Faces of Auckland: A lasting love of NZ

17:00, Jun 23 2014
Janhild Olsen
JANHILD OLSEN: Loves Auckland weather and the city's bush and beaches.

Auckland is one of the most multicultural cities in the world with more than a third of its citizens born overseas and boasting more than 200 nationalities living here.

Faces of Auckland is a series talking to those who have left all corners of the world to make their home here, reminding us why Auckland is so good.


When Janhild Olsen left the Faroe Islands she was a love-struck teenager, enthralled by a kiwi who told exotic tales of his home country.

And while the romance didn't last, 24 years later, her love for New Zealand did.

 Auckland is one of the most multicultural cities in the world with more than a third of its citizens born overseas and boasting more than 200 nationalities living here.

Of the 1.4 million living in Auckland, just six are officially recorded as having wended there way here from the tiny Faroe Islands - a country stuck halfway between Norway and Iceland in the icey North Atlantic and with a population of barely 50,000.

Olsen says when she moved here, she was overwhelmed by how big and busy the country was. 

"In the early nineties all the modern things were just starting to come - more cafes and new technology but for me it was amazing. I remember my first cappuccino! I had never had such an amazing thing before!" 

The stony, barren landscape of the Faroe Islands is similar to New Zealand in that parts of it look like a set from Lord of the Rings. But there are some major differences, says Olsen. 

"There are lots of trees here but there are no trees in the Faroes. The weather is much better here - even in Wellington. In the Faroes it rains about two thirds of the year and Summer is a day in June." 

The Faroe Islands belong to Denmark but are self-contained, with their own Prime Minister. They are lovers of language, says Olsen, and most children can speak Faroese, Danish and English. 

"It's such a shame because New Zealand's got such an opportunity for two languages - I'm a real fan of languages so I don't understand why Maori isn't being taught and used and basically forced down people's throats, it's good for your brain.

"Everyone says 'oh, you have to learn an Asian language because it's better for business' but that's not true. "A kiwi learning Chinese isn't going to learn the culture and ever be as good as a Chinese person, yet we have the live-in culture right here."  


Is New Zealand tolerant of different cultures and are you able to express your cultural identity fully here?

I was so young when I came here, I didn't really feel like I had established my culture. I felt like I had become a Kiwi. But they were very tolerant and they are very tolerant I think. 

Have you ever travelled in New Zealand outside of Auckland and where to?

When I first moved to New Zealand I went to Wellington and stayed there for ten years. I've travelled a lot around the country. It's beautiful. 

What is best about being an Aucklander?

The weather. I love the weather. I know it sounds weird but everything is relative and for me it is warm and wonderful - sure, it's wet at times, but nothing like the Faroes. I also like that we live here, in the middle of the city, and can go down the end of our street, wander down a little path into a reserve and walk through a bush and there - in the middle of the city - is just forest. Right here, in the middle of traffic and motorways, there are little beaches, bays and trees. It's very diverse.
If I was Auckland mayor I would... 

Make bus travel free. There are lots of capitals in the world that have free public transport, in fact, the Faroese capital has free bus travel - now admittedly it didn't cost the council quite as much since we only have 20,000 people there!

Today it took me ten minutes to get my daughter to school but 40 minutes to get home. And I live in Northcote, Takapuna, that's not going on any motorways or busy streets.

I'd also push for the development of the Waterfront to happen sooner so it would happen in my lifetime.

Do you watch rugby and do you support the All Blacks?

I do watch rugby. And I support the All Blacks. Luckily there is no Faroese rugby team so I'm not torn but my husband is South African so he supports the All Blacks every step of the way except when they play South Africa.