1. You’ll realize Mexico is the new black.
Although no one seems to have a good idea of what that means! What’s really trending in New Zealand (and many other countries) are symbols typical of Mexican culture, combined with a lot of Tex-Mex elements and a little bit of local interpretation.
You’ll probably cry out of emotion the first time you find a supermarket aisle with the “Mexican Products” sign on it, but you’ll quickly feel the bitterness of disappointment when you realize it’s filled with poor substitutes of all your beloved treats, such as instant guacamole powder (made of dehydrated peas) and salsas that taste like apricot jam (not a bad taste, but don’t expect to find chipotle or habanero flavors).
And yes, every single bar around will serve you a Corona with a lemon slice on top.
2. You’ll quickly notice that America is not the center of the world and that geography is quite a relative subject.
Could you find Turkmenistan in a map? No way, right? It’s the same with Kiwis and Mexico. They don’t have the least idea where we are located or even what language we speak. Why would they?
They know there is some geographical or cultural relationship between Mexicans, Argentines and Brazilians and that we are all part of that strange continent called America. Distance does justify the lack of knowledge about the whereabouts of Mexico, but it never hurts to get curious and grab a map once in a while, and I’m specifically thinking about that lady who once asked me if Mexico is a part of South America…and where exactly in Europe is South America (I’ve got witnesses who can support this).
3. You’ll understand that social support programs are not necessarily the same in every country.
Maybe you’ll be surprised to find people begging for money in the main streets of Auckland or Wellington. Maybe you’ll start thinking about how social inequities are so widespread thanks to…wait a second! Is that beggar guy hitting the ATM? And is that his friend coming out from the fast food joint all set and ready for lunch? I bet you didn’t see that coming.
4. You’ll spend a few weeks trying to find a serious newspaper.
Until you realize the New Zealand Herald IS a serious newspaper, but due to a lack of big news within the country, it can often be mistaken for a tabloid. The front page is normally taken up by crime, gossip, royalty news, car accidents, and everything All Blacks. The content starts getting deeper near election season, and the international section is quite good. You don’t believe me? Go see today’s online edition and skim over the headlines. Convinced now?
5. You’ll understand that your English fluency is not nearly enough.
You still have to develop your Kiwi-English fluency! Between the strange accent, the Maori words mixed in between and those inscrutable localisms, your interpretation skills will be put to their maximum test. But don’t freak out, after a couple weeks (ok, a couple months) you’ll start developing your ear. The time’ll come when you’ll start using phrases like “Good on ya, mate,” and people will stop correcting the way you say fish and chips (fosh and chops). Only then you can praise yourself for your proficiency. Choice bro!
Wanna put your listening abilities to the test? You can start here: http://youtu.be/dIYvD9DI1ZA. No subtitles though!
6. You’ll be surprised by the absolute lack of football.
Why are there no goals on those football fields and what are those big posts over there? What? Rugby? Ok, tell me all about it.
Believe it or not, you’ll end up understanding rugby…eventually.
7. You’ll learn how hard it is to get arrested.
What do you think would happen if you were dancing — half-naked and blatantly intoxicated — in the intersection of two important avenues in Mexico City? But that’s not all, what if you then asked a couple of cops to take a selfie with you? Not a good idea, right?
Well, in New Zealand those officers would probably escort you to a nearby ambulance or somewhere safe. Here they’ll take care of you until you’re in good enough condition to continue on your way home. And you’ll probably get your selfie. Disbelief again? Here’s your proof.
8. You’ll eventually start to realize how superior raincoats are in relation to umbrellas.
You know how to distinguish a tourist in the middle of Wellington? You guessed it; it’s that guy having a three-round fight with an umbrella. They don’t call it “Windy Welly” for nothing. An umbrella here is pretty useless, not just because of the effort it requires to manipulate one under windy conditions, but mainly because rain in New Zealand tends to fall more horizontal than what you’re used to. Better get a good raincoat now.
9. Remember every time you have complained about how the sun burns but doesn’t warm you? Well, its gonna get real this time.
This is a common mistake with new arrivals: it is a cold morning and you are freezing, so you decide to go to the park or somewhere outside to relax and sunbathe. You’ll get rid of the cold feeling, but now you have a sunburn that’s close to a medical emergency. What happened to you? Remember the hole in the ozone layer? Well, that’s what happened. I’m sure you’ll never leave home again without your dose of sunblock (approved by the Cancer Society of New Zealand of course).
10. You’ll be surprised by the amount of stars that are visible to the naked eye.
I’m not aware of the scientific reasons, but the skies in New Zealand are simply spectacular. The colours of clouds during the day (the Maori name for New Zealand is Aotearoa, meaning the Land of the Great White Cloud) and the amount of stars you can see at night will make you think that those mushrooms in your pizza were sprinkled with some magic. Think you’ve seen an unbeatable night sky*? Wait until you are in the middle of nowhere during a night with no moon in the southern territories of New Zealand.
*This challenge doesn’t apply to anyone who has spent a night in the Atacama desert.
11. One day you’ll catch yourself in the middle of a supermarket…without shoes!
No, it’s not one of those recurring nightmares like showing up to grade school in your doggy slippers. This is you adapting to New Zealand. Kiwis love to go out barefooted. Feels quite inviting, especially when you don’t have to worry about dog shit and broken beer bottles all over the street. Give it a try — it could be the beginning of a good and healthy relationship with your feet.
Haere mai ki Aotearoa, my fellow Mexicans.