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.

Cecile Meier: A week without spending

05:00am 25 Jul 2014

CECILE MEIER

Last week I kept my purse strings closed. No coins, notes or cards were allowed out. This wasn't because of a reality TV-style intervention to save me from crippling debt. In fact, I don't have any debt. But I also don't own anything and I have been slack at watching my expenses lately.

Some weeks I buy half a dozen lunches, two or three slap-up suppers and enough drinks and coffee to drown a fish.

Just as I realised that this lifestyle was not sustainable on a reporter's salary, my English friend Andrew became obsessed with early retirement. The concept is to slash your spending and invest your savings until you get enough money to "retire" (that is, to have enough money that work becomes optional).

To immolate his wasteful spending habits, Andrew decided to go on a spending fast (no spending outside of housing costs and groceries) for an entire month.

At first, I thought he was insane. Surely he would lose all his friends and starve himself to death with his meagre cooking skills? (He is English, after all.) But then I thought it might be fun to give it a go for a week and compare my experience with his.

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Challenges make best motivation

05:00am 18 Jul 2014

CECILE MEIER

"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

CECILE MEIER

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

CECILE MEIER

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

CECILE MEIER

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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