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.

Do you have online charity fatigue?

05:00am 19 Dec 2014


I breathed a sigh of relief at the end of Movember. I could finally use Facebook without being taken on a facial-hair funding guilt-trip. Ready for a moustache-free internet experience, I opened my laptop. Click, click - What the hell is Decembeard?

I soon found out it was the latest charity fad, where men down their razors to fundraise for bowel cancer. This would seem like a fun way to fundraise for charity if it didn't follow a long line of similar initiatives including Movember (where men grew moustaches to fundraise for prostate cancer), the Ice Bucket Challenge (where celebrities and Facebook friends chucked ice water over themselves to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association), the #nomakeupselfie (women posted photos of themselves on social media without makeup to raise awareness for cancer) and Dry July (where people quit drinking for a month and ask their friends to donate to charity).

That is not counting friends of friends' kickstarter projects, people running marathons and acquaintances selling goodies to fund their nephew's school trip.

It's great about all the money that has been raised in those ways but enough is enough. I cannot possibly afford to donate to all of those causes. This overload of requests has given me charity fatigue. Apparently, I am not the only one to suffer from this condition. There was a backlash against the Ice Bucket Challenge, with people donating to water charities in Africa instead of dumping a load of chilled drinking water on themselves.

Nevertheless, I am in a country of givers. In the Charities Aid Foundation 2014 World Giving Index, New Zealand is ranked fifth, while France is ranked 90. Maybe there are cultural reasons behind my reaction (It's not my fault I'm selfish; I'm French!) but all this very public showing of interest in charity makes me wonder sometimes if people do it for the cause or as part of their social media image-building.

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Go on, shake yourself and get off that couch

05:00am 12 Dec 2014


After finishing my third pancake on Saturday morning, I felt like going back to bed and napping until mid-afternoon. I'd earned it - they were big pancakes. Later I would stay in my pyjamas, throw my hair into a bun and drink camomile tea while lazing around the house.

Except I couldn't, because I was invited to afternoon events and parties and things that required me to interact with people. It's not just parties that trigger my apathy. Lately I've had to kick myself to go running, plan a weekend away or have friends over for dinner. Maybe because I've been busy at work, or because I am getting old, or perhaps I am just plain lazy. I have to go to work, but for the rest, I sometimes just want to be off the hook.

The thing is, I almost never go out on a hike and think: "I wish I was at home on the couch". Up in the mountains taking the view and the sun in, getting some perspective on life, I feel lucky to be out. Nine times out of 10, I enjoy doing the thing I was trying to avoid. On Saturday night, I laughed and talked and danced and ate cake and it was fun.

When I feel like I don't have any energy it's a good sign that getting out of the house might help. A couple of weeks ago, I let my husband and a friend drag me to the Summer Starter fun run. I'd just worked six days in a row and running 10 kilometres was the last thing on my mind. But once there, the sun was shining, there was music, people looked happy and wore bright colours. I felt revived and energised. My whole body hurt for two days afterwards but still, I was happy I'd gone.

Of course, sometimes it's good to have a break. Refuse an invitation to go out and spend the night drinking wine and watching an entire season of Breaking Bad in a single marathon session. But how to tell when you really need it and when you're just giving in to slackness and will regret it later? One trick I use is to picture myself staying at home and then picture myself going out. Will I regret the couch if I am having fun? Will I wish I went on a walk with a friend instead? Having a break once in a while is fine but when it starts becoming a pattern rather than the exception, I try to shake myself out of it. The party you're trying to avoid might be one of the best nights in your life. You'll never know . . . unless you get off the couch and go.

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The ups and downs of door knocks

05:00am 28 Nov 2014


Journalist - noun. Someone who strides the earth, topples governments, takes two-hour lunches and has intense cognac-fuelled debates about the proper use of a semi-colon.

That was my expectation. The reality, I learned this week, involved a lot more doors slamming in my face.

I had to knock on doors to gather info for a piece - can't tell you the details. Secret. Shh! I was with fellow rebuild reporter Georgina Stylianou - a world-class charmer and a looker to boot. You'd never think her capable of cursing the paint off a door. Who wouldn't invite us in for a cuppa?

Well, it turns out that people hate door-knockers. A recent Consumer NZ survey found that 70 per cent of its members disliked door-to-door salespeople and wanted them to stop calling. More than 60 per cent dubbed these traders "annoying" and "intrusive".

Survey respondents also complained of pushy door-to-door sellers that wouldn't take "no" for an answer. Several members said they had to threaten to call the police to get them to leave.

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More to Sutton story than just hugs and jokes

05:00am 21 Nov 2014


When Roger Sutton resigned from Cera on Monday, many rushed to say he was a competent and likeable guy.

But however nice he is, a seven-week investigation into a sexual harassment complaint against him from a staff member found "serious misconduct".

People leaped to their keyboards, wrote letters to the editor and took to social media to vent their shock. The strange thing was, most of it was directed at the victim.

At first all we knew was that Sutton had hugged, joked around and called women "sweetie" and "honey".

He revealed most of this himself in the media, giving the impression that there wasn't so much to the complaint (that said, I am glad no one calls me "honey" at work).

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Jacket required in land of the long chilly nights

05:00am 14 Nov 2014


When I packed to move to New Zealand, I considered leaving my down jacket behind.

I had bought it to survive Zurich's tough winters, where the temperature regularly sinks below minus 10 degrees Celsius. A mid-length down jacket with a furry hood seemed a bit much for Christchurch, with its (on paper) hot summers and mild winters.

Turns out, I've never worn it as much as I have in New Zealand. I even bought a second one.

The day I arrived, in the middle of summer, I was already glad I hadn't left it behind. My husband Nick's family insisted we have dinner outside because that's what you do in summer - regardless of the cold wind and rapidly-dropping evening temperatures. Nothing could get in the way of a good barbecue.

The first thing we did when we moved into Nick's parents' cottage - a charmingly uninsulated house - was to install a bathroom heater. It was still summer but early morning temperatures were not shower-friendly.

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