By RadioLIVE producer and ex-Australian Kim Blair
I remember the first time I holidayed in New Zealand. As most Aussies who have taken the flight across the ditch, I knew there wouldn’t be hobbits on every corner or sheep wandering the streets (although I have seen that since living here but I digress) what I was immediately blown away with was just how familiar everything seemed.
This will be one of the worst lines you’ll read... it’s the same but different.
There's the obvious, from driving on the same side of the road and hating on the government of the moment, but it’s the day to day things that make it seem so familiar. I can jump in my Holden Commodore, fill up at Caltex, grab a burger from Hungry Jacks (sorry its Burger King here but still home to the Whopper) and stop in at Countdown which is Australia’s Woolworths on the way home.
I’ve lived in New Zealand for two years now so I’m still a “newbie,” but I love it. Insert dramatic music here but... I think living here is better than living in Australia (cue gasps from across the Tasman) and here are seven reasons why:
1 Kiwis are relaxed: I thought Australians were laid back but wow, Kiwis take the cake. Well they would if they could be bothered reaching for it. Don’t get me wrong - that’s not a bad thing - in fact it’s endearing. In Oz, it’s “no worries” and here it’s “sweet as”. Both mean “I’ll get around to that when I can but there’s no rush or hurry and it will be cool when I do”. You feel it more outside of the big cities but there’s a no rushed attitude that makes it seem like either a lot of people are really happy here in New Zealand or sneaking in a wine at lunch.
2 New Zealand is small: That’s not a bad thing at all. Australia is big, very big, and yes it has its fair share of natural wonder, but it takes a long time to get anywhere (it literally takes two and half days nonstop driving from West Coast to East Coast.) Here in New Zealand, it seems like within 30 minutes I can be staring at snow-capped mountains or ridiculously blue lakes that look photo-shopped. I'll be breathing in air so fresh it should be bottled and sold overseas to hipsters living in Newtown, Sydney. It is literally on your doorstep.
3 Alcohol: Not only is the wine some of the best in the world, I can buy it in supermarkets. I love how my shopping list staples include milk, bread and a bottle of Sav Blanc. That may be just me, but how very grown up that I don’t have to do all my shopping and then go next door to a bottle shop owned by the same company as the supermarket to purchase alcohol. This may be the reason as well that a quick stop into New World on the way home for a few bits and pieces costs me $80 and why it is number three on my list.
4 Sport: I’m not going to lie, Australians are passionate about sport, but as the country becomes more populated and cities more cosmopolitan, we seem to have lost some of the grassroots passion that you see in New Zealand. It seems Aussies can’t be bothered turning up to games anymore. Before I moved here, I was told that rugby “is a religion in NZ” and it is. Rugby in Australia seems to be for private school boys when they aren’t rowing and it’s way down the list after AFL, League and cricket as a national pastime. But here, it is the dream of most kids to pull on the All Blacks jersey regardless of where they’re from. It’s a passion that is ingrained.
5 Scenery: Australia is a land of sweeping plains etc etc and has some incredible, jaw dropping places but the scenery in New Zealand is beyond ridiculous. Driving 2km in the South Island may take you an hour because you’ll be stopping every 5 minutes to take a photo. The Southern Alps in particular is a favourite of mine and I almost shed a tear the first time I saw Aoraki Mount Cook surrounded by hundreds of snow peaks. I honestly thought someone had put colouring in the waters of Lake Tekapo when I came across it. There is a majesty to this landscape that is almost surreal.
6 Animals that don't kill you: Sure I wouldn’t like to cross an angry pukeko but unless you’ve lived through an Australian summer you won’t know the pure joy of knowing a huntsmen spider won’t be lurking under your car door handle to give you a heart attack. I’ll be honest, there are not crocodiles and snakes in everyone’s backyard in Australia but just the sheer fact it is possible means every childhood had a hint of Indiana Jones about it. The most dangerous animal I’ve seen in New Zealand was a particularly unimpressed chicken.
7 Traditional land owners: I won’t get into the appalling history of the way Australian has treated its indigenous people, and New Zealand has had its dark episodes in history as well, but the way Maori culture is in the very essence of being a New Zealander is inspiring. From a "kia ora" at the start of a news bulletin or seeing a hongi between two people, Maori culture and language is a part of everyday life. Maybe it’s my fault that I just couldn’t be bothered learning the aboriginal dialect when growing up in Australia but in New Zealand with Te Reo being an official language you learn words almost by osmosis. It’s brilliant ...oh and also fun when I mention whakapapa to my parents in Perth.
They call Australia the lucky country but I reckon this place is even luckier.