Why New Zealand is a Great Country
This is my first trip to New Zealand and, now that the crowds are starting to
diminish and the
weather has improved, I'm really starting to like this country. However, my
experience here continues to be a bit polarized.
I got pretty drained during my first six weeks here by dealing with the massive crowds and the crummy weather,
but Iím glad I came to New Zealand so I could see what all the fuss was
The crowds and the rotten weather were the "Bad," but there's a lot more that's "Good."
best part of New Zealand is definitely the people. The
Kiwis here, young and old, have all been really terrific. Not to sound
stereotypical, but without hearing a person speak I can usually tell if
theyíre Kiwis, Americans, or Germans just by the way they react to me.
Kiwis are definitely the friendliest and will often come up to
me and start chatting away. Germans tend to be the least outgoing and friendly, while Americans are somewhere
in between; usually pretty nice but often a bit arrogant and sometimes obnoxious.
During my Doubtful Sound cruise last week, I ran into a group of
60-somethings from the U.S. who epitomized the phrase ďUgly AmericansĒ -- loud, crude, and rude. Jeez,
is it any wonder that Americans have such a bad reputation overseas?
also really like the geographic diversity in New Zealand.
Iíve said it before, but this country is just about as scenically diverse
as the U.S. but in a much smaller package.
During my 6 weeks here, Iíve seen areas that reminded me of each of the
50 states Ė all in a country the size of Oregon.
New Zealand seems
like it's a heck of lot bigger than Oregon though, probably because of the diversity and
because of all the narrow, winding roads which seriously restrict how far you
can travel in one day.
I've driven about 5,000 miles around the country so far and yet there
are a lot of places that I haven't seen. In contrast, although Oregon
is beautiful, driving 5,000 miles around the state doesn't sound very
appealing to me -- I can hardly imagine driving 500 miles around
Oregon! Although I've been here for
almost two months, it would probably take me at least another two months before
I got a really good feel for this country. There is a HECK of a lot to see
and do here.
The towns and cities here are great and are much more
vibrant and interesting than towns and cities in the U.S. Partly, I think that's
because they are more oriented to pedestrians than to vehicles. The
U.S. is dotted with plenty of towns and cities that have decaying
downtowns while the strip malls and Wal-Marts on the outskirts flourish.
There's hardly any of that here in New Zealand. Urban planners in
the U.S. could learn a lot by coming over here and studying how cities are
supposed to work.
thing I really like about New Zealand is that every town or village, no matter
how small, has at least one fish & chips takeout shop.
Fish & chips are even better, dare I say it, than bratwurst, my staple back in the
U.S. And they're infinitely better than the mutton sausages, which I was living on during my
first week here (yes, they taste as bad as they sound).
Best of all, fish & chips are really cheap. Most
fish & chips shops charge fish by the piece, usually about 75
US cents each. Chips -- which Americans call French fries -- are charged by the scoop,
usually about 75 cents per scoop, with each scoop equivalent of about three
large orders of McDonald's fries. Largely thanks to the very weak NZ
dollar, you can usually get a large meal of fish & chips (three pieces and a scoop of
about US$3. The same takeout meal in the U.S. would cost
about six or seven dollars. What a deal, huh? Just remember, though,
to bring along ketchup -- oops, I mean "tomato sauce" -- and, of course,
malt vinegar. I carry mine in the trunk of my car. Oops, I mean the
other thing I like
here is the game of cricket, which Iíve gotten
pretty hooked on. I watched my first
televised cricket game a month ago in Whakatane and, being well-steeped in
American baseball, I sat there all afternoon completely dumbfounded. It
was an interesting experience, though, trying to figure out a sport just by
watching it on T.V. without having the luxury of someone, including the
announcers, explain it to me. Over the next several weeks, I watched
cricket almost every night and learned the rules bit by bit, and now I think I
understand it fairly well. Iíve been
pulling for New Zealandís national team, known as the ďBlack Caps,Ē in
their current televised series against Australia and South Africa.
Watching American football is a great way to waste three hours,
watching Kiwi cricket is a great way to waste eight hours.
Honestly, once I turn on a cricket match at 4 p.m., I usually end up
watching it until itís finished at midnight, especially if the Black Caps are
playing. Cricket is something like American baseball except that each team
bats only once (until all 11 players are out), there aren't any foul balls, and
best of all, the players
don't go on strike every four years. And because the teams in cricket
don't alternate at-bats like they do in baseball, it's not unusual to
hear the announcer say that one team is ahead by "only" 273 runs.
Above left: Every town in New Zealand has
at least one Fish & Chips place. Lord Thompson's restaurant, here in Picton, is the best
one I've eaten at, so far.
Above center: You place your order at
the counter, they cook it and when it's done, they wrap it in brown paper.
Above right: Cricket is my other passion here. Cricket games are
long, though, typically lasting 7 or 8 hours. Now you know why I haven't
updated my website in a while.
Travels (2001-02) >
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New Zealand and Cook Island Stories > Why New Zealand
is a Great Country