I think New Zealanders tend to have a fairly global outlook and a reasonable understanding of the world. We get media from Australia, the US and the UK (and a little bit from elsewhere), so we know a bit about their respective cultures. We are a country of immigrants, so we understand the accents and vocabulary of many different Englishes (although on the whole our foreign language skills are distinctly lacking). We are a tiny country, miles away from anywhere, and are fully aware of the fact.
But despite our small size, we have a pretty reasonable reputation around the world. People know of our rugby and cricket teams, or Lord of the Rings, or they know pretty much nothing but want to visit anyway. They may not quite know if we’re part of Australia or not, but in my experience people have usually at least heard of New Zealand. And considering there are at least fifty cities in the world with a greater population than the whole of New Zealand, I think that’s pretty good going.
In many ways, this has made it fairly easy to expatriate. We are used to different international brands, we can understand most English speakers pretty well, we are used to online shopping taking practically forever to arrive.
But every so often, expat life throws up a reminder that we are New Zealanders at heart, and always will be. The most recent example is the discovery that not everyone knows what a kiwi is (it’s a bird, not a fruit), or why New Zealanders are called Kiwis. This is our slightly ridiculous national bird.
But there have been many other reminders too.
No one understands me when I say my name.
The short e sound in my strong accent is a constant source of confusion. When I introduce myself as Jenn, most people hear Gin (or maybe Jan, Jean, or Jane). When I ask about my check in luggage, the poor airport security staff get very confused, thinking I am transporting poultry.
People don’t know what togs, jandals, or utes are.
And I just can’t get used to swimsuits, flip flops, and pick ups.
Lots of our slang misses the mark.
But it’s sweet as, bro. There are heaps of Kiwis around to get it, so I’m chuffed. And with two NZ parents, the sprog will understand when we’re yacking away.
People don’t know of some of the greatest foods.
I can’t eat dairy at the moment (boohoo), so I’m among those who are missing out on kiwi dip. But I can still understand the joys of New Zealand fish and chips (vastly superior to the British version), kumara, salt and vinegar chips, mince pies, Vogel’s bread, feijoas, and all that great Kiwi tucker.
Some of our normal brands are considered weird.
We are stoked to see Colgate, Anchor, Mainland, Weetbix etc. But to many they’re just the foreign stuff.
Sometimes these realisations come across a little negative, but that’s really not how I see them at all. I love getting reminders of our amazing little country and its crazy culture. I’m proud to be a New Zealander. I’m proud to be showing New Zealand off to the world a little, and I will be proud to return home when we do.