I was on a date with a Dutch girl recently. We’d been drinking and the conversation turned to her mentioning that she could list ten things that suck about New Zealand, and me challenging her to do it.
We didn’t quite get ten items, but here’s the list that I remember:
- Bad internet.
This is a pretty easy gimmie, and most New Zealanders won’t disagree. New Zealand is geographically isolated, and has a small population, so improving our internet infrastructure is a costly endevour per person.
- Bad cycling infrastructure.
Again, while there is antagonism between motorists and cyclists in New Zealand, New Zealand cyclists at least, would wholeheartedly agree that New Zealand’s transport infrastructure is dangerous for cyclists.
- A lack of techno music.
In Wellington this is certainly true. There is not one dedicated electronic/techno bar that I know of.
- Passive-aggressive/non-confrontational attitudes.
If you’re doing something to annoy a New Zealander, they won’t tell you. Instead they’ll quietly seethe, perhaps drop hints and hope that you pick them up, and if that fails to change your behaviour, then act coldly toward you.This video amusingly demonstrates exactly how this dynamic plays out.
I explained this dynamic giving the example of if you live on a small island with 99 other people. In this situation, because there are so few people and you have to interact with these same people for the rest of your life, you don’t want to say something that’s going to upset them and then cause an enemy for life. Instead you err on the side of not saying anything.This might explain the passive-agressive/non-confrontational aspect of New Zealand culture, but it doesn’t explain the next point which is:
New Zealanders pride themselves on their friendly nature, and to their credit New Zealanders are remarkably friendly when you meet them. New Zealanders will within your first moments of meeting you invite you to stay at their house and share their food.However New Zealanders tend to think that their brand of friendliness is the only correct form of friendliness.
For example, New Zealanders don’t appreciate when people do raise issues directly, and may then act coldly towards them.
I think New Zealander’s opinion that they’re the friendliest people in the world is further enforced by travellers who inform them of this idea. New Zealanders respond well to this kind of praise, and so travellers are incentivised to continue singing such praise.
I’ve painted New Zealanders with very broad and crude strokes here, and obviously I’m generalising.
But I do think the criticisms raised in the last two points do have merits. New Zealanders often do beat around the bush, and have an offended or xenophobic reaction when people are direct. While there may be reasonable explanations as to why our culture is this way, I don’t think it’s a particularly good aspect of our culture.
New Zealand’s friendly culture is to be celebrated, but at the same time, we should acknowledge that our reluctance to rock the boat also holds us back from optimal arrangements in working and personal relationships. For example small grievances could be resolved much more quickly if New Zealanders were much more willing to raise them directly, rather than making hints and hoping that others get the hint.