Let’s Hear From New Zealand Now -The Toast

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This is not the socialist paradise you’re looking for

You’ve probably heard of New Zealand, even if you don’t know much about it. You know it’s somewhere, vaguely, down around Australia…ish. What you do know: it’s a magical land of environmental purity, pacifism, and hobbits or something.

Which is great, because if favoured presidential candidate X doesn’t get elected in 2016, you’re totally moving to New Zealand. You might even go on reddit to do some research. Hey, you even threw in a bit of te reo to show how different and special you are. Kiwis will love you, right?

Assuming you even qualify for immigrant status (lol), there’s a few things you should know before upping sticks. So swap out the rose tints for a proper prescription.

Rugby is not our national sport

Mercilessly mocking you and your deepest and most dearly held beliefs is. And we’ll do it with a straight face so you won’t be able to tell if we’re serious or just joshing. You can give back as good as you get or you can beat us at our own game and get to the punchline first. Don’t bother getting offended, that will only make it worse. Your best bet is not to be genuinely passionate about anything. Except rugby and drinking. Everyone’s passionate about that.

Kumbaya my lord

… sang no one in New Zealand, ever. I’m pretty sure there’s a special dispensation in our strict gun control laws that allows us to shoot anyone singing Kumbaya (also anything in Elvish) on sight. Call it cultural self-defense. While we’re not all freewheeling hippies, we do hold things like universal healthcare and social safety nets quite dear. We pay higher taxes to fund them out of our generally lower incomes, but you’d have a fight on your hands to take them off us. Mental health services are viciously underfunded with the result that our suicide rates — especially among youth and Māori — are particularly worrying.

The kumara does not sing of its own sweetness

Oh, you have a degree from an Ivy League university? Your bonus at Goldman Sachs was half a mill last year? Look at how impressed I am right now. We don’t care. We care about who you are. And right now, it sounds like you think you’re better than us. We already feel inferior, like, 99 percent of the time (except in rugby and drinking). You’ll need to become familiar with Tall Poppy Syndrome. It’s this thing where people who think they’re all that get collectively shamed for ‘over-achieving.’ This is not a positive trait for Kiwis in general. Luckily, it’s changing slowly. In the meantime, your sense of American Exceptionalism is probably going to just piss people off.

Clean, green, obscene

So you’ve seen the ads: 100% ‘it’s a brand, not a guarantee’ Pure New Zealand. You’ve imagined hiking through lush rainforests, and swimming on pristine beaches. Well, you can still do that. Hundreds of thousands of Kiwis do. What we can’t do is ignore the poor environmental record that’s seen many of our rivers polluted by runoff from agriculture (our major industry) and deemed unsafe to swim in. Or the plight of endemic sea mammals like Maui’s and Hector’s Dolphins, which are extremely rare. Soz, dolphins.

We’re at the arse-end of nowhere

There are no weekend trips home from New Zealand. If you want to leave the country, it takes your whole weekend just to travel wherever you’re going. There’s no spring break in Puerto Vallarta, no last-minute trip to Mardi Gras, popping up to Montreal or a week of retail therapy in Paris. It takes 12 hours to get half-way to anywhere, 17 if you do it on the cheap. Except for Australia. There’s always plenty to explore in the South Pacific – just don’t expect foam parties and the international DJ circuit to turn up in Honiara or Port Vila. On the other hand, with the money you save on blow in TJ this Christmas, you can instead make a roadtrip out of our oversized roadside novelties. And don’t forget the Bucket Fountain, may its splashy goodness be upon you.

Oh. Watch out for Moa. They are the unspoken menace.

That being said…

The land of the long white cloud is fucking awesome, and those of us who do call it home are generally proud to do so. If the prospects of lower wages, higher taxes, gun control, 6pm store closings, and half-strength G&Ts don’t sound too awful to bear, you’ll be rewarded with a laid-back lifestyle, plenty of laughs, rugby and binge drinking. This way to immigration.govt.nz.

Lynda Brendish is from New Zealand, where she presumably plays rugby and drinks.

Time zones are the bane of my existence. I know that sounds melodramatic, but here’s the thing about New Zealand: it’s a tiny, isolated island at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. The closest significant landmass to us is Australia, a mere 1,500km (or 900 miles) away. We share a time zone with a few other small Pacific Island nations and one region of Russia’s coast.

For most people, day-to-day, that doesn’t matter. Where it does have a huge effect: when you want to travel, and when you have friends in different time zones. 

I fall solidly into both those categories.

Time zones make sense; they’re a necessity in the modern age. I get that. But it makes communicating with the people you care about a slight inconvenience at best. At worst it’s stressful enough to make you burst into tears when your Skype starts to ring.

New Zealand is also right next to the International Date Line  – we’re the first country in the world to see the dawn. Which was particularly cool in 2000. It’s less cool when it’s 5pm on a Tuesday and the rest of the world is stuck in Monday night.

Sometimes the longing to talk to friends – to just let them know that I’m thinking about them, that I miss them, that I wish we were together drinking beer or eating cake, that I just have to message them, even though they definitely aren’t online and probably aren’t awake.

Okay so there are some pretty cool loopholes thanks to time zones. Movies are released in New Zealand on a Thursday. Which works out to almost a 48-hour head start when things line up in the right way. This is rare, though, and it’s a small comfort.

There’s a somewhat-common refrain through my pocket of the Internet. It’s a desire for a return to Pangea; that if the distance and the differences were smaller, the missing would be less.

I’m skeptical.

Sometimes time zones are magical, though. There’s something so beautiful about waking up with your friends at 3am to watch the All Blacks (national rugby team, basically as big a celebrity as you get in New Zealand) play England or South Africa or whoever else is trying to topple them on any given day.

Living in New Zealand makes you brutally, painfully aware of just how big the world is, and how far away we are from everything. This is in small things like the price of shipping our online shopping, or the crackle over the long-distance phone call.

Mostly, it’s waking up in the morning and remembering that the person you love isn’t down the street, but 10,000 miles and 7 hours difference away.

Caitlin Anderson also lives in New Zealand, where she specializes in making Mallory tear up.

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