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The 5 First Things a Kiwi Learns When They Move to the US

New Zealand United States Student Work
by Elen Turner Apr 20, 2015

1. That you will be mistaken for a Brit.

You’ve spent your entire travelling life explaining to people that you’re not Australian, that New Zealand and Australia are different countries, and that yes, the New Zealand and Australian accents are quite distinct.

Forget all that.

In the US, everyone will think you’re British (Australians don’t get off the hook here either — Americans will think you’re British, too). You will have to memorize a new set of lines to play on repeat: no, New Zealand isn’t anywhere near the UK. No, a New Zealand accent is not even remotely like a British accent. Yes, British people probably do like to eat bagels and cream cheese, but you recommend asking a British person…

2. That you’ll have to redefine the meaning of ‘conversation’.

Kiwis like to think of themselves as a friendly bunch of people, outgoing and always up for a chat. In the US, you may find yourself wanting to become invisible, to not have to interact with another living person on the street, on the bus, in the shop, while waiting at traffic lights. But this is America — you cannot escape random conversations in public.

What’s your favorite holiday? Are you from Europe? I was late to work this morning because my cat ate my daughter’s friend’s dog’s homework…

The sooner you learn that you aren’t really meant to converse in these situations, that you’re just meant to talk back at the speaker without listening to what they’re saying, the easier a time you’ll have out in public.

3. That New Zealand has the world’s most advanced banking system.

Kiwis, enjoy feeling 30 years ahead of the game on this one, as you don’t often get to do so. New Zealand just discontinued the use of cheques and it’s almost a cashless society now, with the near-total use of Eftpos. The US still relies on cheques for everything, from paying the rent and the gas bill to receiving your pay. Internet banking is a vaguely familiar concept to some Americans, but direct transfers between bank accounts? Not so much. Suggesting to your landlord that you’d like to pay your rent by direct transfer will be met with suspicion, as he will think you’re trying to break into his account.

4. That New Zealand = Lord of the Rings.

New Zealand tourism’s carpet-bombing approach to connecting the country with the Lord of the Rings films worked in the USA. Most Americans have only heard of New Zealand through the Lord of the Rings films, so be prepared to enthuse over them if you’re a fan, or grit your teeth and smile politely if you’re not. You could try pointing out that most of the stunning landscapes were actually CGI composites of various places, and that you can’t really find those shimmering elfin villages high in the mountains, but this will probably just shatter the Americans’ happy illusions and not win you many friends.

5. That New Zealand’s houses aren’t weatherproof.

All those times you thought you were cold during a Dunedin summer or an Auckland winter or a Wellington gale? (OK, so every day in Wellington). They weren’t because the weather was cold, but because the houses are poorly made and not weatherproof. North America — particularly the north-eastern climes — have winters that should strike fear into the heart of any Kiwi. But funnily enough, you are likely to have been colder at home, even the semi-subtropical parts of the country. Most houses in the US are well-insulated, well-heated, and double-glazed. So you can enjoy the view of the snow (all three meters of it) without feeling a thing, which certainly cannot be said for Auckland’s rain or Wellington’s wind.

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