The Haka on International Clarity: New Zealand

International Clarity: New Zealand (from Pauline Durfee)

This week’s guest author: Pauline Durfee

My name is Pauline Durfee (nee Dil), also known as Kyle’s mum, or mom.  I was born and raised in New Zealand and came to the states in 1983 to attend BYU.  Met my husband my first semester there and just before graduating, married him.  I get back to New Zealand infrequently, the last time being 2000 when my mother passed away.  It’s a long, expensive flight and we never seem to win the lottery, though it could have something to do with the fact that we don’t play.

Thanks to Chandler Brown for giving the general background of New Zealand so I don’t have to go digging for that info myself.  Well done.  Take a look at his blog for info on population etc.  Chandler also leaned towards the Maori side of New Zealand and covered that well, so I will lean towards the Caucasian (pakeha) side, which is my experience anyway.
Apparently I have an accent, even after 30 years.  My NZ family thinks I’m terribly American sounding, but since I still almost daily get asked about it, I’m guessing it’s still there.  I have been asked if I’m from Boston, North Dakota, the south, various countries in Europe and most frequently, Australia.  That last one is, of course, an insult due to the ‘friendly’ rivalry between the two countries.  Admittedly there is some similarity, though to my ears, Australians have a harsher edge.  Certain words are also very different, like dance, which NZers say like, ‘dahnce’ and Aussies say like, ‘dannce’(add in a nasal element).  I seem to have to wait to hear those words to guess which country someone is from now.
Food…well, I still miss New Zealand food.  Their candy is really good (jaffas, pineapple lumps, wine gums, chocolate fish, milky bars, peanut slabs, crunchy bars etc) with chocolate being made from whole milk etc–none of this low fat nonsense.  Vegemite is also a fun food…we liked to tell the American missionaries that it was chocolate spread, so they’d lay it on thickly.  It provided hours of entertainment.  Sausages are one thing that I have not been able to find a replacement for here in the US.  A NZ sausage is not spicy or bland, just great.  Cheerios are little sausages with a red skin, not a cereal, and are wonderful.  A meat pie for lunch is truly delicious.  Now I’m hungry.  My husband had such fun on a visit there, trying all the food and concurs that it is really, really good.  I thought it was interesting that Chandler didn’t get much lamb.  My family did eat lamb with mint sauce fairly regularly.  I made it once for my family here and ended up having to eat the whole roast myself over a few days.  They weren’t impressed.  I had forgotten how greasy it is.  Your mouth really is coated by the time you finish eating.  We did eat chicken a good deal, though it was usually a whole roasted chicken rather than a chicken breast.  Meat is actually very expensive there as is just about everything because there isn’t a huge manufacturing industry and much is imported.
I grew up in Auckland, which is the largest city in NZ near the top of the North Island.  There is a mix of many cultures and generally it has been a peaceful co-habitation.  NZ has been called the great melting pot.  Auckland actually has more Samoans living there than live in Samoa.  There are also large populations of Tongans and other Pacific Islanders and more and more Chinese and Indians.  There actually was a time when so many people were leaving NZ, especially for Australia where the job opportunities were more abundant, that they used to joke, “would the last one leaving New Zealand please turn out the lights.”  Things have improved, but NZ has become very particular with whom they let immigrate.  You have to have a skill that is specifically needed to be able to get a visa and with each change of government you have the risk of being sent home if they change their mind.  This really does happen.
Chandler talked about the money, but he didn’t mention that New Zealand has colorful bills.   Yes, like the game Monopoly.  It is a fantastic idea though.  If your eyesight is not perfect you still know the denomination of the bill you are holding due to the color.  I highly recommend it to any government official who may be secretly screening this blog.
When I came to the US as a student I did have some culture shock, which was actually a bit of a shock in itself as I had watched American TV and interacted with lots of American missionaries etc, so I was prepared!  Except that I wasn’t.  TV leads you to believe that Americans are either gangsters or a filthy rich scheming oil barons.  The missionaries lead you to believe that everyone is clean cut and well dressed and spiritual.  That wasn’t entirely untrue at BYU, but it wasn’t long before I realized that people themselves are the same all over, except Utah Mormons really can be much more perky than New Zealanders who tend to down play something rather than hype something (e.g. an upcoming activity).  I also remember standing in a grocery store and being overwhelmed not only by new brand names (which toothpaste will I like?) but by the sheer quantity of different cereals (NZ only had maybe 10  different varieties at the time–fun note:  we have Rice Krispies in NZ, but they are called Rice Bubbles.  I actually had to get a bag sent over to BYU because people wouldn’t believe me.).  I was also stunned my first Sunday at BYU, sitting in sacrament meeting with all the blond people.  The church in NZ is predominately Polynesian and I was used to being the one sticking out so this was a new experience.
Words are funny things.  They can mean different things to different people.  For example…
New Zealand word                                        American equivalent
Drawing pin                                                    Thumb tack
Jumper                                                            Sweater
Tomato sauce                                                  Ketchup (different than your tomato sauce).
Torch                                                              Flashlight
Biscuit                                                             Cookie
Scone                                                              Biscuit
Stuffed                                                             Full
Boot                                                                Trunk of a car
Bonnet                                                             Hood of a car
Car park                                                          Parking lot
Tea                                                                  Dinner
Tea towel                                                         Dish towel
Gum boots                                                       Rubber boots
There are many other words that show how cute we are.  My husband kept a little log of different words and phrases while we were visiting NZ once when Kyle was a baby.  He made a comment that we NZers had a habit of shortening just about every word you could, e.g. cauli for cauliflower,  except for beetroot.  Americans say beets and we actually say the whole word.
Kevin Sorbo, who played the part of Hercules in the TV series of the same name, which was filmed in New Zealand (along with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in which my nephew was an Orc, and the Hobbit, in which the same nephew was on the film crew–my humble claim to fame) made a comment that he didn’t enjoy his time in New Zealand because the culture was so wrapped up in rugby and beer.  I remember being a little offended at that, being the sports-ignoring teetotaler than I am.  My sister saw it differently and in fact she agreed that Mr. Sorbo was right and after she gave me some examples, I had to agree as well.  It really is very much a rugby playing beer swilling culture.  When taken to excess it does cause its own problems, not the least of which is causing poor American TV stars to be unhappy.  And speaking of rugby, it is a much more enjoyable game than Gridiron.  It’s much faster and more dangerous due to lack of padding or helmets.  At my first BYU football game I was shocked to learn it could take up to four hours.  I thought the men on the sidelines in the vertical striped shirts were part of a half time show or something…maybe tweedle dumb and tweedledee.  I still don’t understand the game completely but I’m getting better.  (The picture shows the New Zealand All Black rugby team–the national team, doing the haka, which is a war dance of Maori origin.  They perform it at the beginning of a match to scare the opponents.)
However, rugby and booze aside, New Zealand is a wonderful place.  It is truly a beautiful and varied country with deserts, glaciers, volcanoes, boiling mud and geysers, beaches galore–everything you could find anywhere else in the world, just in smaller size.  It is also the country that likes to invent extreme sports, e.g. bungee jumping.  Go ahead and book a plane ticket.  You won’t be sorry.  And have a chocolate fish for me!
From Kyle again:

If you have experience in both the U.S. and another country (for at least 3 months in each spot) and would like to write a post, email me at and I can send you more information.  Thanks!

Keep seeking truth.

You may also be interested in:
International Clarity: New Zealand (from Chandler Brown)
International Clarity: South Africa (from Casey Mangan)
International Clarity: Mexico (from Diva Garcia)

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