New Zealand: a relatively insignificant country in the middle of nowhere. Everyone’s heard great things about it, but some of the misconceptions are downright hilarious. This article attempts to right those misconceptions, commonly held by Americans the rest of the world. Let’s get started.
New Zealand Misconception #1: New Zealand is part of Australia
Of all the misconceptions about New Zealand, this is the most common. Australia and New Zealand are, in fact, two completely separate countries. Saying that New Zealand is part of Australia is like saying that Canada is part of the United States of America. It’s just wrong. Not to mention New Zealanders get rather tetchy about it.
New Zealand Misconception #2: Auckland has a “harbour bridge” that links it to Sydney
As stated above, New Zealand and Australia are separate countries. How separate? Two thousand effing kilometres of effing salt water – that’s how separate! Would you like to build a bridge that’s two thousand kilometres long? Yes, Sydney has a harbour bridge. Yes, Auckland has one too. No, they do not join up.
New Zealand Misconception #3: New Zealand is full of dangerous animals
No, you’re thinking of Australia again. New Zealand has absolutely no dangerous animals. Unless you count goats as dangerous. And maybe you should. I saw someone gored by a goat once, and that was in New Zealand. New Zealand did used to have a giant, man-eating eagle, but it went extinct centuries ago.
New Zealand Misconception #4: All New Zealanders are farmers
Let me put it this way: I live in New Zealand. I don’t know any farmers.
New Zealand Misconception #5: New Zealanders lead provincial lives devoid of modern luxuries
While New Zealanders like to see themselves as honest, unpretentious nature-lovers, New Zealand is still part of the Western world, and just as slave to its vices as any other First World country. People eat fast food, have flat screen televisions, and wrap their Christmas presents in shiny paper. (For some reason, my English grandmother thought that wrapping paper wouldn’t be available in New Zealand.) Rest assured that New Zealand’s cities are just as much rubbish-strewn concrete jungles as yours.
New Zealand Misconception #6: New Zealand is not connected to the Internet
You couldn’t be reading this article if it wasn’t. While Internet access may be more expensive in New Zealand, as there are fewer people here to purchase it, it’s definitely present. For those New Zealanders that complain about how slow our Internet is: I’ve recently travelled through Britain and Europe, and their Internet is just as bad. So there you go.
New Zealand Misconception #7: New Zealand is “100% pure”
This common misconception is New Zealand’s own fault. The “100% pure” campaign is stupid. New Zealand has so many great things it can advertise to tourists, so why say something that isn’t true? Tourists get the impression that New Zealand is somewhere you can, for example, frolic through pristine nature, drinking from clear, fresh streams as you go. The truth is you should NEVER drink directly from a stream in New Zealand. Intensive dairy farming has produced a national water pollution problem.
New Zealand simply isn’t the clean, green utopia that people think it is. It often seems that way because we have such a small population, but, per capita, our environmental record actually isn’t very impressive.
New Zealand Misconception #8: New Zealand is so small that everyone knows each other
New Zealand, by area, is bigger than Great Britain, and it has a population of about four and a half million. Not everyone knows each other. They do say, however, that whereas the rest of the world has about six degrees of separation, New Zealand only has two. Still, New Zealand isn’t a village. You’d be silly to think, as many tourists do, that you’d be able to see the whole country in a week or two.
New Zealand Misconception #9: New Zealand has kangaroos
Again: Australia. The only kangaroos New Zealand has are in zoos. Our national animal is the kiwi. (Which can’t fly.)
New Zealand Misconception #10: New Zealand has cannibals
No, now you’re confusing us with Germany! Kidding. Back in the days of Maori tribal warfare, cannibalism did take place, but New Zealand isn’t like Papua New Guinea or some lost island in the Pacific. There aren’t any “savage” tribes living deep in the bush, waiting to kidnap the unwary tourist and put them in the pot. New Zealand is a thoroughly modernised country.
New Zealand Misconception #11: New Zealand has Vikings
New Zealand is not a medieval fantasy land! Nor is it “somewhere near Iceland”. (Maybe the people who think that are confusing New Zealand with Newfoundland?) We do not have any Vikings, nor did we back when the Vikings were out “viking”. Although it would be cool to find some archaeology suggesting that Vikings had sailed this far…
New Zealand Misconception #12: New Zealanders don’t speak English
The primary language of New Zealand is English. It may be spoken in a lazy, mumbling way that makes it practically unintelligible, but, believe me, it’s English.
New Zealand Misconception #13: All New Zealanders speak Maori
No. Not even all Maori speak Maori. Maori is an official language of New Zealand, however, and you’ll often find signs in both English and Maori. Some Maori words are used in everyday New Zealand English, such as “koha” – if you’re at a free concert, you might be asked for a koha, a small donation for the band.
New Zealand Misconception #14: The capital city of New Zealand is called “Orcland”
This is so wrong that it’s wrong in two different ways. One: it’s AUCKland, not ORCland. The name has absolutely nothing to do with Lord of the Rings. It was named after the Earl of Auckland, who was Viceroy of India, in 1840. Two: Auckland is not the capital city of New Zealand – that’s Wellington.
New Zealand Misconception #15: The entire country looks like a Lord of the Rings set
Much as I wish this were true, it isn’t. New Zealand is chock-a-block full of amazingly beautiful scenery, much of which was used in The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, but its towns and cities are quite ordinary. In fact, they look far less Lord of the Rings-y than many towns around Europe, due to the lack of historic buildings. Of course, there is one place in New Zealand that remains a perfect Lord of the Rings set: Hobbiton. I heartily recommend you go – it’s fantastic.
New Zealand Misconception #16: New Zealanders live in hobbit holes
Hobbits don’t actually exist. J. R. R. Tolkien made them up. New Zealanders live in houses, although they differ slightly in style from European houses. Few homes here are built of brick; the wooden, colonial-style bungalow is more common. But while they might not live like hobbits, New Zealanders do tend to have tough feet from walking around barefoot…
New Zealand Misconception #17: They have “dodgy foreign” food in New Zealand
If you’re the sort of unadventurous person who mistrusts “foreign” food, New Zealand is probably a good place for you to come. Everyday New Zealand food is very similar to the food you get in Britain and North America. New Zealand being a cultural melting pot, however, you can sample cuisine from practically anywhere in the world.
New Zealand Misconception #18: They don’t have democracy in New Zealand
There are many New Zealanders who would say (in Internet comment sections) that New Zealand isn’t a democracy, but, political whinging aside, it is. It’s actually one of the better democracies in the world. Foreigners always seem surprised when you tell them that New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote. Well it was. Back in 1893.
New Zealand Misconception #19: Everyone in New Zealand shears/rides/inappropriately interferes with sheep
You know the last one is a joke. At least I hope you do. If you don’t, you’re confusing New Zealand with Australia again. The middle one is also a joke. The first one, at least, is not unfounded: sheep shearing is a thing and it exists in New Zealand. Hardly anyone in the country has actually done it, but there are lots of places in New Zealand where tourists can watch sheep being sheared. I don’t see the appeal myself. Seriously – why would anyone pay to watch that?
New Zealand Misconception #20: New Zealand is paradise
Of course New Zealand isn’t paradise. It’s a country just like yours. There are good things and there are bad things. Well, okay, it’s probably closer to paradise than your country… I mean it does have an abundance of beautiful scenery… And, yes, it is one of the safest places on the planet… But, no, it’s not paradise. Sometimes it just seems like it.
Have you heard any funny misconceptions about New Zealand? Please share them below, leave a comment on the Not Australia Facebook page, or Tweet them with #NZMisconceptions.
Article by Abigail Simpson, author of POMS AWAY! A British Immigrant’s View of New ZealandFollow Not_Australia