Sunday, May 27, 2012


I've tended to travel to places very different than the United States.  Partly because of the economics.  Developing countries tend to be cheaper.  But also to explore the differences in culture, lifestyle, geography, etc. 

I'm finding that New Zealand is very different in many ways than the United States.  Here are some things I've noticed:

Samoa - things I thought were uniquely Samoan are actually Kiwi.  For example, Jandals is what Samoans call flipflops.  They were invented in New Zealand.  The donuts that I thought were from Samoa?  Nope, Kiwi inspired.  Going into a grocery store here, I see every product I can find in Samoa.  They just have more variety here.  Why is it that the only frozen vegetable you can get in Savaii is mixed veg?  If they can ship that, they could ship frozen peas.  Broccoli.  Cauliflower. 

Food - Kiwis do not eat Mexican food.  There are a handful of restaurants in Auckland (which are usually closed) but from the menu, they aren't authentic.  Any time a menu advertises that it's enchilada sauce contains tomato sauce I cringe.  There are no tomatoes in enchilada sauce.  I've searched high and low for green chiles.  None to be had.  Not fresh, canned, frozen or dried.  Damn.  In six months I'm going to eat Mexican food until I burst.
Can't fault the seafood, though.  Huge, succulent green lipped mussels are readily available and cheap.  I've been eating them daily.  Because I'm lazy, I've been eating the marinated ones.  Pop open the plastic container and slurp.  Lovely.

Food here is generally not cheap.  Once I solve my technical issues, I'll post a photo of a box of granola that sells for over $30 NZD.  Please tell me that food prices in the States haven't risen to exboritant levels.  I bought lamb yesterday for $18 kg.  That was on sale.  It was delicious.  I baked a kumara (similar to a yam), sauteed courgettes (zuchini to me), made a tossed salad and quick fried the lamb in a hot skillet.  Then I opened the mint sauce, which really is a sauce, rather than the sort of jelly we have in the United States.

Bathrooms.  Like many countries around the world, toilets here have push buttons rather than a flush handle.  You get two options.  1 button for number 1 and 1 button for number 2.  Makes sense.  The other thing popular here in upscale homes is a "wet room".  Instead of an enclosed shower, the entire room (either whole bathroom or a separate room) is a shower.  The wetroom at Janey and Andrew's was stellar.  A HUGE room with a window, deep tub and showerhead with great water pressure.  And the water was hot.  In another place I stayed you could brush your teeth or do your business while showering.  I had the same thing once in a hotel in Buenos Aires, but that bathroom was so tiny it was a necessity, not a luxury.

Bare feet.  I asked Andrew about the bare feet thing.  I go bare foot a lot.  Always have.  Always in the house.  Frequently I teach barefoot.  Which sounds weird when I see it written down, but seems perfectly natural, in context.  I would never consider, however, strolling through downtown Auckland, in winter, in bare feet.  What's up with that?  Seniors, kids, teens.  Dressed up or casual.  And no shoes.  The Ministry of Health is working on a campaign in Samoa to encourage people to stop spitting and to wear shoes outdoors.  It's not healthy.  And cold. 

Attire.  Aside from the bare feet, I've noticed that hot pants are VERY popular in Auckland.  Since I haven't been in the United States in two years I have no clue what the clothing fads are.  Doesn't really matter to me since I'll continue to wear the same stuff that I've worn for 20 years.  Perhaps I need an intervention.  Anyway, hotpants worn with panty hose or leggings are very common here.  I'm far from a fashionista but here's a couple of tips.  If you want to wear your shorts that short, cut out the pockets that are hanging below the hem.  Also, if you can see the line on the pantyhose where the reinforcement at the top starts, either wear the kind that has no line of demarcation or wear slightly longer shorts.  I strolled through a mall yesterday and found very few items that I would consider buying, even if I was in the mood to buy.  Let's just say that working girls would have a field day shopping here.

Language.  Yes, they speak English here, but with an accent.  I was in the grocery store with Janey and needed her help to translate what the cashier was saying.  First she asked if I wanted to have my fish (which was sealed in plastic) wrapped in newspaper.  I could neither understand her or grasp the concept.  Then she asked (I think) if I had a discount card for that store.  I do the same thing here that I do in Samoa when people speak quickly and I can't hear/understand.  I just smile, nod and let them think I'm an idiot. They're not far wrong.

There are some phrases here that are commonly used.  I may adopt them...

Easy as.  Cheap as.  Fresh as.  Kiwis seem to like to encourage you to use your imagination.  Let's say someone is commenting on the how easy something is.  They'll just say "Easy as."  That leaves you to fill in the blank.  Easy as...falling off a log?  Easy as...pie?

Fresh seems to mean "nice", "feeling good".  I'm not sure exactly, but if you're referred to as fresh, it does not mean that you just pinched someones bum (or butt, if you're an American.)

I was told before coming to New Zealand that they don't like Americans.  I was told that by some Kiwis in Samoa.  If they are this friendly and polite to me, what are they like to people they actually like?

Speaking of friendly and polite, I bought some lasagna the other day for dinner.  The restaurant had just opened and all I had was either a $50  or $17 in change.  The bill was $20.  The nice owner took the change and called it even.  I offered to go to the store next door and get change but she insisted we were even.  "It is my small gift to you.  Eat, enjoy." 

I love it here.

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