General views

The nature of New Zealanders

Tolaga Bay wharf

Tolaga Bay wharf

So here’s a thing. well two things. This is about us, not our nature, but our nature. I’m also going to put a couple of images of the incredible New Zealand scenery among the comments. Silly not to really, it’s not like I’m short of them, all you have to is go outside and point a camera in one direction or another.

New Zealand is the most beautiful country on earth. Everybody knows that, everybody knows about the incredible ‘nature’ in New Zealand.

I’m going to talk about the nature of New Zealanders for a while instead.

I posted a tweet a while ago that was the most re-tweeted thing I’ve put on that particular platform. It seemed innocuous enough at the time, but it struck a chord. People most associate us with ‘G’day’, or ‘no worries’ or ‘she’ll be right’. All of these are common parlance but we have a new word now. It’s the most used word I’ve heard since returning to New Zealand from England, it was a close call between this particular word and aioli which is the next most common word in New Zealand. I’d never seen the stuff anywhere in England, but in New Zealand, try getting through a day without hearing about it. Good luck.

The tweet went as follows

‘If you are visiting New Zealand, it’s worth knowing that the word for thank you is ‘Awesome’. It’s also the word for yes please’

Awesome, we pronounce it oarsum, is ubiquitous. Everything is oarsum. Even an order of a cup of coffee is greeted with oarsum. Did you know we have more cafe’s per capita in Wellington than anywhere else in the world? New Zealanders run on coffee it seems.  We all know our flat whites from our mochachino’s and latte’s. The Barista is a highly respected trade in our little country, like the cool cocktail barman of the 80’s.

When I was in the UK, returning holiday makers from NZ would comment to me on the incredible beauty of the country quickly followed by a remark on the friendliness of the New Zealanders. Let me tell you what that looks like now that I’ve driven from one end of the country to the other and back since I’ve returned. I went for a bit of a road trip to have a look around. You know the most common greeting when you walk into a shop here?

“Hey, how’s it going?’

It’s not a throw away line either, they really want to know. You as the customer greet the friendly shop person with the equally truthful “oarsum thanks”. Oarsum can also be a usual response to an enquiry after your general wellbeing, which is worded, “hey how are ya?” If you are more circumspect by nature and not actually oarsum, your response to “hey how’s it going”, or “hey how are ya?” Will be ‘Aw yeah, no worries’.

Once you’ve engaged the shop person in general chat about the weather, where you’ve come from, and the latest bit of significant news of the day, you’ll be asked if you require any assistance in making some sort of a purchase, this will be worded along the lines of ‘“so do you need a hand with anything?” to which you will reply with either a polite negative as you are fine and just looking or an affirmative that you would in fact appreciate some assistance. In New Zealand, the phrase for no is “aww yeah, nah” and we already know that yes please is “oarsum’.

Another phrase you will hear a lot in New Zealand is “no, really, it’s no trouble at all” as the next stage of something you’ve suddenly discovered you need help with. The help is usually offered before you’ve asked for it, nor even thought you might. The “no really, it’s no trouble at all” will be in response to your perfectly normal and expressed desire not to put anyone to any trouble with your particular issue and you’ve demurred when offered the help.

Kiwi’s are very helpful you see. We help each other, a lot. Convivial, and helpful by nature. When you are at the far end of the world you tend to need to pitch in together and if someone has made all that effort to come and visit us on their holidays, well they’ll need more help as they are far from home. They are at our home and will be made to feel welcome. We want to make sure they enjoy themselves at our place. The scenery will take care of itself, the people you meet along the way make the journey between the scenery that much more oarsum.

Lake Waikaremoana

Lake Waikaremoana

We New Zealanders are rightly very proud of our country but we aren’t by nature a demonstrative bunch. We as a people tend to be understated, not hard wired to great shows of patriotism from birth like the Americans or Aussies. We don’t tend to hang flags out of our home or car windows or tearfully clutch a hand to our chest when we hear the national anthem. But when our countryfolk achieve great things out in the world? Then we’ll let you know all about it. We’ll take on the ‘Team New Zealand’ mantle. We support our people wearing a silver fern taking on the world.

The rest of the time we quietly go about our lives on our little cluster of islands deep in the South Pacific, but punching way above our collective weight on the world stage. We are a nationally curious mix of dry humour and creativity. Adventurous and industrious with a good dose of old fashioned common sense. Our countrymen and women have achieved incredible things out in the world, from sport, across science, politics, culture, the arts and environmentalism. You’ll see and hear of New Zealanders everywhere you look. We are a nation of just four and a half million. There are currently 45 cities in the world with a population greater than our entire country.

We know we are at the far end of anywhere living a precarious existence in the most volatile geographic region on earth. Did you know that two of the three most cataclysmic volcanic eruptions of the last 500,000 years were in New Zealand? I don’t mean little puffs like Mt St Helens or Mt Pinatubo. I mean blasts not far short of extinction events. Yes. that big. Look!


Volcanoes across Lake Taupo

Volcanoes across Lake Taupo

We have breathtaking natural beauty, like nowhere else. We have more climatic regions in New Zealand than anywhere else. We live in a place of extraordinary geography and geology, flora and fauna but what you will notice time and time again, as you drive from one oarsum landscape to the next is the warmth of the New Zealanders. Just don’t expect too much conversation if there are some of our countrymen taking on the world wearing a silver fern on their sports equipment at the time. Oh we’ll still help you of course, but you’ll have to understand what it means to be a part of ‘Team New Zealand’. You’ll most likely want to become part of it too. That’s what makes this country special.

It’s not just about the view. The Nature of New Zealand is unique of course, but so is the nature of the New Zealander, it’s a way of life here.

If you are contemplating or planning a visit, it’ll be oarsum to see you.

26 replies »

  1. You have hit the nail on the head . . .New Zealanders ARE truly awesome and we sure miss that when we wander away overseas, don’t we?

  2. Hi Sandy! I have a submission for your book/compilation for ETNZ. Feel free to edit, or disregard, but here it is:

    ETNZ qualities that every team should have:

    Lessons from watching ETNZ during the AC Cup races…worth remembering:
    1. Be humble, even if you lead 6:1. You never know when the tide will turn
    2. Be confident in your preparation, be fit, be ready, and do your best
    3. Compliment your team after any difficult maneuver
    4. Give status updates to keep your team focused
    5. Give credit where credit it due, even if it means complimenting the competition
    6. Don’t be afraid to dig it in, and GRIND
    7. Do your research, but keep it simple
    8. Don’t be afraid to do your own thing and think outside the box. Others may learn from you and start doing the same (e.g., upwind foiling) which is the greatest kind of compliment
    9. Enjoy good moments & keep the atmosphere positive, and avoid showmanship….leave that to the competition.
    10. Be patient and do your best, even in the face of adversity
    11. No amount of magical thinking or superstition will change your fate. You have to work hard, and give it your all…even if it breaks your heart in the process
    12. Sometimes the cheaters and the billionaires will win. To be the best, you have to be willing to put all that aside, get up in the morning and go back out there to do it again
    13. You can execute perfectly and still lose. There may always be a faster boat and you might not be on it. However, if you have given honestly and given your all, no matter the outcome you will find that your support will always be there to help you face the next challenge, and you will know how much your efforts meant to those watching you and willing you on. Heart and soul, ultimately, make more of a difference than money and a trophy on the shelf. Those glittering rewards can’t love you back

  3. So if I’m correct, translated into end of the world speak:
    ‘Oarsum’ = ‘Proper’, ‘Truly Oarsum’ = ‘Proper Job’
    Like it Sandy.
    Proper Job!

  4. It’s a long way but I seriously need to think about planning a trip to see it (and you and my family members) for my own eyes. Will obviously keep you posted. x

  5. Sandy, your post made me wonder whether there was a lot of immigration from Ireland to New Zealand – quite a bit of your descriptions/quotes sounded as if they could have originated in Ireland too (not the “awesome”, though – back when I lived in Ireland in 1993, it would have been “super”). So, here I am sitting, a German stuck in the US, reading a blog from New Zealand, being homesick for Ireland…

  6. Hey Nikolel. Not so much Irish immigration as Scottish in our ancestry. Also an awful lot of Scandanavians migrated here in the early days of our settlement. We even have towns called Dannevirke and Norsewood for example. Many people from the former Yugoslavia were also pioneers here. Some Dutch as well. We do have a lot of Germans come to visit though. You should come and meet some of your countrymen having a great time in New Zealand. Thanks for reading!

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