Especially as the NZ weather has turned frigid just for him. It’s currently 10 degrees in Auckland, and it’s COLD. (Yes, Northern Hemisphere folk it is cold!) It’s snowing down south, which admittedly that’s like saying I’m in London and it’s snowing in Edinburgh.
But feeling at home, takes soo much more than the weather!
So, despite him not really being a house guest, his recent arrival has made us think about what English folk need to know about NZ homes. We read this brilliant piece from my mate Toni on BBC America British House Guest in US and thought we’d do a Kiwi version.
1/ Bring your socks - The first thing English visitors need to know about Kiwi homes is that they’re not properly insulated and they’re not centrally heated. So 10 degrees C is going to feel cold. I was taught that architects and builders didn’t think it was cold enough in NZ to build homes with double glazing and central heating but maybe it was just part of the national zeitgeist – to be hard as nails and deal with it. Whatever the reason, don’t forget your woolly socks and your sweaters if you’re visiting NZ in the winter time (May – August).
2/ Shoes off, socks on - Many Kiwis have a policy of taking shoes off at the door and walking around the house in bare feet. But then, many NZers walk around outside – at the beach, at the shops, out to dinner – in bare feet. I didn’t realise that this behaviour was unusual until I visited England and was told that it was ‘common’ to walk around in bare feet – even inside! And then of course there was all that confusion about plimsolls (what the hell were they?)
3/Can’t see the wood for the trees – We don’t live in barns we just like wooden houses. Many British folk can’t get their heads around the fact that many Kiwi homes, particularly North Island ones, are built out of wood…AND they have tin rooves. Wood is a great building material for our environment and it flexes whenever the Shaky Isles decides to wobble. A wooden house is not an indication of poverty or of ‘class’ as many architectural beauties are made from the material. Steel rooves also top some of the more adventurous architectural wonders in the country, and are typically made from Zincalume or coloured steel.
4/Waste not want not - Our kitchens often have waste disposal machines built into the sinks just as they do in the US and house guests should be very careful to mind their teaspoons as wastemasters are known to gobble them up along with the food scraps and fingers.
5/Open books - NZ homes are typically open plan which can be very disconcerting for the English house guest. My Englishman spent the first week back in NZ shutting doors and going to pull curtains that aren’t there. There isn’t as much of a focus on hiding away behind net curtains here, probably because so many of our homes are on their own section and are not overlooked by the neighbours.
6/Outside room – The ideal Kiwi home has a patio/deck that opens onto the garden. Indoor/outdoor flow is essential for the Kiwi way of life and even in winter we typically open all the doors to the ‘outside room’ the moment the sun shines. Most Kiwi outside rooms have a gas BBQ in pride of place and some outdoor furniture on which to lounge whilst the sausies burn.
7/ Pools and boats – Pools and boats are not a big deal in NZ, particularly in Auckland which has so many boats it’s been dubbed ‘The City of Sails’. Having a boat doesn’t mean you made money on the Stock Exchange, every man and his dog has a boat in NZ. Pools are more expensive than they are in Australia but they’re also fairly common in Auckland and don’t necessarily indicate a largesse of moolah. My Englishman was staggered that you don’t need a license to have a boat. It’s wise to do a Day Skipper’s course (at least) but there’s no regulation to say you have to. In fact it’s more difficult to rewire a plug in NZ (DON’T it’s against the law) than it is to steer a hulk of horsepower on the briny.
8/ Don’t wait for the bus – Or the train. You could be waiting for some time. Auckland is not blessed with a very good public transport system due to a dumb decision in the early 1970s when the city was growing, to be like a mini-Los Angeles. The result is a city that is hampered by clogged up motorways and a public transport system that’s inefficient. Whilst the city fathers are trying desperately to build and restore train networks, bus and ferry systems most Aucklanders drive most places. It’s more or less imperative to be a two car family in Auckland, as the city is one of the most spread out cities in the world (about 2 hrs from North to South). And for the sake of your blood pressure avoid rush hour, if you can.
9/Don’t leave milk out – One thing that will drive your Kiwi host nuts is leaving food out on the bench. In our climate, particularly in Summer, everything goes in the fridge (or freezer). Yes, even tomato sauce and Soy Sauce and jam. Bread lives in the freezer (otherwise it goes mouldy!) and is defrosted just before use. At least it’s not as bad as in Australia, we don’t have to put our dry goods like flour in the fridge.
10/Kiwi is as Kiwi does – My Englishman has been fascinated with what makes you a Kiwi. As a new world country, everyone here has come from somewhere else relatively recently. Even the Maori, NZ’s indigenous people, came from Hawaiiki.
So what makes a Kiwi?
It’s not where you were born.
It’s not saying ‘fush and chups’.
It’s not even stoically putting up with the cold, the relative isolation from the rest of the world or being able to manipulate a piece of No 8 wire into a satellite receiver.
No, being a Kiwi is about how you think and how you behave. Kiwi is as Kiwi does.
If you had an English house guest at your place, what would you advise them about local ways?