New Zealand has a reputation for beautiful landscapes and untouched wilderness, but nature-schmature. This stuff is the real gold.
1) National pie obsession.
If you like pies, you will love New Zealand. Petrol stations sell them, corner-shops (they call them dairies here) loudly advertise them, and I suspect it is illegal to open a cafe that does not sell pies. HOT PIES is New Zealand’s officially most written phrase. (Definite fact.) Served in a paper bag, or occasionally directly to the prospective pie-holder’s hungry hand, the pie is the go-to snack or meal for all occasions. Forgot to have breakfast? Have a pie. Peckish mid-morning? Have a pie. Long drive? Have a pie…
2) All of the swearing.
Kiwis are always up for a bit of casual swearing in the morning, and I like that.
3) It’s (borderline) socially acceptable to be barefoot almost anywhere.
No shoes? No problem.
4) Everything official closes at 4pm.
See also nobody doing any work on Friday afternoons. There is a proper respect for the value of afternoon beers here. Or afternoon mountain-biking, or surfing, or walking the dogs on the beach…
5) Kitsch is patriotic.
Let’s talk about Kiwiana. This is kind of hard to explain. Kiwiana are distinctly New Zealand items and products which are nostalgically valued, and are generally beautifully naff. A prime example of this is stuff made from paua shells, paua being native New Zealand molluscs, and their shells being very, very shiny. Our local museum is currently home to a world-famous-in-New-Zealand example of this, Fred and Myrtle’s paua house. An otherwise ordinary suburban bungalow, which had all of it’s internal walls covered in paua shells by it’s original occupants, a nice older couple from Bluff. Other examples include chocolate fish, which are roughly what they sound like, L&P (even though it’s now made by coca-cola), and anything made in New Zealand that hasn’t changed its packaging since 1962. It makes me so happy that people are obsessed with tatty, definitely-not-tasteful icons like this. It kind of gives you hope for the world.
6) Afghan biscuits.
Made primarily of butter, chocolate and cornflakes, these babies are almost certainly the world’s most addictive biscuit. Of mysterious origin, and probably absolutely nothing to do with Afghanistan, they can be found almost everywhere in New Zealand. I tell people that we moved here because the mountains are so great, but it’s actually at least 60% because you can’t get Afghan biscuits anywhere else.
7) Moving house can mean something else here.
8) Every day is a slow news day.
I’ve had Kiwis take umbridge at me pointing out that the kind of crimes that make it to the evening news here wouldn’t get a look-in in the UK. Just because worse things happen overseas doesn’t mean these things aren’t bad, goes the argument. But it’s deeply reassuring for me living in a country where the main headline this week was the prime minister’s cat being run over. (Obviously this is terrible news. R.I.P Paddles.)
9) A deep appreciation of the necessity of espresso.
New Zealand can be pretty basic at times. There just aren’t that many people here, so there isn’t that much stuff. Stuff like sealed roads, and towns, and retail opportunities. But there is always espresso. And usually really good espresso. The main ski area near us does not have a paved access road, but it does have about five resident baristas. Once, out climbing on a windy bit of coastal cliff, we found an espresso boat moored next to the carpark. Oh my.
10) The price of avocados.
We nearly didn’t move here when we heard that a national avocado shortage had fuelled a crime wave in New Zealand in June 2016. Fortunately it was all very short-lived and by the time we arrived they were back down to four for a dollar. That’s like, 15 pence an avocado. That is all.