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March 2, 2010 | by  | in Online Only |
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“It was a year ago alright Michael? Let it go!”

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When you can empathise with the words from the infamous Vogels commercial, you really do know you’re a Kiwi at heart. It’s funny the things you miss when you’re overseas, and thus far the search for those deliciously wholegrain loaves of bread has been utterly futile. Not only this, but when the Marmite tastes different, and Weetbix and ‘Weetabix’, one is keenly reminded that home is half a world away.

As I sit in a tacky and exorbitantly priced internet café in a gloomy, wet Manchester, I’m realising that travel is so much about drawing parallels between countries. Every new city I see, I can’t help but see elements of Wellington, and here in Manchester for the day, the weather is what unfortunately comes to mind. When mingling with other international students, comparing countries is always a conversation starter, with the Germans championing the comparative friendliness and hospitality of the British, and Kiwis and Aussies finding solidarity in moaning about the cold!

Then there are the quirky British customs that I still haven’t—and don’t think I ever will quite manage to grasp. I’m constantly baffled by the use of “Ya right?” as a greeting, even though I’ve been assured that it’s their equivalent to “How are you?” Caught off guard time and time again, I wonder if I look lost, sick, or what I’ve done to warrant this concern. Similarly, I still smile at phrases such as “He was well fit,” which I am far too terrified to say myself, because I feel they would sound conversation-stoppingly awkward falling from a Kiwi tongue.

The fact is, that as much as you try to escape the trappings of a predictable lifestyle and seek the excitement of new cities, countries and even continents, we simply cannot avoid the reminders of how small the world really is. It seems that no matter where you are in the world, some things will always remain the same. Drunken students will undoubtedly abandon their stilettos and any sense of dignity as they stumble into McDonald’s at the end of a big night out, and find solace in Starbucks coffee the next morning. We love to hate the faces of commercialisation, the neon Ms that harshly illuminate quaint cobbled streets or intrude into picturesque landscapes. We want to pretend that McDonald’s isn’t the first thing we see when we land in Amsterdam airport because it seems only to detract from the quintessential cultural experience that we seek, and yet there must be something still keeping them in business.

Australians, I have discovered, are a particularly infectious plague upon European cities. It wouldn’t seem unfathomable to believe our nearest neighbours are attempting to take over the world when you encounter them at every second pub. What makes this even worse is when people ask what part of Australia you’re from, or when Australians themselves welcome you to their troop, insisting that “you’re virtually Australian yourself”. In fact, I’m becoming increasingly concerned that I might return to New Zealand in July, with not a British, but an Australian accent, I spend so much time with them! Yesterday I was shocked to catch myself myself pronouncing ‘hostel’ “hostelle” yesterday, something which I have long laughed at my Australian friends about.

Fun though it is to play up Kiwi-Australian rivalry, there is an undeniable bond between us down-under folk. Living so far away from everywhere in the South Pacific seems to have instilled in us some rampant taste for adventure and an insatiable desire to travel. More and more as I notice distinctive Aussie behaviours, I’ve come to realise that I exhibit many of them myself. It seems ironic how it took listening to an Australian tour guide in Amsterdam to recognise that our voices do rise at the end of sentences. Travelling to new places is really a striking, and often quite scary look in the mirror! So while I will always chastise people in mock horror for calling me Australian, I appreciate that the misconception is understandable, if not quite forgivable.

I’m struggling to come to terms with the fact that I’ve been in England for over a month already, time has simply flown. I arrived here, like so many others undertaking their “big OE” with an escapee-type mentality, proud of my Kiwi heritage but desperate to try everything as new, ‘foreign’ and even overwhelming as possible. My experiences thus far have certainly brought all the fun and excitement that I anticipated, but bring truth to something a wise friend once told me: “When you go to these places, it is often the people you don’t expect to meet that become your best friends, and the things you don’t expect to do or see that become the most memorable.”

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  1. Vincent says:

    Laurel you star! Finally found a spare ten minutes to read all of your stuff so far and am loving it! It’s sweet being able to hear about your trip!

    When I was in the UK I felt the same way, there are always things that remind you of home! If you are around Hyde Park again (I’ve read your other 2 articles :P) try and find a little blues bar on the opposite side of the park to Buckingham Palace, by a metro stop. It’s always open mic during the day and the owners themselves are incredible.

    Keep me updated, I have to go, she’s burning my vogels!
    Love!

  2. Andy Porteous says:

    Brilliant!

    So close to the exact emotions and thoughts I was feeling when I was there. Firstly, thank you for reminding and re-igniting my memories and thoughts from my time there.

    Secondly, I’m so happy you’re experiencing everything!! Soo stoked!

    You sound like you’re in a really good place right now :)

    Keep up the superb effort on being a fantastic ambassador for New Zealand! x x

  3. Superior Mind says:

    I find Australian travellers in South America say ‘Hostile’. They are everywhere on this continent too.

    At the moment I’m in Argentina, Salta to be exact. It’s great but you do find yourself searching for anything resembling what you know back home. I found myself naming areas of Buenos Aires based on their resemblance to Wellington streets and find myself doing the same with other places I visit. There’s not really any chance of finding much Kiwiana here but I leap at buying anything Kiwifruit flavoured even though it seems that Argentina only has the most basic idea of what a Kiwifruit actually tastes like.

    I do find it amusing that Kiwis and in particular Aussies are everywhere here – the Gringo trail is narrow and well-trodden. About an hour ago I was talking to a bloke called Ollie who originally hails from Normandale. A day earlier I actually was speaking in Maori with someone. The world IS a very very small place, so much so that even in somewhere like Salta I can talk to someone who lives about half an hour away by car from my house.

    – Superior ‘I still have a bag of Pineapple Lumps in my backpack’ Mind.

  4. Phoenix says:

    I think Aussies and Kiwis are like siblings – we love to play-fight, and consider ouselves totally different, but we are actually really similar.

    I remember when I went to America, and of all the things I thought I’d miss from New Zealand, it was the water I missed most. Clean, drinkable water straight from the tap that didn’t smell of sulphur. When I returned to NZ the first thing I did was have a drink from the airport fountain, and it tasted like chlorine; almost too clean after what I’d gotten used to.

  5. Phoenix says:

    *ourselves

  6. Peter M. says:

    My penis aches. Anyone got a pipe cleaner?

  7. Hipster says:

    I think I might be gay….

  8. Electrum Stardust says:

    ” […] new cities, countries and even continents, we simply cannot avoid the reminders of how small the world really is. It seems that no matter where you are in the world, some things will always remain the same. ”

    Very true indeed.

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