Pre-New Zealand

Whilst packing for my trip abroad, I listened to a variety of New Zealand musical artists. One thing I did not know is that the popular singer Lorde is from New Zealand which was pretty cool to find out. Also, some alternative bands that I’ve listened for a while I found out were from New Zealand as well. A new New Zealand artist that I happened upon, a band called Fat Freddy’s Drop, was quite enjoyable. They have a unique sound of reggae, soft rock, and R&B. It was interesting, they were very groovy! I’m really excited to explore some bars with live music while were in the city areas of New Zealand!


On the plane from Houston to Auckland, I had the pleasure of sitting next to a young man who was from New Zealand probably in his late twenties on his way back home. His name was Cy. He recommended to me some comedy movies to watch that he claimed to be “New Zealand pop culture classics.” The movies I watched on the treacherously long plane ride were What we do in the Shadows, and Boy, both by director Taika Waititi (who also was the director of a recent blockbuster Thor: Ragnarokif I’m not mistaken). Both movies were hilarious! I especially loved Whatwe do in the Shadows.Its filmed as if it’s a documentary and the humour is very similar to the humor on the TV show The Office. It was a pseudo-scary comedy about old vampires living as flat mates in modern day New Zealand. Cy told me about these movies and the role they have in the culture in New Zealand as a “classic”, and from my understanding, movies by Taika Waititi seem to have this cult following similar to the National Lampoon satire movies in America. The comedy in both these movies is very dry and can be quite witty at times which I especially enjoy. What we do in the Shadowswas apparently filmed in Wellington so maybe when were in Wellington I can recognize some of the filming spots. Needless to say, I am so PUMPED for this adventure!!!!!


** pictured is me and my friend Reagan before getting on the first plane at Birmingham airport**

Cultural Tensions

My impression of New Zealand culture so far is that of a very relaxed and easy going attitude. I’ve found this attitude to be present in almost all the residents of the country. This nonchalant persona is also embodied within the Maori culture as well. My impression however is only surface level for I’ve only been here a week and still have, any more people to meet. All this being said, it’s my understanding that the general culture of New Zealand doesn’t really fit well into the mold of city life. I especially noticed this after returning to Auckland after being away for a few days. A lot of immigrants from Asian countries come to New Zealand and settle in Auckland. This has resulted in a great population boom in the city of Auckland, and so the way of life there has drastically changed in comparison with the rest of the country. Day to day life is a lot more rushed, and a lot more crowded. This change however has caused a slight, but noticeable tension between the natives and the immigrants.

I’ve found that the resentment present towards the massive amount of immigration recently experienced in the cities of New Zealand is due to a number of different opinions. Some of the resentment is unfortunately due to a passive racism in my opinion. Some people are uncomfortable with the different cultures coming into the country. The racism stems from fear I think that the culture of the incoming people will overpower the preexisting way of life. Or maybe the fear comes from simply not knowing or understanding the culture. In other areas of the country, you can see a large increase in the population of pacific islanders. A lot of them speak their own respective languages and this in and of itself could be the cause of some tension. Language barriers typically do contribute to fissions within a society. Although, the main idea behind the push against immigration in my opinion revolves more around the sheer number of people coming into the country and not so much the different cultures. As more people choose to move to New Zealand, the cities get bigger, the land is more susceptible to pollution, and the scenic landscape that is representative of New Zealand is destroyed and built upon. The people of this country, especially the people that live in more rural areas, are tremendously proud of the lush environment and the fact that almost every view or lookout point of the landscape remains unobstructed by skyscrapers. If New Zealand continues to take on immigrants at the rate that it is, then this will force more areas to become more metropolitan, and then the landscape of the country becomes much less surreal. It may sound dramatic but I think the main reason people are against immigration is because there’s a fear that the influx of immigration will result in the destruction of what New Zealanders are the proudest of in their country.

New Zealand's Facade (Part one)

New Zealand has been great and it’s treated me well. Everything about this small but sufficient island seems close to ideal and in many ways better than the United States (sorry America but we have yet to figure a lot of things out). However, I can’t help but to be quite cynical about how genuine the ideals and values of New Zealand are. For example, is New Zealand really as eco-friendly as they say they are? Is New Zealand actually a country that is willing to accept all different kinds of people and cultures? And lastly, is New Zealand truly as progressive as they seem when it comes to gender roles? To what extent is the close to ideal society of New Zealand genuine, and how much is possibly just a façade? To explain my cynicism further, not many controversial topics seem to be involved in the public conversation here, at least not in the forefront of public conversation, and so I was curious as to why that is? I just personally couldn’t believe that almost everyone was perfectly content with society as it is.

As for the eco-friendliness, I’ve met quite a few people that think the reputation New Zealand totes is a bit of malarkey, however I still think that New Zealand is much more environmentally conscientious than many countries, especially the United Sates where in some areas it’s very difficult to find a recycling bin. In New Zealand it’s definitely much more common to have recycling bins in areas, but it still isn’t an overly abundant practice. The recycling culture here definitely seems to be a façade and I’m curious as to how often people in New Zealand actually recycle in their homes.


Going back to the question- Is New Zealand actually a country that is willing to accept all different kinds of people and cultures? This question comes with a loaded answer that I still haven’t fully developed and frankly, it would take significantly longer than 3 weeks to develop it accurately. Depending on who you ask, when you ask a kiwi this question there’s a variety of answers you’ll receive. Some will tell you that the South Island is more racist than the North Island. That’s a harsh sentiment but those are words taken verbatim out of conversations I’ve had with locals. This doesn’t mean that the North Island is perfect though, and it also doesn’t mean that the South Island is strictly problematic. When we were in Christchurch, after to going to the same ice cream place three nights in a row we got to know one of the workers there who was of Tongan heritage. On the third night he was wearing an activist t shirt about equality for people from the pacific islands. This was the first time I saw any blatant activism of any kind really. When we asked if we could talk to him about it, he was really excited and surprised that we were interested in the slightest. In his opinion, there is definitely tension between some of the traditional white people of New Zealand and pacific island immigrants. He admitted that parts of the South Island were a little bit more “white-washed” than the North Island but ultimately you can find racism anywhere if you’re looking for it. The racism isn’t blatant though, he explained, and it exists more so as micro-aggressions between peoples. Another thing we discussed was the lack of the issue in public conversation. It was his personal opinion that New Zealanders shy away from any potential confrontation. I think this is a leftover social norm from the original British culture that predominated New Zealand upon colonialization. I also think that the suppression of activist groups either perpetuates the issue in question or it prolongs the issue a treacherous amount, and both of those options are of course less than ideal. I think this also explains the different views on racism in the North Island versus the South Island. The South Island was definitely much more European than the North Island and so addressing public issues is much less common on the South Island in my opinion. Maybe this is part of why the South Island is viewed as more “racist” in comparison with the North Island. Maybe immigrant peoples feel like they don’t have a voice. This is all conjecture of course, and cannot be taken for fact.

Feminism is something that I need to continue to explore before concluding this blog post so it will be further discussed in New Zealand’s façade: Part two.

New Zealand's Facade (Part two)

Now for my favorite question, and perhaps the most interesting topic I’ve found is the subject of feminism. Feminism as an activist movement doesn’t really exist here in New Zealand. Jacinda Ardern, the current prime minister is definitely a progressive leader, and her role in the government may give the impression that New Zealand is breaking down barriers when it comes to gender roles, but quite frankly I just don’t think that’s the case. Domestic violence against women is possibly one of the worst social issues here in New Zealand, and it’s disappointing that there isn’t any evidence in the communities here that there are attempts being made to resolve the issue. One night I was out at a pub and in the bathroom I walked in on a girl sobbing about just recently being able to get out of a four year long abusive relationship. After about twenty minutes, more girls filtered in and out of the bathroom, and then about five of us remained gathered in the ladies’ room discussing hot topic politics and in particular we discussed feminist culture in New Zealand. Apparently the issue doesn’t lie within the wage gap or workplace inequality like it mainly does in the United States. There’s an issue in New Zealand with the gender roles of men and women in relationships. New Zealand statistically ranks as a country which has some of the highest rates of domestic violence. Among the girls in the bathroom, two of them were personally in abusive relationships, and all of them knew multiple acquaintances or friends that unfortunately had experience with abusive partners. According to them its apparently difficult to speak out when in that situation and so women on a mass scale end up internalizing the problem and it never really gets resolved.

In conclusion, New Zealand has some things figured out that other countries have yet to discover, but in comparison with the United Sates, it really isn’t all that different. Coming into this, I expected New Zealand society to be much more progressive and objectively better than the United States but in all honesty I was disappointed to find that some trials and tribulations seem to be unescapable.