When you have grown up with the BBC as your staple provider of entertainment and news, you realise when you go elsewhere in the world how good the BBC seems by comparison. Impartial (in the main), balanced, no adverts etc etc.
In NZ, there are the usual smattering of news providers on different channels but to be frank, in a country of 4.5 million people there isn’t a lot of news to report. In some ways this is great! It is great that a car crash with one fatality still makes it on to the news (especially if a foreign driver is involved), it is great that a murder still outrages people, it is great that someone holding up a petrol station, while wearing a onesie, to obtain cigarettes is newsworthy…but let us also be honest, in this desensitised age, it is not very exciting either.
To fill up the allotted news time, we end up with what appear to be sponsored stories about new products, new movies etc. I also feel at times like it is painful to see who can qualify as a reporter with their dubious command of the English language.
Which brings me to my final bit of info, channel Three here in NZ has started doing an entertainment show based around the news each weeknight with a studio audience. It is called The Project (if anyone wants to look it up online) and is based on an Australian format from what I have read. When I first heard about it I remember thinking that things must’ve really got desperate on already quite poor NZ TV, but I actually think it is really good! They somehow deliver the main stories and balance having a good laugh about them where they can with the serious messages and debate/opinion. Why shouldn’t the news be entertaining instead of depressing?
At the end of the day, some serious stories take some believing sometimes anyway so why not laugh about it all…has Donald Trump REALLY been elected President? Has the UK REALLY opted to leave the European Union?
In New Zealand, there is a real culture of Do-It-Yourself. From building homes to renovating homes, the isolation of the country and a lack of nearby tradesmen in many places has probably facilitated this culture of people being more self-sufficient.
This translates onto the TV also, because after thinking about food TV last time out, it then occurred to me how many DIY shows are on TV. There are shows from NZ, Australia, Canada, USA and the UK all about this same thing. I can actually understand this a little more here in NZ because of the culture and I suppose these shows give people ideas on how they might change their abode but how many is too many?
But then I wondered something else, on one Australian show where it is as plain as day that they are shopping in Bunnings (a DIY store which I believe has just arrived in the UK), are shows like this really just a blatant sponsored attempt to get you to spend money in those places?
I was thinking recently about the new perspective you get on life when you live elsewhere in the world.
It occurred to me that I could think of only around half a dozen friends who instigate contact with me (either by post, text or email) on a relatively regular basis – and two of these friends do not live in the UK either. I am not sure this was any different before I moved to NZ but in the UK I had regular meetings with people and was more immersed in shared experiences and life in general. The relationships were more organic. It might not seem much but when someone says “Hi, how are you?” once in a while, it can mean a lot. Everyone is busy just living their lives I guess and a one-size-fits-all approach with social media seems to be how people conduct ‘friendships’ these days which is pretty strange when you think about it.
It will be interesting to see how well I settle back in to these relationships when I return to the UK for a holiday this year. My life has changed quite a bit since I last saw these friends and perhaps theirs has not. I wonder whether a lack of interaction over time starts to render us strangers or if that just melts away naturally as some friendships are stronger than time and distance. I obviously hope that the latter is true. A lack of familiarity should make these new interactions more fulfilling and interesting though.
In some ways I think this stranger-element could also be true of family relationships but to a much lesser extent. It is interesting since being in NZ how little family seem to instigate FaceTime or similar regular interactions. I am not sure if the 11-13 hour time difference is just too tough to work out or if they think we are likely to be too busy off doing something – which is no different to living in a different place in the UK really – but you would think this would be a natural two-way street. Such is life I guess.
Does anyone have any similar experiences from extended time overseas and how have you found returning “home”?
There used to be a comedy series in the UK with the same name as the title of this post. I can’t remember ever really watching it. I wanted to tell you about the experience of using the bus in NZ versus the UK…
Stopping the Bus
In both countries, hold out your thumb in something of a hitching gesture to get the bus to stop (unless of course it is jam-packed in which case it will barrel on past)…but there is usually room for one more! I have seen the driver wait for passengers on numerous occasions too.
When you climb on board a bus in the UK, you generally find a miserable rotund man sat in a cubicle which looks like a prison (to protect him or you?). He communicates in grunts and sees everything as an inconvenience. When you climb on board a bus in NZ, the driver greets you, there is no cubicle but an open seat and he will even give you change. Amazing. Once aboard…you will even hear music sometimes…that you either love or hate I would say…hate being reserved for anyone who would play anything by the talentless wonder that is Rihanna.
In both countries, bus drivers drive like they own the roads (I have said in the past that UK bus drivers are the rudest of motorists). It is almost like they are desperate to get out of there. The addition of dedicated high speed bus lanes in NZ really does make you worry for your safety at times…but so far so good…we all like to get where we are going as fast as we can…well…we do in the UK…
Passengers seem to stand up for older people and ladies in NZ. I assume this still happens in the UK. I do think that these sorts of manners may be diluted by immigration…while I would not see anyone suffer, I have noticed that those who are first to offer their seat seem to be native European-descent Kiwis.
Press the button to stop the bus and thank the driver as you get off. I have always done this when on a bus and it seems quite common here. The drivers generally say thank you back cheerfully too. Not everyone is smiling all the time though…that would be weird and just a touch unnerving!
At the end of the day, you could ask whether any of these things really matter if you get from A to B safely…I would say though that it all feels that bit better over here because people are that bit more civil…and perhaps a little less uptight.
Not everyone will have seen NZ currency before so I thought I would discuss such things…I am not sure you are allowed to photograph banknotes so I will link to pictures…
So, firstly, for NZ coins and notes, here are links to the NZ official websites…
Click here for NZ coins
And for notes click here…
The notes are made from a polymer and are waterproof (not that I bathe with my money – although it does give a different meaning to money laundering!), quite different to the linen base in the UK.
The more observant reader may note that the smallest coin is 10c…so if you pay by cash, it just gets rounded up or down. Having spent so long donating 1p and 2p pieces to charity in the UK to clear out my wallet, it is nice not to mess about with such things (or walk around slightly lop-sided due to the extra weight). Perhaps charities are now missing out. Nice to have interesting pictures of birds on the coins and of course Queen Elizabeth II (all stand for the national anthem!).
All said, it is quite unusual for people to use cash here and even the small businesses seem to have EFTPOS (debit card to us normal folk) machines…it is looking quite close to cashless. Perhaps the UK will move closer to this in the years to come…
Our furniture has arrived at last…not that 2 months is a long time to travel 12,000 miles by sea. And here is another coincidence for you…the ship it came in on has the same name as my wife! It feels a bit like Christmas getting our home delivered to us.
Anyway (advert alert) I wanted to say the following…I should work in marketing perhaps…although the strap line is theirs…
Fed up of the UK?
Feeling like a new start overseas?
Let them do the donkey work for you!
John Mason International Movers – I’d Move the World for You.
It has to be said, using John Mason to pack us up and their associate The Moving Company over here in New Zealand (and Maersk shipping in between) has been top drawer. I really can’t fault them.
Our furniture was in the condition it left in, and the advice we were given on cleaning and disinfecting certain items (and on what you absolutely could not take) before packing, and which items customs would most likely want to see was first class. It has made the whole process peaceful. Once delivered, customs came the day after to see those reserved packages which were not allowed to be opened until they had signed them off.
It is perhaps worth saying (advice wise) that anything which has been in contact with outdoors needs disinfecting and scrubbing. You cannot bring cane furniture or wickerwork. No flammable items in the container. No alcohol. You get the picture. Listen to your removal company – they are experts…ask them loads of questions and if you don’t feel like they are experts then don’t use them!
Tipping is an interesting cultural aspect which is different in many countries and often leaves the unwary Brit feeling somewhat awkward and unsure of him or herself.
I know people who refuse to tip and I used to feel them mean. I know people who when you discuss giving a tip will say something like “OK, how about “don’t eat yellow snow”?”. It never ceases to be unfunny.
In the UK, we often tip based on the numbers of people being served…and to be frank we often tip for pretty poor service which amounts to simply putting a plate of food on your table – barely a smile or even a “how is your food?” is received…unless of course you genuinely go to a place with great service. More often that not, you are tipping because you enjoyed the whole meal so it is to be hoped that the chef gets a little of it. Also, generalising a bit, waiting on tables can often be a part time job for a student who really doesn’t care about their work.
I suppose that the UK is playing catch-up with many European nations where tipping is almost expected – even if a rude French waiter is involved…time we stopped tipping for average or poor service! Simple. Give waiting staff a respectable basic wage and let us move on…and why on Earth do we tip taxi drivers? I do not know.
In the USA and Canada, you do actually feel like waiting staff deserve any tip they get because they actually seem to take pride in their jobs and work hard to earn any additional tip you provide. I have rarely seen waiters write down your order in the USA – they remember it – they seem to care. Something which as a customer is great.
So how about New Zealand? Well, I am delighted to say that tipping is not expected and culturally, you tip when you receive great service. Pure and simple. No awkwardness or otherwise. And the best bit? I have yet to be served by anyone who wasn’t friendly, attentive and wanted you to have a good meal. Have I tipped yet, I hear you ask? Not yet…because My wife has looked after paying the bill most of the time! Seriously though, we have had great service when compared to the North American standard on a couple of occasions and have left more which is all good.