Sunday, October 4, 2009

My First Week in New Zealand

So... now that I have arrived in New Zealand, got my work visa, a cell phone, a flat, a tax number, all that's left to do is get a bank account... hopefully before my first cheque this Friday so I can actually get paid. If you haven't heard yet, I secured a job in New Zealand as a tutor for games programming at Media Design School in downtown Auckland.

I've been thrown off more than I thought I would be by the accent, and everything seems very similar here... but slightly off somehow. One of my co-workers who arrived from the US a few months ago described New Zealand to me as a country that is "deceptively boring." He tells me that every time you think you've figured New Zealand out and find it similar to North America, something will always come up that surprises you. There's too many new experiences to talk about here, so I'll give you a list of things I have found cool/amusing:

- Elementary school students wear uniforms here.
- When boarding my Air New Zealand flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, a British person sitting beside me asked me three times if I was sure this was economy class as the cabin looked very comfortable and furnished. This was in stark contrast to my horrible experience on my flight from San Francisco on United Airlines, but that's another story.
- A flight attendant asked people, for their meal choice, "chucken or beef." I found this hilarious as I stumbled upon the "Beached Whale" video on Youtube where Aussies make fun of Kiwi accents. Ben, my previous flatmate for over 6 years, and I found this video to be hilarious.
- Not really a NZ thing, but I was talking to an American businessman on the plane to Los Angeles. He made many Flight of the Conchords references, implied that NZ was hilariously behind the times and incompetent, and told me to "teach them that there is more to video games than sheep tossing."
- I applied for a work visa the day I arrived in Auckland. It took less than an hour for me to receive my visa for as long as my passport was valid. That was surprisingly fast and easy!
- I saw the actor playing Murray in the Flight of the Conchords on commercial here in NZ! Also, Zoe Bell. But Ben and I are pretty obsessed with Flight of the Conchords, so that's worth more of a mention.

- The Kiwi Prime Minister John Key was to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman. The ad for it consisted of many clips from the Flight of the Conchords, to my delight.
- I sent a postcard to my mom from Auckland. The stamp I got said "DXMail." I put it in a New Zealand Post mailbox and later saw at least three different kinds of mailboxes around, including a "DXMail" mailbox. The postcard eventually did make it to my mom, but there was an inexplicable sticker from Singapore on it.
- I could not figure out how to cross the road due to a combination of people driving on the other side of the road than what I am used to, signs which I interpreted to have the opposite meaning of what they meant to convey (triangles painted on the road), and the amazing amounts of jaywalking.
- One of my co-workers told me a story of him buying a car when he arrived in NZ. When he told the guy selling the car he hasn't been paid yet since he had just started work, the seller told him to drive the car home and call him next week to pay when he gets the cash. People here seem very trusting, almost to a fault.
- Apparently you don't need car insurance to drive. There is some kind of national accident compensation committee that covers certain accidents.
- When talking to an agent at Kiwibank, I asked if they had many different types of accounts after mentioning I just arrived in New Zealand. She said "Oh! We have heaps of... [pause] ... a variety of accounts." Once again, hilarious because of the Beached Whale video.
- Saw many uses of "as," as in a tax return service called "Simple As Returns." Hilarious due to Beach Whale video, again.
- There are 2000 police cameras in the downtown area of Auckland.
- Sports here are violent! Why is Cricket, Rugby and Aussie rules football not popular in North America? I tried watching Aussie rules football and could not figure out what was happening. Apparently no one else here can figure it out either. It's been described to me as "no rules football."
- My Nokia phone has three games on it: "Nature Park" (a block dropping game), "Soccer League" and "Cricket League."
- My Nokia phone crashed the second day I got it, and some kind of setting is now activated which I could not figure out how to cancel.
- Phone numbers in New Zealand seem to have a variable number of numbers in them.
- Internet here is somewhat slow, carried by a single cable connected to Korea.
- About half of toll-free numbers, "freecall" numbers can't be dialled from a cell phone.
- New movies of September include G-Force and Up. I saw Up in theatres in the US four months ago.
- Drinking is sometimes allowed outside! Hooray!
- Don't say fanny pack in New Zealand. Fanny means a woman's private parts here.
- Surprisingly, people here sometime ask me to repeat myself and I have to ask them to repeat themselves sometimes.
- Saw an ad for a new upcoming service from Telecom called TiVo.
- Saw ads on TV with flashing slanted text which reminded me of the ad for the telephone on Flight of the Conchords.
- One of the ads on TV was for computer games, and they advertised the new game, Need For Speed Shift was only $103 (I've been told new games cost $160 here!). And the following scene, advertising a PS3 with the text "Cheap As!" popping in over it.
- New Zealanders see Auckland as both a very large city and a small city internationally... which I suppose is accurate.
- The immigration officer and others have told me they hate Auckland as it is a large city. They told me that things used to be safe before, but now you have to lock your doors, take care not to show your money and walk down dark alleys alone.
- One of the stories from another American co-worker was that he was shopping, and told a woman cashier to ring him up. The cashier was mad, as "ring up" here means to call.
- Everyone tells me that it's "not like the US" in terms of how dangerous it is here.
- When looking at apartments, I saw one on the 14th floor by the water with a clear view across the harbour. One of the people living there pointed out to me NZ's largest naval ship parked straight across in full view, which took multiple rounds of pointing and describing before me finding it.
- There's been many more little things here showing how NZ society is similar... but surprisingly different from American society.

By the way, you might have been wondering what the photos had to do with anything. Well... I haven't had the time to go around taking photos yet, so I thought you might enjoy a photo of NZ money, and a few photos I took on the way back from work today.

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