This is an email that Scott sent to his co-workers a few weeks ago. I had fun reading his initial New Zealand impressions and thought it would be fun to share on the blog too. . .
If you’re getting this note, it’s because you’ve expressed some interest in how the New Zealand adventure is going. If you’re not interested, reply back with ‘unscubscribe’, and then stop reading.
Our rental house is in Okitu (oak-ah-too), a suburb of Gisborne. The beach across the road from where our house is (about a three minute walk away).
Gisborne’s claim to fame is that it’s the first city in the world to see the light of the new day’s sun. That and they have an active set of railroad tracks crossing their airport’s runway (one of only two such instances in the world.)
Katie is working Monday through Thursday, 8:30-4:30 and is really liking her practice. There’s less paperwork, less defensive medicine (i.e.: doctor’s running unnecessary tests to avoid getting sued by their patients) and in general the patient population is much more appreciative (no sense of entitlement). Luke is going to school full time at the Wainui (why-new-e) Beach School. New Zealand schools have a focus on play-based learning, which Luke is really enjoying. Jake is having lots of fun attending early childhood education in Gisborne weekday mornings while I take care of my MnDOT work.
Neatest thing thus-far:
Kaiti (k’eye-tee) Hill Challenge. Sir Edmund Hillary was an Auckland native, so he’s a big deal throughout the county (he’s on the $5 bill.) There’s a hill in Gisborne (that we’d call a mountain) named Kaiti Hill and from Mid-September through October, there’s a challenge to climb the hill 68 times. Climbing the hill 68 times equates to climbing Mount Everest. It’s amazing to see the number of people that are schlepping up and down the hill to accomplish the challenge. The leader, thus far, has climbed it 351 times. I’m at 4.
This past weekend, we wandered through a nearby open house for a property that’s for sale (they placed a flier in our mailbox.) Their real estate system is definitely different down here. They don’t publish asking prices. It’s best offer, or by auction, which probably greatly increases the value of a realtor when asking “what should I offer for this property?”. For the house we went through, an eight year old, three-bedroom, two-bath with stunning views of the ocean,the realtor told us that they had received an offer of $800k NZD, but the owners turned it down. It was auctioned on November 10th and I’m guessing it went for ~$1M. Only $660k USD, which seems like a bargain
They recently passed a law that only citizens or those with resident visas can buy residential real estate. The goal was to prevent folks from China (for investment purposes), and ultra-wealthy US citizens (for “bolt-hole” purposes) from buying up houses and pricing NZ citizens out of the market. The law went into effect on Monday, but like any good piece of legislation it has loopholes you can drive a truck through. For example, you can still buy a piece of land and build a house if you’re not a resident.
Other odd differences between the US and NZ cultures:
· They drive on the left side of the road
o Which means:
-You’d think they’d tend to walk on the left side of aisles and sidewalks, but you’d be wrong.
-The turn signal is on the right side of the steering wheel, causing me to frequently turn on my windshield wipers when trying to indicate my turn.
-I keep walking up to the wrong car door to get in and drive.
-I’m running out of creative ways to play this off as intentional.
-A majority of their cars are imported directly from Japan. The car we bought (a 2005 Toyota Wish – a minivan with rear passenger doors that open like a car) has a navigation system that only has maps of Japan, and for the first two weeks it kept talking to me in a friendly female Japanese voice. I understood when it said ‘hello’, but that’s it. Using Google Translate, I was able to figure out how to mute the system.
· Being barefoot is perfectly normal. Doesn’t matter if it’s in a restaurant, home improvement warehouse, or school. Shoes are optional.
o If you have muddy boots, you’re expected to leave them at a business’ entrance, and walk in your stocking feet (or bare feet)
· Z: They don’t say “zee”, they say “zed.” The bank we’re using down here is ANZ, and man does it confuse people if you say ANZee, rather than ANZed
o There’s no tipping at restaurants. At coffee houses, there’s a tip jar, but otherwise there’s no tipping.
o If you want water, you’re expected to get your own carafe and glasses at a cooler or table near the host station.
o Their version of ketchup is called tomato sauce. It’s thinner, with a citrus note. It’s good, but surprising if you’re prepared for traditional ketchup.
o Burgers taste more like meatloaf. I’m guessing it’s because they use fillers to try and make the beef go further.
-Except for at McDonalds and Carl’s Jr. That food tastes identical to their US counterparts, and they use traditional ketchup.
· Food portions, whether at the grocery store or at a restaurant, are smaller. And much more expensive.
o It’s more difficult to find junk food here.
o Their deserts have much less sugar in them
-We had a piece of cheesecake at a restaurant which was more like eating a chunk of cream cheese.
o They don’t have paper $1 bills. Instead, they have $1 and $2 coins
o The queen is on all coins, and the $20 bill
o The 15% sales tax (what they call a Goods and Services Tax, or GST) is almost always already included in the price marked on the item or the price shown on the shelf/menu, etc. And, its charged on everything.
o Right now, $1.0 New Zealand Dollar = $0.66 US Dollars
– It helps to mitigate the sticker shock when shopping
o “Scheme”, in a financial sense, doesn’t have a negative connotation here. Their nationalized 401(k) is called the “Kiwisaver Scheme”.
o Giving your bank account number to people down here (to pay for something) is perfectly normal
– Peer to Peer money apps aren’t needed – the New Zealand banks already have this covered.
· Libraries charge annual membership fees
o They have toy libraries – which has been a huge benefit for us!
· All electrical outlets have switches adjacent to each receptacle (i.e.: each outlet has two small switches).
o Not sure why – unless they don’t trust the switches built into all modern electronics
· Amazon will deliver to New Zealand, but shipping runs $20-$30, and it takes two weeks for shipments to arrive.
· Sustainability is a big thing
o The two big grocery stores in town don’t have plastic bags
– It was super fun having to load and unload our groceries an armful at a time, the first time we went grocery shopping.
o Our kitchen has a bin for organics (that we dump out into the compost tumbler once a week)
o Almost all straws are cardboard
· There’s a firm embracing of the native (Maori) culture. Most things are written in both languages, and both languages are frequently woven together
o Kia ora (hello, goodbye, thank you)
o Kai (food)
o Koka (name for teacher; loosely translates to respected elder)
o Tarakihana (tractor – Jake’s favorite word)
o Motoka (Car – my favorite because it’s occuponomous)
That’s a lot longer that I had anticipated. Next installment will feature engineering observations – stay tuned.