Moving to the other side of the world, you expect there to be a few cultural differences. Here are some of the things I’ve found between the UK and New Zealand:
- Kiwi Nature
People really are more chilled out here. Nobody seems to be in a rush. When I go to the bank, the staff are genuinely interested in my life and having a little chat, even if there’s a big queue behind me, and when I was getting my phone sorted I was given a sim card for free. A common phrase here is “She’ll be ‘right” – meaning everything will be ok, don’t worry about it – and that totally sums up my experience of Kiwis so far. Oh, and bare-footed grocery shopping is a thing.
Driving is generally nicer here than back home. The roads are wider, there’s less traffic, and almost anywhere you are there’s mountains in the distance. Nearly every car in New Zealand is an automatic, so driving feels like your left hand side is weirdly redundant. Everything is in kilometres rather than miles, and the maximum speed limit, even on highways, is 100kph – equivalent to about 60mph. Luckily, most of the actual signs are the same as the UK, and we drive on the same side of the road. Unbelievably, you don’t need car insurance here. It’s highly recommended, but not essential.
Most of the houses here seem like an ode to the 1950s. Wooden bungalows with top loading washing machines, mailboxes and single glazing, they’re super cute but with the complete lack of insulation and heating I can’t say I’m looking forward to my first winter. Gas is stored in cannisters in kitchen cupboards, and if you have a front-loading washing machine you are very lucky. Bills are cheaper though, and water isn’t charged at all.
- Capsicums, Togs & Rooting
Obviously, when you move to a new continent, you expect there to be some differences in language. Here’s a quick rundown of my favourite lingo differences:
Capsicum – pepper
Togs – swimming costume/shorts/bikini/literally any swimwear
Jandals – flip flops
Gumboots – wellies
Dairy – corner shop
WOF (Warant of Fitness) – MOT equivalent
Yarn – conversation/chat
Sharn – a awkward/boring/otherwise shit conversation
Root[ing] – shag[ging] (possibly my favourite colloquialism so far)
It’s weird how quickly you start picking up the local phrases and accent. Even with all the international students around, the Kiwi intonation is so dominant I often find myself speaking in some strange hybrid accent which I’m sure sounds absolutely ridiculous.
- Outside Dogs
Perhaps reflective of the fact about 50% of people here are from a farming background, it’s pretty common for pet dogs to be confined to the outdoors in specially constructed cages or pens. The 8-month-old (giant) puppy owned by my flatmate sleeps in a small pen in the garden, and spends a lot of the day in there too. As an animal lover, and someone used to pets sharing our homes, this can be pretty hard to see. Rest assured that when Tom and I get our own place, our furry friends will be very much part of the family.
- Drinking culture
This is something I’ve seen two sides to. Where I am in Lincoln, there seems to be a pretty chilled pub culture. People start drinking early and are in bed by 10pm – and anyone who knows my sleep pattern will laugh at how perfect that sounds for me. Apparently Christchurch has a big drinking culture, full of clubs and a huge 24-hour casino, but I’ve yet to have the delights of experiencing it. Even so, Kiwis definitely don’t go out with the intention of getting blackout drunk like some Brits do.The drinking laws are really strict here, which has been a steep learning curve working in a bar. If you’re visibly intoxicated, you cannot be served alcohol and may be asked to leave the premises. Intoxicated is classified as one step before drunk. This is worlds apart from the UK, where you’ll still be served until you can barely stand. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to drink in public here… but maybe that’s a good thing.
Being vegetarian, never mind vegan, is practically unheard of in New Zealand. With people so proud of their home-grown agriculture, meat is huge here, and alternatives are harder to find and way more expensive than in the UK. Whereas a restaurant in Falmouth would have 4 or 5 veggie options on any menu, here, you’re lucky if there’s one. I have heard there’s a few vegetarian restaurants out in Christchurch though, so I’ll be checking out these hidden gems for sure!
One of the weirdest things about New Zealand is the fact there are no native mammal species here. That’s not to say there aren’t any mammals. Invasive species are unfortunately a big problem in NZ, threatening their endemic birds, so huge efforts are being put into eradicating animals like rabbits and possums. I haven’t seen a live possum yet, but marsupial roadkill is rife (and even encouraged). When you take time to just listen, you realise another stark difference: the birds. Gone are the familiar songs of English songbirds, so commonplace that you never questioned them. Here, every sound is new and interesting, and I have no idea which birds sing which song, but I’m excited to learn.
I’m sure the longer I’m here, the more differences I’ll discover! What’s the biggest culture shock you’ve had moving to a new country?