How I fell in love with New Zealand

Last updated 10:00 12/03/2014
ottawa land
Douglas Sprott / Flickr

A view of the Ottawa skyline and the Ottawa River. Contrary to what some Kiwis think, not everywhere in Canada has mountains.

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Home sweet expat home

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"I'm going away to New Zealand for a year for teacher's college."

This was what I signed up for. This was what I told myself, my family and my friends.

At the beginning of 2011 I packed up my things and said goodbye to my family in Ottawa, with the promise of returning home after I had finished my studies.

It is now 2014 and I still find myself living in the north side of Christchurch. How this happened, I do not know.

Three years ago I touched down in the Garden City with the promise of something new and exciting.

I had never lived in a different house from my parents, so moving to an entirely new country, one about as far away as you can get from Canada, was decidely a new experience.

I recall my first day here, wandering into the city and being both over- and underwhelmed by the sights around me.

I immediately fell in love with the hills and the mountains, then the ocean and the rivers. It is the landscape that I fell for, since that far east in Canada we do not have mountains, and perhaps it is some of that that keeps me here.

I remember being shocked by men wearing shorts shorter than I was wearing (later I would learn that these are known as 'stubbies'), and also by the sight of bare feet at the supermarket.

It took me two and a half years, but eventually I wandered through the Warehouse in bare feet, I felt oddly liberated and like I was finally starting to take on the local culture.

It was not necessarily the accent that gave me trouble but more so some of the terminology. I've realised that I've had to switch to using words like carpark, petrol, rubbish"and boot to refer to various everyday things.

It took me a while to figure out that "coming over for tea" did not necessarily mean coming for a drink, it was, in fact, an entire meal.

The concept that supper is something that you have after dinner, and not a word interchangeable with dinner itself, was also very strange.

While I find many of these things very strange I also find that I get poked fun at quite a bit, mostly for my terminologies or the way that I pronounce certain things (most notably the name Craig).

I have also noticed that what Kiwis perceive as cold and hot weather is nothing like what I am used to, and have decided that it is a country of wussies in that regard. It is often a case of spot the Canadian when the weather is too cold and I find myself comfortable in a T-shirt when everyone else requires at least a sturdy jersey (notably not "sweater" or "hoodie").

I will hand it to you though, it gets cold inside when it should not. Things like central heating and insulation would be a huge bonus to the housing systems.

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Despite these minor pitfalls, living in New Zealand has been an incredible experience. Despite the food prices being higher, especially the milk, and the internet being really expensive and not that great, I've somehow endured these things and found it in myself to love it here.

I find everything in New Zealand smaller than I had imagined, the towns and cities are a far cry from what I am used to. However the landscape is incredible, and even despite the smallness of the cities and town I have fallen in love with those too.

Two days shy of a month after I had landed came that now infamous date of February 22nd. It wasn't enough to frighten me off; instead I got stuck in with the Student Volunteer Army and did my part where I could. My heart broke for the city and I found myself wanting to be around for its recovery as much as I could. If living through that with the rest of Canterbury doesn't make me a Cantabrian, I don't know what does. Just the other day I was kayaking with a friend from Canada in Akaroa, and the American tourists on our trip grinned and pointed me out as "obviously a Kiwi". I was honestly surprised; however obviously enough time has passed for me to look and sound like one. Maybe I'm acclimatising; who knows.

How long I will be here? Well, only time will tell.

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