Initial Observations about New Zealand: National Identity

Well it’s now been a week since I’ve moved to the land of the long white cloud, and while I haven’t actively been seeked out "kiwiana", there are some things you can’t help but passively observe about the country, particularly where they contrast with the country you’ve lived in your entire life.

One of the most immediate differences I noted was how Kiwi’s see themselves and New Zealand, and how they see it in comparison to how Australians see themselves and their country. Now to clarify, I’m referring to how Auckland, New Zealand sees itself compared to how Sydney, Australia sees itself, because I’m sure there are nuanced and even significant differences wherever you go in both countries.

First up, Australia has this positive confident attitude that says, "Hey, we’re as good as any of the big countries in the world, in fact I think we’re the best on Earth!" It’s this kind of mix of confidence, arrogance, self assuredness and positive affirmation. New Zealand on the other hand has this more down to earth attitude that says, "Hey, we know we’re one of the little guys, but we’re doing pretty well considering, in fact I quite like it really, we’re not the best, but we do the best with what we got. At least we’re better than Australia, right?" It’s a kind of mix of self-acceptance, a little Aussie envy/loathing and good natured humility.

That fundamental shift in attitude is quite noticeable, ironically though, I have come during winter where the one exception applies: rugby. Whereas only hardcore fans in Australia care all that much about the Wallabies performance, and I suppose in general given the high standards Australia sets itself in it’s performance of anything they expect good results from their team; the Kiwi’s on the other hand, absolutely believe, without a shadow of a doubt that the All Blacks are THE BEST rugby team in the world, and absolutely nothing but absolute perfection will do. Even when they win, there are complaints that they didn’t win as convincingly as they should have, on so on.

I’ll be keeping my cheers to a minimum if I’m in a pub during a Bledisloe Cup match, that’s for sure.

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