island (same island) near Lake Taupo. It is 2 ½ hours away if all goes well on the tiny winding roads, longer if there is any mischief on the roads.
One thing I do like is when you buy things for cash here, the prices are rounded up to the nearest ten cents. There are no New Zealand pennies or nickels! None of that little change sloshing around in your pocket, wallet or purse. No fiddling or fumbling for two pennies.
Most people here including us use the EFTPOS card (a debit card) or a credit card exclusively. Still when you do decide to use old-fashioned currency, it makes it a lot easier.
And since tax is included in all prices, when you see a price that is exactly what you are going to pay.
The mailmen and mailwomen here are called Posties. They often ride around on bicycles and tiny motor scooters in fluorescent yellow safety outfits. The bicycles are outfitted with baskets front, back and sides for the mail. They scoot up to the mailboxes, riding over the grass and deftly drop off items and are gone before you know it.
Even in this most recent heavy rain, they could be seen making their rounds on their bicycles. I guess it is similar to the United States—“neither rain nor snow, etc. will stop the mail.” However, here is a letter that was in our mailbox. Totally soaked. Apparently that lofty standard only applies to the mail being delivered; it makes no warrant on the condition of said delivered material.
Consisting of vanilla ice cream with solid lumps of honeycomb toffee in it, supposedly you can’t get it anywhere else but here.
I convinced Rebecca to buy some as part of getting to know New Zealand. Oh yes, we could have had a scoop somewhere but decided to buy a full half-gallon. Delicious.