Yanling's Blog

Article: The 15 unusual and surprising things about New Zealand

In this article, I’m happy to share with you the 15 unusual and surprising things I came across.
My traveling in New Zealand was 1.5 month, visiting both the north and the south island. 

Keep in mind that I wrote this with a Dutch background.

Reading time: 12 minutes (130 wpm).

This is one the article from the Unusual and surprising things series.

The places we visited were: 

  • North Island: Auckland, Tauranga, Rotorua, Cambridge, New Plymouth, Wellington 
  • South Island: Picton, Nelson, Tasman, Takaka Golden Bay, Motueka, Glentui, Rangiora, Christchurch

1. Rainbow country

Rainbow at the Opunaki beach

Our visit was around the end of July until the end of August, the winter season in New Zealand.

The weather up until the beginning of August was sometimes rain with sunshine.

This was a recipe for rainbows to manifest.

Despite the rain, it was not dark and depressing nor very cloudy.

On the contrary, there was plenty of sunlight too, so it was quite bright and uplifting.

The rain was also not hard and continuous for hours.

We had one day that it was raining all day continuously and it did not stop.
However, this did not occur very often.

Every day or two, which we drove, we could enjoy the magic of rainbows.

In the Netherlands, it was very rare (for me personally) to see rainbows.

Every time I saw one, I was overjoyed. It could easily be just only once or twice a year.

Here in New Zealand, it was so much easier to see one.

When the weather was rainy and sunny, it was like automatically guaranteed for rainbows to appear.

This was so special and surreal!
For New Zealanders it was not special, they are used to this phenomena.

2. Lush green trees and plants in the winter

Picture of Riwaka Resurgence on the top of the south island with lots of green

The winter in New Zealand was full of nature, very green and therefore very beautiful.

The majority of the trees still had their leaves and they were green.

Of course, there were trees without any leaves, these were the European trees.
These were mixed in with other trees who had still tree leaves, so it did not look empty and grey.

I heard that there was only one type of native New Zealand tree that loses its leaves in the winter.

A group of European trees in De Famberhorst in The Netherlands
A group of European trees in De Famberhorst in The Netherlands

This was in contrast to The Netherlands with a majority of trees losing its leaves.
Without lights and decoration wrapped around the branches, it gave off a grey impression.

The south island is further from the equator and is like Scandinavia in Europe.

Even there it had green trees and grass, despite being colder than the north island.

3. Palm trees

Palm trees in Nelson
Palm trees in Nelson

It was for me a surprise to see many palm trees almost everywhere in New Zealand.

My first sight of palm trees was in tropical Spain.

New Zealand did not strike me as a very tropical country.
However, they grow here and the weather was not bad, even in the winter.

Temperatures during the day below the ten degrees were possible, but this was not often.
Usually temperatures above the ten degrees during the day.

4. Micro-climate, snow while driving south

Driving through Lewis Pass mountain roads
Driving through Lewis pass mountain roads

It was very surprising to see the huge differences between the islands.

The north island was much warmer than the south in the winter.

It was quite common to have 14-16 degrees during the day and 7-8 degrees at night there.
On the south island, 3-4 or lower degrees can be expected.

While driving through the Lewis Pass mountain, it was all covered in snow.

It was really strange to come from sunshine, blue sky and temperatures around 15 degrees to this.

New Zealand has a micro-climate; different areas with different temperatures.

5. Domination of Chinese and Asian people

Chinese translations of the signs
Chinese translations of the signs

I was immensely surprised to see Chinese characters at the airport in Auckland.
Underneath the English texts on the signs, Chinese translated texts can be found.

Not only that, in a lot of touristic places, they had written Chinese texts.

We went to the Sky Tower and I remembered seeing the digital menu display with prices.
In a second, it all changed into Chinese characters and after a while flipped back to English!

And not only that, I saw many Chinese (Asian looking) people in Auckland.

Besides Chinese, there were many people from other countries as well.

At some point I saw so many groups of Chinese people around, I felt like walking in Hong Kong!

There were a lot of multicultural groups in Auckland.

According to an article in NZ Herald Auckland is the 4th city with most foreign-born residents.

I heard that racism was something New Zealand had been trying to reduce.

On TV were commercials with non-Caucasians and Caucasians together in it.
It was a way to show New Zealand tries to accept the diversity of cultures and backgrounds.

For me, this was a sign the country had tendencies of racism.

If there was acceptance, then there was no need to prove the acceptance.
Like a parent who does not need to prove to the world the love and acceptance for one’s children.

6. Fantails and other NZ bird breeds

A fantail on the fence

There were many different kinds of bird breeds in New Zealand.

Amongst others, special breeds that can only be found in NZ.
Examples of native birds are fantail, tui, and bellbird.

I had the good fortune to meet these birds up close.

They were very different looking from the regular seen doves, pigeons and sparrows.

Especially the small-sized fantail with its beautiful tail and the cute eyes is wonderful to look at.

7. Sheep and cows on hilly areas

Sheep on the hills in Glentui

The cows and sheep in New Zealand had the chance of good exercise.
Not being a flat country, with mountains and hills, they trained their leg muscles a lot.

Comparing to The Netherlands, these animals were definitely fitter! 🙂

8. Christian TV channels

It was a surprise for me to see at least three Christian TV channels on the television.

Their programs talked about God, gave religious information and had discussions.

It was solely and obviously about their religion.

9. TV commercials and programs about agriculture

Agriculture was a biggie in the land of the kiwis.

On TV, there were a lot of programs about farming.

Even TV commercials were using farm animals. That was very amusing to see.
A sheep in slow motion for a TV commercial of a pack of tissues.

10. Lemon trees in gardens

What was noticeable were the many houses with gardens in New Zealand.

Because of the low density of population and more land, it was common to live in houses with gardens.

In the gardens, people loved to plant fruit trees.
The majority of the trees I saw were lemon trees, with occasionally orange and apple trees.

The families and friends we had been visiting had lemon trees in their gardens.

Whereas in The Netherlands, people had much more flowers planted than fruit trees. 🙂

11. Safety sockets

A socket in New Zealand

I had to get used to the sockets in New Zealand.

In the beginning, I caught myself several times not charging my devices.
After quickly plugging in without checking the charge status, I forgot to turn on the switch.

Every socket in the country had this safety measure.

At first, I thought maybe that particular house had made special arrangements for children.

Then continued traveling, it showed that all places have this.

How wonderful!

12. No central heaters & condensation on windows

Condensation in the morning on the windows

The benefit of traveling in the winter was seeing things that you normally don’t.

Also less traffic on the road and not over-packed by tourists at the tourist spots.

In almost every house, my guess was over 95%, had condensation on the windows in the morning.

The reason for this was not having good ventilation in the house.
The air inside was warm and the outside temperature was cold. 

Since there were no double glasses, condensation easily occurred.
The locals were not keen to have double glasses as it would cost them tons of money.

Also, they did not think it is a necessity, it was not as cold as in some European places.

In The Netherlands, most houses are double glazed, if not triple glazed!
Only 14.1% of the houses are single glazed. No wonder this was strange for me to see.

The costs of double glasses were tremendously expensive in NZ.
Triple or even more from what people would pay in The Netherlands.

13. Paying by cards

A lot of people were paying using cards in New Zealand.

The country hoped by doing so to reduce criminality.
There were a lot of Dairy stores, small convenience stores, being robbed.

Despite that they prefer to pay by card, it was still ok to pay by cash.

This was contrary to Copenhagen, they had a bigger expectation for you to pay by card.
Every time I was about to pay, they instinctively held out their card reader.

14. Free public toilets

It was amazing to see there are public free toilets.
They were reasonably clean as well.

You can find them in town, near the road, and at tourist spots.

In the Netherlands, every toilet needs to be paid in stations and also near the road.
Besides that, you rarely can find a public toilet in town.

15. Golf not for the rich and famous

The grass field at the far distance is a golf course

The many golf fields in New Zealand showed that golf is generally very accessible.

I had the impression that the number of golf fields was almost the same as playgrounds or football fields in The Netherlands.

Hence, golf is not really considered a rich man’s sport.

This is quite different than in Europe in which people who play golf are seen as wealthy.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading the particularities of New Zealand.
Despite it being colored by the writer’s glasses. 



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