Is New Zealand Boring?

July 5, 2013
Iain MacLeod

I was ploughing my way through another 12 hour working day yesterday in Durban feeling pretty tired after a week of relentless consultations. At the same time I was thoroughly enjoying myself meeting some really nice people, exploring the possibilities and options of them to joining us in New Zealand and sharing the possibilities of the life we can offer, when one client blurted out, ‘Iain, I just have to ask you – I have been told by someone that New Zealand is boring. Now I don’t know if it is true but someone recently told me that’.

The smile evaporated from my face. My mood darkened instantly. The dark clouds gathered. I twitched. I held my breath. I counted to five. If there is one question that really bugs me, anywhere in the world, it is that one. It is up there with New Zealand is ‘backward’ – whatever that means…..

There are a few things that irk me in terms of perceptions of my country. That boring one when it occasionally comes up however tops the list.

I thought of a number of sarcastic replies starting with ‘This is Durban for God sake, it’s hardly the epi-centre of global excitement. What is there to do here when you are not being chased by people looking to relieve you of your cellphone, vehicle, possessions or even life?’

However being the consummate diplomat I am (cough cough) I did politely ask if the provider of this most wonderful of insights into my country had ever actually been to New Zealand. As usual the answer was “No”. I thought the easiest response then was to describe my normal day. And leave it to the potential client to decide how different it was to hers. It went something like this.

I wake up. I shower. I shave. I eat my wife’s homemade and very tasty toasted muesli with yoghurt. I make a coffee. At around 7.45am I start clearing the scores of emails that have arrived overnight from far flung parts of (and apparently far more exciting) parts of our planet. By 8.30am I have got through most of them. I climb in to the car. I turn on the radio or plug in the i-phone and listen to music. Ten minutes or so later I am parking the car near the office. I arrive at my desk having made a latte on the way past the coffee machine. There I sit over the next 7 hours or so and sweat blood as I battle the forces of immigration evil on behalf of my clients. I sometimes go out around the middle of the day for a bite at one of the many Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Turkish or French eateries, salad bars or bakeries or I grab a smoothie and head back to my desk.

Around 4.30 or 5.00pm I have usually had enough. I head to the gym. Or I head to the local market to get some food to prepare a dinner. I head home. Greet my family if they are there. I either cook or they cook. I put my feet up. Catch up on the BBC or Sport on the box that I recorded and stored for later. We clean up the kitchen, we load the dishwasher, we catch a bit more TV if no one has dropped in to have a coffee and a catch up. I usually check a few more emails. I take to my bed. I sleep.

Consider how different that is from your day?

When my now 17 and 19 year old sons were younger I’d be out coaching or helping out administering the local cricket club a couple of nights week (then they grew up and discovered liquor, girls, bands and night clubs….).. A couple of nights a week we go and grab a meal at one of the many local and incredibly cheap ethnic eateries of which here are about 50 within 5 minutes’ walk of our Mount Eden home. We usually do this with friends.

On weekends when the boys were younger summer Saturdays were taken up with cricket. Some winters (thankfully few) would be spent on the sides of football fields.

These days on the weekend we usually eat brunch somewhere either down at the waterfront or along Ponsonby Road if we are in town. Inevitably over the weekend we catch up with family or friends. We meet at bars, cafes or restaurants or their place. Dinner parties and Barbeques are common.

That is if we are not at the beach house fishing, playing golf, wandering around local farmer markets, tending to the garden, mowing the lawns, planting native trees and sleeping ‘rough’ in the ‘safari lodge’ tent I brought from Africa last year. This all done in the company of close friends we have invited to join us (not the sleeping ‘rough’ in the tent bit – we are not that friendly).

My sons are barely home both during the week nights or weekends. They are out with friends most nights (and yes from time to time the youngest does school work and the elder his Uni study and assignments). For them though weekends are just an extension of their busy weekly social lives – Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights are spent out with friends, in bars, clubs and at the various venues where every weekend some local or international major music act will be playing at either the 12,000 seat Vector Indoor Arena or at one of the clubs. They do what most teenagers do – have fun with their friends. Facebook is all pervasive in their lives. In one hand a smart phone, in the other the Facebook on the laptop. They sleep a lot. They are nocturnal creatures. They are expected to cook one night a week. They are expected to help clean up the kitchen. Load the dishwasher. Do the remaining dishes (but somehow that task seems to fall on my wife and me).

The eldest one drives and flies around the country to meet his mates studying at other Universities. They get up to mischief. They seem to have beer at the centre of their lives. They go to internet cafes.

So you tell me – sound boring or sound like your life?

I know the Singaporeans will have a 60 plus hour working week including at least a half day Saturday. On Sunday they reintroduce themselves to their spouses and children. They go to the shops. If they can afford the luxury of a car they sit in traffic. They then stand in restaurants and crowded food court queues. They have lunch together. The kids go home and study some more. Everyone sleeps. Riveting stuff for sure……study, study, study, work, work, work, then …..die.

In Durban? They do everything I do but many carry a gun just in case on the way to the mall or the supermarket or to the kid’s Saturday sport a fellow citizen decides they wish to redistribute some wealth. Riveting stuff no doubt but in a way most would prefer to live without.

So is New Zealand boring? Doesn’t feel like it to me but if the above is dull then I plead guilty. Lock me up but lock me up here and not South Africa or Singapore…….

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