Change is a constant. It's worth reflecting on the fact that change is everywhere and part of the world we live in, so I want to focus on a few types of changes, experiencing a new culture:
Changes in sports
Things often seem upside down here (which I suppose makes sense since we’re in the opposite hemisphere). There’s no ice hockey, no “American” football, no baseball, no nascar. But luckily, someone must have had the sport of basketball vaguely explained to them by a mysterious and exotic traveller and decided that they needed to start up the sport of basketball here. Except, this mysterious and exotic traveller they were talking to, didn’t actually understand what basketball was either. Enter, Netball.
Netball is incredible. Take basketball, mix it with ultimate frisbee and a dash of volleyball, and then, voila, you have Netball. It's basically basketball but there's no dribbling or running when you have the ball, so you can only pass to move up court. Also, remember backboards? Welp, now they are thing of the past. A relic. Forget em. The game is quickly-paced, and played on a court roughly the size of a basketball court. Could I describe more of this fantastical, Narnia-like-sport? Sure I could, but I won't. I'll leave you to investigate it for yourself. Discovery the majesty that is "Nitbol" as the Kiwis say.
Changes in people
I heard LC once say, "I'm more excited to buy tea towels than I ever thought I'd be."
Do you know LC? If you do, then you may know that that's an unusual thing for her to say.
If you don't know her, that's ok, just take a moment to think about how weird it is to be excited about buying tea towels.
A Change in Perspective About English
Question: If there are 2 Double Us next to each other, for example: "WW" - can we call it Quadruple U?
Kiwis will use the word "yous" to refer to multiple people. Instead of just saying "you" without the "s".
The plural for "women" here is "woman". People say things like, "The woman are all going together". I have never gotten used to this.
The Easy Life. The Uneasy Life.
Things are slower paced in New Zealand. Not everything, but most things. Slower life includes most things work-related like hiring, business decisions, investing in technology, training, blah blah. You know. Here are some things that are actually quicker though:
Delivery of domestic packages. Generally a package is delivered in 1-2 days, even if you don't send it express mail.
Getting a cell phone plan. It takes about 10 minutes to walk into any store, get a new phone with a plan, and then walk out. You don’t have to tell them your name or your address. You don’t have to sign any contract. They just hand you a sim card, and tell you how to set up their app in case you want to continue to pay for your monthly plan.
Getting a driver's license. About 1 hour including the wait in line.
One of the most difficult experiences we've had that we did not expect, was opening a bank account. In the US, I got the sense that if you had a pulse, and some money to deposit, you could open a bank account. If you didn't have a pulse, you could substitute a current ID and maybe still get by (imagine a Weekend At Bernie's situation). Didn't have an ID,? That's ok, the bank will call your mom or dad and verify you are actually you. Now, I'm exaggerating a bit, but the point is, it's generally not difficult to open a bank account in the States. In NZ the process looks a little different:
1- They'll start by checking you have 2308753 forms of ID and another 837 documents that show your current address.
2- They will verify you have money. Then they'll ask you the same question multiple times, but rephrase it to make it seem like that AREN'T just asking you the same question over and over. E.G.: "Did you do anything illegal to get this money? Is this legally obtained money? Did you launder this money? Did you murder, pillage, steal or commit other crimes against humanity to get this money? Does your mother know how you got this money? If I call your old boss, what will they tell me about how you got this money? Do you plan on committing any NEW crimes with this money? Are you a terrorist? Are you SURE you're not a terrorist? Is it possible you are a terrorist and just didn't realize? Do you like terrorists?"..... You get the idea.
3- They verify your visa, but that's not all. If you're not on a multi-year Visa, you are denied. No bank account for you.
4- They make sure you're employed. Oh, you’re between jobs? No bank account for you.
5- They check your blood-type, map your genome, X-ray you, give you a colonoscopy, and perform a psychological profile by interrogating you under a bright light.
6- Then they might let you open a bank account.
Wine is one of the top 5 biggest industries in NZ. The others are agriculture, tourism, farming, and forestry. But running a winery is hard. It's not worth listing all the jobs or duties that are needed, but one role in particular is pruning back the leaves in order to allow the grapes to grow, and much like Liam Neeson, it takes someone with a very particular set of skills. A job for sheep. Farmers bring in their sheep to stroll the rows of vineyards to eat back the canopy of green leaves.
(Side note, in NZ, stock nearly always refers to live animal stock. If you use the word "stock" to refer to an investment or a share in a company’s equity, you will be laughed at and ridiculed). These are professional sheep. These sheep don't just lounge around and eat all day. Well, they do, but it’s their job.. People rely on them, and they have deadlines. Maybe they don't have to file TPS reports or crunch spreadsheets. but they are working. This caused a few thoughts to bubble up:
"Are some working sheep considered better than other professional sheep?"
"Are there certain sheep who have become specialists in eating specific wine varietal leaves (a sommelier in their own way)? Do you find more sheep-success as a generalist? What is the structure of a corporate sheep organization? LLC or S Corp? How do the sheep decide who is the CEO?
"What are the workplace/vineyard dynamics? Do some sheep talk trash about other sheep for not eating enough leaves?"
NZ does things a little differently. Growing up in the US, I ate raisins out of those weird little, red cardboard boxes and thought that was normal. Raisins make their way into all kinds of foods, and continue to be hotly debated regarding their worthiness. Do they belong in oatmeal cookies, or should humanity stop that immediately? Should raisins be put in trail mix? Should they be in fruitcake, or would it be better to quit plaguing our people with fruitcake altogether?
But they also exist in cereal (I'm looking at you Raisin Bran). I'm going on record and declaring publicly that I love Raisin Bran. This might be a hard truth for some people to accept, but it's just me, it's who I am. I love Raisin Bran. There. I said it.
Raisin Bran is fascinating to me, not just because it tastes good, but because they have absolutely not updated much since 1926. The only updates they have made since that time are:
1. The box gets a slightly new shade of purple on it every 20 years
2. They did add the groundbreaking new feature of "2 scoops in every box!" instead of 1
3. They came out with Raisin Bran Crunch about 25 years ago, and really turned the breakfast cereal industry on its head. (Forward thinking stuff).
Otherwise, it's been steady. It's the cereal equivalent of candy corn, gum drops, vampires, Tombstone Arizona, or original Coke - nothing has changed. Raisin Bran has stuck to its own thing, without bothering to disrupt "Big Cereal", they've stayed on exactly the same course as day one.
That's what I always thought anyway.
Come down to the other side of the world and there is a whole other side to the bran-cereal game. I'd like to introduce you to sultanas at this moment. Sultanas are like grapes that sound fancy, because they are foreign to Americans (or at least to me). It's like hearing about Brambleberries or Turkish Delight or some delicious staple of a far-off land. Sultanas are not grapes, but like, they sort of are. Now, you may see where I'm going with this, but just in case, we're going to play a version of "Spot The Difference", and I can assure you, these brands of bran are 100% real:
My real question is, does this count as change or not?
Sultana Bran is what they have here, there is no Raisin Bran. It's almost like a distant memory from 20 years ago, where you start to doubt what really happened, or if you had a dream that felt real. There's no way to know if all those years I was eating Raisin Bran and had some weird cereal-like version of dyslexia where my brain thought I was eating raisins, but they were actually sultanas.
The two cereals are the same. I can't tell any difference in flavor, quality, crunch, or any other factor that cereal is measured by.
Some years back I worked with a group of people that began a ritual called "Hoffing". The game was simple: If someone walked away from their cubicle with their computer unlocked, a teammate would sneakishly go on to said computer, and 1) send an email to t the team containing a picture of David Hasslehoff (ideally shirtless), and then change the computers background to that same picture. That way, the person would know they’d been “Hoffed” without having to check their ‘sent’ folder. I'm not saying this is the height of creativity and ingenuity (or maturity, for that matter), but it was a lot of fun. If this happened to you, you got "Hoffed" and it was shameful and brought dishonor on you and your family. But more
importantly, it also was a reminder to everybody out there, that somewhere in the world, is a very tan and very real, David Hasslehoff today.
It's still unclear to me if this is a common practice in all financial services companies or particular to this single entity. What is clear to me is that when you take this tradition to a place like New Zealand and try it in their financial services companies the reaction is met with... (I'm not sure how to put this)... less 'warmth'. The first time I attempted this ruse on a friend at work here, it was met with an entirely blank look on their face. I saw their reaction as they realized someone had changed their desktop background, and then...nothing. It was as if they had been training their whole life to be unreactive. I couldn't believe it. Naturally, that would slow down a person's sense of duty to keep the tradition alive.
But I'm not a natural person. So I tried it again on someone else. It got a chuckle, but that was about it.
So I did it again.
And then one more time.
It may simply be that New Zealand isn't ready for the 'Hoffing' experience. Or maybe it has to be someone more culturally relevant to them. Maybe it needs to be an image of Lucy Lawless as Xena the Warrior Princess - I mean, she was on TV in the 90s as well? Logistically, this creates a new problem because we can't very well call it 'Hoffing' if it's a picture of NZ's own Lu-Law. Maybe we can tell someone they've been 'OutLawed' or. I don't know. That's the only clever name I could come up with.
There is no ending to this story, but I'll be sure to update you with any developments as I continue my efforts to engrain obscureAmericanisms into NZ and successfully spread them far and wide.
Oamaru - The Steamy
There is a tendency for most of NZ to look down their noses at anyone South of them. People up in Auckland (NZ’s Northern-most and largest city) see the next big city south of them, Wellington, and will say things like, "Wellington's cool, but...". In turn, people in Wellington, perceive everyone on the South Island as a bit slow and backwards. Continuing down to Christchurch and the people will refer to those south of them as backwater hillbillies. Finally, the entire country looks at the extreme southern city/town of Invercargill as something of a shithole. Until you get to Stewart Island, a tiny island just south of NZ’s South Island, which defies this trend and is a sought-after vacation spot. So now, I want to tell you about a town 3 hours south of Christchurch called Oamaru. So bare in mind we're about 4 notches down the "backwater" scale in NZ terms, but, really this is an incredible town, despite what other people might say.
It's filled with an interesting history as one of NZ's biggest ports in the late 1800’s, until certain commodities dried up and stopped importing goods to NZ. It's also well-known for it's signature White Stone, which is sourced from their local quarry, and was used to build many of their structures. They have their own botanic gardens, they have at least 1 exceptional bakery that makes truly amazing pies, and they have a penguin colony where you can walk amongst dozens of tiny Blue Penguins as they go about their day. But all of this amounts to nothing compared to what they are most known for, which is Steampunk. If you're like me, you had no idea what Steampunk was until somebody attempted to explain it and then just said, "I don't know man, just Google it." I did. I've learned. It's a thing.
The best way I can describe Steampunk is like a style that resembles the Mad Max movies. If I wanted a more FUN way to describe it I'd try some other descriptions such as:
Leather, and metal everywhere, and for no good reason. Also, add clocks and gears to all articles of clothing.
Imagine having too much testosterone, leather, and welding abilities, but you completely lack restraint, reasoning, or practicality.
Take all the leftover leather clothing from the movie The Matrix, and donate it to the Tusken Sand Raiders of Star Wars.
Steampunk is, well, weird. Super weird. But in a perfectly weird-on-weird twist, one of the world's capitals for Steampunk has found its home in a quiet sleepy town, of a quiet sleepy country. That, my friend, is Oamaru.
In Oamaru, they have a Steampunk museum which I cannot recommend highly enough. Not because it's so good but because it's so different. It's like a Madam Tussauds', meet's Ripley's Believe It Or Not, and it all begs the question "For What REASON!?!?" It's just a totally different experience. It's a little bit like when you see some major enthusiast that gets into something that only a small handful of people do, but it's taken to an extreme level. Think of someone that crochets an entire house, or an engineer that designs a city of hamster tunnels. It's that kind of thing.
The crown jewel of the Steampunk museum is a room that offers a light show and they call it The Portal. I don't honestly think it has anything to do with Steampunk, so again, it's just more weirdness added on. The Portal is like a kaleidoscope LSD trip but also mixed with an Instagram Influencer's dream to “get the ‘gram”. You press a button outside the room, walk in, and have a 2 minute light and sound show then you walk out back into a Steampunk museum and reality sets in all over again. Then you leave and go eat a pie, because despite leaving the Steampunk museum, you are still in New Zealand.
Pudding Up With Confusion
When you read the word 'pudding' - what comes to mind?
Snack Pack maybe? The incredibly gross viscous dessert that isn't quite a mousse and isn't quite a custard? That's what I think of. But when you hear the word 'pudding' from other people around the Anglosphere, it takes on a new meaning or actually, several new meanings. You might hear a Kiwi refer to 'pud' (think of saying 'would' but with a 'p'), and have an idea of what it means. Then you hear it from someone from Wales, then a Scot, then an Aussie, and maybe a South African. All these people use the same word, but they all have slightly varied interpretations. I can confirm this, because after asking several people in separate situations what the word 'pudding/pud' meant, I'd always get a different answer.
Now let me set the scene: One fine summer day, LC and I went to a barbecue at a friend's house that had people from all over the world attending. We put the question to the group, "What is pudding exactly?" - and we waited.
Imagine 5 other people sitting around the table, and all looking at us like we were idiots. You'd think we just asked, something like "So are you guys for or against The Plague?". They collected their composure as a group and elected a single person to explain this simple '2+2 = 4' type of concept to us. So the person explaining this, let's call them "Pat", starts their explanation of pud. All the other members around the table begin nodding in perfect agreement, before Pat has even said anything of meaning, like it's all elementary. Picture Mr. Clean with his arms crossed and eyes closed, calmly bouncing his head up and down.
But then things unraveled.
Once the other people heard what was being described, their faces all changed expression as if in stages:
Stage 1: looks of shock
Stage 2: looks of horror
Stage 3: fury and anger
Pat's definition of 'pud' clearly has offended the other folks. So Andy started to disagree with Pat stating that that's not the correct meaning of pud. "Pud is actually just any dessert". Then Alex chirps up telling both Pat and Andy they are wrong and pudding refers to specific types of desserts, but not all desserts. Jamie contributes that, no no no, it’s the temperature that determines whether something is pudding - pudding must have a warm element! Then someone else puts in that pudding is not a type of food at all, but just the name of the sweet course that follows the evening meal. Soon, it turns into a heated debate, getting so specific and unravelling so far that at one point there is contention over whether custard is meant to
come from a can or a carton, (the sentence “I don’t put custard in the fridge because I’m not a psychopath” is said),. Expletives are used, and emotions are clearly high. Threats are made. Nations almost break out into war.
This goes on for about 5 minutes, and then LC and I sit back in our chairs. We cross our arms and close our eyes with slow nods, because we know our work here is done. Point made.
So here's what I've learned about what pudding is and pudding is not. No one knows. Nobody has any clue what counts and what doesn't. Pudding is total anarchy.
Pudding IS change, itself.
Kiwinglish vs Americanglish
French Stick = Baguette
Arvo = Afternoon
Yak = Chat
Cash Machine = ATM
Tea = Dinner
Pudding = (Unknowable)