Any tour guide at Colby will tell you how over 60% of our junior class studies abroad in an effort to create a more cultured, educated, and wordly student body and a more open minded graduates. So far for me, it’s worked pretty well: I never realized how weird Americans are compared to everyone else! This week, I thought I’d share some differences between Americans and everyone else here in Wellington. Everyone else consists mostly of Kiwis, but a lot of British, French, Australians and Pacific Islanders too. There are probably a lot of generalizations here, and I know some of this stuff isn’t true for all of one culture or another! Most of these aren’t really my observations, but rather things that you keep hearing over and over from everyone here.. any kiwi has probably heard all of these a thousand times.
1. Everyone else is friendlier. Yup, depressing but true. Kiwis are way more excited to meet new people anywhere regardless if you’re “cool” and American or not. Most times in America when you go to a public place – say a subway – people just keep looking straight ahead. Definitely different here.
2. There’s a lot more drama among uni students. Maybe it’s just because I’m used to Colby, which is pretty chill drama wise, but you definitely here a lot more arguments and drama go down here. Us Americans get along great with each other but walking through uni, wow, it’s crazy!
3. People are hipster. It’s more unique to Wellington than the rest of New Zealand, but no one goes to lecture, ever, in anything less than high heels and being really dressed up. Guys are the same, and everyone is a big skinny jeans/fitted u-neck t shirt fan. I haven’t exactly tried to blend in much, I get labeled as an American as soon as anyone looks at me. If you wear gym shorts, sweatpants, a sweatshirt, hat, or flip flops to class you’re so far off the bar it’s crazy. But, people love meeting Americans so they think it’s pretty cool for the most part. No New Zealander would be caught dead in sweatpants. Compare that to 9 AM courses at Colby.. that’s a pretty stark difference.
4. Life is less based around money. I don’t mean that in a cultural way, but rather economic. The distribution of wealth here is much less progressive than back in the states, and generally it’s accepted that one goes to uni, graduates, and gets a regular job. Most universities are at the same academic level and most aren’t really “better” than each other – you don’t get into uni and go through the application process like in the states, just decide where you want to go. While there obviously are less wealthy and more wealthy people, most of the population is in one big middle class pool. Jobs are jobs, people’s lives don’t revolve much around them. Wages for most jobs are pretty similar too, it’s harder to have an “upper class” or white collar job.
5. People are more chill about life. This is both a good thing, and a bad thing. If you’re trying to do business or contact a company, forget it. Representatives of companies are more just friendly people than businessman. I went in to talk to Westpac when I lost my credit card – my bank that represents Bank of America here – and the guy I sat down with, wearing a suit and tie, was pretty informal. He would use the word (f***) pretty frequently (that’s normal for talking to any businessman) as an adjective about everything. (They would wonder why on earth would I have just censored that word in my post?) And he was the manager of the whole bank. It’s not that he was an unqualified manager, it’s just how they talk here. I miss how formal American businesses are, only because they actually get stuff done. Kiwis are too chill in that regard.
But, in social life I love how chill they are. I’ve said words and had conversations here that would be so unacceptable back in the states. Sex and drinking is a huge part of life, and they literally don’t have a stigma on them whatsoever. People have sex here much more freely and when they’re way younger too.. sex is just something you do, like going to the gym. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t drink, and “going out and getting drunk” doesn’t have the same very negative connotation that it would back home. It’s analogous to, say.. I dunno “I’m going to go order pizza tonight.” (It doesn’t even compute that it’s a bad thing to go out and drink. It’s like eating food) Frankly, I get kind of tired of how un-chill the states are – I think it’s the most fun thing ever to go get some beers and fries with friends, or have a crazy party once in a while. Kiwis are flabbergasted when I tell them how you have to hide drinking or you know, try to not talk about drinking on campus tours. It’s not even a bad thing for them!
6. Lots of different words for things. There’s no way I can even come up with all the different sayings, but here are some. Lollies = candy, sunnies = sunglasses, jandals = flip flops, togs = bathing suit, college = high school, uni = university (but as in, that’s our uni, or are you in uni?), ___ as (if you say sweet as, it means really cool. If you say beachy as, it means somethings really beachy. I’ve heard pretty ridiculous ones.. “that kid is Aussie as”)
7. Academics are less work. I remember the first thing we heard from our coordinators at our Butler orientation was how kiwi students “don’t do work”. I didn’t really know what he was talking about but New Zealanders love to acknowledge how little work uni is. I’ve actually kind of miss doing real work back at Colby.. it feels good to learn and I love our Colby system!
Well, that’s all for this week.