Time for a some “Huh!” moments!! Is it February 5, 2020 or is it 05 February 2020? What is the same and what is different between New Zealand and the US? It is more than the steering wheel being on the opposite side of the vehicle or that they drive on the “wrong” side of the road. There is more to learn in order to navigate New Zealand. Here are some helpful hints.
For our friends who live in places where second homes are common, we call them second homes or vacation homes. In New Zealand, they are “baches”! In the US, we call the storage compartment in a car a “trunk”, while in New Zealand they call it a “boot”!! (I wonder what they wear on their feet in winter??) The wiper and turn signal switches in Kiwi Land are on the reverse side of the steering wheel as in the US: be prepared to have a lot of turns begin with the wipers activating before you catch on to which side the controls are situated. There are very few stop signs in New Zealand. Almost all intersections are rotaries, where you “Give Way”, rather then yield. No motel rooms or Airbnb’s have clocks in them!
Eating in New Zealand is also a learning experience. A snack before dinner in the US is called an appetizer. In New Zealand, it is an entrée. An entrée on the other hand, is called the main in NZ. A farm that produces milk in the US is called a dairy, on the other hand a dairy in New Zealand is considered a convenience store. Eggs are on the shelf and not refrigerated. Milkshakes in the U.S. are a creamy ice-cream dessert, whereas in New Zealand, it is flavored milk that is “shaken” (not stirred). On the other hand, when going to Subway for a sandwich, you don’t order in the standard measurement for the area – centimeters. You order a 6-inch or footlong sub as in the US. Subway, though, does not have mustard, and the pickles are sweet, not dill!! Don’t be lulled by seeing your familiar 6-inch sandwich, the ingredients do not always translate.
Sports is another interesting difference in New Zealand. Instead of the national pastime of the U.S – baseball – they play a similar game called cricket. The rules of cricket are the longest and most onerous of all sporting events. Instead of running from base to base, they run back and forth between stakes in the ground after they hit the ball. Football in New Zealand is soccer. The ball is round, not ovoid. In the US, hockey is played on ice. In New Zealand, it is played on a grass field. While the sticks are similar, one plays with a puck and one with a ball.
Last, but not least, the animals and environment are very different. In the parts of the US where we have lived, we had bears, deer, moose, foxes, possums, coyotes, and other assorted predators. In New Zealand, the only mammal indigenous to the country is a bat, and there are no natural predators. They are actively working on getting rid of possums, weasels, ferrets, and rats that were introduced by well-meaning settlers, including Europeans and the Polynesian Maori. Like the US, they have California Redwoods. But unlike the US, they are fast growing due to the climate, so the wood is not good for building or furniture making. Seeing a redwood next to a palm tree is an interesting contrast. They have lots of birds, but because they didn’t evolve with any natural predators, many of them do not fly. This is true of the national bird of New Zealand, the Kiwi. Unlike the US, these birds here cannot take flight to escape their predators, making them and their eggs vulnerable to predators. There are no snakes in New Zealand! At least that helps the ground dwellers.
Every electrical outlet on every wall has an on/off switch. If you have something plugged in, the outlet also must be turned on for the device to work. Their fire extinguishers are “ABE”, instead of “ABC”. Dave has yet to figure out why.
New Zealand has a different climate than any we have been in before. It is tropical, with palm trees and lush plants, yet it is low humidity, and when the temps reach into the 80’s, they all complain of the excess heat. Many homes do not have fixed heaters. Many older homes do not even have insulation. We have yet to find a window that has screening, meaning there are few flying bugs to pester us. They may get snow occasionally, but it almost never sticks to the ground, except on mountaintops. In fact, when the first Maori Chief arrived, he saw a mountain with snow on it, and, having never known snow, called it the Mountain with Clouds on it.
We are still learning the differences, but we continue to be surprised. Still no Diet Mountain Dew!!
As far as our day went, it was pretty casual. We drove to our next Airbnb, which was a lovely place with amazing trees and flowers. We then went into town to do laundry. Afterwards, we had a slice of surprisingly very good pizza from “Sal’s New York Style Pizzeria.” Later, we stopped by the rental car place to figure out what we need to do about the damage to the car, went to what the residents call “the hood” or “Compton” to get Dave a haircut. No, he didn’t get a mullet or a ‘fro! We also had some pretty good Vietnamese food for dinner and spoke with some friendly locals. Everyone kept asking what we were doing in “the hood”, but we were happy and were welcomed by everyone. A nice walk at sunset rounded out the day.