at a glance: New Zealand

Also known as: Aotearoa, the Land of the Kiwi

Population: Approximately 4.5 million people, and 60 million sheep. No joke.

Government: Parliament is the national legislative authority; the Prime Minister is the executive political power; Queen Elizabeth II is the official head of state. The large population of indigenous people is known as the Maori, and the Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840, recognized Maori ownership of the land. The white men and the Maori have had slightly different expectations of this treaty, but New Zealand actually has a pretty good track record when it comes to respecting the rights of the indigenous people. For example, we heard from a political employee that Parliament has suspended the construction of a badly needed major highway because the Maori have objected – they want all the sacred frogs removed from the path of destruction. One by one. So that’s happening.

 Median household income: $68,600 and rising.

Weather: Temperate with sharp regional contrasts. When we were at Double Hill it would snow in the morning on the mountains, and we’d be poolside and sweating by lunch.

 Our favorite places:

  • Geraldine: a small town on the mid-east coast of the South Island. According to Jimmy Wallace, it’s known to tourists because of bribery and bowels: tourist buses are bribed by local merchants to stop for bathroom breaks. But it’s really actually very charming, and filled with local character.
  • Lake Taupo: Picturesque lake views, with plenty to do for the adrenaline seeker.
  • Tongariro Alpine Crossing: Refer back to our “Our Week in Review” for pictures. Nothing else really needs to be said.
  • Ponsonby Social Club: Our only night out in New Zealand reminded us of being back in Williamsburg – lots of hipsters, lots of exposed brick, lots of expensive drinks.
  • Fairley Bakery: best meat pies in the country.
  • Our local watering hole at Sundrum, on the Orari river; beautiful, secluded, filled with mermaids.

Fun facts:

  • We picked up some sweet slang while in NZ; the most commonly used is “sweet as,” which we took the wrong way at first, but is just another way of saying “cool, bro.” Definitely is “defo” and flip flops are “jandals” (Japanese sandals, although we prefer to think of them as jesus sandals).
  • Kiwi’s are CRAZY drivers, and don’t take kindly to tourists on the road. One example, which found it’s way into the paper, was a local New Zealand guy who chased down a German tourist, forced him out of the car, and stole his keys. They can also have your back though; drivers will flash their lights at you if you’re coming up on a cop car (we know this from experience).
  • All in all, the common perception of Kiwi’s being laid-back, chill people is pretty spot on. Jimmy always says that his one major fault as a lawyer is that he can’t get riled up enough about a case…but it seems to take a lot to rile up any Kiwi.