Migrants’ Tales – Three Weeks In. An American’s First Impressions Of New Zealand

Another in our series of Migrants’ Tales – first hand accounts of the migrant experience in New Zealand, taken from locations around the net.

Today’s tale is taken from the advice and support forum Expatexposed, the only not-for-profit forum where immigrants of all nationalities talk frankly about what it’s really like to work and live in New Zealand, and where none of the posts are moderated or censored.

This story was written by an American whose Kiwi partner that tried to warn that “Kiwis are not cooler versions of Canadians.”

“Thank you for having this most excellent forum. I am thrilled to find it, as I am at my wits end with this place. I have been here two months, and the adjustment is not going well. Hearing other people’s experiences is validating, humorous, and encouraging (in the sense that it isn’t me that is crazy!)

I am not a good writer, so let’s get that out of the way up front. However, I intend on interacting with you wonderful people, and writing is how it must be done in this forum. I am also not technologically gifted. I apologize.

I came to NZ to be with my partner, who is a kiwi, but one one of those kiwis who has been away from NZ enough to be well aware and embarrassed by his fellow countrymen and their “norms”.

He tried to warn me that American ideas of kiwis are off-base, that really they are not a cooler version of Canadians, and that there is no good amount of liberal guilt to counter balance their unabashed consumerism like you might find in progressive communities in the States. I poo-pooed all his warnings, thinking he has been away too long to know, and that he must just not know the right people. He tried to tell me that people here are not interested in politics, the way the world works, how countries interact and effect one another, that all folks here cared about was real estate, looking like rock stars, and whatever is on the 2 television stations they have. He tried to warn me, he did. Well, silly silly me, I didn’t listen, I couldn’t believe it was possible. All the kiwis I have met abroad, well, turns out I must have been projecting a whole lot of coolness onto them that they never rightfully earned.

Without further ado, I would like to mention that I have been an immigrant before, so culture shock is not new to me. But I am surprised at the lack of awareness kiwis have for others and their environment. The lack of common interests has left me longing to interact with others who feel similarly. This is my attempt.

I will just follow up with a list of strange and interesting things I have observed. Some are superficial, some are disturbingly fixed traits that seems to go unquestioned. Bear with me:

1. Bikes. There are few bike lanes and less designated bike parking areas. Motorists are hostile and bikers apparently do not know the rules of biking, hand signals, how to warn they are passing another biker or pedestrian. There are no bike co-ops to tool share. Used bikes are about $200-$300. This is all insanity to me.

2. Heated towel racks in bathrooms. Really? No insulation in housing, but every bathroom has a heated towel rack? Hmm…that seems efficient. Whatever.

3. Race. Huh. And I thought Americans had some issues with race. Wow.

4. Price of rent. I don’t know how much more complacent people can be here. But it seems as though rent is ridiculously high. Weekly? Sigh.

5. Speaking of complacency…my partner was notified he would not be paid on time, but rather a month late because admin wasn’t on time processing paperwork. A month went by, he was notified it would be another two weeks. His co-workers as well. We were told there is no such thing as a labor department (yes, there is).

6. I can only speak of Auckland, but seriously, people here are the most dull but dolled up bunch I have every encountered. I keep looking for the DIY types that I have heard of, you know the “can-do” blah blah blah. Seems to me people are more than happy to pay to look the part than actually DO anything that might mess up their hair.

7. Willful ignorance, grasping at straws. What seems to get to me most often is the pride kiwis have in their country and its accomplishments. Someone told me they flew before the Wright brothers http://www.squidoo.com/rich…-wright-brothers. I have read they think they invented the Flat White (uh, in the US is is called a “latte”, oh, but they just got into coffee, so I guess they just didn’t know it’s already been done) see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_white They publish studies in their newspaper that to an outsider are just complete nonsense..like NZ women are the most sexually experienced? http://www.monstersandcriti…ually-experienced

8. Car culture…I am used to that, but on an island? There must be good public transit…a railroad etc…? Hmmm…not really. Bus fare is outrageous. Train system? Largely dismantled.

9. Pretending to be “green” while consuming relentlessly. I do not see a lot of reducing, or reusing…I do see lots of paid for bins in my neighborhood full of wonderful pieces of usable wood, furniture, and other materials. So sad.

10. People are just outright unfriendly. I have asked my flatmates why this is, and they do not know. Asked if they feel good when they are nice to strangers they say yes. Asked why they do not do it more often, they say that people will think they are crazy. Well, at least that it something we can agree upon.”