Kiwi Curiosities

Thanks to one of my Kiwi tweeps (@nickwallen, a savvy Kiwi Marketing Manager) I recently discovered the New Zealand Story, a video “that defines the distinctly Kiwi attributes that make us [New Zealanders] unique”. To be precise, the story defines these three attributes as “typical lil ol’ EnZed”: Open spaces, open hearts and open minds.

After living in New Zealand for 3.5 years I wholeheartedly agree with its content, though the video doesn’t tell the whole story. How could it, in 3:45 minutes? Don’t get me wrong — it’s a great story, but it’s a flawless one as well. It’s TOO perfect. It lacks a little twist; or did you ever lose your heart to a perfect protagonist? I didn’t!

So I decided to use the occasion to publish my secret list of Kiwi curiosities (yes, I kept record), which – in addition to the New Zealand Video Story above – completes the picture and makes that small country on the other side of the globe uber adorable (at least for me). Have a read and let me know if you agree or disagree:

  1. At home – Kiwi curiosities that made me wonder on a daily basis:
  • Open spaces, yes. Open hearts, yes. Open minds, yes. Open windows, no. Want to get your windows cleaned from the outside? Professional window cleaners practicing high rise abseiling once a year is a thing in NZ.
  • Sinks without mixing taps. You got the choice between blisters, cold shock, or major bathroom flooding. Yay!
  • No mobile network in suburbs. Our friends living 30 km outside Auckland CBD cannot be reached after 6 pm. FYI: “Suburbs” in New Zealand can be whole cities, even complete stretches of a coast line.
kiwi-curiosity-windowcleaner

Finally clear view again!

  1. Locations and tourism – Kiwi curiosities that attract or confuse the common tourist:
  • Mountain names. Too long (Taumata­whakatangihanga­koauau­o­tamatea­turi­pukakapiki­maunga­horo­nuku­pokai­whenua­kitanatahu), too scary (Mount Hopeless, Mount Misery, Mount Horrible, Mount Dreadful, Mount Bitterness), too… words fail me (Pudding Hill, Drunken Sailors Hill).
  • Talking about creative Kiwi names, please allow me to elaborate on bank names (ANZ, BNZ), restaurant names (Saigon, Tokyo, Brazil), hair dresser names (Newton Barbershop, Eden Barbershop, Roskill Barbershop), dry cleaner names (Symonds Street Dry Cleaner, Queen Street Dry Cleaner, Papanui Road Dry Cleaner)… you get the idea.
  • ALL towns in NZ are worth a visit. I ticked off the shearing capital, the salmon capital, the kiwi capital (not Wellington!), the gumboot capital, the doughnut capital… all equipped with life size statues of “whatever they’re famous for”. Why would you not consider a holiday photo with a 4 meter tall salmon as a must have?
  • A self-declared Republic in the Republic. The small township of Whangamomona on the Forgotten World Highway declared their own Republic as protest reaction to being moved to a different regional council. They have their own President (currently Murt “Murtle the Turtle” Kennard). No kidding!
Springfield doughnut New Zealand

Doughnut capital in New Zealand — Springfield, what else?!

  1. Food – Kiwi curiosities I prefer to list without comment:
  • Fried pizza. Fried ice cream.
  • Vegemite (yeast extract spread from Australia) = yikes; Marmite (yeast extract spread from New Zealand) = yummi.
  • (Coffee) refill packs are more expensive than new (coffee) tins.
  • Bavarian hotdogs with Sauerkraut and milk roll (allow me one comment anyway: I’m German, you fools!).
  • Schwarzwälder Kirsch with strawberries (#OMG).
  • Typical food prices: .98 NZD or .99 NZD. But of course they have no 1 or 2 cent coins. If not paying by card, the cash price is rounded up or down accordingly.
Fried and spicy chicken beer

Kiwis love their food (drinks?) deep fried!

4. Personality — Open hearts, open minds, and…

  • Full trust in the honesty box system. I personally love it, though coming from Europe I need to work on that trust thingy…
  • A passion for meaningless security checks. Not sure I can generalize that point, but it happened to me, so it got to be on my list.
  • Embracing exaggerated journalism: “White Out – The Historic Snowfalls of 2011” — happened each time the national news had nothing else to talk about.
  • Crazy about the NZ catamaran racing in the Americas Cup 2013 against… oh, itself. “Did we win?”. #LOL
  • Down to earth people. I once asked on Twitter for Auckland cafes doing the best Latte Art. Gred Boyed, the host of TV NZ’s daily evening news tweeted me his personal recommendation. In France, I’m still waiting for Mélissa Theuriau to even join Twitter.
coffee-art-fern

Typical latte art: New Zealand fern!

5. On the road — (Spoiler) alert: Kiwis are bad drivers

  • Aggressive driving behaviour is the one point on this list which actually doesn’t make NZ more likeable. I have been constrained, pushed, honked and yelled at — both as driver as well as pedestrian.
  • Sticking to their national limit of 100km/h is not an easy task for many kiwis, especially the guys investing a ridiculous amount of money into a Porsche or Ferrari just for being told they can’t race with it.
  • Consequently, New Zealand is one of few countries that creatively address the problem of drinking and driving in innovative advertisements which other countries would consider taboo.
  • They teach dogs how to drive cars. Why? Good question!
  • Kiwis like to customize their car signs. I liked the sign of a German immigrant saying HOTOMA (hot granny).
  • Kiwis can take themselves very serious. In 2013, NZ changed an old road rule. They advertised for months (billboards, TV, social media) that the new rule would be in effect as of April 1, 2013. In March, they decided to change their ads and put the new rule in place March 25, just because they were afraid people would think the whole rule change would be an April Fool’s joke, increasing the chance of having more accidents in April.
  • When kiwis don’t drive, they walk or run. Barefoot. Whenever, wherever. My sympathy for that activity stops in front of the public toilet door. Theirs not.

There you go, that’s my personal list of Kiwi curiosities. It’s almost a declaration of love, ain’t it? :)

Quite a collection for someone who thought the Haka is the “most hilarious thing” about New Zealand. That’s 3.5 years ago now. Rookie mistake!

If you like this post you might also like That Time I Touched a Kiwi, Played with a Pukeko and Talked to a Tui