I went to New Zealand the last few days of June. I’ve been done with school since Halloween. I just got back home in late November. Speaking as someone who’s semi-recently come back, I thought I’d share a short list of differences I’ve noticed between the two cultures (so far).
The amount of people in each of the countries is vastly different. As of 2012, there’s 4.4 million people living in an area that’s half the size of California compared to 314 million people living in the US. When I came back home I stopped in San Francisco to see my brother for a few days and the first thing I remember thinking stepping off the plane and getting on a charter bus to see him was “oh my gosh, look at EVERYONE.” Getting stuck in traffic for a half an hour was almost completely new to me. In fact, I can remember a time during my travels when I was going from one place to another I swear I didn’t see another car for almost an hour and a half!
As a friend put it, Kiwis as a whole have a “fierce kindness” about them, and I completely agree. Their general hospitality towards me is unmatched compared to the States. For example, one time in the winter I was walking down the road without a jacket about to head back to a flat to see some friends. It was pretty cold, and I was pretty stupid for not thinking ahead – but we make mistakes, we pay the price, and we hope that next time it won’t happen. Anyways, an older woman pulled off to the side of the road and offered me a car ride back as well as a meal! Needless to say I was floored, but I politely declined and went on my way. Now in all of my time spent in America I can honestly say that that has never happened to me. And since arriving home I feel like whenever I speak to someone I have to constantly step on eggshells – you can’t really express an opinion over something without someone getting angry. And when some people get angry, they try to use the legal system to their advantage, giving the name (as a Kiwi friend dubbed it) “America: the home of the lawsuit.”
I loved the food in New Zealand, and I like the food back home. The US has a lot more choices, understandably, but on a whole the food is much healthier overseas. High fructose corn syrup isn’t available and even processed food, like peanut butter for example, says “peanuts” as the first ingredient on the list. Go figure!
I’m glad to be home in the US, despite how my message may sound. America is my home and where the people most important to me live, but New Zealand will always have a special place in my heart. I’m happy I went abroad and I’m glad IES helped me get there.