Chez Cecile

Press reporter Cecile Meier shares impressions of her new life in Christchurch, far away from home in France, as she struggles to master the quirks of New Zealand English and culture.

Challenges make best motivation

05:00am 18 Jul 2014


"That Cecile girl is trouble. You should unfriend her."

I was aghast.

"Your boyfriend said that?! About me?!"

"Well," said my friend, "Remember the time you quit drinking for 40 days? The constant whining about it and the fact we couldn't go to bars? And that fruit-cleanse nonsense? You nearly passed out. And now THIS."

THIS refers to the latest challenge I have set myself - go the whole week without buying anything except groceries.

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Good intentions often get lost in apologies

05:00am 11 Jul 2014


Last week David Cunliffe apologised for something he didn't do. I was surprised one man's apology sparked so much debate in a land where people say "I'm sorry" as automatically as they say "please" and "thank you".

I first encountered this Kiwi trait when I started dating my now fiance Nick back in Europe. He was always the first to throw in an apology after an argument - I thought he was great at questioning himself. But after a few weeks in his home country, I realised it had more to do with cultural habits than a willingness to change.

If I bump into someone in a shop here, they will apologise first. People apologise for not understanding my accent. Even my boss apologises for giving me work to do.

My friend, Abbie, is a serial apologiser. She once hosted an amazing dinner party with a five-course meal and restaurant-style service and decoration.

After dinner we played a board game another friend had brought. Because the goal was to guess words, I was sometimes a bit slower to get it. I whined extensively about how hard it was to play for a non-native English speaker.

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City centre begins to blossom with cool stuff

05:00am 04 Jul 2014


Last week a visiting housing consultant warned Christchurch was at risk of becoming a "doughnut city" with an empty hole in the middle if more was not done to encourage businesses and residents back into the city centre. But if this city is any kind of confection, it's a Berliner - a doughnut filled with jam.

That's right - I've turned into a city centre optimist, for I have realised that the heart of our city is full of sweet, tasty filling - hip bars, cool cafes, and cute shops. Sadly, there are not enough CBD enthusiasts yet to eat the jam.

It's easy for me to try new places because I work near New Regent St and Cathedral Junction. The area is like a mini mall complete with gift shops, second-hand clothing, hairdressers for men and women, cafes, bars, jewellery and more. It's open, fresh and colourful.

Yet, it is often empty barring a couple of tourists and a handful of people working in the area. A friend who works near the Re:Start told me she had only just found out there was a convenience store in Cathedral Junction even though it had been opened for months.

Other areas face the same problem. I went out bar hopping with a couple of friends on High St on a Saturday night. It was all bright pink cocktails, groovy background music, comfy seats, and soft mood lighting. The only thing missing was people. These places opened months ago yet it seems most people don't realise they exist.

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'Look in the mirror, Kiwi drivers'

05:00am 27 Jun 2014


Do you see yourself as a cautious driver or as a careless driver?

With recent deadly car crashes and people's attitude on the road, I have become increasingly scared of driving.

This week we learned that the Dutch national who crashed after he ran a stop sign, killing a Christchurch mother and two girls, had crashed a rental car into a ditch only hours before.

Johannes Jacobus Appelman pleaded guilty in the Christchurch District Court on Monday, admitting four charges of careless driving. He's certainly not the only one driving carelessly.

Just last week, I was driving on the motorway at the speed limit when a car overtook me on the left, swerved in front of me and clipped my front bumper in the process. I was terrified.

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A little attention goes a long way with loved ones

05:00am 20 Jun 2014


I had a sharp reminder of what regret feels like last month.

To avoid the environmental catastrophe that is sending invitations from New Zealand all over the world (and to save money), Nick and I made a wedding website and sent the link to our guests.

I was going to make an exception for my dad's mother, because I knew she would not be able to make it to the wedding. I wanted to send a card to let her know she was in my thoughts - and she likes getting cards and letters.

I had decided to send her an invitation four months ago. Three weeks ago, she fell and died unexpectedly. I had not even created the invitation yet.

I always procrastinate over this kind of thing and it usually means giving a belated birthday present or forgetting to reply to an email. But I missed out on a last chance to show my grandmother I cared about her.

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