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6 Things I've Learned About New Zealand

New Zealand
by Mailynn Stormon-Trinh Jul 2, 2013

I moved to New Zealand after falling in love with a Kiwi I met volunteering in Thailand. To keep our budding romance alive, I nabbed a working holiday visa and went back with him to his hometown of Wellington, where I’ve been living ever since.

Like any new resident, I had to be schooled on certain things. I may never be a proper Kiwi, but I’ve learned a few lessons in the past two and half years that have made me feel more in tune with this island country.

1. Rugby is the best sport ever.

I would say I avidly detested sports until I got to New Zealand. Now I know why — I hadn’t discovered rugby.

I was living in Wellington when New Zealand hosted the 2011 Rugby World Cup. NZ’s national team, the All Blacks, completely dominated the whole competition and it converted me for life. These guys make NFL players look like wussies. Rugby players don’t wear padding or helmets, and when they tackle each other they keep on playing. Just take a look at their ears to see how utterly hardcore these guys are (think cauliflower served up on the side of a face with a bit of blood on top).

Plus, the All Blacks happen to have to the most attractive team members. Seriously, Google them: Dan Carter, Sonny Bill Williams, Richie McCaw, Richard Kahui. Total babes.

2. Wind has a language.

Wind can be “calm,” “freshening,” “strong,” “gale,” and “severe gale.”

The direction it blows is just as important as how strong it is. If it’s blowing a “southerly,” you best bundle up. That wind is coming straight from Antarctica and will bite you good and hard if you’re not prepared with multiple, windproof layers. A “calm” day in Wellington is the greatest gift Mother Nature can give a girl (and her hair). But it’s painfully rare.

It’s 3am right now and I am up writing this article because it’s blowing “gale northerlies” which, unlike the rest of the Wellingtonians who seem to be unbothered by the hurricane outside, is difficult for me to sleep through.

3. Earthquakes are like nature’s roller coasters.

They are fun, scary, and sometimes horrible. For a lot of New Zealanders though, earthquakes, are just scary and horrible. And they happen a lot, because New Zealand sits on some major fault lines.

Two weeks after I first arrived in New Zealand, Christchurch, the country’s third-largest city, suffered a 6.3-magnitude earthquake. It wasn’t the biggest they’d had, but it was shallow and had very bad timing. Over 180 people died and countless more were injured. 10,000 houses were destroyed or needed to be demolished, and some of Christchurch’s oldest and most beautiful buildings crumbled like blue cheese.

The land has been on the serious move ever since. By the end of 2012, Christchurch had experienced over 11,000 aftershocks, and experts expect these to keep on coming.

4. Socialised medicine is awesome.

Like so awesome I can no longer pretend to understand why any other options still exist.

Until September 2012, I lived a happy, healthy life void of sickness and surgeries. Then, I woke up one day with the most horrific stomach pains I’ve ever felt. “I am dying, I am dying, I am dying…” I sputtered to my boyfriend in the urgent care waiting room.

Turns out, I was not dying. But my appendix was. After going under the knife and spending three nights in the hospital, I went home with several prescriptions (all costing $3 each) and three keyhole-sized incisions in my abdomen.

Instead of going bankrupt at the age of 26 from the hospital bills, I got to stay home from work, watch Season 6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and read trashy magazines for a whole week — and I didn’t have to pay a cent. Sure, I’d been paying more taxes than I would have back in the States, but this is why.

5. Kiwis can really drink.

New Zealanders are not super hip Europeans who eat dinner at 10pm, don’t make an appearance at clubs until after midnight, and then party until breakfast the next morning. Because they are people who start drinking at approximately 4:30pm on a Friday with their “workmates,” skip dinner completely, and then proceed to party until breakfast the next morning.

That is 14 hours of clocked party time as opposed to 7 in Europe and South America (as opposed to the 45 minutes I am usually comfortable with). As an American who is small, Asian, and usually hungry, I live with a semi-permanent hangover.

6. New Zealand is not Australia or Europe.

I must admit that when I moved to New Zealand in a tank top and Thai fisherman pants after spending the previous year in Southeast Asia, I was perplexed by the climate. Wasn’t New Zealand pretty much like Australia? I know it’s hot there!

This one may seem obvious, but trust me — thanks to my numerous Skype calls to various US-based companies, I realized that some Americans think we’re somewhere sandwiched between the UK and Fiji (which is technically true, but so is like 80% of the rest of the world). A lot people have no idea where New Zealand is. Seriously.

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