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  •  Living in New Zealand
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The New Zealand Sheep Fence Networks

If you live in New Zealand long enough, you’re eventually going to go hiking. Probably sooner rather than later. There are hiking trails everywhere. There are hiking trails where there don’t even need to be hiking trails. In a small town near Tauranga (if I”m not mistaken) there’s a hiking trail that weaves through its downtown strip in addition to the existing sidewalk…because it would be too boring to just walk on the sidewalk that’s already there. And I agree with  the locals.

Finding out that there’s a breath taking hiking trail right around the corner or stumbling on a city with a superfluous hiking trail woven through the downtown strip are little just two examples of the idiosyncratic things that make you smile in New Zealand. Another example is that it’s completely normal for these hiking trails to cut across private property where sheep graze.

That’s super cool that you can just walk on and off people’s property. In America the sheep would be a health and safety hazard. The entrance would have to be wheel chair accessible, there’d have to be a water fountain and toilets available. There’d be signs warning you not to shove rocks or sticks in your eyes. And it’d cost $10 per person. In New Zealand, if you want to go walk over there…then you can go walk over there.

It’s not that New Zealand doesn’t have fences, but when a hiking trail meets private property there will be a (usually) very basic, wooden step. Every time I use one of those rickety country ladders it makes me feel free. It’s a minute, idiosyncratic joy I find living in New Zealand.

Now that you understand that New Zealand is covered in a patchwork of countryside woven together by age old, public walkways then you can understand a social phenomon that exists in New Zealand that I call “The Sheep Fence Network.” Kiwis probably have their own word for this phenomenon. It’s a significant facet of Kiwi culture.

It stems from the fact that New Zealand is a pretty small place, and it’s extremely common for people to move to different cities. Despite how much Kiwis migrate within their own country they still really, really, really value family, heritage and history. So they don’t just fly the nest and never write home.

Try to look at life from a Kiwi perspective. Most of the world doesn’t even know New Zealand exists. If it’s suprising for a foreigner to know where New Zealand is it’s almost unheard of for them to know anything about life inside New Zealand other than the fact that the rugby team is called the “The All Blacks.” Most Americans don’t even know that much, and you’d get beaten up in America if you walked down the street wearing an “All Blacks” t-shirt.

The rest of the world’s apathy towards New Zealand has rendered the country one big, gigantic inside joke. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about ask a Canadian. They understand.

The cumulative effect of all these social forces is that every Kiwi knows every other Kiwi. If any one Kiwi doesn’t know another Kiwi specifically, he will still know 15 people who know that person. It’s like 6 Degrees to Kevin Bacon except with  a lot less degrees. If you’re ever at a bar with your Kiwi bloke friends  and another Kiwi enters the conversation and nobody knows that person, you’ll probably have to sit through 23 minutes of oral history while everyone figures out how many people they know who knows someone who knows the other person. Or something like that.

It’s cute to watch, but it makes you feel lonely. It’s also worth warning potential emigrants about, but understand what I mean when I say, “warn.”  The New Zealand good ole’ boy sheep fence network isn’t a sinister thing; Kiwis have just had a long time to become really close friends because there hasn’t ever been anyone else to talk to. If one of your friends asked you for a job you’d probably going to give it to them. You might even give your brother’s friend, or your best friend’s friend preference before you even advertise a job to people with hard-to-understand accents who don’t get all your inside jokes.

You can use this too your advantage though. If you know you’re going to move to New Zealand then get on the Internet and try to impress a few people in New Zealand. Make some professional pen pals and then drop their names every chance possible. I didn’t actually do that myself, and I’ve never known anyone who has, but it seems like it would work really well in theory.

And don’t worry about it too much anyway. There are 10 million reasons why this may never be a problem for you, but once you’ve lived in New Zealand long enough to establish your own catalog of references you’ll be able to play the name game with blokes at the bar and enjoy all the perks of being accepted into the sheep fence network.


My first New Zealand advertisement


This is our cat, Noe. New Zealand has really beautiful cats. I don’t know what’s up with that.

Apple and Feijoa, together again!

Goes great with lamb-and-mint chips!

Americans are the only people who don't pronounce this word phonetically.

Pronounce the word circled in blue phonetically, like the Kiwis do:


The Reality of Kiwi Austerity

Our pamphlet, “Tips on Emigrating to New Zealand” paints a pretty favorable picture of New Zealand, and in my last blog I even linked to a New Zealand tourism video that presents an even more positively biased impression of New Zealand. With or without my help New Zealand is becoming known around the world as an easy, safe, fun place to live that’s not responsible for any of the bloody conflicts that are making front page news around the world.

This is a point worth dwelling on. In the eyes of the media a country isn’t worth talking about until a tragedy happens there. Since we see the world through the eyes of the media, a lot of young people had probably never heard about New Zealand until the earthquakes in Christchurch happened. If the media doesn’t think New Zealand is shocking enough to cover then that gives some credence to the claim that you can expect to experience an un-problematic life in New Zealand.

As a general rule I’ll stand by my statement that if you move to New Zealand you’ll live in a relatively stable, civilized country. You can sleep soundly at night knowing that. It’s a great place for American veterans, because you can go just about any place in New Zealand and be confident you don’t have to look over your shoulder. It’s a place you can let your guard down a little.

If you’re from New York City you know what I’m talking about. If you live in Uganda or Compton, I can pretty much guarantee that New Zealand would feel like Utopia to you, and you probably wouldn’t even notice the first world problems all the white people around you are always angry about. However, if you currently live in a giant house in a mega-burb outside an American mega city and have central heating and airconditioning, a huge back yard and every super store imaginable within a 15 minute drive (that are all open 24 hours a day) then you’re going to experience a significant loss in your quality of life as measured by material standards if you move to New Zealand.

I’ve talked about Kiwi austerity before, but I haven’t done it justice yet. To enjoy the safety, beauty and culture of New Zealand you’re probably going to  have to accept an obtrusively low quality of life by material standards. Unless you’re working in upper management or a highly technical, understaffed career field then there’s a realistic possibility you’re going to have to wear a sweater or two around the house during the winter.

That might not sound like a big deal until  you wake up at 6:30 in the morning and it’s dead cold in your room, and your electric blanket turned itself off hours ago. So you don’t want to move, because you don’t want to lose any of the heat you have trapped under your blanket. But you have to go to work. So after working up the courage you dash from your bed to the shower butt naked skipping on your tip-toes because the wood floor is freezing. Then you wedge yourself into a cold, ceramic shower and turn on the water and wait for it to heat up while you squirm like an alien. Then you don’t want to get out of the shower because it’s cold out there and you’re all wet and you know you’re just going to snap-freeze as soon as you get out of the shower and you know you’re not going to dry yourself completely because you’ll be in too much of a hurry to get your warm clothes on. Plus, since the humidity never drops below London fog your towels are permanently damp and asthma inducing, sinus-infecting mold grows on all the windowsills. So you end up going to work feeling a swamp beast.

Then on your way to work in the morning you  stop to get gas and pay $9 a gallon to fill up your micro car that you bought because it gets great gas mileage, which is important when gas costs $9 a gallon. You take solace from these problems though by reminding yourself that you have really cheap health care, which is important because you’re not getting enough vitamins since bell peppers and squash cost $4 a piece in the winter, and 3 boneless,skinless chicken breasts cost $14 when they’re on sale. The stores don’t stock much variety of anything. So you’re basically eating the same ten meals over and over again unless you can find some hole in the wall ethnic market to shop in.

At least it’s easy to blend in because everyone you see at any gas station is wearing the same clothes as you that bought at the same three department stores, and those stores are just selling all the old left over stock American department stores had left over from the 80’s.

If any of this bothers you, you won’t be able to smoke and/or drink your brain into a comatose state where you don’t realize you’re broke all the time because cigarettes cost $16 per pack and alcohol costs $16 a six pack.

When you put it all together it’s kind of a big deal. It just never really hit me because I’m used to being completely broke all the time. I hate to say it, but if you’re poor, white trash you’ll likely find New Zealand an easy place to live. Case in point, in New Zealand  it’s normal to walk around the city and into stores barefoot. I suspect this is also why there are so many hippies in New Zealand. They’re used to scraping by below the poverty level, and they want to spend their weekends and vacations going on grand adventures to green places. So they stay. The kind of Kiwis who detest hippies tend to move to Australia where they can make more money and enjoy more sun.

I hate to put a specific number on this. I don’t know how New Zealand defines the poverty line, but I see lots of people making $60,000 per year eating wilted vegetables and living in cold, rickety houses where everyone gathers around the space heater at night. If you make $30,000 per year you’ll definitely be living like that.

I can’t guarantee that if you move to New Zealand you’ll ever experience any of this. All I’m saying is that I’ve looked around, and I’ve seen a lot of it. If you want to learn more about Kiwi austerity, see what real Kiwis have to say about this article.

This is all I could afford to do that day.

[This was all I could afford to do that day.]

Lamb Chips.Mmmmmm

Love that lamb and mint

Is the grass really greener?

The following events have happened in the United States since I left there and moved to New Zealand:

The Sikh Temple Shooting

The Colorado Batman shooting

Chick-Fil-A inequality appreciation day

Herman Cain was one of the choices Americans were given to be their president.

Rick Perry had a shot at being president.

The American political system clearly demonstrated its ability to solve problems rationally and efficiently

Obamacare made me facepalm

Obama turned out to be George Bush 2.0

The consumer spoke, and the consumer said, “I celebrate the fact that I’m retarded.” I’m talking about Twilight.

Jersey Shore happened

America was selling friggin weapons to Mexican drug cartels, and the president stepped in censored it from the public. 

The Westboro Baptist church is still doing its thing.

It surprised nobody when it was made public that  mulched gristle sprayed with ammonia was commonly added to the meat products everyone consumes. 

It turned out soda causes cancer. It also turned out that’s no big deal. 

Occupy Wallstreet and Occupy Oakland happened.

On the upside, America landed another Rover on Mars. Granted, we could have people living on Mars by now if NASA had received all the money the United States military has spent fighting in the Middle East.

Sure, Osama Bin Laden’s death was a cause to celebrate, or breath a sigh of relief at least, but if the best thing that happened to you all year involved dumping bodies in the ocean then fuck your life.

You want to know what’s going on in New Zealand?

There was a dead possum pageant that upset a few folks

The All Blacks won the 2011 Rugby World Cup

That’s about it.

I’m not trying to prove in a list of articles that New Zealand is better than the United States. All I’m saying is, every once and a I while I see something that makes me stop and say, “Gee. I’m glad I’m not there anymore.”

From my own personal, subjective perspective the grass in America still looks pretty wilted. New Zealand’s grass is green as. 

Escape NZ

In the two years we’ve been blogging we’ve consistently said that we’re happier in New Zealand than we were in America. We’ve also tried to emphasize that New Zealand has its pros and cons and isn’t necessarily for everyone. Granted, we like New Zealand, and it shows. If you want to get the other side of the story, and you should, then check out Escape NZ. It’s a forum for people who want to leave New Zealand. It seems to have better quality information than Expat Exposed. Even still, if you’re from Uganda or Compton then a lot of the complaints on Escape NZ will sound so first-world to you that reading them may make you want to move to New Zealand just to trade your current problems for those problems.

I can’t vouch for all the content on Escape NZ, because I haven’t read it all, but from what I’ve seen it looks worth poking around if you’re considering uprooting your life and moving to New Zealand and want to hear the other side of the story.


Note: The Escape NZ website has been down for a month or two now. I don’t know if it will ever be available again, but I’ll leave this post up just in case.

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