One day, I came across a quote from the American novelist, Thomas Clayton Wolfe and it struck one of my nerves and it has remained. He said that “Culture is the arts elevated to a set of beliefs.” In my mind, this quote proclaims the values, of a great country to live in namely Aotearoa or, as it is commonly called, New Zealand! From the gorgeous nature which engulfs the country, to the friendly “good-mornings” given by its citizens, it is, without a doubt, a glorious place to either spend your precious holidays or live in the rest of your lives.
I still remember the first time I took a breath in New Zealand , four years ago. I had previously lived in Singapore, where having a glimpse of a natural environment would be a blessing. That city is filled with skyscrapers instead of hills. Because of my background, New Zealand’s pristine environment was very much a shock. Its cold winds brushing against my skin and the sight of greenery and sheep (and there was a LOT of sheep I’m telling you) made me stop cold. I realized I was in a new place and a new culture. I had to learn to do and quickly.
I learned that even English was different. New Zealanders were called Kiwis, slippers were called jandals, french fries were called chips, and candies were called lollies. I learned that “Kia Ora!” was a Maori greeting to informally say “Hello” and that “Chur” was pretty much a relaxed version of “Cheers”.
The Kiwis’ friendly nature is completely different from my growing up days. In my mind, they are one of the friendliest peoples. I recall walking down the street one day, shortly after my arrival and hearing a warm good morning from a fellow passer-by. Yes. I was very surprised! I was not accustomed to their easy-going and amicable manner. They are also very adventurous and to my observation, live close to the beautiful nature around them. They often go hiking or go mountain biking. The population, in general, is passionate about sports. Almost all of my friends play at least one sport. But the most loved sport here is the free-flowing combination of strength and agility; the game of rugby. There is no question, that it is their favourite sport, and watching their rugby team, the All Blacks play, seduces every part of the country.
Food, as it is in every country, is a crucial part of the New Zealand culture. Kiwis are fond of their seafood found in their more than 14,000-kilometre coastline. Some examples are salmon and crayfish as well as pipis and tuatuas which are both New Zealand shellfish. Lamb, pork and cervena (venison) are also what can be seen on a dish, with kiwifruit or pavlova as dessert. Barbecues have become a huge part of the Kiwis’ culture. I can’t think of a single Kiwi gathering I have attended, without some sort of barbecued food. My favourite Kiwi tradition is relaxing in front of an excellent view of a beach or within the pleasant environment of a nearby park, eating fish and chips with friends or loved ones.
The Kiwi culture is way too vast to be summarized in a single post. There is much to discover and much more to understand. There is the intensity of the amazing Maori culture which is captivating. Every aspect of their culture needs time and exploration.
I have lived here for four years and still cannot wait to uncover more and more. Indeed, living in New Zealand is “A Culture of the arts elevated to a set of beliefs.” Kiwi culture is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a piece of art displayed within beliefs. They are seen in the beliefs of each and every Kiwi; beliefs that are shown in their pride of being part of this country. I am honoured to walk in their paths.