A Kiwi abroad: 5 things that feel alien


All you can eat buffets in different cuisines. I remember getting all bug-eyed in Toronto at the signs – Korean, Japanese, Indian! I’ve only ever seen western style buffets here, and mostly they’re underwhelming. Ditto with a la carte portions – meals in NZ are stingily small, especially in western restaurants – I can’t think of a single time where I had just a main at a pub or other western eatery and walked out properly full. (Brunch excepted – sometimes big breakfasts actually DO live up to their name.)

Cops with guns. I never got used to seeing armed police. It was always my first instinct to move away from them as soon as I saw them. (Obviously, our police force is unarmed.)

Waking up hot. At least you’ll never get up feeling sticky. It’s always cool here in the mornings and even on the hottest summer days I would never presume to leave the house without at least a cardigan in my bag – you never know when the weather could turn.  As a result, it’s hard to describe, but there’s a certain temperature at which it feels strange to wake up because the air is so warm around you.

Adding taxes at the till. Almost as annoying as having to tip.

Not being able to drink the tap water. I must say, we totally failed at avoiding iced drinks in Asia. I’m sure odds are we probably consumed some unpurified ice cubes at some point. We were stringent about sticking to bottle water, of course.

23 thoughts on “A Kiwi abroad: 5 things that feel alien

  • Reply Kara May 21, 2014 at 08:18

    It’s funny you mention the police with guns. I would probably find it strange to see a cop with just a billy club! Just goes to show how different some cultures are!

    And we hate the taxes too. Even more frustrating is the different tax rates every province has, and in BC’s case – there’s even an extra tax on fuel just in Vancouver. Oy vey!

  • Reply No Nonsense Landlord May 21, 2014 at 10:45

    You should have gone to Canada in the Winter. You would not be waking up hot…

    • Reply eemusings May 21, 2014 at 10:54

      Screw that. Give me heat over cold anyday.

  • Reply Genie May 21, 2014 at 16:32

    I always get full on an NZ main. You must have a sizeable appetite! I can’t finish big breakfasts, so I usually just order an eggs bene which is much smaller.

    Taxes and tips would take some getting used to.

    I never drink the tap water when overseas but if the ice is a cylinder shape with a hole through it, it has been made with filtered water and is safe. Solid ice you should stay away from.

    • Reply eemusings May 21, 2014 at 18:00

      Apparently so. I find ‘big breakfasts’ a bit of a joke in most places. I’m one of those hollow leg Asian types who’s constantly hungry. My appetite has definitely shrunk since we went travelling but still seems big compared to some – I don’t understand how people eat a little green salad for lunch and get full. American portions are way more in line with my needs.

  • Reply Lucinda May 21, 2014 at 16:53

    As an Aussie (Queenslander) I can totally relate to the tax! So frustrating. Everyone told me how cheap food in the US was – I found it pretty similar to hear, once you added the tax and tips on at the register.

    The waking up cold part doesn’t resonate with me, but vising low humidity does. We have pretty decent humidity year-round hear (stifling in summer), so visiting places with low humidity is really difficult to me. I just don’t know how to handle the dry!

    Also alien to me is tipping. I just hate it! It makes me so uncomfortable.

    • Reply eemusings May 21, 2014 at 18:02

      Yeah once you add tax and tips eating out isn’t all that much cheaper, BUT you get so much more quantity for your money…

      • Reply Lucinda May 21, 2014 at 20:50

        Really? I didn’t find that other than the all you can eat buffets, which we still have here for similar prices. But then I was only on the west coast for a very short time, maybe I just didn’t try enough places.

        • Reply eemusings May 21, 2014 at 21:04

          /shrug Y’all might have bigger portions in Aus. I haven’t eaten out over there enough to judge, though we were definitely impressed by portion sizes in Cairns – https://nzmuse.com/2014/04/cairns/

  • Reply Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way May 21, 2014 at 17:42

    It’s summer in our country here in Asia, we are just lucky enough that we are living here in a province that surrounded by farm, so it’s quite cold in our place. It’s safe to drink bottled water when you are on a travel.

  • Reply save. spend. splurge. May 21, 2014 at 21:38

    In Paris the army patrolling the streets had huge rifles… I want to say AK-47 but I have no idea what gun it was, just that it was big and obvious.

    This one annoys me the most: Adding taxes at the till. Almost as annoying as having to tip.

    As for buffets, that’s the norm here. In fact I find the quantities overwhelming.

    • Reply eemusings May 21, 2014 at 21:40

      Mmm now that you mention it, we saw that when we landed at Charles de Gaulle. Rather frightening. Didn’t see any out in the city streets though.

  • Reply Savvy Working Gal May 22, 2014 at 05:28

    Okay I can’t stand it anymore – I have to ask if you have a nonfiction book recommendation for New Zealand for my “around the world in 80 nonfiction books” challenge? If you’ve read a good NF book from another country I would appreciate that as well. Also, you are making me want to visit New Zealand.

    • Reply eemusings May 22, 2014 at 09:09

      Alas, I read very little nonfiction. Are you looking for nonfiction that relates back to the country in some way? If so I don’t think I can help at all sorry, otherwise here are the most recent nonfiction books I’ve read https://nzmuse.com/2014/01/books-intelligent-people/. I can’t think of any suitable candidates for an NZ recommendation, plus I don’t know if you would be able to easily get that kind of book where you are. In fact if you asked me to name any NZ nonfiction off the top of my head the only thing I would be able to offer is this newish one: http://www.sellingthedream.co.nz/

  • Reply Franca May 22, 2014 at 08:51

    When I went to Asia I found the heat and especially the high humidity very difficult to deal with as well, I constantly felt very low, tired and without energies!

  • Reply Katie May 22, 2014 at 10:15

    Not being able to drink the tap water was definitely strange for me as well. Our police carry guns in the states, but I noticed it much more in London (with machine guns in the airport), and definitely in Nicaragua all over. We’ve got huge portions, tons of buffets and loads of taxes/tipping, so it’s nice when I travel to a place where those don’t exist! 🙂

  • Reply Karyn @ Not Done Travelling May 22, 2014 at 12:46

    I can’t stand the whole adding tax thing – it’s like, give me a menu, tell me what the price is in full, simple. 🙂

  • Reply Emily May 22, 2014 at 13:17

    Oh…you are making me really miss Toronto right now! All the food (including those all you can eat buffets….mmmm) and outstanding restaurants are probably my most favourite thing about the city. Sigh…

  • Reply KK @ Student Debt Survivor May 22, 2014 at 14:25

    I grew up in Maine so I’m used to seeing guns in the country, but to see big guns in NYC was terrifying. When I walk through the port authority and see the machine guns I’m still startled to this day.

    I know our big American portions make us fat, but I do hate going out for a nice meal and feeling hungry afterwards. I sort of feel cheated if I leave hungry.

  • Reply Fionna Merciollis May 22, 2014 at 16:16

    Whenever I hear about New Zealand I get reminded of the last time I visited the place. It was excellent. I and my partner loved Skiing and that was marvelous. I must say, I miss New Zealand and I’m planning to visit the place again in the near future.

  • Reply Vera May 27, 2014 at 02:25

    All you can eat buffets: that’s interesting.
    I’ve only seen Asian buffets… well excepting hotels which were either all-inclusive, or had breakfast included in the price. But I’m going to assume that you meant on the street.

    Adding taxes at the till: YES! Finally someone else who dislikes this.
    In Europe, all prices include taxes, so if I see in a sandwich costing 5 euros, then that’s what I pay… unless I’m at a restaurant and want to leave a tip. Not in the US… my first day there, I just stared dumbly at the cashier when I gave $6 for a $5.5 sandwich and was told it was not enough.

    No to tap water: I sometimes drink it at home, but not very often. I migrated to tea/bottled-water after I wanted to skimp on paying for water in Paris… and ended up getting better acquainted with the toilet. 😛

  • Reply simon May 27, 2014 at 16:38

    Haha totally agree with you on all of these! Taxes at the til are worse than tipping, because it seems like sometimes they charge it and sometimes they don’t (it’s already factored into the bill; at least you know you always need to tip in America.

  • Reply SP May 31, 2014 at 06:14

    To be honest, seeing cops with guns kind of weirds me out a bit, even though ALL cops have guns here. I just don’t interact much with cops or guns, so… guns basically still make my eyes go a bit wide. Ha.

    Abroad, things that feel most alien when I travel:
    Very different def’n of “personal space” in many large asian cities
    How old so many buildings are. Not in a bad way.
    The loose concept of time and schedules in some cultures. There seems to be less of a sense of urgency / efficiency in businesses in general. Again, not bad, just different.

    That is what I can come up with off the top of my head.

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