Dot’s recent posts on the subject of Englishness cajole me into saying something about being a New Zealander. I should clarify the title first, which of course alludes to an Australian soap opera. I hereby violate the first rule of being a New Zealander by saying ‘ I don’t really care. There’s not much difference between New Zealand and Australia anyway.’ I’m talking in big picture terms of course, if we want to get pedantic about it, I could reel off half a dozen reasons why New Zealand is better. But Australia’s all right. This diminished sense of the breadth of the Tasman sea is something that comes from being a Kiwi away.
Growing up Kiwi leaves one with a sense of coming from a small country on the periphery far away from anything of any importance (which means nothing of importance happens in Australia either). That’s why many New Zealanders end up doing an ‘OE,’ an overseas experience, which traditionally means getting a job as a bartender in London, living in a three bedroom flat with about seventeen other Kiwis, and trying to see as much of Europe as you can off the money you make. Most New Zealanders go home happy to have seen a bit of the world and happy to be back home. But Kiwis are the opposite of insular. ‘Insular’ connoting detachment from external events can more properly be said of continental countries like the USA, where only a tiny proportion have a passport and have travelled overseas.
As for Kiwiness away, it doesn’t really manifest itself much in my life now, as I am, married with a son, in Ireland, with a network of friends and acquaintances here and plenty to think about and do. The exceptions would be the odd All Blacks match, when I dust off my old-style black and white Canterbury All Blacks jersey to shuffle around the house in. The one exception is this: Whenever I read anything, my eye is drawn to closely adjacent N’s and Z’s: In Novaya Zemblya, nine zebras, new to the zoo, drove a new zafira, north in near-zero temperatures. If they were looking for New Zealand, they were way off track. It’s the capital Z. It has put a charm on my eye.