Shorts. When I first arrived in New Zealand 2,5 years ago, I was exhilerated to find that here, being gay was apparently something to proudly show off with. That was my only explanation for the length of some men’s shorts. Of course it is horribly prejudiced of me to assume that gay men would all start wearing colorful hot pants the minute they weren’t harassed by the stupidest part of society anymore. Also, it is very sexist of me to notice subjectively feminine clothing on men so much.
I should have really known better, coming from a country were guys wear a raw leather version of short shorts when they’re feeling particularly conservative and manly. I’m quite ashamed of myself, but in my defense: there is absolutely no way a straight German guy would wear pants that reveal more than maybe five centimeters of his upper leg when casually walking around town. So, seeing men proudly showing of their femoral muscles in itsy bitsy panties on the street was just as fabulous to me as if they had been wearing feather-boas.
So, Kiwi guys like shorts. They wear them in summer, they wear them in winter, they wear them in the house, they wear them out of the house, they wear them in e v e r y length, color and shape, and they wear them because there’s this thing with Kiwis and temperature:
Kiwis are to temperature as the French are to delayed trains and the Germans to their behavior towards strangers: They think they have no control over it whatsoever. As the Germans think that being the three big ‘un’s (unfriendly, unspontaneous and unhelpful) is their god given nature and cannot be changed, and as the French accept ridiculously unreliable public transport, the Kiwis accept being cold. They refuse to wear close toed shoes, they don’t insulate and they happily hop around in shorts through thunderstorms, hail and tempest.
Apparently it is part of every true Kiwi student experience to spend a winter sleeping in an anorak with socks on your hands, three hot water bottles that slowly burn through your sleeping bag on your belly and a combination of a beanie and ear muffs on your head. I’m going through that experience right now and I find it amazing. The paradox of waking up to a blindingly blue sky, palm trees gently swaying in front of your window, parrots chirping on your windowsill, to then get up, break off the icicles that grew on your nose over night and go through the torture of changing into freezing cold cloths- it doesn’t cease to amaze me.
Whoohooo! Exams are O V AH and I’m free again. So, in the next few weeks no pimped up development cooperation assignments anymore on this blog, but some fun stuff. Because that’s what I’ll be doing during my mid-semester break: fun stuff.
I’ll start with a little bit of a Kiwi-assessment. I’ve been living in New Zealand for more than four months now and here are some tips for future visitors of this incredibly gorgeous country:
Do not speak ill of crackers. Actually, don’t even THINK ill of crackers- your Kiwi hosts will notice it in your face, when they serve you some of those tasteless, dry, cardboard-imitating salt-cookies. I risk being thrown out of the country by insulting crackers, so please value my advice and take it seriously: There is strictly no joking about crackers.
They are regarded as the perfect support for cheese and hummus. Doubting their necessity by pointing out that bread might do the job will either earn you mild bewilderment (in the best case) or, worse, you will be regarded as an ungrateful, Kiwi-hating food snob.
So, when offered a cracker, take a sip of water to pre-wet your gums, and dig in. Then, if you manage to speak through the dry crumbs on your lips, say something like: “Mmmmmh. Crackers. Gotta love’em.”
Also, keep a straight face when walking through the cracker section in the supermarket. Kiwis find nothing funny about 3 Million kinds and shapes of tasteless cardboard. Oh, and have an answer at hand, when someone asks you about your favorite kind of crackers. You don’t want to offend people by giving impulsive answers like “BUT THEY ALL TASTE THE SAME!!!”
Kiwis are a sensitive people. They need to be treated with perfect respect, since they often lack in self-respect. This Kiwi characteristic even has a name: tall-poppie syndrome, meaning that everybody, who sticks out, risks to be cut down, so people rather duck than draw attention to themselves. (It’s not ‘tall-puppy syndrome’ as I understood the first few times I heard about it. Unfortunate misunderstanding. Makes the metaphor much more brutal and dramatic. I pictured tall puppies to be cut down for standing out and felt deeply disturbed about Kiwi humility.)
Decades of bullying by their huge, hot neighbor Auzzie have made Kiwis insecure, which is unfair and completely uncalled for. New Zealand is not only sweet and beautiful, but also damn cool. For instance, the mere amount of awesome cafés spread out in the country is proof of New Zealand’s great taste in coffee, furniture, food and music.
Seriously, you just want to be around Kiwis all the time. They’re helpful and considerate to the point of becoming a bit ridiculous. If you ask a group of people for the way, an average of 75% of that group will try to explain it to you at the same time. Yet, they won’t fight over who knows best, but they’ll actually all congratulate each other for their great directions. Which leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy about Kiwis in general after five minutes, but also quite confused about where to go.
Another reason to love Kiwis: Where there is an opportunity to make a joke, a Kiwi will make one. But not in an annoying ba-dam-bam-tschsch way, but with laid-back sarcasm that doesn’t give away any need for appreciation. They joke, because they can. Not because they want you to laugh. If you laugh (you will), they’ll look at you like happy, grateful puppies who just received a dog treat after getting the “sit!” command right for the first time. (what is it with the puppy metaphors in my head??)
So, these were my first 2 pieces of advice. Embrace the cracker and respect the Kiwi. More will follow.