A Much-Too-Brief Summary of My Trip Overseas
I have a lot to say about my 4-month trip to New Zealand and Australia.
However, because of my limitations as a writer I'm sure I'll fail to
adequately describe it… but here goes:
Overall, my overseas trip went very well and I had a great time.
However, and unlike most people I know who've been to both countries, I
enjoyed Australia more than New Zealand.
What impressed me the most about both countries, other than cricket and
fish & chips, was how incredibly friendly and courteous everyone was.
Coming back to the U.S.
was a big shock for me, and after I got back, I felt like I was on another
planet at times. Were
Americans really this rude, violent, crass, and obnoxious when I left in
December? I always thought of
the U.S. as a pretty great country, but my smugness took a big hit because
Kiwis and Aussies are, quite frankly, much more pleasant than Americans.
I'm not criticizing Americans, necessarily, but after my experience
overseas, I think we could be a lot more polite and civilized. Yes,
I'm proud to be an American, but I also think we have a lot of work to
do... and please spare me the "Love It or Leave It" attitude.
What can I say about New Zealand? Well, it's a wonderful country with lots
of scenic diversity. Imagine scrunching all 50 states into a country the
size of Colorado and you’ll get the idea.
However, it rained a LOT when I was there, the roads are incredibly winding, and
it was very crowded just about everywhere I went.
Take a tip from me – never visit New Zealand during December or January without
having reservations. The next time I go, it'll be in November, February or
March, and I think I'll have a much better time because... well... it really is
a nice country.
Above: Mt. Cook, the tallest
peak in New Zealand, with Lake Pukaki in the distance.
In terms of culture, climate, topography,
vegetation, and just about anything else you can imagine, New Zealand is
like a combination of Oregon and Hawaii.
Those are two of my favorite states, so it’s no wonder that I enjoyed New
Zealand so much.
I’ll definitely go back some day.
Now for Australia, which is a lot different from New Zealand – although not as
different as either Kiwis or Aussies would like to believe. Frankly,
Australia isn't as interesting as New Zealand or America from a physical point
of view (I still think that America, with its stunning landscapes, is the most
interesting country in the world). While there are some places in
Australia that are incredibly beautiful, such as the Great Dividing Range, there
are also large stretches of Australia that I found pretty boring -- and this
coming from a person who enjoys long, tedious drives.
BUT... from a cultural perspective, I think Australia is tops. Aussies are a lot more courteous than Americans, they obey
the speed limits, they don’t have the pushy, “in-your-face” attitude that
unfortunately is becoming so common here in the U.S., and for the most part,
they’re really cheerful. I can’t
count the number of times that I walked into a restaurant, gas station or motel
– whether in downtown Sydney or in the Outback – and got a big smile and a
cheerful, “G’day!” (always pronounced "gudday," not "good day"). Like I
say, coming back to the loud, pushy, violent, in-your-face U.S. after spending
four months in polite and tranquil New Zealand and Australia has been a major
cultural shock for me.
Here are some more accolades for Australia: Most of the cities and towns
there are a lot more interesting and vibrant than those in America, Aussies
generally take more pride in their homes and businesses than Americans, the
media there is more intelligent and not nearly as obnoxious, there’s a lot less
crime and violence (due largely to more rigid gun control legislation – take the
hint, America), and there's an attitude of optimism that's refreshing.
In a single word, I’d say that Australia is much more “civilized” than
America. Americans, including
myself, could learn a lot from Aussies.
The cultural idiosyncrasies in Australia were also refreshing.
I liked Vegemite, I loved Arnott's Farmbake Chocolate Chip Cookies,
Aussie music is great, and I wanted to marry any of the women on the Outback
television show, "McLeod's Daughters" (except for Tess, who's too prissy).
Yeah, I did miss America while I was over
there, especially its physical beauty, and I'd never want to live anywhere
else. However, now that I’m back in the U.S., I miss Australia a
lot, too. So if you ever get a chance to visit Australia, definitely
go. And even if you don’t get a chance, go anyway.
For more of my thoughts, check out
My Impressions of Australia.
Kids, don't try this at home. This is the famous Aussie staple, Vegemite,
smeared on a cracker, oops, I mean "biscuit"... no wait, a "biscuit" is a
cookie... The trick, as I learned from Peter (see
News: April 7, 2002), is to spread this salty concoction very THINLY.
When applied correctly, it's actually pretty good.
Arnott's Farmbakes are absolutely the world's best chocolate chip cookies.
Too bad you can't get them in the U.S. I ate about 15 bags of these
in Australia and New Zealand.
I’m now on Arnott’s Christmas Card list.
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A Much-Too-Brief Summary of my Trip