We’ve survived our first week in Welly! Rob’s adjusting to life in an office (he’s enjoying it, but think it’s been a bit of a culture shock compared to the freedom of self-employment..!) and I’ve mostly been exploring the neighbourhoods and wondering how many coffees a day is too many. The clocks go forward this weekend. We’re planning to head up Mount Victoria; it’s an easy up-and-down walk from the city, and a good way to work up an appetite for brunch!
We’re already starting to feel at home: crucially, I can do a pretty good Kiwi accent now (the way they say “egg” is hilarious). I thought I’d share a few things we’ve noticed about the city and what it’s like living here.
- The weather changes all the time
I know I’ve said this before, but it really is windy!! We can see out over Evans Bay and you can tell how windy it is outside based on how choppy the waves look when you pull back the curtains. We’ve been lucky with the weather this week, but while it’s warm in the sun it’s pretty nippy when it goes in. We’ve got a decking area out the front of our little blue house but I’ve only been brave enough to sit out there when accompanied by a blanket or a cuppa (or both!).
That said, the changeable weather makes for some pretty incredible scenery. The view from our window changes basically every time I look at it and never fails to blow my mind. Our house is up high, looking out to a line of mountains on the other side. When the sun’s going down they glow red; it’s look looking at a moonscape. I love it <3.
- It’s bigger and smaller than we thought
We spent a few days in Welly last time we were in NZ, staying with our lovely friend Jo (who is unbelievably living in Canada at the moment… we’re gutted to miss you Jo!). It’s definitely bigger than we remember! Aside from the harbour, Te Papa and Lambton Quay, I didn’t remember as much of it as I thought. There is so much going on and so many cafes / restaurants / bars we want to try (something I read said it has more per capita than NYC!).
That said, it’s also smaller than we thought. We definitely thought travelling around the city would take longer. Maybe we’re just used to London? The neighbourhoods are smaller and are closer together than we realised; I can walk from here to Lyall Bay (beach) or Newtown (lots of shops / cafes) in about 20 minutes and it only takes 15 minutes on the bus to the city centre. Our next place is further out but will still (hopefully) only take about half an hour.
The neighbourhoods also have so much character; you don’t just have to go into the city to find some life.
- Earthquakes are a real deal here
My geography A Level is finally coming into play… We all know NZ gets earthquakes but I’ve been interested to see how present the worry is in people’s day-to-day lives. The last big one was in Kaikoura on the South Island two years ago and was a biggie (Wikipedia calls it ‘the most complex earthquake ever studied’). It killed two people and caused landslides that effectively cut the town off for over a month, with the main highway taking over a year to repair. And the whole country is still feeling the fallout of The Big One in Christchurch in 2011. That’s where we flew into in 2013 and I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s changed in the last five years.
There’s been a big story about buildings being earthquake-proofed (or not), and how people aren’t prepared for the next big one (you should have a torch and bottled water handy, and try and get to higher ground on foot, not in your car!). R even had earthquake safety training as part of his induction (get in a door frame, or if he’s in the office, under his desk).
Being so close to the water, tsunamis are also a genuine risk in Welly. An article in the paper about people’s quake apathy following Christchurch/Kaikoura made it clear that if there’s a quake, a tsunami could follow pretty sharpish and “THERE WILL BE NO WARNING”. Argh!! Thankfully we are pretty high up so we can just leg it to the safe zone!
That said (and to reassure our parents!)… they aren’t expecting any rumblings any time soon! The article about apathy was very interesting. They do happen here, but people don’t seem to think it will affect them (when will humans learn?). A guy in the supermarket earlier told me that his biggest problem after the Kaikoura quake was that it took him forever to clean up all the seeds/spices in his kitchen…
- It’s not touristy
I haven’t seen a single souvenir / tourist tat shop. It’s refreshing, if slightly strange, considering this is the capital! I think there’s more of that kind of thing in Auckland; it’s a much bigger city and has more of a backpacker presence.
A guy in R’s office was genuinely confused as to why we wanted to come over here: “It’s cold and it rains all the time.” Yeah… but it’s New Zealand! A lot of his colleagues did the same scholarship but in London or New York. It just shows, the grass is always greener!
- It’s colourful!
You already know how much I love our little blue house! The houses are generally wooden, like ours, and a lot of them are painted bright colours. They’re also really individual, not like the UK, where houses on the same street will genuinely look alike. It’s so cheerful, these funny little coloured houses scattered up the hillside, surrounded by all that green. Rob keeps saying we are genuinely in Hobbiton!
There’s also a lot of street art. Not quite Hosier Lane standards, but they love a mural! A lot of them are council-commissioned (a great way to spruce up a blank wall) and it’s nice that they don’t seem to be instantly accessorised with other graffiti.
- It’s pretty cool
Lonely Planet recently voted Welly the world’s “Coolest Little Capital” – great timing! As well as all the street art (surely a giant David Bowie would make anywhere cool?) it’s got a thriving indy scene, with curious and creative restaurants, coffee roasters, bakers and breweries on almost every corner. I’ve seen one Starbucks and one Nandos. I cannot tell you how happy that makes me. I am not looking forward to being reunited with Costa bloody Coffee when I get home.
People really seem to appreciate individuality and creativity, and not just in terms of food. It’s pretty casual here. My mum always comments on how people in Cardiff “get so dressed up just to go shopping” (they do!), but here it seems pretty unusual to see people with loads of makeup on, or really “done up”. It’s just quite understated. We’re going out tonight so maybe I’ll see a different side of things then, but I’ve already noticed I’m wearing less makeup and embracing the windswept look.
Even the corporate scene’s more laid back: R cannot get over the fact they call each other “mate” in court. Amazing.
- It’s friendly
That laid-back nature spills over into how people interact. In Britain, it’s THE MOST AWKWARD THING IN THE WORLD if you accidentally make eye contact with someone on the train. You would start sweating if someone started chatting to you in the bus queue. The horror!! What an eccentric person! They are probably trying to rob me / stab me. Ohmygod. Just smile and don’t say anything. Is it hot in here?
Newsflash: Kiwis laugh at us for that!
If you catch someone’s eye while you’re walking along, they generally smile at you! I was taking a photo of a pastry while queuing for coffee (not even embarrassed about it, they were incredible) and the woman in front was like, “They’re great aren’t they!”.
It’s not over-friendly, people don’t instantly sit you down and ask for your life story, but in those little, incidental, everyday interactions, people are just friendlier. No big deal. I once told a man in Kin & Ilk in Pontcanna that I liked his tie (it was a Friday, it had whales on it, I like whales!) and he genuinely did not know what to do with himself.
It feels more open and just… nicer for it. Bloody awkward Brits. I’d like to say it’s something I’ll bring home with me, but I’ll just become known as “that weird girl in Pontcanna who chats to strangers in coffee shops” (though maybe I already am?)…
People will also do you a favour without a lot of hassle. When R’s suit needed pressing and the dry cleaner was closed, the lady suggested we take it to the charity shop over the road. They had it ready in 10 minutes and only just let us give them a donation as a thanks. No worries, bro!
- They LOVE British TV
Seriously. They LOVE it. And the ones that have made it over are so RANDOM! Some of the British shows that are broadcast here regularly include:
- Coronation Street
- Antiques Roadshow
- Shop Well For Less (as in that budget swap one with Alex Jones & Steph Off BBC Breakfast – ?!)
- Vanity Fair (the new ITV version – I’m actually quite pleased about this; I know Bodyguard has been massive at home and am gutted to be missing it!!)
- This weird game show presented by Ben Sheppard which is basically focused on one of those seaside-arcade coin-pushing machines… (seriously, it’s on every day!). That’s usually my cue to go out exploring. If I find myself getting into it I’ll know it really is time to go get a job!
Still no GBBO (sob!) but I’m enjoying the Aussie version!
The Royals are also a big deal down here. I’m sure this is probs in part to do with Harry and Meghan visiting in Oct/Nov (sadly we’re in Auckland when they’re in Welly; I know Meghan will be gutted to miss us!), but Charles, Camilla, Kate too – they’re on all the mag covers. They are proper celebs over here.
Obviously there are factions that are a bit eye-roll about the whole Royal Visit thing (like there are at home), but it’s interesting seeing what the Commonwealth really means, outside of the UK. I always thought it was a bit of a weird throwback, more Series-1-of-The-Crown than 2018, but they really do seem to feel like our royals are “theirs” too.
I’m also enjoying the fact that nobody can guess where I’m from. R and I know from our travels we don’t really look British (this pleases me probably a bit too much). With out rain jackets on I think we can pretty much pass for Kiwis – until we start speaking. I’ve definitely noticed people turning their heads after catching our accents as we walk down the street. And my coffee order has been lost in translation a couple of times!!
- They use a lot more Te Reo Maori (on TV) than we do Welsh
Like… a lot more. We arrived in the middle of Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori (Maori Language Week) so to being with I did wonder if they were just hamming it up for a few days. I’ve watched the breakfast news most mornings and while it’s not presented bilingually, the presenters sprinkle in plenty of Te Reo Maori phrases alongside the English: “good morning”, the date and time, “thank you”, “have a great day”, “see you tomorrow”. R’s work has “Maori Word of the Day” and it’s used a lot in marketing/advertising around the place.
It’s very interesting coming from one bilingual country to another and seeing how they approach it here. The road signs aren’t in Te Reo Maori, and I can’t say I’ve heard it much out and about, which you do in Wales. But there’s only one BBC Wales reporter who signs off with “Hywl Fawr” at home.
Though thinking about it, they say “ciao for now” in Te Reo Maori… and then put Alex Jones on. So I guess it’s quite like Wales after all.
10. Surprising cuisine alert…
My tenth thing was going to be “it’s really active” but I feel that’s fairly obvious… so here’s more of a curveball: they LOVE sushi. There are sushi places everywhere! There’s even one in Kilbirnie, which is quite a small suburb, and it’s even more popular the Subway! I know there’s a big Malaysian influence in Aus / NZ food culture, but I’ve been surprised that sushi is such a “thing” here. I’ll have to try some and see what the fuss is about…
Something quite cute yesterday: to make R feel welcome in a team meeting, his manager had brought some chocolates, explaining they were new to NZ and a bit of a hit here and he might not have tried one before….
It was a Crunchie. Ha!
Slang of the day: Shopping trundler (shopping trolley); scroggin (trail mix – such a disgusting word!!)