Yankiwi: When a Yankee becomes part Kiwi
Updated: Oct 17, 2020
This is my first ever blog post. That means a couple of things such as this is the first of many posts that will provide tidbits about my life and adventures and observations and multiple uses of the word "and" within 1 sentence. It also means that you are invited to read a good deal of material from a person that has difficulty even describing themselves. If I was asked to describe myself I think the best I could come up with would be an emphatic shoulder shrug. This blog is like a vicarious experience for people to understand what life is like for a person that uprooted their very comfortable and good life from the US and planting down in New Zealand. So with that prelude, I'm gonna tell you some things like:
1) What's life in New Zealand like? B) Why would someone just move to a far off place for like, no reason? ⬲) How poorly does this guy actually write? iv) Is this blog worth reading? 8) Where the heck is 'Old Zealand'? The short answers are: it's different, I'll explain, he writes pretty poorly, maybe, and Europe. A Bit of History
My spouse, LC and I recently moved and left our homeland of the US for the New World, in fact, it's a place so new, that is has 'new' in its name: New Zealand. I think it's best to start with a little bit of history and context for our new homeland. New Zealand is a magical place and has been since at least Middle Earth but our story will start somewhere around 1250 - 1380, when Pacific Islanders first inhabited the lands. We now refer to these indigenous peoples as the Maori. Fast forward to 1642 and a Dutchman named Abel Tasman set sail claiming the land for his native district, 'Zeeland', and that dude's name got plastered all over the place - think of the Tasman Sea, Tasmania, the Tasman Peninsula, and some others. The original Zeeland was a province in the Netherlands, even though today nearly all the place names in New Zealand are either very English or very Maori. By total area, New Zealand is just a teeny bit smaller than the state of Colorado, has less than 5 million people, a thriving film industry, supplies 1% of the world's wine, 9 sheep per person, 2 main islands and dozens of smaller ones, the main producer of Manuka honey, its capital is Wellington, and the entire world's population of Hobbits, wizards, and other magical creatures, despite what JK Rowling would have you believe. Truly, it's an incredible place and has about every type of geography you could imagine. Do you like jungles, boom, you got it. Did you want grasslands? A helicopter will take you to them. Mountains, bluffs, deserts, forests, wetlands, islands, (including volcanoes), glaciers, it's all here dude. This means that if you're willing to drive an hour, you can see a landscape that looks entirely different from where you just were and you are guaranteed instant fame as a social media influencer because it's just that scenic.
Hot & Cold
You may already know this, but it blows my mind still ... the seasons are swapped in the Southern Hemisphere. Winter is June-August and summer is, December to February-ish. Doesn't that seem like a cruel joke? We moved from Colorado to New Zealand on Christmas Day. Not only did I go from freezing conditions to hot, long summer days, but I packed a bunch of sweaters and warm clothes. I certainly "knew" the seasons were switched, but when packing a suitcase, it's hard to tell your body "No, no, I won't need any warm clothes" when you're nearly hypothermic and bundled all day, everyday. Also, I got tan. Like, pretty tan, in the span of 2 days. This isn't a terrible thing, it's just odd because my skin is naturally quite pale. My ancestry consists of many groups of people that all haled from the British Isles. The British, it should be noted, aren't a great stereotype for olive, mulatto, or otherwise tanned skin.
The worst part about the southern hemisphere for its residents is that there is the never-ending curse of holiday season feasts stacked on top of 'swimsuit' season. You have to eat Christmas and New Years meals, and then go galavanting around in the warm weather or go to the beach. Fill your belly, then go show the world - that's just the way life is down here. We wanted to blend in with the locals, so come New Year's day we actually did go to the beach. We had a swell time.
Life in the 'Down Unda' is different. I think the best way to show how is to give some examples of things we've observed. - We heard an acoustic version, with melodic singing to the Lil Jon hit, 'Get Low'. It was shockingly beautiful and serene. I recommend. - Shopping carts all seem to work here. I don't know what engineer is designing shopping carts in America, but a quick trip to NZ would open their eyes and change grocery shopping for hundreds of millions of people. Again, I recommend. - We bought a car that was imported from Japan. That's fine, there isn't anything bad about that. The problem is that the navigation system is only in Japanese. Ok... fine. But the nav system also keeps talking to us, all the time... in Japanese. We would turn it off, but the lettering is also in... you guessed it, Japanese. The next logical course of action would be to change the settings or volume. As it turns out, this has been harder than we anticipated, so our Japanese verbalising instructor has turned into more of a drill sergeant for us - constantly barking orders that we don't understand. What's more, the map on the navigation system still shows a map of Japan, which really makes me question the ability of Japanese cartography, because.... that car is not in Japan anymore. The picture shows roads, but none of those roads are in the country that I'm driving in.
- I have a cell phone plan that costs $29/month. $29 NZD is the equivalent of about $19 in US dollars. Let that pricing soak in for a second, then pick your jaw up from off the ground. - Nutritional facts rarely have calories listed. They list 'Kj'. Is Kj metric, is it Kiwi, or Klingon? - Car insurance is not required. That said, it costs about 1/8 of what it costs in America. - Getting an IRD number (the NZ version of a Social Security #) took 2 business days and a quick online application. - I haven't seen a single lawn with sprinklers yet - there's enough rainfall throughout the country to grow grass on everything, even vertical hills. That's how you get the rolling hills of Hobbiton. - I developed allergies so my eyes itch all day, which could be from different flora, or from the Australian wild fires. Either way, I'm undergoing an adjustment period. Here are a couple pictures of things we loved getting to see. 1 is a waterfall that's right next to the main downtown strip. We didn't have to drive 35 minutes, we just walked around downtown and about 2 minutes outside of the main section was a waterfall, surrounded by a giant and well manicured garden:
And here's a snapshot of some sheep on a hillside RIGHT next to a hiking trail. I think it's important to reflect on what matters in life, and if you do a thorough investigation of your life, you may also find your life has been lacking sheep on the hikes that you take:
Food & Drink
The food on these bulky islands consists of a hybrid of English and American cuisines which means you see Fish & Chips shops everywhere, but also the comforts of home. For some reason, this country is confused how to properly grow limes, so they cost something like $10/lb, while lemons are about 2 for a buck. What really sets this place apart is the beer and especially the wine. There are wineries littered throughout both islands and nearly all of them are exceptionally good. I thought it would only be fair for me to write about it if I experienced it fully, so I've been making a concerted effort to consume a variety of wines - it's a cross to bare, but I'm up to the task. Our journeys began in Hawke's Bay which is actually one of the major wine regions, so if we drive about 10 minutes, it looks pretty similar to Napa, but with wine that is affordable and about another 10 minutes from one of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen, which is creatively named "Ocean Beach".
If you enjoy Sauv Blanc, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, or Pinot Gris, then you are in luck. If you like anything else, you're still in luck. I guess what I'm saying is, you're lucky to be having wine in NZ if you get the chance. I tried a Sauv Blanc yesterday that was grown on a vineyard that was about 100 yards/meters from the ocean and until 90 years ago, the land that now has a vineyard on it, was under water. So several wines from this producer smelled like sea salt - here's a picture of that winery/vineyard called Elephant Hill:
I'm not sure how the name Elephant Hill was chosen. Personally, I think "Wine Hill" could have made more sense. Maybe an "Ocean Hill", "Ocean Vineyard", or a dozen other names. There are no elephants in New Zealand, at least not naturally, so the name of Elephant Hill seems misleading, but then again, I went there and then wrote about it in a blog, so I guess I'm really the chump in all this mess.
Kiwis generally don't use a ton of slang like the way Australians do, however, Kiwis do still talk funny. Imagine speaking common parlance English like say, a normal person would, then take all your vowels and stretch them. Stretch those vowels, twist them up, put those vowels in a rinse and dry cycle, put some funky flavours and vinegar on them, and then you are ready to speak like a Kiwi. Also, I have to spell words like 'flavor, harbor, and honor' with a "U" - not just because NZ demands it, but more importantly because it's classy. Lucky for these islands, I just landed here, and I'm going make big strides and pull these folks into the 21st century doing the thing that EVERYBODY loves... I'm going to correct their spelling and speech. The word 'tire' as in, what goes on the wheels of your cars have been mutilated to "tyres", they have littered their signs with "City Centre" everywhere. The most common 'Kiwisms' are using the word 'heaps' to mean lots - and they use that word heaps. The other oddity you'll hear down here is 'as' at the end of any phrase to enhance it. They'll say "yeh men, et's cool as" or "those wahtermeelons are juicy as". I have included a list of Kiwi vocabulary terms that Cam has become acquainted with. "VoCAMulary", if you will: Cam's Vocabulary Corner
First is the New Zealand term and then its Americanism
Kiwi word "Feijoa" = Guava
"Singlet" = tank-top
"Come for tea" = come over for dinner
"Get amongst it" = go for it
How's it measure up?
Because New Zealand uses the metric system I have to spend roughly 2308743 minutes per day calculating and converting figures anytime someone mentions cash, distance, temperatures, or a litany of other things. The metric system is far more intuitive than the imperial system, however, it's a lot of work for a guy with limited brain power to process that information. Here are some handy tips for converting some common things: 1) USD is $.66 to the NZD. That means 1 US dollar is about $1.5 NZ. 2) Celsius to Fahrenheit: multiply X degrees celsius by 1.8, then add 32. 10 degrees celsius = 50 degrees F 3) Kj needs to be divided by 4.2 to get the calorie equivalent 4) Miles to Km: 1 mile = 1.6 km. 1 km = .6 miles. 5) 10 ounces of liquid is about 300 ml or .3 'litres' - I have to say that one of the best arguments I've ever heard for America not being on the metric system was because "America is a group of leaders, not liters" - I think that pretty much sums up the sentiment.
Entirely unrelated to anything, here's a picture of a name I saw that I had to let the world know - this is somebody's name:
So Why Go?
Before moving across the globe, people would frequently ask a question along the lines of, "So... [awkward pause inserted] Why New Zealand?" One time, I was even asked that 3 times in the same conversation, so it seems to be on people's minds. It's only fair to address this question and my very unusual way of viewing the world, right here, so my answer is:
I've spent a fair amount of time wondering, "what if?" in life. It's not unusual for me to imagine what my life would have looked like had some thing been different like a different city of birth, different country, intelligence, brain chemistry, etc. This "what if" question has been on a loop in my mind for quite some time, and I heard a podcast with Neil Pasricha that I think is absolutely worth listening to the full hour and 42 minutes of, but starting around 1 hour and 19 minutes he explains a brilliant concept that underpins my feelings of "why move?"
The basic principle comes down to 2 questions that we had to ask and answer for ourselves:
Death-Bed Test: What will we regret more on our death beds, giving up our good lives in Colorado or not going and wondering the rest of our lives?
Plan-B Test: What will we do if our plans fail?
Moving to New Zealand answered both of those questions well enough for us to say, "let's go, and if it really goes sour, at least we'll have an interesting story about it." There is a small third reason, or really more like reason 2.5 - So moving to a place like NZ is a way to try another life, but while still living the only life I've had (that I know of). You could call it a "re-do", or an alternate universe, or an opportunity to challenge myself and come back a newer/better person, though still someone who is incapable of growing a beard. Summarized, this was a way for us to fill our lives with the most of what we wanted out of the world and not have the regret of looking back at age 80 and thinking, "I wish we had done that".
Also, here is where I have spent my mornings for the last 2 weeks, reading and having coffee:
The next blog I post will give some more history of NZ, weird Kiwi English (Kiwinglish), and above all, a more thorough accounting of our travels and some stories. Also, my NZ phone number is 027-352-749X - That is my real number but I'm sure you will notice that I haven't provided the last digit. You may be asking, "Why Cam, Why?" Why would you live like such a loose cannon with reckless abandon? Well,, I think boldness should be rewarded, so if you as a person are willing to guess what the last digit is and potentially text the wrong person, then you're the kind of person I want to talk with. The downside, you might end up texting someone that is patently not me. The upside is that you really can't get it wrong if you try 10 times.
And here's a picture of a tree that LC thought looked like Groot's legs as he laid down on his back doing car mechanical work or something:
As the locals say, "Cheers",