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10 Funky Differences Between the US and NZ

1. Lions, tigers, and bears...oh my!

New Zealand has a serious lack of mammals, especially dangerous or poisonous ones. When you're camping out in the mountains, there's no thumb twiddling, wondering if “lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!” will leap out from the bush and eat you for dinner. Hikers have it pretty easy when it comes to the animal-eating-human risk. Just watch out for the 5 million sheep roaming about and the deer farms, and you'll be set.

New Zealand Landscape

New Zealand landscape

2. Scrumpy Silly

You will be mind-blown when you experience a Scrumpy..and maybe a little sick to your stomach. This is a litre bottle of cider we're talking about. I know. It's insane. Heard of Edward Scissor Hands? Let's change that to Edward Scrumpy hands.

3. Get yourself that 18+ card, girl.

The drinking age in New Zealand is 18. Before you head to college (or "university” as they call it since “college” refers to your first year at school...this causes heaps of confusion in conversation), the majority of students are legally allowed to drink. Because of this, the drinking culture is definitely a much more social, laid-back experience compared to the United States. They also will start drinking at 12 PM. Because 99% of students are of legal age, police aren’t on the prowl to shut down parties or trample on your good times - unlike the US, underage drinking isn't really a problem on campus. At big concerts and school-wide parties (shoutout to Hyde Street), you’ll see police and the R U OK? volunteer crew team meandering around ready to help you out (and not get you in trouble!) if need be.

4. I'm calling you out, neighbour

If you're driving along and someone spots you performing a poor driving manoeuvre, they can call in a complaint to the police. Here, someone can earn you a beautiful ticket in the mail, heck, even a traffic stop, for your inadequate driving capabilities (with the lack of roads, it's not too hard to catch someone)! Wild stuff. (side note: I'm not speaking from experience) Also, don't forget to drive on the left side of the road. Go against all your instincts.

5. Guns? where?

New Zealand has a serious lack of guns. No one has them. Even police don’t carry them. The scariest threat that happened while I was here was an unforeseen, strangely large, unlabelled package arriving at a Kiwi Post. The bomb squad shut down the street and flew in from Christchurch. Turns out it was just a large frozen keg. Keepin' it classy, NZ.

6. Potatoes & ice to the cream

Dunedin loves its cones and its chips. When I say chips, we're talking shoestring fries, baby. You can't walk down the street without passing cone-wielding-brown-paper-chip-bag-carrying kiwis. 

blog usnzchips

Kiwi chips

7. Kea vs. human

The alpine parrot, the kea, is New Zealand’s treasure. They’re wildly smart, cheeky, and sly. My friends and I were on our last night of the Kepler Track (one of New Zealand’s Great Walks), beyond exhausted from the long 40ks we’d put in (17 hours of hiking so far). At 2 AM, we were awakened by loud squawks circling our small tent (“RAHHHH!”). A few terrifying moments later, we realized there was a kea in the porch of our tent. Remembering the knack of these silly birds to whisk away anything you hold dear to your heart, my stomach dropped as I realized all of our hiking boots were sitting outside our zippered tent. At this point it was too late – out of the 6 shoes that could've fell victim, my one single boot was nowhere to be found. The next morning, I located my boot across the campsite...orthotic chewed and shredded. My love for the kea definitely dwindled ever so slightly after this encounter. However, you didn’t hear that from me – the kea is an obsessively loved New Zealand bird.


NZ Kea

Native kea

8. "The rugby" fanatics

How our colleges feel about football, Kiwis feel about rugby. Once you experience "The Zoo,” aka the student section of a rugby Highlanders game, you will understand the extreme passion and undying love they hold for this wild sport.

New Zealand Rugby Game

"The zoo"

9. Oodles and oodles of the outdoors!

My favorite (or "favourite" as NZ spells it) is the country's celebration of the outdoors. The Great Walks are New Zealand's pride and joy. These multi-day hikes are beyond-words-mind-blowingly-beautiful. Though you might get taunted by keas, it's a must, must, must do. 

10.  Kiwi krazi!

Kiwi lingo is FUNNY. I'm not gonna lie. Corner stores are dairies. The garbage is now the rubbish bin. Wearing sandals? Likely they're jandals. Hiking is a tramp or a trek. Going out into the wild? You must be headed into the bush. Excited to do something? You're keen.

People Hiking

New Zealand outdoors

Thus concludes the 10 funky differences from Detroit to Dunedin. I'll see you soon NZ! Sweet as. 

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By Marisa LansingUS Study Abroad Student

Updated 4 years ago

Marisa comes from Randolph, New Jersey, USA. She is an Environmental Studies junior from Ithaca College in beautiful upstate New York and just spent a semester at the University of Otago in lovely Dunedin, NZ. She will forever love the chips, stars, camping, street art, music, funky accents, and hiking in New Zealand. "I can't wait to book my flight back to this kooky place."

*Views expressed are the blogger's own
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