One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to make this blog more fun (and update it more often), so to start 2012 right here are five of my favorite Kiwi quirks so far. I’ll be listing another five sometime in the future, along with some other surprises – and I promise I’ll get back to my post-Auckland travels soon, too!
- Public Service Messages
New Zealanders are really nice. Everybody knows this. They also rely a lot on their government, and their taxes go to everything from their health care services to their government-owned, publicly funded news and radio stations. So, given their generally nice attitudes and their dedication to pervasive government involvement, it really shouldn’t be too surprising that they have loads of televised public service messages. What’s quirky about their public service messages though are the uniquely Kiwi twists they put on otherwise sobering messages about drink driving, alcohol and domestic abuse. Hey, it never hurts to laugh!
- No Shoes, No Problem
It’s fitting that they filmed The Lord of the Rings here, because everyone in New Zealand has Hobbit feet. Seriously. And you know why? Because no one here wears shoes. Ever. Seriously! Walking through the supermarket, going to the bank, picking out clothes at the local mall… you name it, and you can probably spot at least one person out and about sans footwear. They’re truly an island nation (surfing, anyone?), and they have far more important things to worry about than grabbing a pair of jandals on the way out the door!
- Beets and Mayo on Burgers
Order a burger here and you will automatically get one served with all the usual condiments… and beets and mayonnaise. Beets are the Kiwi version of pickles. While this may sound like a strange combination, it’s actually really delicious – the grease of the burger somehow combines with the slightly sweet flavor of the beets and the tanginess of the mayo to create an epic combination. I had my first “real” Kiwi hamburger at a Gypsy Fair in Gizzy (long story), and I haven’t looked back! They also love putting eggs on their burgers, which is apparently the bomb, though I haven’t had the chance to sample one yet. I’ll keep you updated!
- Perpetual 90’s Flashbacks
Remember how good radio music was in the 90’s? Like, how mind-bendingly, world-shatteringly, never-to-be-replicated-again awesome? Yeah, well, the Kiwis do. And they play it CONSTANTLY. I recently spent 3 hours in a Kathmandu outdoor store (again, another long story) and their entire background soundtrack was good ol’ 90s radio hits. ‘N Sync, BSB, Christina, Britney, Goo Goo Dolls, Third Eye Blind, Spice Girls, Hanson, TLC, Barenaked Ladies, Vertical Horizon, Matchbox 20, even Creed (man, remember that madness?)! The list goes on. I’m living in a state of 90’s bliss, and it’s wonderful.
- Talk Radio 4ever
Ok, quick quiz: Can you remember the last time you listened to talk radio? Aside from the fanatics who listen to it day and night, can you think of the last time you actually tuned in to listen to someone opine on the day’s news? Have you ever actually met someone who called into a radio talk show just to hear their own voice? I hadn’t either, until I moved to New Zealand. Suddenly, talk radio (or “talkback radio,” as they call it) isn’t just some fringe media spectacle – it’s on the radio, all the time, everywhere. All of my hosts (and all of the hosts for the other volunteers I know) have had it playing in the background, almost constantly. At least the hosts are (mostly) not insane!