The average kiwi is a curious being.
This statement might not ring as true if you originate from an English speaking country, your roots of British understatement will align significantly with the good old kiwi.
For us who have spent their formative years on the continent it is an entirely different matter.
I will start by telling you a little story of one of my first encounters with the kiwi view of life.
As a 19 year old backpacker I had befriended a lovely kiwi girl just shy of my age. One day she invited me on a trip around the lower part of the Coromandel Peninsula. Nearing the end of our trip we stopped at the amazing beach of Whangamata. Shall we go for a swim? Hell yeah! It was hot and sunny.
"Let's go to the toilets." she said and I agreed as we had been in the car for a long time.
As we step out of the cubicles German and New Zealand culture clashed in a way that reminds me of waves smashing into a wharf.
A bewildered look grazed my dressed body. "Are you not going to go for a swim?" my friend uttered, clad in nothing but her togs (kiwi for swim suit).
"Yes, of course I am." I exclaimed. After all it was a gorgeous day for a swim. Looking at my friend it dawned on me that she had not wanting to use the toilet as much as getting changed into her togs!
Oh dear, it never in my wildest dreams occurred to me to get changed in a toilet block! Clearly however this was how it was done here in New Zealand. Here I stood in my clothes and with the continental innocent intention of getting into my togs right on the beach. How was I going to pull that off?
I have never forgotten this story and it is one of those formative moments that start you on a path to assimilate with your host nation's culture.
Having spent my summers on the coasts of Scandinavia I was used to putting on my togs and getting out of my wet togs after each swim at the beach. If it was later in the afternoon and no people were around we used to swim naked. Kiwis call this skinny dipping but I have never seen one do it.
Coming from the continent I was used to do things the pragmatic way. You wanted to swim and had no togs? Well, then your birth suite would have to do. You saw a problem, you mentioned it so it could get fixed.
It took me many years to change my behaviour to fit the English mould of prim and proper. In saying that there is an almost schizophrenic association with morale issues around nudity and British conduct. Here in New Zealand girls not even allowed to baby sit their younger siblings might walk around at night in downtown Auckland in nothing much more than underwear but will not for their life get out of their yucky wet togs at the beach in fear they might show some flesh in the process. Huh??
Yes, that is right, New Zealand girls count as the most promiscuous women in the world and I would subscribe to that, at the same token there is a stark conservatism contradicting that tendency.
Here I was at 19 year of age, thinking of nothing getting changed at the beach in and out of my bikini, even swimming naked but I would never walk around town with my muffin tops (belly) being uncovered.
In New Zealand it is the other way round. Girls will rather wear their wet togs for the remainder of the day than expose themselves at the beach but will very happily parade their tummies to the world in a supermarket or cafe.
Needless to say I no longer swim naked or topless, haven't for years, however I will still get changed at the beach if that means getting into warm, dry clothes.
Be mindful of the above when trying to avoid a social faux pas but there are other traps you have to be careful of in your work place, which could end you in a whole lot of trouble.
Kiwis do not have discussions about problems. Well, they think they do but trust me they will avoid at all costs to talk about an issue that leads to discontent. Discussing a controversial issue with a kiwi goes like this: " one step, two steps, problem, one big step to the side." Now we are on base, we are save. We have sidestepped the controversial topic and can continue on on a new smooth plane.
This is how a continental conversation will go: "one step, two steps, problem, speed up, whoom!"
Let's say we like to address issues and tackle them in order to find solutions. It is not about blaming anybody but it is about finding efficient solutions to overcome the issue and to move on.
Hmmm, this is not the kiwi way.
Thanks to their large British heritage they prefer beating around the bush. Nobody names the problem. In danger of upsetting somebody nobody will even mention the problem. Your average kiwi will try to flush out the issue through the side door at a time of convenience which may not be coherent with solving the issue the timely and efficient way. When I do say the continental way I am trying to deflect from my own German heritage in the hope that other Europeans will find similarities in their thinking.
For us the world is fairly simple, either something works or it doesn't. If it doesn't nothing is lost you just try to find a solution and move on with it.
Our friends from the British Isles and in extension of that from New Zealand do not think the same way. If there is a contentious issue they will elegantly change the subject, if there is a problem it will be thrown into this random washing machine of issues which gets tossed and then with a thumb and an index finger one issue at random will be gingerly pulled out of the mess and be dealt with in a delicate manner.
In short, I can tell you from my personal experience that I put a lot of stones in my own path by being too honest, too direct and too interested in finding a solution rather than keeping peace and allowing people to keep face.
Kiwis are not used to be confronted with short comings, full stop. Whenever you require a solution to a problem whether it be at work or at your accommodation you do have to try and wrap it up into pretty, little parcels rather than chucking it into somebody's face.
I think you are starting to get the drift but before we conclude there is another strange schizophrenic anomaly in the kiwi culture.
Contrary to British life the Kiwi way of life is very much based on egalitarianism. Obviously in the English language there is no formal grammar of addressing somebody of higher social statute. In New Zealand where even the Prime Minister gets addressed by his first name by members of the public, formalities are even more lax and classes are not well distinguished other than by a Prada bag and the bank account.
Yet, and this is another red flag for continental travelers to these shores there is a very distinct rank of who may utter an issue and who may not.
We have already discussed the challenge around bringing up problems in large but the real challenge is in the fine print. The fine print, contrary to its otherwise egalitarianism way of life, social structure in New Zealand dictates that people of lower rank, namely new employees, I could also say women to throw the cat among the pigeons, are not at any way permitted to speak up. Of course this is not politically correct and the official line will be that this is supported but trust me the official and actual line are vastly different beasts in this country,
Long story short, if you are used to speak up and you wish to alarm employers or landlords of circumstances that do not fit the picture, take a breather, pause and think.
Your actions might bring you results, they are certainly not wrong but be assured they will not be appreciated.
In the short time you are in this country you may not see a reason to change and I do not urge you to change however please mark my words should you see doors shut in front of your face. Never underestimate the power of a nations' culture even if it may seem similar to yours, believe me there are a myriad of traps to fall into if you wish to navigated successfully through New Zealand's very own culture. In saying that there is much to love about your average kiwi and we are here to observe, to learn and to enjoy but tread carefully my friend.