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.

Some cities are just far too tempting

05:00am 17 Oct 2014


In case you didn't know, today is the fifth day of "money week", with the theme Get Your Money Fighting Fit. I have no idea how to get my money to ‘fight fit', let alone what it means. All I know is it's easier to save money in Christchurch than any other place I've lived.

I realised this on a recent trip to Auckland with friends. Our taxi driver must have thought we were from some backwater village the way we all chattered excitedly heading into town. Skyscrapers! Shops! Restaurants serving food from all over the world! People everywhere!

We joked that if we ever saw that many people out in Christchurch's streets on a Sunday night, we would think there was a zombie apocalypse.

At first I loved it. I had been missing the excitement of being in a big city. But after a day there, I decided I was better off living in Christchurch.

Even with rents and house prices rising, it is still cheaper to live here than in Wellington or Auckland. I went a week without spending a couple of months ago and have reduced my expenses since then. It's all in everyday habits like bringing your lunch to work, skipping the daily stop at the cafe and avoiding shops. There's only one cafe and two lunch options (a sandwich or a rice ball) I like near my office - not a huge sacrifice. When I need to buy new clothes, I have to go to the mall and that is not pleasant. If I wanted the life sucked out of me, I'd rather move to Transylvania and find a sexy vampire.

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Statistics almost put me off biking in Christchurch

05:00am 10 Oct 2014


Every time I hop on my bike to go to work, I think this could be the last time.

I don't mean to be overly dramatic but with last week's fatality and statistics of car crashes involving bikes in Christchurch, it has become scary to bike.

Yet, biking is amazing and beats driving on so many levels.

Nothing better than the sharp, cold morning breeze mixed with the warmth of the sunrise to wake you up. I have time to notice when they cut the grass on Latimer Square and when blossoms sprout on trees.

The 2.5-kilometre commute from my flat at the edge of the four avenues to Press House on Gloucester St barely qualifies as exercise but it's better than sitting all day. Biking saves me both petrol and the stress of navigating between blocked streets and road cones.

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Cecile: How to avoid the blame game

05:00am 03 Oct 2014


My husband Nick and I often squabble about minor things, like the proper way to butter toast or whose turn it would be to walk the dog if we had one.

Sometimes they flare up into bigger arguments but rarely do they explode as one did a couple of months ago.

I'll spare you the details but it ended with my saying, "I hate you!" and Nick replying, "I hope you jump off a cliff."

Like all people of my generation, I turned to Google instead of other humans for relationship advice. I found a wikiHow entry on "Nonviolent Communication" (NVC).

An American psychologist developed the four-step concept in the 1960s.

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Cecile Meier: Why I didn't vote

05:00am 26 Sep 2014


I have a shameful confession to make: I did not vote last week.

I wasn't the only one ignoring the call to action despite friends telling me through Facebook to "vote or keep your mouth shut for the next three years".

About 1 million people didn't show up to the polling booth last Saturday, making it one of New Zealand's worst turnouts in the past century.

There has been a backlash against this lack of participation, with non-voters described as lazy, apathetic and ignorant.

A columnist wrote: "Those who didn't vote should be herded into a container ship and pushed over the side somewhere in the Ross Sea, preferably in the middle of winter."

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It's a nice day for a French wedding

05:00am 19 Sep 2014


"Monsieur," said my assistant, Jen, "remind me why we are going to the wedding of two strangers?"

"Because we are being paid a very large fee to do so."

"But it's a stupid case."

"Our client wants to know if it's safe to invest in Nick Butcher's project."

"And he'll base it on whether Nick is under his fiancee Cécile's thumb? Preposterous . . ."

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