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2020: A Year of Hindsight

LC and I moved to New Zealand just over a year ago. Over this time we've reflected a bit on how our lives have changed, albeit, everybody's lives have changed a fair amount over the past year and I don't mean to make light of that. Here are a few of the notable changes from being a foreigner for the past 12+ months:

- I say "cheers" now. This is innocuous but here's an odd experiment, next time someone says does anything for you like hands you change for a payment, or gives you food, try replying with "cheers" and just LOOK at their face. Just watch their expression very closely.

- Salt is less common in foods. Again, a small thing, but Kiwis tend to take some perverse satisfaction in undersalting their foods. I am going to strategically, and diplomatically avoid ANY and ALL criticism of pies here... and just move on.

- Inserting the letter "u" into all kinds of words has become the norm. Sometimes I add "u"s to wourds where it doesn't even beloung, just for fun.

- Dentistry in the US is very different compared to here.

- Drive on the left. Check.

- Fruit cake can be an acceptable dessert.

- 1/3 of the produce I normally eat now goes by a different name.

- If you hate beautiful landscapes, walking trails, and generally stunning nature scenes, this is not the country for you. Likewise, if you love a good bargain, this also is not the country for you, because most things have a much higher cost (food, housing, material goods, electronics, gas, etc)

- Allergies are real. I always thought of them as a mythical thing like Big Foot, or unicorns, or Canadians, but my life is ruled by sneezes, itchy eyes and congestion for 3-4 months a year now.

- Raisins have been overrun by their evil cousins, sultanas. Sultanas have invaded all the known territories of raisins, including cereals like this:

Overall, we still love this country and are happy with our decision to live here. It's a weird place, and life is different, but shouldn't life be different? If you move to a new place and want the exact same thing you had before, there's really no point in moving in the first place.

A "Timely" Fact About the Chatham Islands

Let's keep this short and sweet. New Zealand is a country of 2 main islands, with about 60 other small islands surrounding them. One group of islands are called Chatham Islands.

Chatham islands are small.

Population is about 600 people.

Why does this matter?

It doesn't.


What does matter?

No it's not 1 hour ahead of NZ.

It's 45 minutes ahead.

I... I have nothing else to say on this.

It's weird.


Waipara (Pronounced wiper-uh) is a wine growing region about 45 minutes north of Christchurch by car, or about 1 day by wagon if you're travelling Middle Earth. Waipara is a Maori word that translates to sediment, or dirt. It's a beautiful place and has 5 - 10 wineries there. So here's what you do, now that you know this. You come to Canterbury and stay at the Clam Digs, we drive you to these wineries, you order bottles and glasses and you sit outside with panoramic view of some breathtaking scenery.

  • You will have Pinot Gris that will make you think, "oh, that's easy to drink".

  • You can have Syrahs that have medium body with peppery notes and dark plum with black cherry.

  • You can have a red varietal called St. Laurent that comes from Austria and will blow your mind, like a mix of Chianti and Pinot Noir.

  • Then you can have a Riesling that ranges from sweet to bone dry and anywhere in between with notes of lemongrass, honey and quince.

  • These are very good things. Waipara also have bike rentals nearby, so you can cycle from 1 winery to the next. Then you do the same thing. Clean, rinse, repeat.

A notable cultural difference between NZ and the US is that most businesses seem to support other businesses that are direct competitors. I've been to several wineries and breweries where the staff and owners will openly recommend trying other wineries and breweries that are nearby. This is very quaint but also very encouraging behaviour to see because it means that these business owners aren't viewing "every dollar spent elsewhere is a dollar we didn't earn", but they think of their industry as a whole and try to bring support to the entire group.

Phone Number Insanity

Phones here have different ring tones. That's not a big deal. What is much more difficult to wrap your head around is the New Zealand way of casually throwing out phone numbers.

How you ask?

Let's start with the number of digits. In the US, a phone number has 7 digits, plus 3 for the area code. The Lord said it so, and it was good. 10 digits, that's always it - so everyone understands. If you google, "how many digits in a New Zealand phone number" you will get a response of 8. That's true. Sort of...

Sometimes they have 9 digits. Like in my phone number.

Generally the first digit of a prefix (area code) is a "0". 0 is a number that modern civilization is accustomed to using because it depicts the concept of nothing. Kiwis, took this literally, and started just dropping the 0 from phone numbers, even though it is technically part of the phone code. This means a fake number of 027 123 4567 usually shows as 27 123 4567.

When you drop the 0 from the front, you could have a potential range of phone numbers that is 7, 8 or 9 digits.


Then, there is no formal way to organise the spacing between numbers. I've seen combinations such as 273 123 456, or 027 12 34567 or even 27 1234 567.

Combining the mixed number of digits, the ghost like 0s that disappear and then reappear, and the mad-scrambling of number clusters has led me to ask people, quite seriously, "how do I dial this phone number?" This really can't help any stereotypes for the education system in the US, knowing the a fully grown man, moved across the world, and can't even operate a phone on his own. I liken this experience to the literary version of a child walking up to strangers and asking, "Are you my mom?" - or that's at least how it felt to me.

In the words of Aladdin, NZ really is, "A whole new world".

Speaking of New Worlds

There is a supermarket called New World here. No further comment, just a quick factoid.

...And they sell pies.

New Zealand History

Long ago, rings were forged in the depths of Mordor, then Gandalf lived here, and then Peter Jackson added the country to global maps through his cinematic cartography, and Hobbits became the local mascot. In more recent times, the Nation of New Zealand came to be, and it really happened in 3 steps, that I don't understand myself, so there is some irony that I'm explaining this history to you here. This it's pretty similar to a Freshman in college teaching a course to high school seniors, that the college student only received a grade of a "B" in, a few months prior.

The short and dirty is, New Zealand has "new" in its name because it is really still very NEW. The nation hasn't been around for even 200 years, but in some ways, is less than 75 years old. As a nation, New Zealand is basically a toddler. So here's what happened:

  1. Lands were originally inhabited by different localized Maori tribes in the 14th century.

  2. In 1642 Abel Tasman "discovers' New Zealand. Again.

  3. Then, in 1769 James Cook discovers New Zealand... again again.

  4. In 1840, ambassadors from the UK signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the native Maori people. This was a classic deal from settlers that sounded nice, but really didn't offer the most favourable terms for the indigenous people and declared British sovereignty over the islands of New Zealand

  5. A year later, in 1841, NZ became a colony of Great Britain.

  6. Fast Forward to 1907, and NZ became a Dominion.

  7. (it's about here you might well be wondering, "what's the difference between all these governmental states?". Well, you might be wondering that, and I am also concurrently wondering that. A better teacher would have understood these concepts much better before trying to pass on the information to others, but you're reading this from someone that isn't a 'better teacher')

  8. Then after WWII, in 1947, NZ gained statutory independence, officially becoming its own.

  9. Now, despite being a free nation, it still has the Queen on its dollar bills and her birthday is an official holiday.

So depending on how you look at it, this country only became a country in the 20th century, or goes back 170 years in a semi-official capacity, but either way, it isn't the kind of place where you can find history dating back to the Middle Ages. This has had a number of interesting implication in terms of architecture, language, culture, food, wine, agriculture, technology, and foreign policy.

It's very worth knowing that I asked a Kiwi, what is New Zealand's birthday, and he sat back contemplatively for a moment and said, "yeaeuh, Ih dint rilly knor". Translation = he wasn't sure himself, having been born and bred within the confines of these lands, so if he doesn't know, and I don't know, I'm going to go ahead and say you don't have to study for a pop quiz because not knowing seems to be very acceptable.

Wild Travel and Wild Foods

TV and streaming services have increased their content around exotic, beautiful and exquisite meals. High quality food is so hot right now. So if you want to try the most avant-garde, unusual dishes where do you go? Paris probably,? Tokyo?


You go to Hokitika. Never heard of it? No worries mate, let's go on a little adventure.

If you head Northwest from Christchurch to the West Coast of NZ, you can roll into the small town that's populated with about 3,000 people. It's surrounded by jungle, lakes, rivers, and lots of farms. It almost reminded me of a very weird blend of the mid-west and Vietnam. Those are 2 flavours of countries that I never thought I would see mixed together, but then again, that's New Zealand baby!

For being such a small town Hokitika actually has some fun things to get on with like:

  • enjoy the beautiful beaches

  • many many hiking trails and tracks

  • go see the Blue Gorge (to the right)

  • go to the national Kiwi Center (this is referring to a center for the birds, not the fruit or the people, so it's a bird sanctuary)

  • or go to the glow-worm dell at night (which is seriously about 100 feet/30 meters right off the highway) >>>

But all this is not what the HT (as I call it) is really known for. Every year it attracts over 30,000 tourists to its Wildfoods Festival. Here's what it is:

Take something like Coachella. Add eating insects, larva, mountain oysters, odd meats, horse semen, scorpions, and the "wildest" foods you can imagine.

Dress in some kind of animal-like, pseudo-Halloween costume. Mix in booze.

The equation is written below.

Event for the young and irresponsible + Bug Meal + birdman suit + Bad Decision-making cocktail = Wildfoods Festival

If you're ever bored and want to wander into some funky corners of the internet, trying the hashtag #WildFeralForaged

Some Thoughts on Cars

Cars. Cars drive. Cars go, then stop, then park. When a person shops in the states, they leave their cark in a "parking lot". Think about that word... it is a lot (lot meaning a space or area, not as in a high quantity of something). It's a space or "lot" where you leave something that is parked. Makes sense.

In NZ, it's called a "car park". It literally means a parking area for cars, just like what a "parking lot" means. This is not the way I interpret the word though....

Every time I hear the term "Car Park" my imagination goes buck wild. I think about a park, as in a public space for playing and frolicking, but it's for cars, not people. Visions come to mind of cars playing tag, and hide-and-seek, with 1 car hidden behind a building and peering out to see the car that is "it". Images of cars laying on their back in grassy fields, and looking up at the clouds, or cars that when their parents come and pick them up the baby cars start crying because they don't want to leave the car park because their car friends are still there. There's a merry-go-round and instead of horses being the seats, it's scaled down big rig trucks or something and the car sits in the massive truck bed. Car roller coasters zipping around and one car went too fast so it has to throw up radiator fluid after the ride. Maybe there are some cars driving alongside each other but they are dating, so they have their car doors open like they are holding hands. Chances are that around dusk or nigh time some teen-aged cars go there and start putting Nitrous Oxide in their tanks, but they can't use too much because they still have to make it home. There's a car wash because because no matter which way you look at it, a car still has to be cleaned and the metaphor starts to break down if I tried to come up with some other version of this fantasy world.

This thought has occupied more of my brain than it should. So I'm sure you can understand how every time I read the term "car park" I feel a tinge of confusion and then a wave of happiness from my imagination just veering off.

It's time to learn some Maori terminology. "TerMaornologi"

  • Haere Mai = Welcome

  • Tahi, Rua, Toi, = 1, 2, 3

  • Aroha = Love

  • Wahine/ Tane = Women/ Men

  • Moana = Sea/ ocean

  • Kia Kaha = Stay Strong

  • Aotearoa = New Zealand

Fun Fact

Where's Waldo has been modified here to fit a more common naming convention. Here's the NZ version:

-Yankiwi P.S. This will be our year

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