General Thoughts on New Zealand

Trip Start Apr 17, 2009
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Trip End May 09, 2010


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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Saturday, January 9, 2010

Okay, since we are spending nearly 3 months in New Zealand we have decided to create a blog entry that is sort of an overview of some general observations we have about the country rather than trying to incorporate all of those observations into blog entries about specific places we have visited in New Zealand.

So, let’s take a minute to review a few things about New Zealand. First WE LOVE IT HERE! So far, everything we have seen has exceeded our expectations.

Generally speaking, New Zealand is two large islands that run north to south. There's the more populous North Island and the more rural South Island. Both are about the same size geographically speaking and the South Island is the more dramatic in terms of its huge mountain peaks (the Southern Alps) than the North Island which is more rolling hills and farmland. However, that is a broad description and there's quite a bit of flat farmland in the South Island and quite a few mountains and dramatic coastal cliffs in the North Island.  Ubiquitous throughout New Zealand are sheep and cows-  you see tons of them everywhere in the rolling landscapes.

The nation of New Zealand has a population of just 4 million people in an area that is the land area equivalent to the U.S West Coast (California, Oregon, and Washington states combined). Just to put that in perspective, the combined population of California, Oregon, and Washington state is 48million in an area the same size as New Zealand’s 4 million people. Of the 4 million people in New Zealand, 1.5 million of them live in metropolitan Auckland. That means the rest of the country is pretty much wide open rural space with just a few cities and towns scattered around.

Another thing we love about New Zealand is how ridiculously clean it is here. Nearly every town we have been to is spotless- no litter anywhere. Even if the town does not appear to be very affluent it is still spotlessly clean.

Also, most towns (except for the major towns like Auckland and Christchurch) have flowers planted everywhere and the downtown business districts are still the heart of the shopping community. Even in towns of 60,000 the downtown streets are still the hub for shopping. Also, most smaller cities seldom have downtown buildings with more than two floors and nearly all downtown areas have wide sidewalks with large overhangs that protect the sidewalks from sun/rain.

New Zealanders (they call themselves Kiwis) are ridiculously friendly and laid back. We are stopped all the time by people who will talk to us for hours as if they have nothing else to bother with other than visiting with us.

New Zealanders tend to be very environmentally conscious. Most adults volunteer in some capacity doing something for the nation’s environmental conservation. Also, you see signs everywhere in banks, grocery stores, and along roadways reminding people to think about how to conserve plastic, glass, and paper. As part of their efforts to reach energy independence (which they have now almost achieved) they have raised the price of gasoline to above $8USD per gallon in order to get people to use less gasoline/oil for automobiles which is the only area of energy that they are still not able to fully produce on their own.

We are also amazed that they have such an advanced infrastructure in place (highways, telecommunications, etc) for a country that covers such a large area and has so few people in terms of population to pay into the taxes to support the infrastructure. Having said that, however, it is rather amusing to see what they call a “national highway” in some of the more remote areas of the country. Often, in the very rural areas the national highways are curvy, two lane roads that would remind you of Route 66 or a small state road out in the country settings of Kentucky or Georgia. Oddly enough there are very rural areas where the "highways" narrow down to single lane bridges over rivers and creeks. This means that the northbound cars have to stop and wait for the southbound cars to cross the bridge before the northbound cars then proceed. The one lane bridges have become a bit of a hiccup in the infrastructure and most are gradually being replaced.

Another amazing thing is the infrastructure and money spent on their national and regional parks. New Zealand's DOC (Department of Conservations) manages the parks and does a fantastic job. The conditions of their parks are far superior to the conditions of our national parks in the United States. Trails, campgrounds, signs, park maps etc, are all maintained to the highest degree here, and that's truly impressive when you realize just how huge the national park system is in New Zealand. Unlike Australia where everything that bites you can kill you, there are no poisonous snakes, spiders or other threatening creatures (bears etc) in New Zealand and there’s no poison ivy here either!

New Zealand’s national government was recently selected as the least corrupt government in the world. In addition, violent crime is unheard of in the areas outside of Auckland. The crime levels here are incredibly low. To demonstrate that point, we overheard two people complaining about how crime had gotten out of hand up in an area because an unlocked bike had been stolen from in front of a store. They were mortified that a bike had been stolen in their town and they considered that a serious crime issue. If only that were the most serious crime facing most of the other towns around the world…..

January is the middle of summer in New Zealand and the weather is great- partly cloudy to sunny days with highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s. They do get days over 80, but it's not frequent. Also, since it is located in the southern hemisphere, it's opposite of the climate we have in most of the U.S. So, here it is warmer and more tropical the further north you go in the country and colder with more snow the further south you go in New Zealand.

Wine is everywhere here. There are numerous wine growing regions all across New Zealand. If you know us then you know that we are in heaven here with all of the wine!

Kiwis love to own second homes that they use for vacations. However, these vacation homes are usually very basic and located along beaches, rivers, or in the mountains and are lovingly referred to as “Bachs” (pronounced as the first syllable in the word bachelor).  In fact, the word Bach was derived here from the term "Bachelor Pad"

Tax rates are not bad here at all. Most items have a Government Service Tax (GST) included which is comparable to our sales tax at home. However, the tax is always already included in the price you see and not added on separately at the cash register as we do it.

Cars cost quite a bit less here than in America because of the relative proximity to Japan. You can get a very nice, newer model used car here for under $7,000USD.   Housing tends to be about the same price as we pay on average in most the U.S.  It is much cheaper than California or New York, but higher than what you would pay for housing in Kentucky or Maine.

Also, tipping is not customary in New Zealand. It has been made clear to us that you should only tip based on exceptional service. Most credit card receipts in restaurants do not even have space provided for adding tip. So, if service is good, we normally pay tip in cash.

There are KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken), McDonalds, and Subway fast food restaurants located in nearly any town with more than 2,000 people. Subway seems to be more common than McDonalds here.

Prostitution is legal in New Zealand. However, you would never know this, and we did not know it until someone told us last week. There are no red light districts, and you do not see any kind of sleazy storefronts or billboard ads about it like you do in Las Vegas etc.

Some language differences: Kiwis use the word “wee” when they are referring to something small and the word “heaps” when they are referring to a lot of anything. With food items they use the word “crumbed” instead of “breaded” or “battered”.  Also, they use the word "bush" to refer to an wild and natural setting and to forests and unfarmed grasslands etc. So, you will hear someone saying that they are taking a hike out in the bush or that they have a farm with lots of native bush.

Finally, we have been hearing Michael Buble music EVERYWHERE since we started our trip in December. In Las Vegas, the Cook Islands, and everywhere we go in New Zealand we have heard Michael Buble songs playing as the background music of restaurants, stores, hotels etc. Don’t get me wrong, we actually like Michael Buble. However, it is almost like a Twilight Zone situation because we hear his music every place we go. It has become such a joke with us that we just start laughing when we hear it.

Okay, so those are some of the comments we have to tell you about our observations of New Zealand thus far.  More will come as we continue to travel in thhe South Island.  Keep an eye out for new entries about our actual stops after Auckland.  Coming soon!
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Comments

larryandeverett
larryandeverett on

WOW again. I can't wait to get to New Zealand. You are just verifying everything we have heard about it.

What about the possum? We have heard that there are more possum than sheep and alot more sheep than people and that the possum is a very difficult pest problem in the rural areas. Have you seen any? We are currently working on an agreement with the NZ government to utilize our technology to manage the possum population without poison.

We both are so envious of your travels. You will both remember this for the rest of your lives and I am sure that this trip has brought the two of you even closer.

Have a lamb shank for us!

Mike K on

Great overview...seems like Kiwis have everything 'just right'. Sounds like a stress-free existence. Wish the social norms of the US could reach these levels(!!)

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