American visitor Jonathan Kronstadt has fallen in love with New Zealand. He makes his case for being allowed to move to a place where even the cows are polite.
I had been on vacation for only 72 hours, most of which I had spent either puking or thinking about it. (I blame the airline for what it served me, and me for eating it.) My point is that I was not yet in relaxed vacation mode, and the prospect of a 30-minute, bovine-inspired delay flung open the door to my American impatience. And then they stopped, parted not unlike the Red Sea, and even though the cows at the front may not have actually said, “Please, after you”, that was their unmistakable message. Hmmm. I had already fallen in love with New Zealand at sunrise on our first morning on the farm, but this catapulted our relationship to a new level. I could live in a country where even the cows are polite.
My wife, two kids (24 and 21) and I spent Christmas 2016 and early 2017 travelling in the South Island. We loved it. The timing is noteworthy because our vacation fell between the election and inauguration of what we might charitably call a “new kind” of US president.
To say we were happy about the election result would be a big fat lie, or as we now call it, a Donald. As you might imagine, things haven’t got better since we returned home, especially since we live only 13km from where Trump lays his orange head each night. So, I’ve decided I want to live in New Zealand. But instead of going through the usual immigration-related channels, during which I would likely fail to win admittance, I thought I’d instead offer the following 10 reasons I want to live in your country, then let the groundswell of public support swamp Immigration officials. People love lists, especially when they involve round numbers. So, here goes:
1. The hiking trails are awesome
We hike mostly in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State where the trails were plotted by sadists who drew the straightest, steepest line from the trailhead to the summit. I’m certain there are trails in New Zealand that are rocky, rooty and muddy, but the ones I hiked on were soft, dry and downright tidy. It took me a few hours to realise I could hike without having to watch my step, and to no one’s surprise that really improves the view.
2. So few things can kill you
Years ago, I read Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country, which opens with a lengthy list of all the creatures in Australia that can kill you. New Zealand has hardly any. Why would anybody go to Australia, anyway?
3. There’s less distracted driving
In the US, many drivers find that watching the road is less productive than checking their email or Instagramming their brunch. New Zealand drivers, I found, were more attentive.
4. Anathoth Farm Raspberry Jam
Also Whittaker’s chocolate, Monteith’s Black and those marinated mussels that come in pottles, which is my new favourite word.
5. New Zealanders seem happy to embrace their silly side
Our stay in Tata Beach, Golden Bay, coincided with the annual cardboard-boat race. The winners had fashioned a large, Muhammad Ali-inspired craft, then donned insect costumes for the full “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” aquatic experience. Brilliant! The crowd favourite, however, was the guy whose shark boat came apart almost at first contact with moisture, but who kept paddling as fast as his boat kept sinking. I connected with the Monty Python silliness.
6. Sheep, seals, and birds that don’t fly
I found the almost constant presence of sheep comforting, as comforting as my belief that they must be smarter than they look. Seals are, to my mind, the most engagingly frumpy of all marine mammals, and birds that prefer walking or running to flying are much-needed proof that even Mother Nature screws up sometimes.
7. Sensible national leadership
Admittedly, I know squat about New Zealand government, but everything I saw and read after the Christchurch massacre was impressive. Instead of the US model – blaring the killer’s name and backstory on every cable news station every second, thereby achieving his objective of maximum exposure – it seems New Zealanders, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, largely refused to speak his name, at least initially. That is such an obvious response, but in the US, where we experience mass killings the most, we seem to know the least about how to respond.
8. There’s a whole ‘nother island I haven’t seen yet.
We spent three weeks, drove 3000km, stayed in seven different places, and still missed a bunch of the South Island’s best. And although I realise the North Island is home to 78% of New Zealand’s humans, meaning it’s probably more crowded than the South Island, it’s also home to 60% of the world’s most polite cows, so there’s that.
9. The people
We were treated with kindness and hospitality everywhere. Our Airbnb hosts at Tata Beach invited us for breakfast – homemade pikelets and feijoa jam – and we had several dinners with friends of friends where we were treated to feasts of food and fellowship. People asked about Trump, but seemed satisfied with, “we don’t know what the hell happened, either”. As an aside, it is weird that you guys don’t use napkins.
In my limited experience, most New Zealanders are happy to engage inquisitive Americans in conversation, even when you arrived at the beach at 5am specifically to avoid having to talk to anyone. That, and that’s when the fish are biting.
10. The places
Wharariki Beach. Doubtful Sound. Brod Bay. Queenstown Hill. Tata Beach, where the Pacific is actually pacific. Roaring Meg. The water taxi at Anakiwa. Luxmore Hut. The Kaikoura Peninsula Walkway. The quantity and quality of public restrooms.
For all but one of my 62 years, I’ve lived in the States. It’s time to show I’m not too old to change, or to make new friends in new places. I’ve made my case. It’s your move, Immigration NZ.
PS: Sorry, but I have no skills.
Jonathan Kronstadt is a freelance writer. He lives (for now) in Maryland, US.
This article was first published in the July 13, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.