This Just In – Kiwis like Rugby

I went to see the second match in the Bledisloe Cup at Eden Park on the weekend, and I walked away with a few impressions. Firstly, that when they want to, the All Blacks know how to play rugby, secondly that Kiwi’s quite enjoy a game of rugby, and thirdly, Eden Park has a great atmosphere, but is one of the most poorly thought out stadium’s.

This is the premium stadium in a rugby mad nation and has a decent capacity of a little over 45,000. It is nicely packed in so the atmosphere is amazing, however the stadium itself is located in the middle of suburbia. And when I say in the middle of suburbia, I mean it literally is located in a suburb, right next to houses!

There is limited car parking, and from what I could tell it’s not open to the public, it could not have held more than a few hundred cars, you could not enter the stadium premises and then walk around the perimeter easily – you have to walk down the bordering streets to access the side of the stadium you want to enter by – once you do enter the stadium you’re greeted by a couple of kids, no more than 18 years old who rip your ticket, movie cinema style and let you in. No bag check nothing!

I couldn’t believe how chaotic the whole process was. Traffic was an absolute nightmare to shuttle the tens of thousands of people via bus and train into suburbia. I can only assume the residents of Kingsland are just used to it being this way, and in fact, some were making a few dollars from the whole thing by selling parking and sausage sizzles.

Despite the result in the game where the Wallabies were thrashed, it was a good night, and the atmosphere in the game was great, but I have grave reservations about Eden Park as the destination for the 2011 World Cup, and think that Auckland really should have gone for the waterfront stadium option. However if the redevelopment plans do everything they say they will – perhaps it will fix all the issues I’ve just mentioned. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Who needs cash?

One of the things that Kiwi’s have definitely got right, is their ubiquitous use of EFTPOS. Unlike Australia where it really seems like a big hassle, it is commonly used in New Zealand and for good reason. There is no minimum amount required for EFTPOS purchases, people frequently spend just a couple of bucks. The services for whatever reason is lightning fast, there were a few times when I’m sure it would’ve take the cashier longer to bag my items, take my money and count out change as opposed to simply hitting the EFTPOS button, and bagging my goods while I settle the payment in a flash.

I don’t know why, but for some reason in Australia it takes ages for the EFTPOS machines to initially connect to the bank servers, and then the payment processing seems to take a few minutes. I don’t understand why it’s done so much better in NZ, I can’t imagine they would have better internet connectivity to justify the speed increase, but for whatever the reason, NZ is so much closer to being cashless than Australia, and for that reason they get the thumbs up.

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.