Some longer reflections after four months in New Zealand

Here are a few more remarkable things about life in Auckland, longer-format this time, with some links for good measure:

This is NOT a litigious society. It doesn’t need to be, because the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) “provides comprehensive, no-fault personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand.” It’s funded by levies collected from motor vehicle operators (through licensing fees and petrol sales), wage earners (via income tax), and the government (via general taxes). Thanks to the ACC, your medical costs and even most of your lost wages (the latter only if you work in New Zealand) due to accidents are covered, even if an injury happens while you’re at work or playing a dangerous sport or on the premises of a business. How this actually feels different on the ground is that we regularly encounter all sorts of things that you simply would not find in the US, like massive public play structures that kids could actually fall off of, cliffs at lookouts without fences to prevent falls, people walking around everywhere (inside and outside) with bare feet, absurd pits of unmitigated mud at music festivals (I’m still somewhat traumatized by last weekend’s Splore experience), uneven stairways without hand rails, and the like. So much lost revenue opportunity for the poor insurance companies, ambulance-chasing attorneys, and safety device manufacturers, to name but a few! But it sure seems a lot more efficient to handle things this way. 

Pedestrians do not have the right of way. And I’m not just referring to when crossing an actual street; I learned quickly that even though pedestrians technically do have the right of way when driveways cross “footpaths” (crosswalks), most drivers either don’t know this or don’t care as they won’t even slow down if you happen to be in their way. The only exception I’ve observed is at “pedestrian zebras” (crosswalks) with signs clearly marking that cars must “give way” for you. There is also the very occasional nice person who will wave you across if they notice you trying to cross the street, but they are rare.

Sausages are not very exciting here. So much of my former diet consisted of sausages, but I have yet to find a good kielbasa or San Francisco / Italian style salami here. The perishable sausages seem to all contain gobs of grain (think: bangers) so they’re mealy and (to my tastebuds) weird. And most of the salamis I’ve tried are more like summer sausages in both texture and seasoning. It’s been a long time since I’ve been very far from multiple options of house-made, tangy, coarse-ground Polish, German, Mexican, Spanish sausages, and I didn’t realize how spoiled I was!

It’s WARM in the summer. Even in the evenings. There’s no fog! (Six months from now, in the thick of winter, I imagine I’ll be writing about how different and cold the winters are?) I’m SO not used to warm summers! They enable all sorts of other surprising ways of life, both good and bad:

An extra layer of clothing really isn’t necessary. It took me weeks to accept that I didn’t need to always carry one with me (years of living in places where a down jacked might be necessary any month of the year will do that to a person!), but I have finally learned that a jacket is simply not necessary most days.

On a typical day, I can actually wear a skirt or a dress. I think the last time this was true was when I lived in Sacramento for a summer? But even there, it was more likely that they’d be blasting the air conditioning wherever you were going, so you were still at risk of freezing in a skirt or dress.

Swimming in the ocean is part of our regular routine. No wet suit required! And there are gobs of really nice swimming beaches right in the city. This is my favorite after-work activity when it’s not windy.

Sunscreen. Sunscreen. And more sunscreen. I was prepared for the fact that the sun is a lot stronger in New Zealand (because: 1- the Earth is physically closer to the sun during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer 2- there is less ozone here in the summer 3- the air is a lot cleaner here, meaning there’s less pollution to block the sun’s rays), but I hadn’t considered that because I’m be wearing less clothing all the time, I’d constantly be applying sunscreen to all that exposed skin. Thick, goopy layers of the waterproof, sweatproof stuff (in turn necessitating far more showers with far more soap than I’d prefer), or it’d all be gone after the ride to or from work. And despite all this sunscreen, I STILL have a lot more freckles! Wearing a wide-rimmed hat whenever possible, trying in vain to convince Scott to do the same (he’s the mole-y one in the family), and praying that neither of us becomes a statistic.

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