Updated: Oct 17, 2020
I start by writing "good time" because I think it makes things easier. I could write "good morning" or "good day", but the truth is, I have no clue when you'll read this, and it's only more confusing because this post is crossing so many time zones and dates. For that reason, I write the incredibly generic, yet still accurate "good time" as a greeting. Welcome to my brain.
A Mity War
There's a war out there. A vicious, persistent, and very long war that's going on. It's not the war with weapons, or viruses or anything, it's a war of buds. Specifically, taste buds. I'm not sure how much you have been made aware of, tasted, or formed an opinion on the 'mite' foods, but we're about to get into it: Vegemite versus Marmite.
Vegemite is the Australian version of Marmite, which is British. Typically, people from either of these countries feel very loyal to their own brands, in fact, many Brits even travel with a jar of Marmite when they go abroad, because they can't be without it. To Americans, this stuff tastes like garbage the first time you have it... and then for the rest of your life too. I am in the minority here, because I have developed an affinity for the taste, in fact, I can even proudly say that I like both, which I'm finding is not at all common. People tend to love one or the other (or just hate both).
If you're looking to develop a taste for these, I will give some advance warning that it's something that you want to start with a very VERY thin spread of it on some toast. It's not a mustard like condiment, or mayo, or ketchup, please use with caution. The 'mites' are wonderful flavour boosters, they can truly enrich your life, as they have mine. I've become very close with Marmite and Vegemite. I'm not saying I'm actually friends with the jars of Vegemite or Marmite in our pantry. I mean, it's not like I open the pantry door, grab a jar and talk to it over my morning cup of coffee. I don't ask it about the weather or if I should invest in a multi-pack of fidget spinners. I certainly don't talk to my Vegemite once it's spread on toast and ask it if now is a good time to invest in markets, or what the next hike I should do is. There's no pretending that the mite jar answers back in a voice that sounds just like John Ratzenberger and tells me that the world is my oyster and I can live life to the fullest. I put the lid back on the jar because that's our own inter-personal code that substitutes a high-five. Again, I do NOT do those things. So I guess my point is, you have a friend in Vegemite or Marmite, just waiting for you.
If you really want to know more about the differences between the 2 Mites, here's a pretty good article.
A Great Place to be
When we first came down here, we stayed in a small-ish town called Hastings. Hastings is part of Hawke's Bay, which is a stunning place, situated on the northerly East coast, and right next to the city of Napier. I don't have a tonne to say about Hastings, other than their welcome sign is hilarious because their slogan is "A great place to be". I would call that subtlety. A city council got together to decide what their town sign should read, and they all agreed that it should read, "it's a great place to be" - I love that. We had a very lovely time there and our airBnB host was a bloke who we'll call.... Graham. We'll call him Graham, because that's his real name. We got along so well, he actually let us stay for an extra 2 nights, gratis. Graham became a good friend and something of an educator for us, teaching us 'heaps' about all things Kiwi. We've stayed in touch to this day.
Napier really is a gem, or in the words of Aladdin, it's a "diamond in the rough". Napier is a city that had a huge earthquake in 1931, that basically levelled most of the town, so when they rebuilt everything they looked around and said, "Art Deco is soo hot right now" or something like that. So the Napierans rebuilt the city in an Art Deco style and have done an incredible job preserving the style. If you took Chicago, and shrunk it down say 3000%, removed crime and deep dish pizza... well... you still don't get Napier... but you're close. The best way to describe the town is tidy.
It's basically a well manicured downtown (or city centre), right next to the coast. The coastline is amazing with turquoise water, and black rocky beach, but it has been turned into 1 long strip of parkway between the beach and the city.
We fell in love with Napier from the moment we arrived there, so if you're looking for a good place to see whilst traveling, I put that very high on the list.
Here are some pictures of the theatre, fire house, pier and a garden along the coast:
If you really want to see more of the town, here's a virtual tour that showcases some of the city. I can tell you, from having been there for a while, this isn't a video where they enhanced the place or photoshopped it to look fancier than it really is. It's as nice as you see in the video.
"Drink it Through"
NZ produces 1% of all the world's wine - I don't have a good segue for that, I just think it's interesting.
The whole Hawke's Bay area is a wine growing region, so you can find a hearty collection of varietals and types. I don't know what it is about the wine in NZ, but it tastes completely different from the NZ wine that gets exported to places like the US. Particularly the Sauv Blancs are unusual (but Kiwis say it 'sav blawnc'). They tend to have a very tropical and guava like scent and taste much jucier, fuller, rounder, less acidic and easier. I'm not a wine expert, but I suspect there are few times you'll have a wine that you expect certain flavours or aromas, and end up totally surprised by getting something totally different - Having a Marlborough Sauv Blanc is like biting into a Filet Mignon and then you taste Moosetracks ice cream - both may be delicious, but it's really not what you expect when you first dig into it.
Many wines have odd features but none more than the NZ SBs, so do yourself a favour, red rover red rover, come over and drraaaannk. Out of many many interviews that I've gone through, I've brought up wine in more than half. Every time I brought it up, those interviews tended to go quite well. These people have a bond with their wines and I inadvertently tapped into that, due to my lack of professional perspective. This is one of the few times my ignorance and naiveté worked in my favour.
Beer is the other other gold in our lives, and as with all things Kiwis have their way. The beer market is absolutely dominated by a corner of beers that are probably 65% IPAs and Pale Ales + 15% Pilsners + 10% Stouts + all other kinds of beers. It's a very heavy skew of those brews so you can find Red IPAs, Hazy IPAs, American Pales, Pacific Pales, NE IPAs, Rye IPAs, blah blah blah and then some other types. We actually talked to a brewer of one of our favourite small craft breweries (who was Kiwi) and he said he can't sell Hefeweizens to New Zealanders at all. This seems like craziness to LC and me, but this is the world we live in. Generally speaking, the beer here is quite good, but much like the wine, it has a 'jucier' and easier drinkability to it. You won't get the ultra hopped beers so even a Double IPA here is probably less bitter than many single IPAs in the States.
If you use some inductive reasoning, smell really hard, or use the old Google machine, you can find some ESBs, English Milds, and truly tasty, uncommon beers... and we've done just that. We've found some breweries and pubs that make for a lovely Sunday. I'll tell you more about some lovely ways to spend a Sunday shortly.
On the note of food, a couple things that are noteworthy. Apparently, there is cheese that is simply labeled as "tasty". It sure tastes like a white cheddar to me, but it's only more confusing because it usually sits right next to "cheddar" in the store. The marketing department for this dairy producer thought, "We need to come up with a name for this Cheese-Product. America did it once before, but I don't think we can just call our brand of cheese New Zealand. Let's try.... hmmm... TASTY! Brilliant! We've got a winner."
Here's an in-store pineapple slicer. I think no more explanation is needed:
A Great Place to See (like how 1 paragraph ago I mentioned an upcoming section. This is the upcoming section)
Want a 1 day get-away? Well, Akaroa is a really good spot to do just that. This isn't some kind of paid ad that the town of Akaroa is compensating me for, but they should. Akaroa is a town from an inlet bay on the South Island. It's an odd geographical shape because of all the gorgeous aquamarine coloured water, the multiple peninsulas jetting out, the sloped hillsides that surround the bay, the alpaca farm, and some oddities. So let's 'get amongst it'.
Akaroa plays a role in NZ's history that seems small and overlooked, but is actually significant. As I mentioned previously, NZ is nearly entirely dominated by names that are very Anglo-Saxon or very Maori, and almost nothing else. So you'll find place names like Milford, Canterbury, Nelson, Dunedin, and then you'll see Paparoa, Te Puna, Timaru, and Akaroa. Here's where things get a little funky, because in Akaroa there are regional influences with names like Duvauchelle, or how every street has the suffix of 'rue'. Clearly it's a French place. It's also one of the oldest cities in Canterbury. The story goes that it was one of the first settlements in NZ, from Europeans, and once a colony was established by a number of French emigre`, England heard about it and said ,"nah", so the British crown sent a fleet over in 1840 to lay claim, which was only 2 years after the Frenchies arrived there. Long story, shortened a little bit, the British took the main claim and it's estimated that their influence spread throughout the country to make the country to be, predominantly British. A very small difference in time and ships could have taken place almost 200 years ago, and it may have turned NZ as we know it, to an entirely different country, with French influenced food, architecture, social structure and more. I think that's fascinating!
We went to Akaroa for a day trip and had a very lovely Valentine's celebration there. There are hikes, there are penguin sighting boat tours, cruise ships, 3 wineries (but only 2 are worth going to) and a series of small restaurants and bakeries. Akaroa is the kind of place that when you see stunning panoramic pictures or videos of breathtaking views, that's Akaroa. So here's a snappy of one of our favourite wineries overlooking part of the bay:
Other funny discrepancies between the way Americans speak compared to New Zealanders are fruits and veggies are named differently, which I'll give a list in the VoCamulary section. In New Zealand restaurants, the word 'Entree` actually means an appetizer, not a the main meal - the main meals are shockingly, 'main dishes'. The word enrollment is spelled with 1 'l', so it looks like 'enrolment'. It's not clear if that was a way of being thrifty... maybe back in the day when book binders and typists couldn't spare TWO WHOLE LETTER 'L's, so they went on the cheap and just used 1. I don't know? I can tell you I feel dumb on a daily basis when I have to write emails that have words spelled differently so the recipient must think I'm a moron. Imagine, if your accountant emailed you and kept writing the word as "taxxes" because where they were brought up, that's how taxes is actually spelled.
In terms of phrasing, I've been writing down a list of specific Kiwi-isms, so here are a few of my favourites:
- "She'll be right" - this is a very common Kiwi phrase. It's kinda like saying, it'll all be ok, but it's very reflective of Kiwi personalities. Kiwis often tend to think things will be ok, so I love that this is their standard way of expressing the notion.
- "Spinning a yarn" - having a conversation
- "Box of birds" - 2 people that are "spinning a yarn"
- "Diary" - this is what they call a calendar. It's hard for me to process when someone says "let me check my diary and send you an appointment"
And the very very best = Jandals. Here's a picture
You're seeing it right. Jandals are sandals. The first time we heard the term, it was a kid talking to his friend that his jandal fell off and he was putting it back on. At first I thought, "maybe that kid just has a speech impediment, I mean, when I was a kid I had a lisp AND couldn't pronounce the 'R' sound." Days later, I saw this in a store and my brain almost haemorrhaged. Jandal is my new favourite word. Jandals are amazing, (even though they are just sandals). Jandals for president.
The funniest part of the phrases listed above is that a South African woman taught me most of those. Her native tongue is Afrikaans, so she tried to learn the lingo and she's been incredibly generous with me, teaching me all about things foreigners should know in the NZ Motherland. Lastly on this topic, they don't say "week-end", but rather "wee-kend". Given the fact that "wee" here is commonly used for small things, it always confuses me for a second. Then it confuses me for 3 more seconds, then because I'm zoned out thinking about wee kend, I miss what the rest of people are saying to me for the next 4 seconds, and have to play conversational catch up.
The living's EZ
We first moved to New Zealand riiiight when COVID-19 was taking center stage. So, I apologise for this being very dated to when Coronamania was taking place. I do think it's worth pointing out that NZ was looked to for a long while as the leader of the world in its response to the pandemic. The reason for that is because of how time works here. I mean, minutes still consist of the same 60 seconds, but time in a more grand sense of things is a bit different.
What I really want to talk about is the fact that NZ is basically behind the rest of the world, in different ways and different degrees of behind. This is a fascinating concept to me, because it's like walking through a time-machine coming here. Let me give some examples that will help illustrate this verbal finger painting:
1) A lady last Sunday was selling home grown peaches from her house. A bag of something like 2 KGs (or 5 pounds) was $2 (which is about $1.30 USD). We had a 'wee' chat and I asked if she grew anything else. She said no at first, but then explained she has some walnuts that her husband can't eat, so the following week she just gave us about 5 more pounds of peaches, a huge amount of walnuts, some dried sultanas (which were just like raisins, and some granny smith apples.
2) People at work will have drinks after work. That's not so unusual, but they'll actually do it at work. Fridays after 3 pm = grab a drink from the drink fridge and finish up your work and hang out. On work premises. Drink. At work. Amazing!
3) Social Media influencers don't really exist here. I think that's a great thing, but it's funny to see a market that exists in the US, and even though Kiwis know about it, they feel sort of "meh" about it.
4) Variety of choice: many stores will have roughly 2 brands of pasta, and it consists mostly of spaghetti, penne, and rigatoni.
5) Costco hasn't arrived. Yet. The first one is scheduled to open in Auckland, hopefully this year, but we'll see.
6) Amazon doesn't deliver here, so we live like cave people and have to lug ourselves to the store.
7) Financial adviser regulation was not introduced until the 2000s! Even still, if you ask your adviser to sell or buy into a position, nearly all trades take place in "up to 10 business days". Things just move at a slower pace here.
8) Movie Rental stores still exist here.
That's all the clever stuff I can come up with at this point so I'm going to take a writing refractory break. Until next time.
P.S. - Trivia
-Having just passed and celebrated St Patrick's Day, I thought a couple factoids may be in order. I'll start with the fact that St. Patrick was not Irish. His father was a Roman soldier that was occupying the island of Britannia, and his mother was Welsh. Patrick only ended up in Ireland because at the age of 16, he was captured by pirates and taken there.
-Also, the word 'factoid' was originally introduced and meant a fact that was though to be true but was actually false. Now, the term factoid has evolved to mean something like "a little fact".