How has your perception about New Zealand changed?
On our first trip to the South Island, I was blown away by the raw dramatic scenery and wild places. This time, in part because of writing this blog, I am far more aware of the depth of both the human history and natural history of New Zealand.
Everything in New Zealand is colored by it being a relatively small island isolated in the South Pacific: the government, infrastructure, economy and the people themselves.
You can’t really understand New Zealand without understanding its history. Because of this everything has far more depth and character and hence meaning than it did when we just visited.
I have a better sense and feel of the people, what they are about. There is a most assuredly a great deal of pride in the people and in being from New Zealand, and a hardiness and resilience that is refreshing.
What’s the most different than what you thought?
The Kiwis are more subdued than I thought. Maybe sometimes I’d even call them staid. I thought they’d be more crazy and wild somehow. You know, after all, they do bungee jumping and all that here. There aren’t overt displays of emotion. They are very practical and restrained. Sometimes I feel someone should come here and shake things up a little.
That said, my initial impression of them generally being happy, friendly, cheerful and upbeat people remains.
At the same time when you come somewhere for a vacation, you see things from a vacation standpoint, or with a vacation set of eyes. Once you move somewhere, you see things more through a practical set of views.
Like everywhere else, most people are just focused on getting by: having a decent job, raising their children, buying food, having a reasonable place to live, keeping the cars running.
Many things that we take for granted in the US are harder to get done here than in the US. Simple things, for example, the glass plate inside our microwave broke. No store carried any replacement parts. There was a single store I found that could order one for $50 – will take several weeks. In the US, I’m sure I’d find one somewhere, or go online and have one delivered in two days. We ended up finding a used one at a Red Cross store.
Infrastructure isn’t as built up or modern as in the US. Sometimes it seems like I am back in the US in the 1960’s.
I somehow thought the Maori here, or at least many of them, would have an ‘attitude’ like so many minorities in the United States, or a chip on their shoulders for being the indigenous people or a victimhood mentality. I know it exists here and that some people everywhere are prejudice, but I certainly haven’t seen or felt it in any of my dealings with the Maori or with people of European ancestry. Everybody of all cultures just seems to get along. It’s very refreshing compared to the United States.
I like to think here that any past conflicts or misunderstandings have generally been put aside, and now everyone just wants to get on with living. Or perhaps that continual Balkanization, this type person vs. that type person, this group against that group, is finally truly seen as non-productive and more harming and divisive than constructive.
What do you like best?
The people are generally friendly and seem happy. They have a quick sense of humor and are easy to talk to. There is no sense that anyone is better than anyone else. People are not showy or ostentatious.
There isn’t that constant in-your-face attitude that is often so prevalent in the US in the news and even in day-to-day life dealings. People aren’t confrontational. You never hear anyone yelling or fighting. And there is generally none of the rudeness, obnoxiousness and profanity that we are constantly inundated with in the US. People generally don’t act as victims and I sense that acting like a victim isn’t tolerated by the people here.
I generally feel safe here. I think we ended up in a nice size city. I didn’t like Auckland on our visit there. Lots of other towns would have been too small.
People are concerned about the environment here. They care about the ocean, the wildlife and the forests. They truly want to protect it.
For whatever reason, you never see trash on the sides of the streets. Stuff is recycled. To be sure, some of this is done for economic reasons and out of practicality. At the same time, there isn’t the sense of waste there is in the US. Back home we do use so many resources and throw stuff away without giving it a second thought.
The weather is nice here in Tauranga. After living in Colorado for so many years, it’s nice to have a more temperate climate. It’s nice to have rain. It’s nice to see the color green.
The physical environment is stunning. To see the Pacific Ocean stretching out toward infinity a block from our door is fantastic. I like it that the sea is part of our life here.
Inland are rolling green pastoral hills covered with sheep. I like the jungle. New Zealand also has its own unique quirkiness that is fun.
What don’t you like?
The prices of things particularly food and gas and it’s a bit harder to get around.
Like any place you move to, people have lived here their whole lives. You do feel a bit like an outsider.
What do you miss about the United States?
Friends and family would be the obvious answer.
So much is easier in the US. We do or did have so much more. We take it for granted.
Getting around is easier back in the US because of the roads. I miss getting on a big highway and driving without having to think or concentrate.
Food – Mexican food, Italian food, grocery stores with aisles and aisles of stuff at reasonable prices. Yes, I am superficial.
Because of all the changes for the worse going on in the US, I don’t miss it as much as I thought I would.
There’s nothing I had back in our house in Colorado Springs that I passionately miss or wish I had here. There’s nothing I got rid of with the move that I wished I had kept.
I don’t keep up on the news as much as I did back in the US and that’s okay.
At the same time sometimes I feel out of the mainstream of American life living here (because I am!). While in Colorado no politician in Washington, D.C. ever called me up and asked me on my opinion or on how a specific situation should be handled. But at the same time, at least I felt that if they wanted to, I was closer and more readily available for their consultation. Here I feel that it is even less likely.
Are you glad you came here?
Yes, most definitely. Both Rebecca and I feel we aren’t the same people we were a few short months ago. Just by moving to a new place, it seems we have jammed more living into a few months here than we did in a full year or more back in Colorado. It’s not that Colorado was bad. It was more perhaps that we had just lived there for so many years and were ready for a change.
One’s appreciation of other countries, other people, of the world itself enlarges. While the United States is a great country, it is not the only country in the world. Other parts of the world see things differently, and one gains a greater appreciation for their points of view and the reasons for them.
Obviously, whatever happens or wherever we go we will never look at New Zealand or Australia or the South Pacific in the same way again.
I once heard someone say, “Travel makes you big.” It’s true.
Also, it’s just been fun.