James and I have been living in Auckland, New Zealand for just over four months.
When we first arrived in the city, we didn’t feel too much of a culture shock because it’s very similar to the UK, but as the time has passed we have noticed many strange quirks that make the city a lot different to England – things that have made us tilt our heads to one side and think, “eh?”
As we’re leaving Auckland in a few days, I thought I’d share some of the little quirks I’ve noticed while living here – some that I’ve grown fond of, others that I don’t like so much. These factors are perhaps only relevant to Auckland, or maybe they stretch across the country – I’m sure we’ll have many more ‘eh?’ moments as we travel around the islands!
1) Discovering that vegetables are so expensive, but fast food is really cheap.
Before coming to NZ, I was under the impression that Kiwis were eco-warriors – huge on healthy eating and recycling. Whilst there is a strong healthy food culture in Auckland, it’s not cheap! A single bell pepper (which Kiwis call a capsicum) can set you back up to $5 – that’s about £2.50! Understandably, local produce fluctuates in price because of the markets in New Zealand, and imported fruit & veg costs considerably more.
I was initially pretty shocked at this – especially since fast food is so much cheaper than healthy fruit and veg – you can get 10 chicken nuggets for $3 at Burger King! The NZ Herald recently highlighted that 53% of adults order takeaways because they think it’s more affordable than cooking a healthy meal*. With this attitude, it’s no wonder that two thirds of New Zealanders are overweight*. Whilst I understand that fruit and veg prices must reflect demand and production levels, I can’t help but feel that fast food prices should be increased too – why encourage obesity?!
2) Learning what Kiwis think a car park is.
As a Brit, I know a car park to be a big area where multiple vehicles can be parked for an extended period of time. Kiwis call car parks ‘car parks’. But they also call the individual parking spaces ‘car parks’. So you can have lots of car parks in a big car park. It’s car park-ception. I cannot get my head around why they don’t have two separate words for this – it would save so much confusion!
3) Realising Kiwis are completely oblivious to just how funny their accents are.
They honestly have no idea how funny it is to Brits when they say words like six or deck. They have a Dairy Milk bar called Top Deck. And I can’t help but snigger when someone says ‘decade’. If you want some idea of what I mean, watch this video (it’s a joke but it’s so funny).
4) Learning that New Zealand is a bit behind the times…
Personalised number plates are still a huge thing over here – it seems to me as though every other car has one! We’ve seen CANDY 1, MR FU, and our favourite, ERRR.
Equally popular are company phone numbers that include words, i.e. 0800 MORE FM (for the radio station More FM). I thought these died out in England around the time 0800 REVERSE stopped being a thing, which was what, ten years ago?!
Plus, they’ve only just got Netflix.
It’s kinda like living in the 90s, except they’re pretty quick off the mark with music, technology and fashion. I personally think this is because NZ is just so isolated from everything else – even to get to Oz it’s at least a 3 hour flight – a far cry from the 1 hour Eurostar journey from London to Paris.
In Auckland, road markings such as ‘Bus Lane’ and ‘Give Way’ are written the wrong way around, so in actual fact, you read them as ‘Lane Bus’ and ‘Way Give’. In theory, I imagine this is because you should see, and therefore read, the word closest to you first. But I read it left to right, top to bottom, meaning I read it wrong.
Logistically, New Zealand is right at the end of the line of Internet that goes around the world. This means it’s always either expensive or limited. I’ve had more reliable wifi in Cambodia and India, without having to pay extra.
7) Quickly realising that Kiwis are awful drivers.
This statement only really applies to Auckland since we haven’t had any experience elsewhere yet. We’ve been to India, we’ve been in a tuktuk buried amongst 7 lanes of traffic on a four-lane road, dodging cows, people, and taxis at 60mph. Pretty crazy. But Auckland drivers seem to have no concept of how fast they are going or how long it takes to stop – they often have to reverse back off the pedestrian crossing they’ve stopped on to allow pedestrians to cross the road. Also, U-turns. anywhere they want, U-turns. And they also don’t seem to realise that it’s against the law to text/drink/eat and drive.
8) Learning (the hard way) that they’re super-strict on ID.
If you go to a bar, or even to the supermarket to buy alcohol, you will be asked for ID. For foreigners, this excludes an overseas driver licence (despite the very obvious fact that it proves your age and allows you to legally drive a car in New Zealand).
After my first week at ANZ, the girls and I went out for some drinks after work. I ordered a glass of wine, showed my driver license, which clearly states that I’m 23, but was told only my passport would be acceptable proof of age. I didn’t mind too much about not drinking, so I sat down at the table with the girls, some who had also been refused a drink. A couple of minutes later, the manager asked me and the other girls who didn’t have our passports to leave the premises, despite the fact that we weren’t drinking alcohol – we were simply sitting and talking. I felt so embarrassed, like I was an underage teenager trying to sneakily get pissed – I’m five years older than the legal drinking age and had my driver license to prove it! Safe to say I haven’t been back to that bar since. (I’ll name and shame – it was at Everybody’s on Queen Street).
9) Understanding Swedish Rounding.
NZ got rid of its shrapnel long ago – cash consists of notes and only 5 coins: $2, $1, 50c, 20c and 10c. So if my grocery shop comes to $34.57 and I pay with cash, I have to pay $34.60 for it. By card (debit, credit or Eftpos) I would be debited the exact amount.
Have you noticed any of these quirks about Auckland? Has anything made you go ‘eh?’ on your travels?
Thanks for reading,
Disclaimer – none of the photos used in this post are my own, apart from the last – all were sourced from Google if not otherwise stated. All information and opinions are my own, based on my experiences in NZ from 09/05/15 – 01/10/15.