Monday, April 18, 2011

N is for New Zealand... of course

In New Zealand, the early morning TV presenter leaves you with... 'Enjoy another day in paradise.'  That is so uplifting. Much better than being told the M25 is blocked again, the trains are running late, we have the wrong kind of snow or that a survey has shown that Britons are becoming increasingly unhappy, as a nation. Who wants that with their breakfast?

Not everything is perfect in New Zealand. Don't get me wrong. There are a lot of spelling mistakes, for a start. Signs around towns are sometimes hilarious and then become annoying, because you feel such sloppiness reflects on the services these people are providing. It's okay to have a laid back attitude, but hey, don't fall down on the job.

A lot of cheese it eaten here. Maybe because all the best cuts of meat are too expensive for Kiwis. There's a commonly held belief that the best meat goes to England and is in the supermarkets there cheaper than it is here. The same applies to wine. That gets up a few noses. But cheese, hey, they put it in everything here.  You want a meat pie?  It will be meat and cheese. You want a piece of quiche?   It will have cheese in it. Consequently there's a weighty problem to be dealt with amongst some sectors of the community... but there's no need for it because everyone has space in which to be active, and it costs nothing to walk.

Everyone's on first name terms. It seems it's a policy. It creates a friendly atmosphere, no doubt about it, but you have to question it sometimes. From the doctor in the hospital, to the funeral director at the undertakers, the local policeman, the bank manager, the guy on the phone who's coming to fix your broadband, the dentist, your kid's teacher, the builder. The result is that, somehow,  it's much harder to complain about something. But there's no doubt it creates a sort of national village feel. We're all in this together.... whatever that is. Maybe that feeling is only possible in a country with a small population. There is a similarity of experience wherever you go and with whomever you speak. It's a caring sort of place. Strangers talk to you. Children on the way home from school say 'hi' to you and don't avert their gaze.

Not everything in the garden is rosy. There are racial tensions, economic tensions, health worries (all that cheese!), and, as everyone now knows,  you can have too much sun. But there's a real sense that New Zealanders  love the land in which they live. I'm not talking about its history or its buildings or its sporting achievements (although Kiwis have HUGE national pride), but the land itself.  In New Zealand it's easy to feel close to the natural environment because you are never very far from it, even if you live in the cities.


Historically and culturally, the land and the coastal waters have always been important. To the Maori people, the island explorers who arrived in canoes before the Europeans, the land, the trees, the sea which brought them here, has significant spiritual properties which later settlers are still learning to accept and respect.

To the early European settlers, who also made the journey by sea, the land was heaven or hell, depending on what kind of a life you'd left behind.

Settlement by Europeans is relatively recent history and evidence of their ancestors' early struggles with the land is often still visible in the faces of many contemporary Kiwis. Later immigrants arrived from other parts of the world, and came by air  -   a few hours in 'economy sector' is nothing compared with months or weeks at sea.

But early or late-comers, no one disputes the impact of the scenery on the national psyche. Regardless of problems, people say, often, 'aren't we lucky to be living here!'


  1. I sure am lucky to be living here. I have been in NZ for 8 years now and it was nice to read about it from your eyes (and I had to laugh at the beginning, New Zealand, what else, I laughed because I didn't think of it, although now it seems so obvious. I think I will use it for Z :)

  2. So beautiful.Thank you for sharing this!