Here’s a not unusual conversation I’ve had, mos recently while saying in a hostel:
‘Where you from?’
‘I’m a Kiwi’
‘I’m from New Zealand’
*blank stare continues*
New Zealand is still an unknown quantity to most of the world. I’ve found that even in the UK a lot of people assume it’s like Australia. It’s not (for better or for worse). New Zealand and New Zealanders are peculiar to Aotearoa. Like our chosen demonym, we’re a bit odd. Sure, we have our similarities with the rest of the world but we also have our eccentricities. We have our good moments and we also have our bad moments. I’d like to think our good moments outnumber our bad. Waitangi Day (6 February) is one day in the year where we can reflect on what it means to be a Kiwi and what that means on a personal, family, community and national level. I’ve chosen to look at why it’s great to be a Kiwi.*
- As above, you’re an unknown quantity. Based on my accent, people may guess I’m from En Zed, but they may also guess Australia or South Africa. Someone once asked me if I was from Cornwall. He was a little more off than most people who hazard a guess at my point of origin. Being an unknown quantity is not a bad thing; it minimises prejudices and allows us to let people know who we are. We should revel in this.
- Most countries have positive relationships with New Zealand and so most people react positively when you say you’re from NZ (assuming that they know New Zealand otherwise the point above comes into effect). Kiwis are fortunate that they carry very little political and religious baggage with them. This is a blessing.
- We talk funny. Be it colloquialisms, incorporating Maori words (even if you aren’t fluent in Te Reo) or just generally talking too fast. To the rest of the world Kiwis speak a little funny. But it’s more than funny, it’s just straight out fun. Try throwing the following into a conversation anywhereelse but New Zealand (or maybe Oz) and watch the confusion reign:
‘I feel like a box of fluffies’
‘she’ll be right mate’
‘I’m gonna get me a feed ow’
‘it’s kai time’
‘that’s a bit munted’
It’s all change. Even in my relatively short years, NZ has changed heaps. Unlike older nations that have an established (if fluid) personality, New Zealand is a young country. When I was a child, New Zealand was primarily known for the All Blacks. Then Peter Jackson came along and gave the world The Lord of the Rings and another view of the country, one beyond the rugger paddock. We’ve used our voice to stand up to nuclear testing and to whaling; two issues where I’m proud of New Zealand’s stance. If anything, living in the UK has brought home just how unique New Zealand is and how much it has changed in the last three decades. It has gone from being isolated (not just due to its geography) to becoming more incorporated in the world and incorporating more of the world in it. As a lover of history I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to watch countries like Greece, England and Italy develop their personalities but all I’ve got is history books. When it comes to countries like NZ it’s like that curiosity is being realised. Being a Kiwi I have even more of a vested interest. It’s just all terribly exciting to watch.
*No rhythm or reason to the number of reasons, just the first four that I thought up.