Here are a few random things I’ve noticed during my first month and a half travelling around New Zealand:
1. New Zealand no longer uses 1, 2, or 5 cent pieces in their currencies, so when buying goods prices are adjusted by rounding to the nearest 10. For example, if I bought groceries for $10.16, I would actually pay $10.20. Why they don’t adjust their prices to reflect the difference, I am not sure.
2. Contrary to popular belief, the toilet water does not swirl in the opposite direction as it does in the northern hemisphere when flushed. In fact, it doesn’t really swirl around at all. It’s more like a violent torrent of water that gurgles and thrashes about, washing all waste straight down the hole.
3. The world’s only alpine parrot, the kea bird, is found only in the mountains on the South Island. They are notoriously mischievous–they are known to steal unguarded items (including this guy’s wallet) and oddly, like to nibble at the rubber parts of parked cars.
4. On average, I’d say petrol (gas) prices are around $2.15 NZD per litre (as of November 2013). That would be roughly $6.78 USD per gallon.
5. Driving is done on the left hand side of the road. I actually got used to this a lot quicker than I thought I would!
6. Outside of the larger cities, stop lights don’t seem to be very popular here. They use roundabouts instead.
7. There are tons of secondhand cars imported from Japan on the roads. Everywhere you look: Subarus, Hondas, Suzukis, Toyotas, Nissans…which also means buying a used car here can actually be pretty cheap. You can get a decent one for around $2000.
8. “Sweet as” is a common phrase used by Kiwis. It means “good” or “awesome”. “Heaps” is also another word I hear frequently, meaning “a lot of”.
9. They farm deer.
10. Tax is included with the price of everything. I actually really like this idea as I can always tell exactly how much I’m going to pay before I get to the register.
11. Rugby is the national sport and it’s a big deal. The men’s national team, the All Blacks, hold several records and are considered to be one of the top-notch teams in the world.
12. Food is expensive here, which isn’t too much of a surprise considering New Zealand is an island nation where most products have to be imported.
13. The sun is intense here. Between the mix of clean air (there is much less pollution in the air in the southern hemisphere than the north) and the ozone hole present over the country, there isn’t as much protection from UV rays. In the summer, the UV index can be extremely high. Because of this, skin cancer rates are among the highest in the world.
14. The kiwi is the country’s national bird. They are nocturnal and cannot fly, but are incredibly rare to find in the wild and are hardly ever seen.
15. Yes. There are sheep everywhere. But now with the high demand for beef and dairy from China, cows will become the new sheep in the next few years.