As a nearly lifelong resident in the city of sails, I am intimately familiar with all its downfalls. But it’s still a fine city, and one I fell a bit more in love with again over the summer, in the process of introducing it to a long line of couchsurfers. (I’ll revisit this post once we’re back and update with my more worldly, informed opinion at the end of the year.)
When we say you get four seasons in a day, we mean it. Sometimes we’ll rotate through all four seasons two or three times, even. I could leave the house in the morning practically perspiring in the cloudless blazing heat, and get to worth 20 minutes later cursing the sudden downpour that caught me halfway. Speaking of downpours, it rains far too much here, and summers are horribly humid. But at least it’s fairly warm! Temperatures range from about 10-25 degrees, depending on the season.
The cost of living
Housing, petrol, food, and anything else you can think of is expensive. The “great Kiwi ripoff” resurfaces in magazine and newspaper features every couple of years or so. We all shake our heads – and fists – for a bit, then settle right back in resignedly. I also bemoan the lack of free and cheap entertainment here, though Silo Park is doing great things on that front.
I walk to work, so I haven’t had to regularly catch the bus in over a year, and it’s wonderful. I have a rule against reading the comments on news articles, but this one basically sums up the state of Auckland public transport: “More evidence that those who plan our public transport don’t actually believe in it.” It’s unreliable, expensive and on some routes, infrequent.
And now, to the pros…
Don’t get me wrong, we have some absolutely hideous eyesores of buildings around the place (a “nicer Rio” was how our last Couchsurfing guests described the CBD). But otherwise, we’re pretty darn good looking, with beaches, parks, volcanoes, creeks and more aplenty. Crossing the Harbour Bridge always offers a spectacular sight, and rounding the cliffside corner right where the vista of Piha’s coast opens up is enough to make the heart swell.
I’m sure we have nothing on bigger cities around the world (actually, I KNOW we don’t, having met so many well-travelled visitors through Couchsurfing), but on a national scale, we’re definitely ahead. Cheap and cheerful ethnic restaurants and supermarkets are all over the place, and every year Diwali and Chinese New Year celebrations take place in the CBD, shutting down parts of the streets.
It’s close to everything
Realistically, in New Zealand everything is just a few hours’ drive away. Skifields? Lakes? Forests? Bush? Beaches? Fill up the tank and go.
And of course, I’m thankful for the other things I enjoy as a New Zealand citizen. Free ER visits (though until I met T, I’d never been to the ER in my life), cheap medical care ($5 prescriptions, thank you very much), affordable education (student loans for all), four weeks of paid annual leave (plus a bunch of public holidays) and so on.
ETA: I’m also very proud that we’ve become the first Asia-Pacific nation and the 13th worldwide to legalise same-sex marriage. Ka pai!