Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I am Kiwi

Mum, M and J feeding out on mum and dads farm Masterton, New Zealand.

I love reading blogs by people who are expats in New Zealand. I am eternally fascinated by how our quirks and idiosyncrasies are viewed by non kiwis. The good, the bad and the ugly, it all finds me coming back for more. It’s kinda cool to be privy to how the world sees you from the inside and I am very grateful to those whose blogs I routinely read as they make me realise how different we are and how strikingly similar we are all at the same time. Plus there are some beautiful shots of places and things uniquely kiwi that are such a part of me I am immediately teary.

We have often been mistaken for Australians since we have become expats. This assumption is made by both expats and by locals although rarely by other Kiwis or Aussies. I am quick to point out I am, we are, New Zealanders, not Australians which is sometimes met with confused amusement (bemusement maybe?). Some people I have discovered don’t know the difference between an Aussie and a Kiwi (as if the accent doesn’t give it all away!). It doesn’t help both companies (the red and the blue) that J has worked for are Australian companies and that he is often the only Kiwi in an office of Roos (Kangaroos that is). They, of course, have no problem telling the’re either a winner or a loser depending on how the game went on Saturday...the rights to brag or bag are a such telling factor.

Formidable and stoic, the All Black Haka.

I have got to admit before we left NZ I hadn’t really registered how great the difference, except when it came to cricket, rugby, netball...we wear All Black and they wear Green and Gold and of course we are the better team ; )...tongue firmly in cheek... except for cricket where we have, for the past decade or so, lost our mojo, it seems.....sigh!!
Differences between the two nationalities are expressed like sibling rivalry within New Zealand and are almost always sports focused although there is the occasional political commentary if you are so inclined. I had only been to Oz once before we began our belated OE (for the uninitiated that’s Kiwi for ‘Overseas Experience’, a rite of passage for many New Zealanders after Uni and before getting a real job). It was for a whirlwind wedding weekend, J was best man and the wedding breakfast was at a German restaurant none of which was conducive to my being particularly receptive to any particular Australian cultural variation.
Samoa was, it turned out, an education in more ways than one. We ARE fundamentally different. It shouldn’t be a surprise really, as the website convict creations, ( newzealand.html), written by an Australian, points out. Our origins are complete opposites. Australia was founded as a penal colony for petty thieves, prostitutes and those caught falling foul of the law during the depression while New Zealand was sold as the land of plenty to intrepid British pioneers looking for a piece of paradise to plant veges and tend sheep. I’m pretty sure they weren’t told about the weather, earthquakes or the formidable, stoic natives! The website’s quite scathing of Kiwis (do they really think we ‘don’t do any good’?) and riddled with inaccuracies and wild assumptions but it does offer insight into at least one Aussies perception of their neighbour and it doesn’t seem to be limited to games of rugby.

A Hindu devotee during Thiapusam in Singapore.

I like difference. I chose to study Anthropology and World Religion at university because I was so interested in different cultural practices, beliefs, differences and similarities. I love the fact that living in the countries we have lived in gives us, our family, first hand insight of different cultures. There is nothing like witnessing an event, you have read or been taught about in a classroom, being played out on your street, at the market, outside the temple, in the airport,
or by the river. I have childhood memories filled with such events and I have chosen make certain my children too, to be able to witness these things first hand. I hope that this makes them better, less prejudiced, more accepting people and I hope that it instils in them the same curiosity and appreciation I have for our differences and idiosyncrasies, cultural beliefs and practices, something I think is lacking in this world of ours. Too often what we read or see screams of judgement and bias rather than understanding and interest and I think it’s up to us as parents to help our children not be influenced by the negativity but rather be enquiring, interested, appreciative and unafraid of our differences.

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