One year ago today (Feb 8) my little family and I arrived in New Zealand. Happy immigration anniversary to us! A little over a year ago I hadn't even heard of Dunedin let alone entertained the thought of moving here. Other than a short stint in South Africa, I'd never lived anywhere outside of Canada before. I had no particular desire to visit New Zealand let alone move there for Pete's sake. To mark the occasion, why don't I share a few of the many, many pictures we've taken over the year and just a few thoughts on the many ways in which life is just a little different down here.
DrivingTook a few months, but I am totally used to driving on the wrong side of the road. It still stuns me to think that we got our NZ drivers licenses without any testing - the road signs are different, a few rules are a bit different, not to mention we drive on the OTHER FREAKIN' SIDE OF THE ROAD! The Dear Sweet Husband still hits the wipers when he means to use the turn signal and I am forever going to the wrong side of the car to get in, but at least we keep it straight once we're on the roads!
GroceriesDear Canada, don't complain about your grocery bill. Ever. I remember the days a few years back when TDSH and I could get by on less than $100/week. True, we have a third family member now, but our shopping bills are disturbingly higher than that. We only have a wee bar fridge in our house which means we have to grocery shop nearly every day which probably doesn't help much...neither does that pricey proscuitto that somehow made it into my cart the other day. Oh, and fruit and veg are way more seasonal here (this is not a bad thing...not at all). I can't remember the last time I went to a Canadian grocery store and couldn't get any and all produce at any time of year. Here certain items either go through the roof price-wise or disappear from the shelves altogether in winter. I'm going to have to learn to plan for this a bit better next year - hopefully that will help get those grocery bills under control!
Getting aroundDunedin is a great city to get around in. We managed for over two months without a car at all (except for that Porsche our friends loaned us to help with our house hunt in the beginning). We walked EVERYWHERE and it was fantastic. For a town with an insane amount of hills, you can still pretty much manage to get most places without getting off the flat too much. With a car, we've been able to get around so easily. Traffic jams...bridge traffic...tunnel traffic...they don't exist down here. Jealous?
HousingWhen talking with our fellow expats here in Dunedin, the conversation invariably turns to the Dunedin housing stock and it's rather unique characteristics that add a certain charm, if nothing else: drafts, condensation, lack of insulation, tin roofs, single-glaze windows, lean-tos, etc. Our rental home is cute and lovely, but it has its quirks. There are drafts like you wouldn't believe. All three fireplaces are blocked up. What little insulation we do have (which is heaps by Dunedin standards) is no more than R1.6 (the maximum insulating value I've seen here). I just did a quick check on Home Depot's website back home and found R38 (I started drooling with envy). Basically, there's not a heap of difference between the building practices behind the typical 100-year-old Dunedin villa and your average garden shed. So far the record temperatures we've hit in our house are a whopping 5 degrees Celcius in the toilet and over 40 in the lounge while basking in the sun. Try and dress for that now, why don't you.
SafetyThis is not an unsafe country, but there's definitely less of the over-protection you can see in Canada at times. A 70 metre drop to the ocean? A sign'll do, we don't need a fence. Playground zip line 15 feet in the air? No worries. It's a difference I find rather refreshing. It's great to see kids getting to be kids here without all the warnings/prevention/etc. I was seeing more and more of in Canada. We let Abner roam far and wide with her friends when we're in parks, even *GASP* out of our sight! It's not unheard of for kids to play unsupervised in the playground before and after school. I'm pretty sure that's not happening of back home.
CampingTDSH and I both enjoyed camping back in Canada. We got our first taste of camping in NZ just last month as we headed to a DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite south of Dunedin. As we pulled into the site, it felt like we had arrived at a wizarding campsite to attend the Quidditch World Cup. Our little three-person dome tent was absolutely dwarfed by the massive canvas tents around us that each looked like they could surely house the entire Weasley family plus the entire Order of Phoenix comfortably. Indeed, we've camped at other sites as well now (bought ourselves a larger tent in the meantime so we'd blend in better) and some of these tents do indeed come with a kitchen sink and bunk beds! We also found it totally bizarre to camp without a fire. Yes, there are sometimes fire bans back home in Canada, but at those times, I'm certain we all still put our feet up on the provided fire ring and there's always the ashes in there still so you get the smokey effect. Here, when it gets dark, people just go to bed. That's it. No staying up telling ghost stories and roasting marshmallows around the campfire. Weird. On the plus side, our camping clothes didn't smell nearly as bad as usual!
Kiwi EnglishYes, Canada and New Zealand are both English-speaking countries. However, this does not mean we speak the same language. Here is just a short list of the many Kiwi words we've had to pick up if we have any hope of being understood here (accents aside).
supermarket = grocery store
footpath = sidewalk
underbridge/overbridge = underpass/overpass
batch/crib (which term you use depends on where you are in NZ) = cottage/summer home/cabin
bickie = cookie
lounge = living room
boy racer = street racer
sparkie = electrician
capsicum = pepper
chilly bin = cooler
tomato sauce = ketchup
dairy = convenience store
petrol = gas (for your car, not the other kind)
dressing gown = housecoat
flash = pretty fancy/new
kumara = yam/sweet potato
flat = apartment
fortnight = two weeks
what do you fancy = what do you feel like?
hottie = hot waterbottle
heaps = lots
wee = small (used often)
jandal = flip flop
jersey = sweatshirt
jumper = sweater
ice block = popsicle
toilet = bathroom/washroom
mum = mom
motorway = freeway
buttie = sandwich
full stop = period (punctuation, not the other kind)
panel beater = autobody shop
plaster = band-aid
slip = landslide
flying fox = zip line
spider = float (ice cream and pop)
fizzy drink = pop
lolly = candy
pottle = container for fries
punnet = container for fruit (think strawberries)
rubber = eraser (I still do a doubletake when hearing Abner ask for a rubber)
ta = thanks
torch = flashlight
tea = dinner (to invite someone to share a cup of tea, you ask them to join you for a cuppa)
singlet = undershirt
whinge = complain/whine
wop-wops = boonies
littlies = very young children
section = property
bench = countertop
American = anyone from North America (this drives me nuts)
cheerio = cocktail sausage (I find this one particularly bizarre)
fringe = bangs
judder bar = speed bump
long drop = outhouse/biffy
mince = ground beef
morning tea = mid-morning break (at school it's the same as recess)
note = paper money
op shop = thrift store
paddock = field where animals graze
rock melon = cantaloup
she'll be right = it'll be okay
sleepout = A small shed in the yard for extra accommodation
fluffy = warm, foamed milk served only to kids with chocolate powder on top
flat white = most popular coffee option
As we head into our second year in New Zealand, we've started the process to get residence status. It's going to take a while, but it'll be good to be that much closer to not having to fill out another immigration form in our lives. Our criminal record checks just arrived from Canada so once we get those up to Christchurch, we should have everything sorted within the next six months or so (fingers crossed). Yes, folks, that means we're staying. I still stop in my tracks on a regular basis and pinch myself because I can't believe I actually live here. Anyone want to come visit?