As Kiwis living outside of this wonderful country, New Zealand, for the past ten years, our return journey home to Auckland has been somewhat of an eye opener. If you are a Kiwi reading this you will probably just shrug – like you already know all this stuff. But if like us, you’ve also been away, then you will know exactly what I’m saying is correct.
It’s not until you return to your home city, in this case Auckland, that you really appreciate both the big and small things, which the locals take for granted. And if I was being really honest, it’s not just Auckland, but all of New Zealand that we have missed and that these things relate to.
For the past two and a half years, my husband and I have been travelling full time in a motorhome around Europe. Of the thirty countries we have stayed in, none of them are English speaking. Our French, Spanish, and Italian language lessons have a long way to go for us to feel comfortable conversing beyond anything more than the basics. So it’s not surprising that we have enjoyed coming back to Auckland and can speak the language fluently, at all levels.
The Stunning Beach at Muriwai
Here are some other things we have noticed about life when arriving back into Auckland, our home city.
1. Apart from being able to speak the language, we’ve really appreciated that all the signs are in English. Although many are in the Maori language, which is something we have grown up with, I don’t speak fluent Maori, but I love listening to the language. I think that perhaps this should be my next language to learn.
2. Supermarket shopping is ‘oh so easy’. I remember being in Norway and despite using Google Translate, we couldn’t figure out which flour we should be buying for everyday use. Staying put in one country makes grocery shopping easy, but having to get your head around lots of different languages, some of them very strange, can turn the easiest of tasks into mountainous climbs. A trip to a foreign supermarket can take us an hour to just pick up a few basic ingredients.
3. Anyone coming back to Auckland will appreciate the tranquil melody of the Tuis. We travel with a toy stuffed Tui, that when his stomach is pressed, emits his song. But hearing this in real life warms my heart like no other tune. Not to be outdone by the Tuis, the NZ native owl, the Morepork makes its presence known during the balmy Auckland evenings. Known for the distinctive call of ‘more-pork’ this nocturnal little beauty is easier to hear than see.
Tui Bird – A Native of New Zealand
4. And from lovely sounds, to the sound of peace and quite. On our first night back in Auckland I enjoyed the distinct lack of barking dogs. All throughout Europe people love their dogs, especially in Italy and France. They even take them to restaurants.While in Greece, Turkey, and Morocco you get used to roaming packs of dogs.
To sleep through the night in Auckland, without being woken by barking dogs, was bliss. It probably helped that we had been travelling non-stop for over 48 hours to get home.
5. The world doesn’t stop just because we are away. One thing we noticed fairly quickly after heading home from Auckland’s international airport, was the amount of construction everywhere! Apartment buildings are being built on paddocks that I expected would always be there. New hotels are popping up and house construction in Auckland, which has been struggling to keep up with demand, shows no signs of slowing.
Throughout Auckland, and the wider New Zealand, we don’t typically live in apartments and when growing up families built their home on a quarter acre section.
Mind you, when growing up we had three million people in New Zealand, now we are knocking on the five million mark. Not bad in fifty years. So in order to keep up with demand, and the fact they aren’t making any more land, we have noticed a distinct increase in apartment living. This style of living caters for the influx of different cultures now calling New Zealand, particularly Auckland, home. Auckland is the largest city of New Zealand with just over one million people living here. The quarter acre sections we grew up with are a thing of the past and infill housing is now becoming the norm.
NZ Wood Pigeon (Kererū)
6. People are happy, and they smile a lot. Now this isn’t something I would expect the typical Kiwi to recognise, not unless you have spent any considerable time travelling through the likes of Hungary. By comparison the Hungarian people never smile. Okay, that’s probably a bit harsh, but it was the one thing that struck us almost immediately when visiting this ex Soviet Bloc nation.
In fact, Hungary is said to have one of the highest rates of depression in Europe. But don’t let that hold you back – especially from visiting Budapest – one of our favourite cities in Europe. However, even in this depressed country we found some wonderful people whom we now call friends.
Kiwis, on the other hand, just tend to walk around with smiles on their faces. Perhaps it’s the mild climate, the fresh air, the stunning scenery, or our current Government (they say things stem from the top).
Whatever the reason, it exists.
If you don’t believe me check out a report from 2018 telling us that New Zealanders rank eighth happiest in the entire world. I love it when anecdotal feelings are backed up by research.
7. So based on six above, its probably no big stretch to believe that Kiwis have the most helpful, friendly disposition of anyone I’ve have come across from the fifty countries I’ve visited. Kiwis will say hello when you walk into a shop, they will ask how your day is going and will wait patiently for an answer. And to top it off, they will pump your petrol at a service station! Italy – take note.
Just try phoning any call centre in other countries and you will realise that Kiwis are helpful souls who really do care about you. We are loving being back at home.
8. Unlike some of the countries we’ve lived in, the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori, are well integrated into all aspects of society. They also have the biggest heart for people, are very musical, and have the best sense of humour. I’ve had the pleasure to call my Maori neighbours friends, and they have bought colour and richness into my life.It’s hard to describe how refreshing and welcome it is to hear a Maori voice when you haven’t heard one for a while. We had that experience in a supermarket in Spain last year. The tone of voice, the grammatical style, the sense of humour and just the way the Maori talk is just so unique and we picked it up from the other side of the supermarket. We naturally had a great talk about travelling, rugby and all the other important stuff.
9. Traditional Fish’n’Chip shops are still here. Although New Zealand now boasts a hugely diverse and delicious variety of ethnic food, our English roots are still alive and well. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the great Fish’n’ Chip shops that seem to grace every strip-mall or seaside town.
The owners of the local Fish’n’ Chip shop near my husband’s family home are originally from Croatia and have been running the shop for 52 years! And it’s still pumping out the freshest fish, the crunchiest chips, and the same family hospitality that it has always had. These days, however, it’s the next generation who has taken over, with the occasional help from Mum and Dad who stop by to offer a hand when needed.
10. The biggest change I’ve seen when returning to Auckland has come in the form of a change to help the planet. This change is one that we have only seen in one other country – and an unlikely country at that – Morocco in Africa. Can anyone guess what this change in New Zealand is before reading on?
If you said the removal of plastic bags then bravo, you’re correct. New Zealanders now arrive at supermarkets with their favourite recycled material or cloth bags (or purchase these at the shops). We are getting used to the idea of no more plastic bags and although it’s just a small step, it’s one that in my opinion is right one for this planet. Now we just need to get rid of plastic bottles (and Morocco I hope you are listening!).
Gannet Colony Muriwai, West Auckland
11. Lastly on my list, is a big one for me. It’s trust.
Whilst I can’t speak for everyone in NZ, nor those from other countries or cultures, I can attest to the honesty we have come across while being back in Auckland. I can, with hand on my heart, say I trust the honesty of those sales people I deal with in the community.I had a phone call from a phone and Internet provider, Vodafone, who wanted to check I’m on the right plan. They could have up-sold me to another plan but the honesty of the salesperson what refreshing. She said, “you don’t need to spend any more money because what you have is right for you”. There was no hard sell, (Turkish carpet sellers take note), and she didn’t try to push any other products on me. Nor did she dismiss me instantly to get off the phone and on to her next potential sale.
These eleven things endear us to being home in Auckland, and make us feel incredibly grateful that we are Kiwis.
What is it you miss about your home country or if you’ve returned to New Zealand, what have you realised you too had neglected about this wonderful place we call home?
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