Online, that is…
Wow, 3 months is a long time for a talker like me to stay quiet. To be honest, I’ve been suffering from a little bit of a bloggers block while travelling.
I left you in November, in my final week in New Zealand, and I jetted off on my adventures with promises that I’d keep in touch. Well shit, I do apologise, better late than never!
If anybody has been watching, I have posted one update since I flew out of Auckland, asking for help from anybody who could offer it, to build a house in Fiji. But it seems that was my last post – what a rubbish keeper-in-toucher! I ask for your help and tell you NOTHING about progress.
I’d love to bring you up to speed on that, but the story so far is not a short one, so I’ll break it up into bite-sized chunks and I guess I’d better start at the beginning…
On November 26th my New Zealand visa came to an end, forcing me, against my will (that’s a lie) to vacate Auckland. I had a pretty bloody good 12 months in New Zealand, saw beautiful things, met beautiful people, etc. but ultimately, I was ready to leave when the time came. Still, I think 12 months of my life in one place deserves a post all of its own, so that’s where I’ll kick off.
Let’s talk about New Zealand.
Pre-New Zealand Brief
Once upon a time, there was a *ahem* young *cough cough* traveller called Katy, who entered New Zealand for all the wrong reasons and had no intention of enjoying herself there at all.
Katy was a little sad on the inside because she never really wanted to leave Australia in the first place. She had arrived in beautiful WA two years earlier with no plans to stay, but somewhere along the way, managed to lose herself in all of the good times and sunshine… and of course, there was a man.
For a British citizen, 2 years is the max time frame you can spend in Aus on a working holiday visa, so Katy made the same mistake that 9 million travellers before her had made, and booked a flight to the nearest piece of land that would let her in and allow her to work.
She did this on the assumptions that:
1) It’s not that far away, so is probably just the same as Australia.
2) A couple of months of work in Auckland would be enough to fund a few more months on the road, and
3) A couple of months out of Australia meant being able to travel back in as a visitor and have another go.
Then, a year and a half later, Katy wrote a short story about herself in the third person, to highlight her own stupidity.
So, to clarify:
1) New Zealand is NOT the same as Australia. It’s a completely different country, don’t be so dumb. When you enter a new country, always enter with a fresh pair of eyes and clean slate. There’s nothing more underwhelming for a traveller than unmet expectations… So drop the expectations and comparisons.
2) A couple of months of work is not even close to enough time to save money if you have two outgoing loans and a large appetite for sugar, shoes and travel, and
3) There is really no need for a number 3, I’m just a little OCD about consistency in numbering systems.
Now that I’ve taken my head out of my arse for long enough to learn these lessons, I reckon I can have a good go at a sensible review of:
The +’s and –‘s of New Zealand (A British Perspective)
I’ll give you five pro’s and five cons, to make sure that there’s no suggestion that I’m trying to talk it up or down, I don’t want to use this post to sway you, just inform you – and also, because of the numbering OCD thing.
Let’s start with positives:
Recruitment and Employment Standards
Arriving in a new country means setting yourself up from scratch. I’ve found this tough in the past and in most cases it’s been what looks like laziness and disinterest on the part of employment agencies that makes starting a new life such a slow process. That’s not the case in New Zealand. Within days of landing I had interviews set up with every agency in Auckland and they were interested to get to know me better to make sure that the jobs they suggested were the right fit for me.
Once employed, I felt valued as a worker, which hasn’t usually been the case in other countries as a temp or casual employee.
If you’re into your adrenaline activities, there’s no shortage here. It’s a small enough place that you can travel from sand to snow in under an hour and jumping from buildings, cliffs, bridges and planes are not out of the ordinary pass times.
If you’re not into the heavy hard core fun, there are plenty of quieter options for you, with hundreds of hikes in and around the city or countryside.
I’m not even covering a tenth of what’s available, but if there is a thing, and you are into it, I can almost guarantee New Zealand will make it available to you.
Music and Free Events
NZ isn’t the first place you might think of when you consider the music scene, but Kiwis take a lot of pride in their local talent, and there’s really no shortage. While the rest of the world are marvelling at the talents of American superstars and winners of the X-Factor, New Zealand are busy creating their own local vibes to party to. Apart from the amazing local talents, they have seen a few of their singers and song writers make it big and take on the world charts, some you may have heard of include Crowded House (a collaboration with Australians), Ladyhawke, Fat Freddy’s Drop, Flight of the Conchords and Lorde, but for the true Kiwi experience, you really need to check out the smaller local venues to be severely wowed.
In addition to regular small evening venue gigs, they also have a range of free music events, which seem to crop up every weekend throughout the summer at a range of outdoor venues.
If I had to describe the scenery of New Zealand with only one word, it would have to be ‘character’. Everywhere you look is another beautiful, diverse and rugged landscape. From looking out of my city office window at a multi-coloured pastel sunrise over the sea and a local volcano, to mirror lakes and rolling green and snow-capped mountains in the countryside. Everything here is a postcard.
The Incredible Colours of Nature
While I could group this with point 4, the incredible colours of nature in this country deserve a point all of their own. These days, you don’t get to see natural beauty in somebodies holiday snaps without 16 insta-filters and a fuzzy frame, so to see these places clearly and in person, and realise that’s actually what they look like to the naked eye is absolutely breath-taking.
The grass is greener than anywhere else I’ve been, the water looks chemically enhanced, the sky is an alien shade of blue and a storm brings clouds and colours I’ve never seen before in nature. It’s pretty spectacular. But don’t trust my pictures here, you should see it with your own eyes.
Well that was all very nice, I hate to bring down the positive vibe but I promised an even and unbiased account, so I’m afraid it’s time to change my tone.
On, to the Negatives:
Roads and Traffic
I can’t quite get my head around what’s worse here, the people driving or the roads they’re driving on. The roads themselves are not made for the people who need to travel on them. In Auckland specifically, I could spend 20 minutes trying to cross a road as a pedestrian and still beat the traffic to my destination – which literally happened to me every single day trying to get to work during rush hour. The traffic is at an almost standstill heading towards the city and yet each car is so desperate to claim the next inch of the road for themselves that it’s impossible to safely step off the path. So the roads are not made for drivers, not made for pedestrians, how do you expect people to get around? Cycling maybe? HELL FRIKIN NO! I can only imagine how scary it must be to cycle here, the drivers are CRAZY! Everybody is so hell bent on getting to their destination that I wouldn’t feel safe riding alongside them without a chainmail suit and a javelin. My conclusion… Pigeons, they built these cities for pigeons.
As a Welsh girl, I should be able to accept the dull wet greys of spring, summer, autumn and winter, but I’ve become a bit of a weather snob since spending time in a few sunny countries. While sunny days are incredibly picturesque, and stormy days can sometimes be spectacular, I personally prefer my weather to be a little more predictable, and four seasons in a day can be hard to dress for.
I think it may have been the poor attitudes of just a couple of people in a couple of companies who put this on the negatives list, but Customs, banks, the airport, backpacker hostels and very specifically, Vodafone, you guys really need to up your people skills training budget. You suck. Overall, the bedside manner of most professionals I dealt with here as a visitor did not impressa me much, and those who were friendly, were still mostly about as much use as a sponge speed bump.
A pretty serious one, homelessness is visibly prevalent across New Zealand and census statistics show that numbers are rising. Between 2006 and 2013, the rise in homeless people outstripped population growth and of those people who are recorded as homeless, over 10% are sleeping out on the streets (as opposed to those who are staying in shelters or camping grounds and those able to sofa surf with extended family). While this is something most travellers wouldn’t give too much thought to when passing through a country, it is something that’s important to me and I did find it extremely noticeable when walking through the streets here. The New Zealand Government have acknowledged that this is an issue.
Attitudes of Judgement
I don’t want to put ‘People’ on my negative list, because overall, I met great people here and made friends who have made me happy, made me laugh, had a genuinely positive impact on my life, and who I will hopefully never lose contact with, but honestly, this was not a place where I felt completely free to be myself at all times. I sometimes felt that the way I chose to dress or carry myself was important enough for others to judge me. I don’t handle judgement from others with much grace, because it’s not something I like to feel. Frankly, I look a bit like a dick head most of the time, but I always think it’s a shame when it matters to somebody else. I got the distinct impression that it really did matter to some people here. I’m not deluded, everybody judges, I am aware of that, I’m just emphasising to the people of NZ, you don’t need to make it so obvious…
Five positives, five negatives, I guess the only deciding factor here, is how much each one of them matters to you as an individual to decide whether NZ is the devil or your next destination. My best advice, go there and find out anyway, you’ll likely see a completely different side to mine, but at least they’ll be your own opinions, and I guarantee you’ll have a good time finding out.
“You take an angry man to the Himalayas, he just starts complaining about the food. Nowhere is magical unless you can bring the right eyes to it” – Pico Yver
Next up, I’ll get around to telling you all about the project in Fiji! Off to the jungle now for a couple of weeks though, so that one might take some time to upload…