Prior to this trip, I considered myself pretty well traveled back home in the States. Yet, being here in New Zealand is completely unchartered territory. That sounds obvious, but it’s incredible how much is different here when you stop to notice all the small things. Here are a few that jumped out at me.
- Since I left Auckland, I can’t remember seeing a single advertising billboard. They aren’t all over the countryside like they are back home, and it’s actually quite nice not to be bombarded with ads from every direction. Or at all.
- The locals really take pride in their land and living here. As such, you don’t see litter along the sidewalks or next to the roads. Or anywhere, now that I think about it. Bridget, our backpacking guide, says they refer to themselves as “clean, green Kiwis” and it shows.
- Yes, they drive on the opposite side of the road as back home. That takes a little getting used to and for once, I’m thankful I’m not driving. However, from everything I’ve seen so far, motorists are friendly and share the road.
- I quite love the subtle differences in English they speak here. Some words and phrases will catch you by surprise, but they’re easy to figure out, given the context.
- Locals, as well as other backpackers, aren’t glued to their phones all the time like we are back home. It’s incredible, really, and I love it. You can sit and have a conversation with someone without all the beeping and vibrating, knowing you have their attention and they have yours. Let’s do better about this, America. Seriously.
- Traveling is a way of life and part of the culture here. Nearly everyone I’ve spoken with so far has been to various corners of the world, and several of them are bi and trilingual. On the bus today, all 40-something of us went around and introduced ourselves and it was incredible how many people had quit their jobs to travel full time. They weren’t just here on holiday. I’ll write more about this in another post, so watch for it.
- Everyone smokes. Okay, maybe not everyone, but it seems like it. They don’t allow it indoors, which I appreciate, but you see it everywhere else when you’re out and about. Also, they’ve never seen e-cigarettes before and there isn’t a place that sells them here, so if you’re looking for a way to move to New Zealand and start a booming business, get in on the vape craze and start a shop here. This is especially true since cigarettes are $19 NZD a pack. That’s about $16.50 U.S. dollars.
- Prices for things tend to be a bit high, as compared to back home, but no more than some of the pricier parts of the U.S. A bottle of water is $4 NZD, about $3.50 U.S. dollars. A sandwich at a cafe is $12 NZD, about $10 U.S. dollars. My coffee (pictured at the top of this post) was also $4 NZD. Cell phone service is cheap, though. I paid $30 NZD (about $25 U.S. dollars) for 3 GB of data for the time I’m here. I popped the SIM card in my iPhone from home and off I went. Super easy, super cheap.
- The drinking age in New Zealand is 18. For those of you wishing the U.S. would drop the legal age from 21, I’m here to tell ya it’s a bad idea. These 18 year old fools are nuts when they’re drunk. Completely obnoxious. That’s not to say people don’t drink before they’re 21 back home, but after seeing it firsthand when it’s actually legal, I’m completely against lowering the drinking age. Hell, if anything, I might be in favor of raising it!
That’s all for now. I’m sure I’ll have more to share about the cultural and lifestyle differences later. As always, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave a comment if you’re so inclined.