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.

First bump in the road to home ownership

05:00am 27 Mar 2015


As I mentioned a few weeks ago, my husband, Nick, and I are looking to get on the property treadmill.

The difference between us is that Nick is keen to get going, like an excited hamster, but all I see is the work and effort lying ahead.

After a couple of weeks trawling through property listings, going to open homes and visiting pieces of land, we are facing our first disagreement. Nick is on team build; I am on team buy.

Nick has reasons. He is sceptical about the current housing stock, and sees the building process as fun and interesting. Fair enough, he's an engineer - he likes to build things.

But I think he's been possessed by Kevin McCloud. Where I see only lines and measurements on paper, he conjures dreams of sweeping open-plan kitchens and natural wood mezzanine floors.

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Obnoxious minority not the real Otago students

05:00am 20 Mar 2015


I'm always surprised to read media reports about Dunedin students' anti-social behaviour.

A Wireless reporter wrote last week about the few hours she spent there and it was not pretty.

"I found myself being told rape jokes and grinded on by a kid who been drinking for nine hours," she wrote.

My experience of Otago student community was completely at odds with this kind of report. I spent a week in Dunedin for a work-placement at now defunct (but not because of my contributions!) publication D-Scene while completing my journalism diploma.

I did not know anyone there and was short on cash to spend on accommodation. One of my classmates put me in touch with her friend Nina, a student flatting there.

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European softie no longer needs "toughen-up" pills

05:00am 13 Mar 2015


After two years in New Zealand, the "toughen-up" pills my husband Nick keeps recommending are finally becoming less necessary.

I arrived in Christchurch in the middle of summer and everything was wrong. The ocean was freezing, evening temperatures below 15 degrees Celsius and relentless winds messed with my hair.

Nick smeared his toast with a paste that was allegedly "marmighty good" but looked, smelled and tasted like pureed rotting seaweed.

I longed for the warm Mediterranean Sea, late evenings drinking rose on the terrace without a down jacket on and fluffy croissants for breakfast.

Going swimming in the ocean was out of the question and I couldn't even put more than a toe in Nick's parents pool's 18C water. What is summer if you can't wear a summer dress, let alone a swimsuit?

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French immigrant finds NZ a home away from home

05:00am 06 Mar 2015


When my husband Nick and I moved to New Zealand, we thought it would be for two to three years. It would be something different, an adventure and a chance for me to discover Nick's homeland before settling for good in Switzerland.

But two years in, things are not so clear. Nick started a new job in January, which meant we would stay here for at least another two years. At first I felt trapped and resented the change of plans.

I'd been thinking about moving back for the past six months - I missed my family and friends and didn't completely feel at home here.

This week we've been travelling to the North Island for a holiday and getting some perspective has made me reconsider the situation.

Going back at the end of this year wouldn't be right. Working at The Press has helped me become a member of the community. People tell me their stories, and I tell them mine in my column - I feel accepted and respected in Christchurch. I've also made good friends here - two of them just asked me to be their bridesmaid, a sign I am truly blending in.

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Chez Cecile: Cats versus flats

05:00am 27 Feb 2015


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the perks of apartment central-city living. I forgot to mention a major drawback: I can't have a cat.

It's proven that having a pet makes you a better person. Cat owners are 86 per cent more likely to find enlightenment through petting and 77 per cent less likely to lash out at their colleagues at work thanks to cats' calming properties. They also stand a small but tangible chance of capturing some manic cat behaviour on video and getting rich.

Besides, I've been struggling to feel at home in Christchurch since we came back from our wedding, and getting a kitten might help me feel settled.

In European cities, having a cat, or even a dog, in an apartment is quite common. In New Zealand, not so much. But, still, I briefly hoped I would be able to get a cat in our first-floor one-bedroom flat. We would put a cat door leading to our big terrace. We would let him out in the morning to roam free on Phillipstown's factory rooftops behind us. We would take good care of him. It would be a rescue kitten. I had it all sorted.

My husband Nick, however, was not convinced.

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