July 22 marks one year since arriving in New Zealand so I thought I would share some thoughts about the experience so far.
To put it simply - this is something everyone should do. Not necessarily New Zealand, but live in another country for even a year. It's eye-opening. It's made me realize two key things about the U.S. One is just how different Americans are compared to other nationalities. That can be good and bad. The other is just how prevalent - and important - American culture is elsewhere. Again, that can be good and bad. But mostly good.
American TV, music, and movies are everywhere. Why? Well, because they are some of the best around - and I'm glad to still be able to have access to it all.
Americans generally are perceived outside the U.S. as loud and abrasive. Why? Because a lot of us actually are. But it's kind of fun trying to be a better representative of the U.S. by trying NOT to be those things and maybe even change some people's minds. But it's really hard when even the few Americans we see out and about being loud and abrasive! Stop that! :-)
I find another thing fun to do that I think anyone who moves to another country should do, and that is doing everything you can to adopt the cultural/language nuances that are either important to those in that country or are important for being understood. It's a challenging thing to do, don't get me wrong - there are a LOT of things to constantly be aware of but that's part of the fun for me.
So I find myself saying rubbish instead of garbage, motorway instead of freeway, footpath instead of sidewalk, holiday instead of vacation, toh-mah-toh instead of toh-may-toh, 'cheers' as a way of saying 'thanks', and dozens more like that. All to better fit in and more importantly be better understood. If they call what I know as beets 'beetroot' then why should I impose my way of doing it just because it's the most familiar to me?
Auckland has a high percentage of residents who are also from other countries, so that is helpful in not feeling as foreign. But believe me it is a very new experience to be instantly recognized as a foreigner the second you start talking because your accent stands out. Kiwis are so nice and never make me feel like an outsider, but they will almost always ask where I'm from and/or guess than I'm from "North America". We always find that amusing because they don't want to guess "American" in case I was Canadian. You see, as Americans we don't mind being confused for a Canadian. But Canadians do NOT want to be assumed to be Americans!
On the odd occasion a Kiwi will ask if we're Irish after hearing our accent. Wha? But I guess I can see it - the hard r's and long o's. Heck, I'm still embarrassed by the fact that I have a hard time distinguishing the Australian accent over the Kiwi accent. And I won't ever admit that to a Kiwi because Aussies and Kiwis have a friendly rivalry and to think a Kiwi is an Aussie is big no no! :-)
I love that we live in "the city" where we can walk to all our favorite places or take the bus or scooter if needed. We drive our one car very little, which is awesome. I get more exercise now (Auckland is nothing but hills) which is good because we eat out a lot more which I love. And drink more wine - New Zealand has so many good wines! It's so great having regular "spots" to frequent where the cafe owner or waitstaff know you and are so nice. Chain restaurants are a thing of the past - the small, family run places are so much better! And New Zealand is full of them. Love that. And trying new places all the time is lots of fun, too.
Living in a place where you never far from the ocean is quite a change and sooooooooo great. We already are spoiled with access to oodles of wonderful, fresh fish and seafood. It's so good! And seeing the ocean everyday has a lovely, soothing effect. It shocks Kiwis when they learn I was a whopping 10 years old when I first saw the ocean. It's just a part of life here - and that's neat.
This is no shocker but I love being in a mild climate with no big extremes. No snow, no freezing temps, no crazy hot. I think I would have gone mad having to go through last winter in MN and this wild summer. I love nice weather and it abounds here - it makes me happy. :-)
This is no secret - but making friends in a new place is HARD! To anyone who's seen "I Love You Man" (and if you haven't - highly recommended) many things in there are so true. It almost feels like dating sometimes! "How long should I wait before calling him back?" And so forth. Not having a Kiwi job yet has made the friend finding that much harder, but that's OK. We've met some great people and are building a few good friendships. It takes time, though. That much I know.
So yes - the experience has been very enriching despite having ups and downs. I feel like I've grown as a person more in the last year than in the 10 years before that. So put away all those convenient excuses and make some plans to live somewhere else for a while! Not because it is easy, but because it is hard. You'll thank me for it. :-)
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I have always considered myself an average sized person. I'm 5'6" and am medium-sized, medium-framed, and neither heavy nor skinny. But here in the Cataloguing Department at the University of Auckland EVERYONE is petite! And not just the people who hail from Asia -- even the Kiwis and Europeans are diminutive and slender. What's more, the other day I finally realized why I'm having such a lot of trouble with the stairs: my feet don't quite fit on them. This is probably an everyday occurrence for, say, Jeff, whose feet fit his tall stature, but it's a first for me. So here I am, twanging away with my accent, an enormous American stomping into work with my huge clown feet. I must seem like quite the novelty.
Friday, July 15, 2011
We're making the most of our time zone and celebrating twice - once when it's the 14th here and once when it's the 14th in France. A two-fer!
Last night was a French themed dinner at a favorite restaurant called Pure and tonight is a Bastille Day themed dinner at an actual French cafe - another favorite of ours called La Cantine du Torchon.
And of course French wine! Both at the restaurants and at home. I think a nice Burgundy will lose its cork very soon.
So enjoy being French for a day - c'est bon! (It's good!)