Can I just start this by saying everything is better in New Zealand? A few qualifications first:
- This is my first international travel.
- When I say “better” I am comparing to the U.S. Or the States (I can say that now, because I’m not there and I’m a cool international traveler).
- Feel free to judge me and my probably rookie mistake of thinking everything is better.
- But honestly, suck it, I’m going to enjoy my honeymoon period.
Jeff and I enjoy getting a read on any new place we come to. The last year its been about which new city or state we’re in within the United States. Then we like to hypothesize about how and why the place got that way; positive or negative.
Here’s a word for you that keeps coming up for me with NZ, especially in comparison to the US: sincere. And this was an unexpected discovery for me. I knew that I felt disillusioned with the US and I had many reasons why that was but insincere was a new one. My experience is that the country as a whole puts a lot of effort into showing that we are many things: family-oriented, customer service-oriented, green, patriotic, civil servants, soldiers, veterans, conservation-minded, thoughtful, kind, good values, etc. I came upon this in just ordinary experiences: gas station, airport, cell phone shop, information center. There was a directness to the interaction but not like NY direct. It didn’t have any edge to it with that in your face thing that can seem mean or annoyed (which I actually enjoy on the east coast, they speak a language I understand). It was very warm, lighthearted, and I knew they wanted to help me out or do their job or whatever. But they didn’t trip over themselves with apologies and extra words or faff. They didn’t faff about. And it was so refreshing! It’s like the guy the goes around telling you that he’s a nice guy, that’s the US. And NZ is just being a nice guy. This is my impression so far. Feel free to judge me or disagree. Because I’ve “only been here a week and every country has their thing, blah, blah, blah”. Yes, I understand that. But it is with just a little distant that I can see America as the egomaniac with the major self-esteem issues.
I feel as though I have a doctrine shoved down my throat and I’ve always been resisting it. The country responds, “What? You think you’re betta than me??” Me: “No. You’re missing the point. Just because I want to explore other countries doesn’t mean you’re not valuable. And just because I may not find you to be ‘home’ doesn’t mean no one likes you. It just means I don’t like you. Just kidding. It just means you may not be a fit for me.”
And this is my overwhelming sense since I’ve arrived: This family-country I was born into has never felt like home. I don’t get it, it doesn’t seem to get me.
Jeff said recently (because my realizations were sounding like rants), “It seems like you hate the US”. And I probably was ranting. But if I have my head on straight I can say that it’s not hate. It’s an anger. Like growing up in a family you don’t fit in and all along that family tells you you’re the problem and there is no better family than this family. In fact, this is the best family. But I felt like a lonely voice among many nationalists; so I, somewhat unknowingly, felt invalidated or the black sheep, all along. It wasn’t until I arrived in NZ that that particular light came on. There are other countries. They have lots to offer. And I may in fact find a much better fit than the US.
Also, I get the sense that people matter more than corporations in NZ. Could be their size, their origins, the Maori’s influence, I’m not totally sure yet. I’ve started digging into the history. But the people feel more empowered (to me) and closer to their government here. Which is funny! Because there is so much lip-service paid to how we “have a democracy! And we can vote! We listen to the people! I am for the American people. The American people are the most important thing.” But that’s the thing, when people feel listened to they feel listened to. Not just because you say they are. When people have power they know it, you can’t fake that.
The indigenous culture, the Maoris, seem to have much more power (legally) and numbers compared to the Native Americans. This seems to work as a protective factor for the earth and people against capitalism. This seems to be missing in the US. I can only imagine what checks and balances could look like in American if we had made sincere efforts towards reparations with the Native Americans and the American slaves for that matter. I know, I know! Heavy! But these are the things always, unconsciously weighing on me! I stepped off the Air New Zealand plane and could breathe easier! These are some of the reasons why.
Now, just the stand alone, non-comparison, non-US-dragging reasons why New Zealand is spectacular.
I’ve never seen anything with my eyes that looks like this place. That is just such an exciting experience. I’m not the first to comment on the benefits of adventure or travel but I certainly understand why people have written all those words about it. Jeff and I think its a combo of Hawaii, Northern California and Oregon. But its probably most accurate to just say that its New Zealand.
There is so much beach here. Jeff says it so much beach compared to landmass.
It’s not crowded. Even on one of their really big holidays, Waitangi Day, we went to a popular beach and it was nothing. We compared to CA and how there’d be no parking and the place would be so tracked out and loud and maybe polluted. This was not that; so, awesome.
There seems to be more of a trust of the people. Let me explain. I remember being in Mexico and doing that paragliding-type thing off of a boat. I remember that seeming reckless looking back. Like people trying to get away with something and not really caring about safety. Reckless. Here, in NZ, there seems to be less rules and interference by the government (I guess?). Less litigation. Because I don’t see signs about rules and regulations everywhere I look. But this country doesn’t feel reckless or uncaring about their country or land or Mother Earth. Quite the opposite. They don’t have the conservation thing on lockdown or the problems that come with agriculture and farming (i.e. pesticides) figured out. Like, if I could give it a voice it would say, “Well, no shit stay away from that cliff or you’ll fall off and break your neck!” or “Most of the narrow country roads are 100 km but use your own common sense, don’t be stupid.” At first it had this weird effect on me and I’d find myself thinking, ‘There should be a rule against this. I should be able to just sit on the back of the boat. ARen’t they worried I’ll fall off?’ And I could see that being treated like, with so many rules and restriction can lead a person to doubt their ability to think for themselves or take care of themselves. It can lead to relying too much on the outside to regulate oneself. Which is so strange because I think of myself as unconventional and self-regulated/self-managed. Just an interesting observation.
I’ve already mentioned this but I’ll say it again: the people don’t faff around with extra words.
This is not an original thought about NZ. They have a farming, do-it-yourself spirit. I think they’ve stayed closer to the land than Americans. Each house we’ve stayed at grows their own food (not all, but grows food). And they all hang their clothes to dry. There are innumerable roadside stands where people sell their surplus from the garden.
They do not have screens on doors or windows! That is one thing I can say I appreciate about the US. So there you go, US, I’ll give you that one. You do a good job at keeping bugs out of the house.
I don’t have a good ending here. Except to say that it’s impossible to properly represent this country and properly represent the monumental change Jeff and I have experienced since arriving on our first stop of the World Tour.
Question to consider before we end: Will I be one of those people who adopts the language and colloquialisms of wherever she is? Probably.
Stay tuned! And thanks for reading!