Reflections on a first Spring and Summer in New Zealand

It’s been exactly six months since Scott and I moved to Auckland from San Francisco, so it seems like a good time to write up a few more quick reflections on the differences between life in those two places:

  • Farmers markets are few and far between.
  • Storms actually affect the price of veggies; after one of the recent tropical cyclones hit, cauliflower and lettuce went up from ~$3 to ~$7 a head (all costs in this post in NZD).
  • Thanks to its Mediterranean climate (not to mention the drought), I’m totally used to California’s hills being crispy and golden for most of the year. It really felt odd to me that New Zealand’s bright green grassy hills stayed that way all through Spring AND Summer, even though it does make sense given the regular rains.
  • Leaving the house without a layer is usually OK. Really. Even in the evening. But you never know when it might rain, so keep the umbrella handy.
  • You can actually swim in the ocean(s) here! Without a wetsuit! And there are so many beaches right in the city that we haven’t even come close to checking all of them out. Ditto all the beaches within an hour’s drive of our place.

  • Because being outside with skin exposed happens regularly, sunscreen is a constant, necessary evil.
  • Because my visa is for longer than 2 years, I’m covered by the healthcare system here. A visit to the doctor’s office that included standard screenings and writing a prescription cost me about $114 (in other words, a fraction of what I would have paid on my high-deductible plan at home) and my prescription would normally cost $5, but the pharmacy gave me my first one for free! Um…
  • You don’t need Venmo or (ugh) PayPal here because you can easily make electronic payments, using any bank’s mobile app, so long as you have the other person’s bank account number. Nobody uses paper checks. Ever.
  • In general, websites aren’t as helpful or user-friendly as we have become used to at home, whether we’re talking about local restaurants or Immigration New Zealand. Even over the phone, it can be a lot harder to get straight answers to direct questions. We’ve started to refer to “Kiwi Communication” in situations when something we thought would be easily resolved has taken days, if not weeks, to sort out.
  • At the same time, people in all corners of the service industry tend to be a lot more friendly and personal rather than professional. Sometimes this challenges my sense of privacy, but most of the time it feels refreshing.
  • A form of chivalry+onlyslightlyveiledsexism (AKA The Patriarchy) is alive and well here. Efforts to advocate for cultural sensitivity and inclusivity can be met with a hand-waving attitude of “oh you PC people…”
  • That said, I see far more mixed-race couples, in far more combinations, than I did back home.
  • This is a culture that understands work/life balance. The office is pretty empty by 5:30, and just about everyone I’ve asked “why did you move here?” (there are quite a few immigrants, particularly from the UK, India, China, and the Pacific Islands) responds with some version of “I wanted a better lifestyle.”
  • It’s going to take me a long time to learn to disassociate the seasons from their Northern Hemisphere months (ie, March and April here do not equal Spring, gah!).
  • To borrow something my friend Genny said, “it doesn’t Fall here; it Autumns.” And it’s Autumning now.

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