The expat life is full of surprises

Here are a few things that I was surprised to find out, about the Kiwi people and culture. (Also, * = Sweeping Generalization.)

Cover of "Siamese Dream"

The Best. Album. EVER!

1) The Kiwis LOVE The Smashing Pumpkins*.

2) I thought that the Kiwis really liked the Lionel Richie and Diana Ross song, “Endless Love,” because I heard it twice in our first week while shopping at the supermarket, after not having heard it, since… never. But I haven’t heard it since. So I’m not going to go out on a limb on this one yet. Also, you now understand how I do my research. It’s really scientific.

Now, in case you’re doubting my first claim about The Smashing Pumpkins, I totally stand by this. I will not back down, despite what you may consider my dubious methodology. There’s a radio station here in town, a rock station, and there’s, what must be (again with the “science”), a 35% chance that in my 5-minute car drive from anywhere to anywhere else (it only takes 5 minutes to get ANYWHERE in this town, unless it’s rush hour, and then it takes 10 minutes) I’ll hear something off of Siamese Dream. It’s a great album, yes. But there are a lot of other great rock albums in circulation. Nonetheless, The Smashing Pumpkins really do it for the Kiwis apparently*. They’re on the radio’s playlist; they’re what the people who call in with requests, request; and during my one trip to the gym so far, the main TV was tuned to the music video channel and mixed in with the other contemporary videos was the video for “Today,” a song that’s 19 years old. I mean, if I catch their songs this frequently on these totally random occasions, how many times would I hear them if I listened all day long?

[OMG I got into the car just after writing the above paragraph to pick up Auric from preschool, and when the Doors’ song finished up, what came next? “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins, of course! I totally stand by this generalization!]

3) You don’t feel, like with your skin, how important the ozone layer is until you live somewhere that doesn’t have it. The sun is strong, people.

4) While I’ve trained myself to drive on the left-hand side of the road and it feels pretty comfortable, the other non-driving components to using the car still seem too foreign to master, like: a) going to the correct side of the car to drive; b) when it’s raining, my chances of correctly choosing the turn signal or the windshield wipers appropriately is about 50/50; c) parking parallel to the sidewalk is downright embarrassing, and I’m not even talking about parallel parking, just pulling alongside the curb (this is a particularly wounding discovery since I’m an exceptional parallel parker); d) training my eye to look unthinkingly up and to the left for the rear view mirror. Actually, now that I write this all out, most of the things on this list are totally driving-related. Rest assured, I successfully accomplish all of these necessary maneuvers. It’s just not pretty and not at all second-nature.

5) I’ve turned into a terrible driver.

6) The egg yolks here are really orange. Like REALLY orange. I couldn’t believe it when I cracked my first egg. Before I left the states, I was forwarded an email from a friend who gets updates from a cooking blog and the topic of that blog was how to make a New Zealand-style fritatta. After researching it, the culinary expert decided that there was no secret ingredient; it’s just that the New Zealand dairy products are just richer somehow. When I cracked my first egg and saw this impossibly dark orange yolk come out, I immediately thought of that email. If darker yolks = richer, I completely concur with that theory. And these are not uber-farm fresh eggs. I’m buying these organic, cage-free eggs at the local Pak n Save. Yes, they come from the very local Gisborne-based chicken farm. And now that I think about it, occasionally I see a little white feather stuck to the egg. But those things aside, the eggs here are incredible. And probably really rich.

7) You know what’s great about traveling or moving abroad? Discovering new places, new people, new food, new cultures, new slang. You know what’s not fun? Spending 5 minutes in the toilet paper aisle, analyzing the recycled content and the ply amounts and the sheets per roll and the price, and still pretty sure you’re not getting the right thing. Do you want to feel really self-conscious in the supermarket? Go hang out in the toilet paper section and really inspect two different rolls, a 4-pack of “earth something” and an 8-pack of something with a cartoon dog on it, all while people push their cart near you, pluck the product, the exact product, they want from the shelves, and then move on, all while you are still squinting at price tags on the shelves only to realize after 3 minutes that they put the prices tags above their products instead of below their products, meanwhile appearing as if you’re up to something, perhaps planning how you will shoplift this 8-pack of toilet paper because WHO SPENDS THIS LONG IN THE TOILET PAPER SECTION?

8) Kiwis like their price tags above their products, not below.*

9) Kiwis (perhaps in particular in the North Island, and perhaps more specifically to the warmer Poverty Bay) love big glass doors that open like an accordion onto a deck. Which is awesome. Except there are no screens anywhere. And so there are flies galore each day. And of course, I can’t help myself but attempt to shoo them out, which is ridiculous, since they can’t seem to EVER find their way back outside, even when you’ve made a whole wall of your house fold up and disappear. Actually, I think my family will endure the flies if it means that they get to watch me become a lunatic, jumping at the ceiling with a magazine, fanning them towards the windows, etc. It just seems like it should be so easy, and yet, I always get drawn into the impossible battle with the flies. But I win every night when the sun goes down and I turn on the outside lights and turn off the inside lights and they fly right out. Only to return tomorrow.

10) The Kiwis are happy to pepper their conversation with swear words, regardless of the company*. Swearing in front of kids? No problem. During a business transaction? Yes, please. Needless to say, I’ve found my people.

In White Wine Country, this is the color of a party.

11) We live in wine country up here (much of New Zealand is wine country) and so I’ve already been around many a bottle of wine. In all this wine appreciation, I was surprised to learn that there are no corked bottles of wine here. None. It’s all twist-off. Even bubbly is twist-off. It’s apparently better for aging and taste and oxidation. I don’t really know or care about any of that. What I love: convenience!

This entry was posted in Daily Life, Expatriating, New Zealand and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The expat life is full of surprises

  1. kRISTINA says:

    Don’t fool yourself with the corks. True cork has become seriously rare and expensive. Not cost effective for more accessible bottles of wine. Twist off is better than those fake, sort of like plastic corks.

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