Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Some stuff you won't see in the U.S. (Part I of ??)

1) Woodburners in middle-class homes. For some reason I have not quite grasped, nobody in New Zealand has central heating. I mean, nobody. It's not that winters aren't cold enough for it, they just don't have it. Furthermore, a lot of the houses seem to be poorly insulated, which means people put a lot of thought and needless energy (heh heh, pun) into warming their homes.

Instead of heavy-duty insulation and central heating, you tend to rely on heat pumps (which, I have to admit, work surprisingly well) and then make up the difference with wood burners, space heaters, and so on. For the most part these do the job, but I still don't get why nobody is putting in central heating, even in new construction. I know you pride yourselves on your pioneer spirit, Kiwi people, but I am here to tell you there is a better way! My current theory is that Kiwis don't employ better heating methods because everyone really seems to enjoy talking about heating, and if every room of the house was an even and consistent 72 degrees F there would be nothing to discuss. This topic will require more research.

2) Georgina Beyer. In 1999, NZ became the first country in the world to elect a transsexual (not to mention a former stripper and prostitute) to Parliament, where she served until resigning in 2007. I know the makeup of U.S. politicians is changing (see Obama, Barack) and maybe I'm not giving my countrymen enough credit, but I just can't imagine middle America voting for a transsexual candidate, much less a former sex worker. Maybe San Francisco. (As a side note, NZ was also the first country in the world to give women the right to vote. 1893 baby! Woo hoo, progressive politics!)

3) Unsupervised kids. Everywhere. I know there are small towns in the United States where kids are allowed to roam the streets without a parent. Coming from Atlanta, however, 1) you don't let your kids go anywhere by themselves; and 2) even if you did, there is nowhere for them to go without a car. Even in Athens, kids tend to be under lock and key, probably to keep them from wandering in to one of the town's fine drinking establishments that will serve anyone tall enough to peer over the counter.

So it is kind of amazing to see all of the packs of kids just hanging out and walking all over Dunedin after school. And not just the skanky-looking teenagers you see outside of convenience stores, either, but clean-cut little 9 and 10-year-olds. Everywhere. The funniest part is that they are all color-coded in their school uniforms, so one pack will walk by wearing frumpy, ill-fitting green blazers, another pack will walk by wearing frumpy, ill-fitting red blazers, and so on. They are truly adorable. My favorites are the really little boys in shorts, knee socks and blazers who look like mini-members of AC/DC. I was going to take a picture of some of them to show you what I'm talking about but realized it might be perceived as slightly creepy to take covert photographs of strange children on the street and then post them on the Internet. Just imagine tiny gangs of used car salesmen.

4) Naked people on TV. I guess you expect this sort of thing in, say, France, but it was a full-frontal shock to find it in New Zealand.

This is about all I can think of for now, eager readers, but I will add more observations as they come.

1 comment:

xtina said...

So once you become desensitized, can we expect to start seeing nekked Kiwis on Kia Ora, Y'all? Woo Hoo!