What I’ve learnt in a month in NZ

As of this weekend we have been in NZ a whole month! Where has that gone!? Weirdly, I kind of thought I’d be more homesick by now (thank you Whatsapp Video Call), but I think we’re just aware that we really aren’t here for that long. It’ll be Christmas before we know it!

We’ve definitely thrown ourselves into things in the last 4 weeks, but there are a whole heap of places, walks, eats and adventures on our list (we literally have a list..).

In no particular order, here are a few things we’ve learnt since we landed:

  • I still know most of the words to the Lord of the Rings films. Rob, I would apologise, but I’m not even sorry. You know you married a big old nerd.
  • I would be a terrible freelancer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m doing a lot of writing – and not just on here – but I am also frequently distracted by my book / podcasts / staring at the sea. I definitely NEED a deadline and some structure to get actual work done!
  • Rob works very differently to me. I knew this already: I don’t wear a wig to meetings and have never finished at 2 to play golf. This has been more revelatory for Mr TG: “If it’s 3pm and I’ve finished my work for the day, I can’t… just… leave.” Well, no. That’s how work works. Working in an office with an actual HR function for the first time has blowwwwn his mind. “They ask me how I’m doing! And how my workload is!” It’s made me more aware of the things I take for granted about work: if I’ve got a problem, I can speak to someone about it; I can have a chat with my colleagues while making tea and it’s not wasting time; I close my office door at 5 and leave my work there!
  • Coffee is never going to be the same again. Ugh. This country has ruined me. I have been completely spoilt; wherever I am, I can get an absolutely perfect flat white for less than £2.50. I am dreading seeing a Costa again, for my heart will truly break.

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  • I understand weather now. I know I’ve complained talked a lot about the wind on my instagram when I’ve been trying to run. It’s a genuine struggle; sometimes I just think “BRACE!” and try and avoid being blown into the road / sea. Umbrellas are for idiots. As are any form of hair straightening – totally pointless.
  • Kiwis really are the most open, friendly, disarming people. My favourite EVER example: who in Britain in their right mind would walk into a sauna and introduce themselves?! “How you going? I’m Steve! What are you training for? I’m a kitesurfer. It’s about weight versus power. Great surf out there, ey…” #bemoresaunasteve
  • If you are moving to a new city, don’t live in the centre. We’ve been in Kilbirnie and now Island Bay, then Lyall Bay in November and Hataitai in December. I’m really loving getting to know the suburbs and their different vibes and personalities, and we’ll feel like we know the city inside out by the time we get home!
  • They genuinely think of Christmas the way we think of Christmas, despite the fact that THEIR CHRISTMAS IS IN THE SUMMER. They don’t seem to understand why we think this is weird. A few people have said it’s from watching Christmas films, which makes some sense, but it’s more than that.Lots of people do a “midwinter Christmas” with their friends in July “to make it more Christmassy”. It’s like this collective cultural memory. NZ is pretty new: all pakeha have some connection to the UK or Europe and for most it’s only a generation or two ago. Those traditions have passed down and seem imbued in them at birth. I guess it makes sense that you hold threads that connect you to something more tightly the further they are being stretched.
  • That said, they still think a mince pie has meat in it. *rolls eyes*.

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  • Living by the sea makes me so happy. I will always be a Bournemouth girl at heart and feel at my very happiest on the beach, sand between my toes, breathing in salty sea air. I couldn’t live in the midlands (sorry, midlands). I don’t understand places with “no edges”. But despite knowing this, I don’t think either of us realised just what a difference being by the sea every day makes to your daily life. We are going to be househunting next year and I really think we’ll expand our search a bit now (parents, don’t panic, we aren’t expanding it as far as NZ).
  • We love getting outdoors. When we came home from travelling we said to each other we’d be “more outdoorsy”, as we’d realised we enjoyed it so much. And we sort of did… but work and life admin and rarely having more than one weekend in a month in Cardiff gets in the way. Equally, I think it’s easy to get a bit intimidated by it at home. We aren’t “outdoorsy people”. Being here takes the pressure off.  Nobody knows that we dont know how to read a map and care about being rained on and don’t know our icebreaker from our crampons. You can enjoy the outdoors without having all the gear or sleeping in a field or being able to orienteer yourself blindfolded up a glacier backwards. You can just get outside and get some air in your lungs because it’s nice and it’s there to be enjoyed. You also get eat a lot more crisps, which can’t be bad.
  • Home & Away is terrible but… that hasn’t stopped me watching it. THE SHAME.
  • The Bake Off bar is much lower. Seriously. We’re watching Aussie Bake Off (the first-ever Kiwi one starts this week and has had sooo much press) and the standard is nowhere near as high as ours. Case in point: last week, the signature was a Swiss Roll. Pfft. Amateurs. And someone said sh*t on last week’s episode, and they didn’t bleep it out! Haha. Mary Berry would never stand for that…

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  • Creative writing is harder than you think. Well, than I thought. You need a lot of self-motivation (see point 1) and a really well-formed idea. I used to do loads of creative writing but I’ve struggled to really get into anything so far. I think sitting down and saying to myself, “Today I’m going to write a NOVEL!” was maybe a bit overambitious. But I’ve got time and I’m enjoying having the headspace to play around with some ideas. I’ve learnt the main thing is to keep trying to write – nobody thought of an entire story in one go!
  • Keeping in touch is much easier now – sort of. It’s been amazing to Facetime mum and our friends, and have pictures of our brand new nephew (!!) within a few hours of him making his appearance! But – it’s also pretty easy to ignore a whatsapp or an email and that can make you (me) a bit anxious. People may have read your message, but they are also living lives and going to work and doing their washing or whatever else. The time difference also means that for most of my day, you lot are asleep. It’s strange going for a walk at lunchtime and knowing I can’t speak to anyone for a few more hours (all my baby mamas, hit me up!). However, it’s fun waking up to a flurry of pings. We can tell when people wake up by what time we start getting Instagram notifications… sometimes I’m like “Ooh, so-and-so’s up early!”.
  • NZ isn’t perfect.The sterling work of Visit New Zealand generally markets it as this lush, green, mythical utopia. And it is – I will never get bored of casual mountains. But it’s not without it’s problems. There’s a lot of poverty, a big recycling problem, anger about public-sector wage cuts and a lot of tension between Maori and non-Maori communities. Everywhere has issues. Even if you have casual mountains too.
  • Similarly, being here has softened my “the UK isn’t so f*cking great” speech. Don’t get me wrong: I still hate the UK’s sense of entitlement and prejudice, the fact that nobody can have a debate without having an argument, the fact people voted Leave based on absolute lies and the liars are getting away with it, and the general assumption that we have nothing to learn from other cultures. I still get told, “No Brexit before breakfast.” (sorry, Rob). But stepping outside of it has made me appreciate it more too. The NHS, the BBC, our Bake Off. No earthquakes. Being so close to Europe (sob). Being close to, well, anywhere! NZ is 250 years old; our country has history. I can only be so critical of Britain because I’ve, thankfully, grown up there. I had the sheer luck to be born in a safe, privileged, wealthy, powerful country. I am a product of that privilege. I’m still turning it over in my head… There might be a more articulate blog post on this later! Told you I had a lot of time on my hands.

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  • It’s never too late to do something different. I turn 30 in less than two weeks (I KNOW IT’S CRAZY I’VE HARDLY MENTIONED IT) and if you’d told me, at 20, that one day I’d be living in New Zealand with that boy I snogged in the Students’ Union on Saturday night… I’d have been pretty bloody excited. Don’t do something because you feel like you should, or because that’s what everyone around you is doing. If you want to do something, go and do it. Don’t wait for permission or for someone else to make the plans. It’s your life. It’s on you.
  • Lastly, appreciate things in the moment. That’s something I’ve been working on all year. I know I’m lucky to be here, to have the opportunity to press pause on life and step back and take some time to process a pretty mental year. Equally, I know we’ll never be here again. Literally (think big holidays are off the cards for a few years after this…) and… existentially? We don’t get long. So look at the waves. Climb the mountain. Eat the crisps. Spend the afternoon reading if you want to. Just enjoy it, while you’re here. Some advice we could all use being reminded of.

 

 

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