Things I have learned in New Zealand

by Daniel Alexander

It has been almost a month since I arrived in New Zealand as an Amizade-BCA Storyteller, and there are some new things that I thought would be cool to share!

  1. What You See Is What You Pay. There is a goods and services tax (GST), but it is a flat rate and already factored into the price whereas in America the tax is added on when we buy the product. So, if the pack of gum is $1.99, there is no need to round up because it is quite literally $1.99!
  2. If You are using a Credit Card, Don’t Put it Away, Right Away! It is not exactly the most riveting piece of information, but I thought this fact was very useful. In some stores/restaurants, the cashier will check the signature on the back of the card to see if it matches the signature on the receipt. There have been multiple times where I’ve fumbled to take my card back out of my wallet before I got that through my head.
  3. The Queen of England is also the Queen of New Zealand! In fact, Queen Elizbeth II is the hereditary monarch of 14 other countries in addition to the United Kingdom. This one really blew my mind!
  4. Red Means Go and Green Means Stop. No, I am not talking about traffic lights. When the Queen does visit New Zealand’s Parliament, she is not allowed into the House of Representatives (where the green carpet is).
  5. Large Flightless Parrots Exist. They are called Kakapo and they only breed every three years, when the Rimu tree fruits.
  6. Vegemite: New Zealand Edition. Marmite, a sticky, brown food paste with a powerful salty flavor, does not have as strong of a taste as Australian Vegemite, in my opinion. I honestly thought Vegemite was the only spread made from yeast extract, but it turns out Marmite is a by-product of brewing beer.
  7. Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches=Peanut Butter and…Jell-O. Here in New Zealand, Jelly is Jell-O and jam is jelly. Try saying that five times fast or order a sandwich correctly!
  8. You Can Walk the Plank. While in Wellington, I saw signs posted that marked where it was safe to jump off the pier into the harbor. At one location, there was even a plank that you can jump off at your leisure. It was quite common to see some people in their togs (swimwear) diving off the pier shrieking at the cold water as they climbed a ladder back on to the pier.
  9. Still sad about the love locks being removed from the Pont des Arts in Paris? Come to New Zealand! I honestly was not expecting to find this outside of the “City of Love.” It was a very pleasant surprise!

This shortlist is an eclectic mixture of different facts I have gathered as I learn more about Kiwi and Maori cultures. I am learning as I go, but sometimes it feels like information overload — especially when going on multiple excursions during a week. Learning about the country you’re studying abroad can be fun, but I highly suggest finding somewhere to store all of the new information. Whether it is on a memo in your phone or writing in a journal, form a consistent recording method early on.

I have also found that the smallest of differences between the United States and New Zealand can even throw me for a loop. As you navigate life abroad the “hard way” (i.e.: making mistakes) you may feel embarrassed and/or confused. Don’t worry! There is only so much you can learn about a destination before you set foot in it but doing some research beforehand can help. When you do experience those embarrassing moments, do not let them weigh you down! You learn from them and soon it will all become second nature. Anything you learn about the country you are in, no matter how small, try to remember it because it may be good information to have. Never be afraid to ask locals, new friends you make, or your Resident Director any questions that you have!

About the Author – Cierra Stevens, spring 2019 Dunedin, New Zealand Storyteller & Elizabethtown College student

Hello! My name is Cierra and I am a Junior Sociology-Anthropology major from Elizabethtown College. I am currently studying Sociology-Anthropology at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. I am very excited to learn more about this beautiful country!