Renting a flat in Christchurch has become like winning New Zealand's Got Talent.
There are many applicants, but few places. You have to convince picky landlords that you are worthy of success, and they can eliminate you at any moment.
Our guide through the talent contest was a former winner that I will call Paddy to protect his identity - and because he is Irish. He and his girlfriend found a flat last year after dozens of visits - he'd learned all the tricks.
Our first task was to set a budget. We initially thought $350 a week would be plenty, but we soon realised this would not get us much more than a wooden shack. So we added another $50 a week and later considered raising it still further to $450. As Paddy said, "that's why you have a budget - so you can fly right by it".
He said we should offer to pay $10 to $50 above the offered price if we really liked the place. We would have gladly paid more in some cases but were not assertive enough to initiate the haggling. Why not label the flat as an auction if that's what it is? Paddy's second tip was to go for quantity rather than quality. "It's super to win New Zealand's Got Talent. But better to enter all the shows. The winner of Solomon Islands Got Talent is still a winner."
My yoga instructor always says: "Sigh deeply, it is good for you. It releases frustrations."
I agree wholeheartedly, and sigh as often as possible. But I have noticed Kiwis sigh less than Europeans. They complain less, too.
As a reporter, I talk to people who are struggling one way or another regularly, and I am often amazed at how reluctant Cantabrians are to complain.
"It could be worse," they say, or "I'm trying to remain positive".
Yet Cantabrians have many valid reasons to complain: floodings, battles with insurance and the Earthquake Commission, impossible rental prices, wages that don't go up as fast as grocery prices do.
How did you get to work today?
According to the latest census, 84 per cent of Cantabs drove or were a passenger in a car. Only 6 per cent biked, 5 per cent walked, and 3 per cent rode a public bus.
I used to bike everywhere in Switzerland, but since I moved to Christchurch last year, I have become dependent on my car.
Nick and I live in a lovely cottage that belongs to his parents in Tai Tapu. The rent is cheap so it was perfect for when I was a student and we lived on one income. I also enjoy being surrounded by trees, rabbits, sheep, deer and birds.
But the half hour commute to work is wearing on me.
Successful Kiwis have been all over the international news lately, be it in music, literature or sports. In this context, it's hard to imagine there's such a thing as the Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS) in New Zealand.
Yet, when Brendon McCullum scored 300 against India this week - a monumental achievement by any standards - he remained humble.
He even said in an interview that he felt a bit embarrassed because he was nowhere near the calibre of the legends of New Zealand cricket.
After more than a year here, I have experienced the TPS in many ways.
During the journalism programme at Canterbury University, we often had to show our assignments to others for feedback. Many times a classmate would barely want me to look at their work.
Today is Valentine's Day, and many couples will be popping the marriage question.
My attitude to the traditions of proposals and weddings can be summed up by something I said to Nick when he was testing the water a few months into our relationship.
Realising he had found the perfect woman, he slyly tried to find out if I wanted him to ask my father for permission to marry me.
"If you hask im," I said in an accent even worse than my current one, "you can forget about hasking me."
I hate the idea of a man asking a woman's father for permission - I am a grown-up and I can make my own decisions. It is an old-fashioned, misogynistic tradition.
Blog terms and conditions
You're welcome to post in the comments section of our blogs. Please keep comments under 400 words. When submitting a comment, you agree to be bound by our terms and conditions.