last updated: 21-jun-03
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Where to start with all the wonderful, amazing and different things about NZ?

Language

We love the Kiwi accent, which knew we would. But until you live in a country, you don't know how different their language is! It's not English as we know it - it is a lovely mix with some English words that we would have expected, like boot, spanner, and flat, lots of Maori words and locations, an 'e' that sounds like an 'i' and a questioning tone as in 'My name is Jin and I'll be your guide today?, and then heaps of phrases that were just lovely and contributed to our experience being both magical and good as gold. The trick is to remember them all. To be fair, Sara is best at this, but we'll try to write them down.

Here's a sentence: "People are wasteful of power. They leave lights on, and have long showers, and don't have a wetback." See, I think wetback means something different here, but I don't know what it is.

People don't use "the" sometimes: they'll say "he's in hospital" or "if the line at the portaloo is too long, I'll go bush."

Instead of call me at 455-0000, they'll say 'call me on 455-0000.' Instead of BYOB, a party ad will say BYOG (for Grog). Instead of $500 OBO when selling something, they'll say $500 ONO. Instead of vacuuming the house, they'll lux it.

Here's a list of words and phrases that we have enjoyed here:

shift - move
scheme - any sort of plan, like a water scheme that brings water from central wells to a group of homes
no worries - as in 'no worries, mate, we'll fix you right up.'
purpose built - designed for a specific reason, like a purpose built boat that travels in shallow water
gutted - heart ripped out, as in gutted by a loss, or embarrassed, as in answering a question wrong in school
good stuff
cheers, sweet, good as gold, mate - usually all in one sentence
flash - fancy, new
brilliant - well done, very nice
jim jams - pajamas (see tim tams, chocolate cookies, for the combo - eating tim tams in your jim jams!)
togs - bathing suit
kiwi blokes - New Zealand guys, usually quiet outdoorsy types
manchester - the section of a store that sells linens, towels, etc.
good on ya - well done, as in 'good on ya, mate!'
gridiron - american football
tomato sauce - what you put on fries, chips, or wedges, but not exactly like ketchup
sweet as - that's nice, as in: 'this beer's on me' 'sweet as!'
silverbeet - the leaves of beets. the roots are called beetroot.
silverside - corned beef
spot prizes - door prizes
pies - small pies, usually meat like mince or steak and onion, for lunch
vivids - markers that are like Sharpies, similar to felts
homely - a word that means it reminds you of home, as in "a nice homely restaurant that was snug and cosy"
bugger all - gosh darn it!
luxing - vacumming
redundancy - as in, being made redundant or losing your job
mufti - anything that is not a uniform, as in 'it's a mufti day on Friday, so we don't have to wear our uniforms'
cotton, wool, nylon - nylon is fishing line, wool is yarn, and cotton is thread - got it?
knickers in a knot - an expression for getting upset about something
freezing works - slaughterhouse
belgium - lunch meat
easybeats - the worst sports team in a group

A few kumara short of a hangi - same as 'a few bricks shy of a load'
It's all about Whanau - a health campaign, with Whanau being the Maori word for family
Make your home as safe as houses - a safety campaign tagline
Don't drink and fry - a safety campaign, designed to stop 'hundreds of blokes who come home from the pub and cook . . . themselves'
If you drink and drive, you're a bloody idiot - another safety campaign
Jiggle yourselves into possie - get the group of yourselves organized
The old standard tongue twister here:

I'm not the pheasant plucker,
I'm the pheasant plucker's son;
I'm only plucking pheasants until
the pheasant plucker comes

Sports

The entire sporting world as I knew it prior to Jan/03 has been turned on its head, its pockets emptied of loose change, and the debris left for dead. There is a near complete whitewash of US sporting events in NZ, which is as it should be - but it has taken a bit of readjustment on my part. For example, on a Saturday afternoon here in NZ, there are no sports of any of the 6 channels that we get. Last night, May 17, we did watch some of the Super 12 semi-final rugby game that came on free TV at 8:30pm, but that is it for sports for half the weekend. On Sunday, there are several hours of sports on TV - on TV1, we have the netball semis, followed by Motorsport with some of the Australian V8 races and the first round of the World Superbike races from Sugo. At 11:40pm, we have the Austrian Formula 1 Grand Prix (live!). On TV 3, we have an hour of highlights of the World Rally race last week in Argentina and rugby highlights from the weekend. On Prime, we have the Nat'l Rugby League game from Australia . . . Well, as you can see, sports on the weekends in NZ are things that you do outside, not sit inside and watch on TV!

For sports that you play here, you have to start out talking about cricket and rugby. In school, that's what the kids play - cricket at recess during the summer, and touch, which is a form or rugby, and as it gets cooler outside, rugby takes over. The girls also play netball, which is sort of like basketball, except you don't dribble or run with the ball - you just pass it. There are a variety of other rules in netball, including limits on which players can go to which spots on the floor, who can shoot, how you defend . . . actually, other than having a small hoop to shoot through, it really isn't very similar to basketball at all! It is played on a semi pro level here - Dunedin has the Otago Rebels, who play in front of around 1000 people at their home games.

Rugby, with its traditions of the All Blacks and its imprint on the national psyche, rules in NZ. Yes, people play golf, attend races, follow cricket, shoot hoops, run, swim, surf, tramp, and climb, but rugby is the sport about which you're most likely to get in an argument or read a front page headlline in the paper. We follow the Highlanders, who play in the Super 12, a league that includes 7 NZ teams, 2 South African teams, and 3 Australian teams. Once the Super 12 season ends, many players play in the NPC - National Provincial Championships, another season of rugby where teams from Otago or Southland might play teams from Canterbury or Hawkes Bay. Of course, anyone tabbed for the All Blacks will take off for national team training in preparataion for the World Cup.

On a regular basis, the papers are filled with stories about the Highlanders or other teams in the Super 12, the Black Caps (cricket team) playing in Sri Lanka or Pakistan, the Tall Blacks (national basketball team) making their selections, the All Whites (soccer team) getting ready for their regional play in the next World Cup, the Black Sox (mens softball) playing overseas, the Black Sticks (field hockey men or women) taking on Canada, or updates on world soccer, especially the English Premier League. We had a paragraph about the Super Bowl, and Tiger Woods has a following so the Masters got some attention - other than that, the papers report on sports that are of interest here in NZ, which are predominantly amateur. So there is ocverage of rowing, harriers, cycling, kayaking, endurance races, biatholons, swimming and surfing, which you'd never see in a big city paper in the states, because of all of the coverage of the Eagles or the Sixers or the Flyers or any of the other big ticket sports. Some of the big sports are on pay TV - for example, if we had Sky Sport, I could have watched live NBA playoff action or the conference finals of the NHL at 4:30am if I were deranged, or a huge fan, which is probably the same thing.

 

Houses

We've been astonished at a couple of the aspects of homes in NZ. One is the heat, of course, or the lack of it in many houses. In our 1880's-era Victorian home, with its 11 foot ceilings and 5 foot tall single pane glass windows, with its lack of insulation and its gaps between the doors and the floors, we have an oil filled radiator and a multi-fuel stove, which we fill with coal. Thaat's it - as you can imagine, the electric blankets come in handy, since the temps in the house have frequently been in the low 50's F. But that is just the normal case here in NZ - people don't normally heat bedrooms and hallways, and bathrooms frequently have an electric heater installed with a pull chain, so you turn it on when you use it. Many people have heated towel bars to dry their towels, since the bathrooms are cool. People use space heaters, electric heaters, gas heaters, and a few heat pumps - very few people have what we would call a furnace. For the most part, there is no ductwork, and no need for conditioned cool air, and it would be ridiculous expensive to try to install anything like that in these old homes. So houses are just cooler, and people wear another jumper or jersey (sweater) or grab a hottie (hot water bottle).

Nearly all electrical outlets have switches, so you can turn off the power to the outlet. A very handy feature, especially now during the energy shortage - one of the recommendations is to turn appliances off at the switch, because many items such as TVs or microwaves continue to use power while on standby. We just shut off the switch and we're all set, and of course, it is much safer.

In Dunedin, and in much of the rest of NZ that we have seen, houses are smaller, and sections (plots of land) are much smaller, so our yard is about the same size as our house. Gardens are much more involved here, with many small walls separating the houses and gardens from the sidewalk. But there are very few places where mowing the yard would take more than the 15 minutes it takes me, as people just don't have the huge expanses of grass in front of or behind their homes. The scale is considerably smaller.

For prices, I would have said things are much less expensive here, but recently, homes, which are usually put up for auction rather than sold for a set price, have been selling for much more than their appraised value, expecially in areas like Wanaka and Queenstown. Of course, homes still might be for sale in the range of 100-200K NZ, which is lower than similar homes in urban areas in the States, especially when you consider some of the spectacular views that many smaller older homes have - lovely views down over the city and the harbor, or of the peninsula, or down the coast over the beaches of St Clair and St Kilda. Those are the kind of views that would command top prices in the US, but Dunedin is fortunate to have enough of them to keep house prices reasonable.

TV

We have 6 channels here, which is quite a change from the 50 or 60 that we have in Lewisburg. There are 4 national stations (TV1, TV2, TV3, and TV4), Prime from Australia, and Channel 9 from Dunedin. Only TV1 and TV3 have news, but of course, it is the national hour long news at 6, with stories from every part of the country, including national sports and national weather. The programming is an odd mix of English exports, Australian exports, US exports, and NZ productions. Even with this limited number of stations, TV 4 only has infomercials until the evening hours. The programming censorship is decidedly looser - more along the lines of cable, so there is profanity, violence, and some nudity on regular TV. But sometimes we could still be in the states, looking at the options on TV that include ER, CSI, Big Brother, American Idol, the Simpsons, the Sopranos, Sex and the City, Home Improvement, Rikki Lake, Judge Judy, Seinfeld, Murphy Brown, Remington Steele, Lois and Clark, Survivor, Oprah, and the Wonder Years.

There are a number of British or Australian dramas: Shortland Street, Water Rats, Home and Away, Coronation Street, Always Greener, etc., but the mix is odd - some shows are from this year, like Scrubs or Friends, and some shows are from years ago, like Murder One. We do watch Letterman one day later on Prime, and since the room with the TV is the only warm room in the house, we have watched a fair amount of shows.

Overall, though, I'd have to say our favorite thing about NZ TV is the commercials! There are just classy, well done commercials, which you could imagine being done anywhere, although they are considerably lower-key here, with an emphasis on story and plot line that you really have to pay attention to. There is much less of the loud MTV style of commercials here - even the beer commercials are stories within themselves, unfolding over time to reveal the twist or the catch. But even better than the regular ads are the safety ads produced so that New Zealanders take care of themselves. For example, there is a series of ads called 'Make your homes as safe as houses.' (What that means, we don't have a clue.) The ad will start with what looks like a regular commercial, with an actor beginning to talk about a generic product, when all of a sudden, WHAM! they'll fall off their ladder, or trip over kids' toys and crash into a glass tabletop, or slip on a wet bathroom floor and smack their heads against the tile! Or an ad might encourage you clean up after your dog by showing a man leaving his own mess on the sidewalk and then having a runner come by and slip on it. The ads describing the dangers of drinking and driving are brutally graphic - blood everywhere, mothers being run over in front of their children, friends running other friends off the road and then attending the funerals - and are frequently told in reverse, so you see the results of the action, then work back to how it happened. It is a completely different way of approaching public safety announcements.

Finally, the other interesting thing about TV here is that the timing is so variable! Shows might start at 9:35, or 9:50, or 9:25, or go beyond their scheduled time . . . anything could happen. After years and years of being used to the standard shows that start on the hour or the half hour, it has taken some getting used to on our part. The TV listings are only an approximation. But the reviewers don't help matters either. On Tuesdays, the weekly TV guide comes out in the paper. There are 2 coumnists. I'm used to TV scribes who highlight a show or shows that of particular interest in the upcoming week, or interviews with someone who has an upcoming special. The key word in that last sentence is 'upcoming.' Here, the columnists write about shows that were really good last week, as in "Last Wednesday's show on TV3 about the making of the Lord of the Ring was enthralling - visually thrilling, well written, timely, and well edited. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute and was delighted to have seen some previously unviewed footage that won't ever be available to the public again." Well, what can you say after reading that, other than gee, I wish I could have seen it - sounds good . . .

Food

We brought some recipes with us, and we've made some things that taste generally what we thought they might be like, but one of the wonderful things about traveling is trying out the foods in that country. Even things for which we had a recipe tasted different - the ingredients vary, measurement here is in kilos and grams, and we cook in an oven that has temps in Celsius and this set of options: Bake, Classic Bake, Fan Bake, MultiFan Bake, Grill, and Eco Grill. So a recipe that says cook at 350 for 45 minutes becomes cook at about 175 on Fan Bake for around 35 minutes, then check it.

Every time we go to the grocery store, we find something new or different - today, we saw Southern Swedes on sale for 69 cents a kilo in the produce section, but who knows what they are or what you do with them? We got some wonderful yellow kiwifruit (zespri), some oddly sized NZ grapefruit, a healthy looking silverbeet, some Australian red table grapes, a bunch of mandarin oranges (smaller and sweeter than clementines) and a kiwano (kiwi horned melon) for Sara, which tastes sort of like a slick juicy banana. Of course, there are all the normal odd food items, like eels and tongue and custards, that you'd expect from a country with British roots. There are also the different words for things (silverside is corned beef, pork tenderloin is pork fillets and pronounced fill-it, capsicums are peppers, courgettes are zucchini) and different prices for things (no matter how you slice it, $23.50 a kilo sounds expensive for T-bone, until you say that a kilo is 2.2 pounds, so that's closer to $11 a pound, and that's in NZ dollars, so it's more like $6 a pound US . . . not bad for a good looking steak!)

We went to several grocery stores before we settled on New World. One of our favorite things about it is that the stock is constantly being replenished (sometimes there are 5 people in teh produce section along, refilling various bins), so you seldom come across a section that looks wiped out. And there are about 18 checkout aisles - every single time we have been there, every aisle has a clerk and a bagger in their nice uniforms! Every time! So while our Weis at home might have a dozen aisles, 3 of them are completely self serve and at any given time, there might be only 2 or 3 or 4 aisles open. So in 5 months, we have never had more than 1 person in front of us at New World, and we have always had someone bag our groceries. the price of food works out to be about the same here, but for that level of service, I would have paid more! The clerks can't believe us when we tell them about ringing up our own food, and bagging it ourselves . . . just another example of a different level of service that is standard in NZ.

For restaurants, we couldn't have gotten luckier! Dunedin has a lot of great restaurants but compared to the central Susquehanna Valley, we are in restaurant heaven! Japanese food, Turkish food, Khymer Satay, toasted sammies at any of a hundred cafes, seafood, Thai food, vegetarian food . . . other than Mexican, Dunedin with its large student population and location on the sea has everything. And we can go out for a nice meal, with appetizers and drinks for us all, and sometimes dessert, for $60-100 NZ, which is entirely reasonable. That includes tax, and tipping is not done here, so if I get a bill for $78, I don't have to then add in 6% tax and then 15-20% tip to make the actual price closer to $100 - it is just $78 and I go up to the register and pay it. And that's another thing about restaurants here - frequently you order at the bar, so when you're ready, you just go up and order it. They bring it out to you, of course, and you're waited on throughout your meal, although usually you get a water pitcher right on the table. When you're rady to leave, you can just go up, get your bill, pay it, and take off - none of this waiting around, trying to get the waiter's attention to bring the check, and then trying to get his attention to come back and pick up your payment. It was just so much more efficient - we all got very used to this very quickly.


©2003 Bud Hillerwww.facstaff.bucknell.edu/dhiller HomeTravelsDunedinSchoolsPhotos