I've just celebrated my 3 month anniversary of being in New Zealand, for those who are new to this blog, I came here on a working holiday visa and I'm staying here for a whole year. After being here for only few months I've decided to share a few of my first impressions. Here we go.
The first, and the worst, thing about New Zealand is by far the suicidally slow internet. It’s well and truly naf, and voted by many to be the worst in the modernised world. Stephen Fry was quoted as saying "They [New Zealand] have probably the worst broadband I’ve ever encountered. Turns itself off, slows to a crawl. Pathetic” whilst he was filming the final part of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.
What can I say, apart from running this blog, which over time has become my beloved obession, I am internet junkie and if you are reading this you probably are too, so here's an idea for you. If you need internet rehab go to New Zealand, you will either be cured quickly or fall into despair and jump off a bridge. There is loads to choose from!
The second, apart from the obvious beautiful scenery which is pretty epic, is undoubtedly the local people. They will happily go out of their way to help you and expect nothing in return, the indigenous maori population have a saying "He taonga rongonui te aroha ki te tangata” which translates to "Goodwill towards others is a precious treasure” and you can see it's practiced by everybody here - even the taxi drivers, who are notoriously rude in most of other countries, but not here!
3. The (FAST) Food
When visiting a supermarket for the first time in NZ I felt like Dante entering the fourth ring of the ninth circle of hell. 4 dollars for milk? I could buy milk for 50 cents in Germany! 10 dollars for 1 kg of grapes? 35 dollars for 1kg of limes? I guess I won't be eating those anymore. The food here isn't great either and it reminds me quite a lot of food in the US and the UK. There is a lot of choice for premade meals in supermarkets, everything nicely packaged and ready to be cooked in the microwave, but processed food is not my idea of food. Turns out that most homegrown products of New Zealand are being shipped overseas and whatever is left gets exorbitant price tags. So unless you want to feed yourself on instant noodles throughout your stay in NZ, be prepared that a lot of your budget will go towards food.
I know fast food is popular in Europe and even more so in the US but I was still shocked by the amount of fast food places dotted around everywhere, for a country that has a population of just over half of London, they must have a ridiculously high fast food store to inhabitant ratio. Even adding the 2.7million tourists that come here every year it still must be high. And what comes with that? One of the highest obesity rates in the world!
Another commodity that is horrendously expensive is alcohol. A bottle of Corona in a bar will be between 8 - 10 dollars and a vodka (30ml) and coke could be anything from 8 to 14 dollars. You'd think there'd be at least cheap wine considering so much is made here but even that will set you back a lot. The reason for this is that New Zealand has some very strict laws about drinking alcohol. Prepare yourself for carrying your passport around if you want to purchase a bottle of beer. Even your ID card won't work. At the beginning I was flattered for costantly being asked for it when buying beer at the supermarket, but now it's just annoying. It also seems to me that the more rules are being forced on the society, the less effective they are. I lived in Germany, where public drinking is allowed and people actually treated alcohol as part of their social life, hardly ever abusing it. It is not the case in here. Statistics say that 1 in 10 Kiwis have alcohol problem. As we know from history though, prohibition never worked and never will, but educating about it might work.
Then again, I don't give a crap about alcohol, I just get drunk on beautiful views like this one.
A welcome change is that cars are cheap, compared to european prices they are dirt cheap. They import pretty much everything from Japan so expect to see around 1000 Subaru Legacys everyday (guess what car I've got?). Additionally with non compulsory insurance and relatively cheap road tax its by far the best way to get around. With gas being around 2 New Zealand dollars a litre, its easily the most economical way to travel if you’re a backpacker.
6. The weather
The weather’s pretty damn sexy, New Zealand really has one of the best climates. Glorious summer sunshine (without getting too hot), picturesque snowy winters perfect for skiing, fresh springs and colourful autumns. Ao-tea-roa, the Maori name for New Zealand, can be translated as “The land of the Long White Cloud” and you can definitely see why. Just look below.
P.S. It just snowed in the middle of the summer...so it is not always rainbows and butterflies...or is it?
People aren't joking when they say New Zealand is the adventure capital of the world and that Queenstown, where I settled down for a bit, is the adventure capital of New Zealand. You can do absolutely everything here from hiking and mountain biking to shark boating. Flyboarding to frisbee golf, skydiving, jetboating, parasailing, and of course skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Just don't get carried away if you don't want to blow your budget within the first few days!
8. Job market
I've realised that being consistently overloaded with tourists sometimes has its perks. There's an awesome job market for backpackers who come to New Zealand on working holiday visas, generally in the hospitality field. It also means that accommodation is easy to find pretty much everywhere you go (unless you get to touristy Queenstown in the middle of the season). I found my job by knocking on the doors of places and luckily I was hired in the first place I went to.
New Zealand, unlike its closest neighbour Australia, goes through 4 different weather seasons and what I don't understand is the way that they've built their houses. They've got no central heating, no insulation and they're made out of wood. I am surprised they can withstand the crazy winds that sometimes plague this part of the world. They get really hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter. I haven't experienced the winter season yet, because I arrived here in spring time, but I was already freezing my butt off in the hostel rooms I stayed in and from what I heard, it can get pretty horrendous.
Now I couldn’t talk about what to expect in New Zealand without mentioning sheep, because there's loads of them, especially on the South Island: 20 for every person. almost 40 million sheep all together over both islands. What also suprised me is that deer are farm animals and many times whilst driving you will pass by fields full of deer totally unaware of their destiny. The wildlife is rather scarce, with loads of possums and rabbits that are considered pests, and running over possums with your car is almost considered a national sport!
11. The landscape
The scenery will blow your mind. I read on the blog youngadventuress before I came to NZ that no matter where you are in this country, you are a maximum of 15 minutes away from something beautiful, and it couldn’t be more true. Around every corner there is an even more spectacular view. South island is praised more for its mountainous, snowcapped landscape and places like Milford Sound, but the north island is also very exciting with volcanoes like Ngaruhoe or Taranaki and geothermal wonderlands like Wai-O-Tapu.
Last but not least you’d probably expect this to some degree but not to the extent that it is. Since New Zealand's tourism industry boomed after the release of Peter's Jackson trilogy, absolutely everything that can be branded with Lord of the Rings is branded with Lord of the Rings. LOTR is everywhere you turn, from TV adverts, airline videos, Jewellery shops, just everything. The 500 days production of the LOTR: The Desolation of Smaug was shot in 150 different locations, and there are probably as many tours that go to each and every one of them!
At least once a week I stumble upon some article about best destinations in the world and almost every time New Zealand makes it onto the list. Whilst there is no perfect country, I have to say New Zealand is pretty close, especially for a photography enthusiast like me.
Is New Zealand one of your bucket list destinations?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I am Marta Kulesza - the photographer and creator of www.inafarawayland.com. I come from Poland, but I've been living, travelling and working around the globe since I turned 18. A few years ago, during one of my trips to Scotland, I bought my first DSLR and my adventure with photography began. When I am not stuck to my computer editing photos, you can find me somewhere in the mountains.