When I was about eighteen, and living in the South Island, for some reason I’d hitch hiked to Takaka, at the top of the South Island.
It my first time there. People told me that there’s a bridge just outside of town, that was a good camp spot.
But the thing is, turns out there’s a bridge on either end of town. I hadn’t gone through the other end of town, so I didn’t know about that one, so I assumed it was the one that I’d gone over when I first came in.
So I go back to that tent, and there’s a paddock. The weather’s fine and it’s summer, so I just sleep out under the stars.
That night I had a dream that a cow bit me.
I wake up in the morning, and open my eyes, and there’s all these cows standing around me staring at me.
I’d slept in a cow paddock.
It looked a bit like this:
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.
When I told people I was going to Queenstown, one of the questions I was often asked was “Are you going to Fergburger?”. The other was “Are you going skiing?”.
This question would usually lead into me saying “I don’t know if I would want to wait 30 minutes for a burger.”
My expectations going in was that Fergburger was going to be an overpriced burger that I’d have to wait a long time for, but a decent burger.
But what I found was actually a very reasonably priced burger, and a remarkably efficient burger making work flow. Economists and business analysts would appreciate Fergburger just for this aspect.
My burger cost $12.50 and took about 10 minutes to get to me. That’s very reasonable time for a burger.
The burger itself, was good, but not the best burger in the whole wide world. I think the burger that I had at The Pegasus Arms in Christchurch a few days earlier was better. (It cost $19 and came with fries).
It had nice wide bread, and very nice bread. The burger filling wasn’t that tasty! I think it could have done with more/a tastier sauce.
I’d definitely eat there again, and I kind of wish I did when I had the opportunity again later. Unfortunately, they don’t have a good range of beer. No craft beers from what I remember. They do have beer though!
So yes, Fergburger. You shouldn’t go here because it’s an out of this world experience, but because they’re reliable and make a decent burger and a reasonable price. I still wouldn’t wait 30 minutes for one, unless I really didn’t have much else to do. The bakery next door does good pizza too.
Skip to 1:00 for the action.