A short while ago, a friend from back home sent through an amazing photo of some New Zealand scenery. You don’t really need to see the photo to understand the rest of the story – just search for ‘New Zealand’ in Google images and you’ll get the picture (pun intended).
My co-workers did such a search Google Images. The results led to the theory that New Zealand doesn’t really exist. The entire country has been Photoshopped, is owned by Adobe, and is actually very flat. It’s that unbelievably beautiful – it inspires conspiracy theories.
I come from the most beautiful country in the world.
I started to think I was homesick. Maybe I should go home.
More photos from the friend followed (mostly to counter/feed my coworkers’ theory that New Zealand wasn’t real). I started to balance them with the good stuff from Melbourne – amazing historic buildings (and their stories), delicious foods from all around the world, a public transport system that works – and felt less homesick. The more I thought about it, the more I realised there are only really five things I miss about New Zealand.
(I’m not including friends and family in this list, because of course I miss them. That’s what email, Skype, and social media are for.)
Mountains and hills
Yes, Australia has mountains and hills – but they’re few and far between and not very tall. Australia is overwhelming, mind-bogglingly flat. Seriously. Like this:
New Zealand is the opposite. We only really have two flat bits and they’re very small – and surrounded by mountains.
We have stunning mountains (click for larger images)
I miss the presence of mountains. That feeling there is something there, looking over the country or supporting the landscape. Heck, even just breaking up the monotony of flat.
Australia has some very good beer. But it’s not New Zealand beer. The New Zealand climate results in these amazing hops that will kick you in the teeth with pine, diesel, and sweaty pineapple pants – and all of those are good things. And when they’re not pumping beer full of hops, the New Zealand brewers make full-bodied dark beers. And when they’re not doing either of those things, they’re mucking about with sours.
And then they send them to Australia and the price increases by a quarter to a third. This is why I have a drinking list when I go home.
New World Supermarkets
The big supermarkets in Australia are mildly evil and just not nice places to shop.
New World supermarkets in New Zealand are independently owned and they make shopping nice. They’re clean and well-laid out. They have a proper bakery section. And they’re allowed to sell alcohol – and because they’re independently owned, many stock local beer (which goes back the point over).
The colours of the Australian landscape are amazing – but they’re not green. Not proper green.
Not like the New Zealand bush is green:
Not like the New Zealand paddocks are green:
These pictures don’t really do the green justice because it’s everywhere. All around. All the time. In the 15 years I lived in Taranaki we had one ‘dry’ summer – and the Aussies would’ve consider that one a bit damp.
Australia and New Zealand are very similar at the end of the day. The big continent could almost be the ‘West Island’ of New Zealand. But it’s not.
I miss New Zealand culture. I miss our (admittedly strange) sense of humour. I miss the Maori language (not that I speak it, I just miss having it around). I miss the Kiwi friendliness. I miss knowing the names of the plants and birds. I miss the way we worship our heroes, but constantly remind ourselves that they’re human. I even miss our terrible non-news sometimes.
I have plenty of Kiwi friends here, but it’s not the same as having your culture on the TV, the newspapers, everywhere.
New Zealand culture does, of course, have its downsides – the smallness of the community, ‘Tall Poppy’ syndrome, and a weird sort of national insecurity. But belonging to a country is like belonging to a family – you’ll hate it sometimes, but it’s your own country to hate at least.
Am I going home?
Would I swap all of this for Melbourne? The friends I’ve made here, the life I’ve built, the chance at a job where I get to write? Not at the moment, no. But I think (or hope), that missing New Zealand will make me appreciate it more when I go back.