Palmerston North - Yank city?

Sadly, Palmerston North is infamous for its first impressions.

Tarred by the brutal brush of John Cleese's suicide quips eight years ago, you get the feeling the city holds its collective breath every time anyone is asked what they think of the place.

In fairness, that's a New Zealand-wide trait.  We wet ourselves when someone, somewhere says something about us.

I moved to Palmerston North at the end of last year so it seems appropriate I offer up a first impression of my own (cue breath-holding).

First impressions are crucial. It can take months, even years, to realise the initial thought you had about something was off the mark.

For that reason, the cover of Palmerston North's book has to be damn interesting, because most people passing through don't have time to turn all the pages. 

While I enjoy a good fiery argument as much as Mr Cleese, I can't sit here and claim I shared his first impressions of this city.

As I drove over the Fitzherbert Bridge on a sunny summery afternoon, with my bed on the roof-rack and my life packed into the boot, I was smiling.

Palmerston North felt like a city of freedom for me.  Which is weird because as far as first impressions go, the thing that struck me most on that first drive was just how American the place was.

Christchurch markets itself as the most English city outside of England, or at least it did before you-know-what happened.

Palmerston North is not necessarily the most American city outside of the United States.

But I was thinking on that day, and I still think, that Palmerston North is the most American city in New Zealand.

The city's flat, straight roads are gloriously wide. There's no danger of this happening in Palmy.  It must be the easiest place in the country - besides maybe Gore - to sit your full licence.

The footpaths (maybe we should call them sidewalks) are also enormous.  They've planned well for the obesity epidemic here.

There's a decent swathe of American-inspired suburbia in Kelvin Grove and Fitzherbert.

And of course there's the saturation of fast food, which needs no elaboration.

Was my first impression wrong?  Possibly.  There are no large malls out in the burbs, few unnecessary neon lights and the people are 100% kiwi.  Plus I'm already finding beauty here that could never be found in the US.

But I back my first impressions to be correct and every time I drive past Carl's Jr, McDonalds and KFC on that outrageously wide Princess St road, the initial conviction I had feels strangely reinforced.

What do you think?  Is Palmerston North an American city?

Manawatu Standard