Why, NZ? Kiwi life is full of weirdness
Moving trans-Tasman was a great life choice for Dean Evans, but there are some idiosyncrasies he can't get his head round.
2015 was the first year more Australians migrated to New Zealand than Kiwis to Australia. I know this because I was one of those kangaroos leaving the herd and joining the flock, transferring from Sydney to Hamilton to be with my wife's family and create a better life for us and our two young girls in this beautiful land.
Having regularly travelled to NZ for 20 years, it was already my second home, so I was well accustomed to the cliches: the fush and chups, suxty-sux, America's Cup highs and lows. And with a Kiwi wife, any gumboot and sheep jokes are off the table if I'm to avoid a flying feijoa.
But after 18 months of deep Kiwiana exposure, I can say there are many things - like L&P, Pineapple Lumps, or the PM pulling pigtails - Kiwis take for granted that, to the rest of the world, are kind of odd.
Like any good manager, I should start with the positives.
I love the lack of 5c coins and that the $2 coin is sensibly larger than a $1 coin, the fresh clean air, the lack of traffic (Auckland aside), Guy Fawkes night, the general high quality of food, that no summer day gets above 30 degrees, and the 75 per cent cost of living compared to Sydney. Don't get me wrong: I love it so much, I moved here.
But, New Zealand, there are some areas of performance management we need to address. I understand many of these points are so deep-seated as to be rhetorical, but we need to talk about them.
So here, with the greatest respect and admiration, is my list of 10 "Why NZ?" idiosyncrasies and oddities:
1. WHY DO I HAVE TO GET UP TO PAY THE BILL?
I hate waiting in line to pay a bill, whether it's the post office, bank or fine. So why do it at a cafe? OK, we don't tip, but this is a service industry. Taking a table order and following up with a bill makes the customer feel good, and provides the opportunity to upsell: "Would you like another $8 triple-shot almond milk mocha-lattecino before you settle?" Yes. Yes I would.
2. WHY ARE THERE "AMERICAN" HOT DOGS?
There are hot dogs and "American" hot dogs, which is odd given there are perfectly suitable non-ambiguous pseudonyms: Pluto Pups, Dagwood Dogs, anyone? Did NZ discover and commit to the name hot dogs for battered sausages on a stick, and then realise, oh bugger, what are we gonna call this frankfurter in a bun? Ah, just bung an "American" on the front and she'll be right.
3. PERIPER-I-AL AND PAVALOVA?
Maybe it's just my circle of friends and family whom I regularly antagonise, but it seems four out of five Kiwis mispronounce the word peripheral, adding an i, some extra vowels, and sometimes a few clicks, spits and teeth. And if pavlova is a national dish, as eagerly claimed by Kiwis at any opportunity during parties, business meetings or wedding vows, why do so many Kiwis call it pav-a-lova? I've even seen it misspelt on a poster in school! What are we teaching our children of today?!
4. WHY IS MY SKIN BUBBLING?
Perhaps it's the clear skies, the thinner ozone, or the fact God's country is a little closer to, you know, God, but 25 degrees in New Zealand, whether it's Auckland or Queenstown, feels like 30 in Sydney and Melbourne, which have similar latitudes.
5. WHY ARE THE NAMES THE SAME, BUT DIFFERENT?
Indulge me for getting a little Pulp Fictiony-Royale-with-Cheese, but why is Woolworths called Countdown, Coles called New World (a name/tagline that Coles Australia dropped in 1991), and Shell called Z Energy?
6. WHY DO SHOPPING TROLLEYS TURN FROM THE FRONT?
Sticking with the supermarket theme for a moment, my first few steers of a supermarket trolley ended up careening into the kiwifruit stand. Aussie trolleys steer from all four wheels, like a 1990s Honda Prelude, Mazda MX6 or Nissan GT-R, making them not only easier to turn, but more manoeuvrable: important attributes when negotiating meandering aisle wanderers.
7. WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO RETRIEVE MY MOBILE VOICE MESSAGES?
I've been with Telecom/Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees, and on post-paid accounts and in most cases I still have to pay extra to retrieve my messages - messages that were forced upon me as a result of the network dropping out. Is this not cellphone ransom? Pay us 20 cents or you'll NEVER hear your message again!
8. WHY SO THIN-SKINNED?
The Australian Prime Minister is a revolving door of incompetence, Aussie cricketers are obnoxious jerks, and many of us talk with a nasally drawl; Australians are comfortable with that.
But some thin-skinned Kiwis can't laugh at themselves or accept any criticism (and notice how I left this one until point seven, allowing enough time for rage to build in just this group). "If you don't like it, p-off' is the general consensus, and there's little to nothing that can be said to sway that dogmatic mindset. So I won't. Moving on…
9. WHY DO YOU START SCHOOL ON YOUR FIFTH BIRTHDAY?
In Australia, once a child turns five they generally start school "the following" year, around February 1. They maintain friendships established in kindergarten and pre-school, often throughout their life. But in New Zealand, they're torn away on their birthday, Hunger Games-style, and thrust into an intimidating abyss of strange people and foreign places, instigating psychological torment that only partly recovers if and when said friends rejoin their school class.
10. WHY DO KIWIS SAY EH?
I've saved my pet-peeviest for last: I don't remember this happening 20 years ago, but maybe the aural wounds hadn't opened yet. Canadians and Queenslanders are similarly afflicted by saying "eh" at the end of sentences: but in NZ, it's said by radio DJs, TV news presenters, politicians, schoolteachers, eulogy readers… even Dai Henwood averages 23 ehs a night on Family Feud – that's one a minute!
Curiously, it's become so endemic, most Kiwis don't seem to even realise they're saying it… eh?