It is crazy how fast time flies when you are having fun! I’ve been in New Zealand for three months and it feels like only a few weeks. Some of my other Linfield friends studying abroad this semester are already home or will be heading home in the next couple of days. I have six more weeks and plan on making the most of those six weeks, even though I miss my family and friends.
Some of my Kiwi friends have asked me how I found the cultural differences, if there were lots or if I had a hard time adjusting to them. There have not been any major cultural differences, only some small ones; I will come back to those in a minute. The hardest thing I have had a problem with is the flipped seasons. My calendar says May, so I think it should be nice and sunny, heading towards summer. I try fitting the weather into the “Spring” box in my head but it doesn’t quite work, because of piles of fallen leaves everywhere and crisp fall mornings. Ignoring the fact that it’s May, I try to convince myself it’s actually Autumn. But the weather doesn’t align completely with the “Fall” box either. Yes, there are leaves everywhere, and the mornings can be chilly, but for the most part the afternoons are full of sunshine and brilliant blue skies and in the lower 60s, which makes me think that nicer weather is coming. May is the southern hemisphere’s equivalent of November and November in Washington or Oregon is usually somewhere in the forties and rain. I’ve given up trying to reason with 20 years of May=nice spring weather and just let myself be confused. It’s easier that way.
You have to flip a switch to turn on each and every electrical outlet. This was quite the adjustment and resulted in quite a few times where I couldn’t figure out why my ipod wasn’t charging or my toast wasn’t toasting. At first I thought it was just a thing in our apartment complex to save electricity, but after visiting several Kiwi homes and traveling outside of the city I realized it is country-wide. Now it doesn’t faze me at all to switch on the outlet after plugging in a device.
They do not have “push” plates or bars on doors, but pull handles on both sides. I don’t know how many doors I have gone up to and pulled on the doors, only to look like an idiot because you need to push the door open. For the most part I trained myself to look where the hinges are, but if I’m talking to someone or rummaging around in my bag I still forget to check and end up embarrassing myself when a Kiwi helpfully suggests to try pushing the door open. I promise, I really am an honor student!
New Zealand is extremely fond of roundabouts. They are everywhere. Stop signs really aren’t a thing and only bigger cities have stoplights. I have a few loop runs I do around campus, and running them one direction I am completely fine, but for the first 6-8 weeks if I were to reverse the direction, I would go through a roundabout and end up going down a different street than I intended to. Thankfully my mental map of the surrounding neighborhoods is much better and it’s been more than a month since I got lost.
Other than those three things, spoken phrases are really the only difference. Instead of asking “how are you doing?” they ask “how are you going?” Never use average or so-so to describe how you are, because to the Kiwis, this means really bad. If something is average, it is one step from being chucked in the rubbish bin. Their response is usually “that’s mean” (really cool) or if they are impressed with what you’ve been up to, “good on you.” They giggle if you call flip-flops "flip-flops"; jandals is the correct term. There are heaps of other examples, some of which have crept into my vocabulary (you flick someone a wee email) and some which I will never get. If something is awesome they say “sweet as.” They start an analogy, but then never end it…