19 November 2011

What it's like in New Zealand

I've been making little notes and observations for a while about life in New Zealand and I have enough now to put together to make a blog post. This is for anyone wondering what it's like here, how it has been different for us and some of the things we're adjusting to.

Shoes (Ha ha, I had to talk about shoes first, didn't I?)


In the UK and South Africa I was a size 5 but over here I am size 7 (which I think is equivalent to US sizing, but I'm not sure).

Daniel never wears shoes except to church and if we insist he puts some Crocs on. Noah sometimes goes barefoot and the rest of the time he wears Crocs, even to school - he takes them off when he gets there. No shoes allowed in school. In winter he leaves slippers at school to wear.

Although the barefoot thing is quite normal here, I think it's a little more "looked down on" on the North Shore / city and more usual here with the "country" kids. Whatever - my kids are happy and it saves me money on shoes ;)

Taking your shoes off when entering anyone's house is the norm here. Most people remove their shoes outside the front door and leave them there. In winter you'll take a pair of slippers with you when visiting friends.

I finally get to wear my cute sandals and wedges! I hardly had opportunity in the UK as it was never warm enough for long enough.

Flip-flops are called "jandals" here.



We haven't eaten out yet in a proper restaurant yet but we've had take-aways. McDonald's actually tastes yummy here (we found it pretty tasteless in the UK). The Domino's "large" pizza is a UK "medium" pizza. We had fish and chips once and it was heavenly. I don't normally enjoy chip-shop fish but the fish we had (gurnard) was awesome.

Fresh food and homemade food is much cheaper than processed food. In the UK processed food is much cheaper.

You pretty much have to eat seasonal fruit and veg if you don't want to spend an absolute fortune. There is a huge difference in price seasonally. For example, in winter a cucumber is between $4 and $5. In the summer apparently they go down to around 75c. I wouldn't even dream of buying salad goodies and fruit like strawberries in the winter, even if I could find them.

The people here seem to be quite fond of silverbeet, a green leafy veg. I don't mind it but of course my kids will moan if I serve it.

Orange sweet potatoes are called kumara here and are very popular.

Outdoor lifestyle


I love living in a country where you can buy your fishing bait at the supermarket along with your groceries! I wouldn't even know where to find any in the UK.

The sun here is vicious. There is a gaping hole in the ozone layer above NZ so sunscreen is mandatory. Even with sunscreen on you can feel the sun scorching your skin if you stay out in it in the middle of the day - and we're not even properly into summer yet. Even though I use sunscreen and avoid being out in the sun, sticking to the shade, I have a tan already. And more freckles on my face (sigh). Any time the sun is out, even in winter, you feel the warmth of it.

I go walking every morning (3.5km, around 2 miles) and pass so many other walkers and joggers. Walking for health is very much a done thing here.

You constantly hear birds singing, all day long. When we have our sliding door open we have a perpetual soundtrack of birdsong. (And let me tell you, blackbirds are so noisy!)



TV here is pretty much crap and there's hardly anything good to watch. Which is okay because I'm not a big TV fan (I prefer to tool around on the internet to chill.) But hey, at least it's free! There is no TV licence.

The ads are so loud and in your face. I'm constantly reminding the kids to mute the TV during ad breaks.

NZ TV seems to be a bit more conservative than UK TV where pretty much anything goes. British shows like Embarrassing Bodies, which is a show about embarrassing medical conditions, will have the rude bits blurred out. In the UK you see everything, whether they are talking about piles or fractured willies or whatever.

The people


Everyone here seems to be so cheerful, friendly and laid back. When you are out shopping you get asked, "How are you?" and it's like they genuinely care. You can speak to strangers and they will be happy to chat with you. When out walking I make eye contact and exchange greetings with other walkers. This is not done in the UK, at least not where we lived.

They are so laid back that in radio ads, when citing a website address, they don't bother saying www as "double-you, double-you, double-you", they just say "dub-dub-dub" which makes me laugh for some reason. And instead of GST they say "jist". Lazy beggers. (Or buggers, which I can say again - it's accepted here, but in the UK it's not a very polite word.)

NZ people are so generous. When we first moved over we were lent so much to get by until our stuff arrived. We continue to experience the generosity of those around us as they share goodies from their gardens, give us goodies for our own garden, spoilt me on my birthday, help with fishing knowledge, and are generous with their time too.

I feel more at home here because my sense of humour seems to gel. People "get" me more than they did in the UK. It's hard to explain, but unmistakable to experience.

The people we have met are so tolerant and accepting. I haven't felt at all judged by anyone. You just show up as you are and you are welcome, no matter your race, history, nationality, gender or age. It's wonderful.

They say you can tell the quality of a neighbourhood by the ratio of pubs to churches. Well, I don't even know where our nearest pub is but there are a lot of churches in our neighbourhood!



We left the UK just as spring was really starting to take off, only to be plunged right back into winter here. But the winter here is pretty much like a British spring / summer anyway. Which leads to mega confusion ... I sometimes have to stop and think and work out which season we are in because I haven't a clue.

The winter was chilly at times but on the whole it was nothing compared to a British winter, thank goodness. I never once needed my coat, hat, boots or gloves and only wore a scarf a couple of times.

There is more light in a NZ winter than in a UK summer, which is fantastic for photography and SAD! And now that it's summer, well I had my camera on the lowest ISO and couldn't shoot with my aperture wide open at f/2.8 because the fastest shutter speed available is 1/8000 and it was over-exposing. Wow.

The seasons aren't as marked as in the UK. Of course, we haven't been here for an autumn yet but since most the trees still had their leaves through the winter I'm not expecting shows of colour. Winter is cold(ish) and it rained quite a bit but there were plenty of days that saw us in short sleeves on the beach. Spring so far is warmer, sunnier and lighter but there are no dramatic displays of crocuses, daffodils, tulips and snowdrops, and trees bursting into life like in the UK.

I keep forgetting that Christmas is in just over a month's time. The only sign of Christmas here is in one of the stores we visit sometimes, where they have fake trees and decorations out. Other than that ... nothing. I really like it. In the UK they start Christmassing in September and by the time the day rolls around I am sick of it all. But it did feel more Christmassy in the cold weather.

The weather here can be very changeable. Take today, for instance. This morning was nice and sunny and warm while I was out walking. By the time I'd had my shower and got dressed it was gloomy and drizzling. Then it went sunny again. Now it's overcast but bright, and windy. And it's only 3pm now so who knows what the rest of the day holds!

So, those are just some thoughts and observations so far. We've been here for five months now and every single day I am so grateful to be here. It has 100% been the right move for our family.

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