Goodbye New Zealand
After living in New Zealand for nearly four years, the Wotrings are back in America.
I could blame our decision to move back on New Zealand’s watery avocados, which go from concrete to overripe in a matter of minutes. But the truth is: we were gone a long time. Family matters. Friendships matter. And with our newborn son starting to come online, Jess and I felt the timing was right to come home.
But the decision wasn’t easy. New Zealand is magnificent beyond words. We knew only bits and pieces about this tiny island nation before moving there. We expected jaw-dropping scenery, but what we discovered was a clean, safe, progressive country full of interesting people from all over the world.
Top 10 reasons we love New Zealand
1. Ridiculous weather. Wellington is the world’s windiest city. The average wind speed is 18mph – with gusts strong enough to relieve you of your roof. The country is located in the roaring forties, meaning strong wind blows around the clock. And while you’re chasing your fedora down the street, you better slap on sunscreen. Kiwis suffer from the world’s highest rate of skin cancer (not that we love that). And if that’s not enough, earthquakes rattle the country so often, New Zealand is known as the shaky isles.
2. Mixomatosis. Stumble into any house party or office and you’re likely to encounter a wide mix of people from Australia, England, China, Canada, South Africa, France and elsewhere. This cultural surplus makes life more interesting. And with more restaurants per capita than NYC, Wellington dishes up authentic takes on every cuisine – Vietnamese being the best, of course.
3. Good goods. From fruity sauvignon blanc to Icebreaker jackets, New Zealand makes high quality products. If something is made in New Zealand, buy it. Unlike in America, where value often trumps quality (think 99 Taco Bell cent burritos), kiwis value fewer, nicer things. Consumerism is no path to happiness, and New Zealand has this figured out.
4. Work and life are equals. In New Zealand, money matters, having a good job matters. But equally important is your next world trip. Kiwis are intrepid travelers, often leaving the country for months on end to explore parts unknown. People held in highest esteem aren’t those working nights and weekends to afford their next McMansion. But those who make equal time for work, family, friends, hobbies and travel. Workers in New Zealand get a minimum of six weeks off annually.
5. Less junk in food. Growing up in midwest America, you’d be a legend to score a great deal on a mediocre lunch … versus paying full price for a high-quality lunch. Mmmmm, cheap poison. Food quality is a higher standard in New Zealand. Peruse your average grocery store and you’ll find natural foods are the norm. There, peanut butter is 100% ground peanuts – not peanuts and oils and sugars and chemicals. Pound for pound, their food is simply healthier. And the coffee!
6. Oh baby. We had Luke in New Zealand. And because we hold residence visas, he was born with dual citizenship. The idea of giving birth in a foreign country is intimidating, but New Zealand made the whole process straightforward and priceless – literally. All the hours of professional consultations, scans, midwife appointments, surgery, recovery, meals, medical checkups … all free. That cost is baked into taxes, of course, but the convenience of leaving the hospital without a bill is worth every penny.
7. Stop it already. From wild oceans to forests to soaring peaks to deserts and volcanoes. See them all in a day. The country’s size makes it easy to travel from one dramatic landscape to another. New Zealand’s natural beauty is arguable its best quality. And no better way to experience it than behind the wheel of a 90’s “big steamer” Toyota campervan.
8. Tree huggers. Parched? Go ahead: drink straight from that backcountry stream. Kiwis are fiercely protective of their natural environment. Just try to sneak dirty hiking boots past border security. 30 percent of the country is protected land, and the government does a good job with its limited conservation budget to maintain an awesome network of walking tracks and nearly a thousand backcountry huts. And don’t worry about dangerous animals – you’re on top of the food chain.
9. Tidy kiwis. One could attribute the lack of litter on the streets to hurricane force winds blowing everything to sea, but I’m chalking it up to attitude. Kids are taught to be tidy kiwis, a concept that prevails into adulthood. When you live in a clean place, you want to uphold that standard. It’s an unspoken bond that unites Wellingtonians and makes you feel privy to a secret: that you’re living in one of the world’s great cities. Shhhhh.
10. Positivity polite. Most kiwis are delightful. Ask your workmate how it’s going and you’re likely to get a positive answer – even if a wizard put a curse on his dog that morning. Servers and mechanics? Relaxed and friendly. Airplane attendants? Smiling as they pour you another pinot noir. Decorum is the golden rule, as more people choose to bite their tongue than make a scene. It’s a better way to be.
There you have it. With so much to love about New Zealand, I’ve barely scratched the surface. When we first arrived, most of these cultural aspects felt weird – but over time they became normal. Now that we’re back in America – Golden, Colorado to be exact – will New Zealand’s charms stay with us or will we fall back into our old ways? I’m keen-as to stay good as gold, matey potatey 🙂
One of my wishes for Luke is that he cherishes his New Zealand citizenship. I hope his connection to the shaky isles keeps us connected as well. We look forward to many visits and who knows … maybe residency again some day? When he’s old enough to walk, I want to take him up Hawker Street (where he got his middle name) and through the forest to the summit of Mount Victoria – a walk I did hundreds of times and it never lost its magic.
Thank you New Zealand for being so good to us. We’ll treasure these memories forever.
–Scott, Jess & Luke