It is amazing how language and culture can change over the course of a few generations and several thousand miles. Often it doesn’t feel like we Kiwis are that far removed from our European settler ancestors especially with the advent of the digital world. It’s when you move here that you realise how different you are from the people that many of us are technically descended from. Below I will detail some of the pitfalls and hilarious rom-com style misunderstandings that can come from getting yourself lost in translation.
1 – Trousers are not Pants
This is one of the most common language mistakes you will make. You’ll be met with horrified looks if a colleague asks what you’re wearing to a client meeting and you say ‘A nice pair of pants’. Pants equals undies, trousers equals pants and don’t you forget it. You will also get a sideways looks for jandals, gumboots, togs, capsicum, eggplant and zucchini (ratatouille is a nightmare).
2 – There is no such thing as a Dairy
They are called corner stores, newsagents or offies and tragically they don’t sell pies, you will have to get a Steak Bake from Greggs to fill that void. If you ask where the dairy is people could reasonably assume you mean a room in a country estate used for churning butter, or that you’re just a foreigner with quaint country ways. In saying that, corner stores are vastly superior to an NZ dairy in some ways, they may not let you pick your $1 mix but they will sell you gin by the tin that you can take to the park down the road.
3 – You always ask for the bill
In a restaurant you will almost never go up to the till to pay unless you’re having a cheeky Nando’s (a phenomenon over here). You would instead ask for the bill and then spend the next ten minutes with your phones out trying to calculate how much the bill is, plus tip, divided by 6, or is that 7 considering Tarquin didn’t have a starter and you had 9 White Russians.
4 – Sun-bathing in public spaces
Is totally normal. Fewer people have their own back yards here, so when the sun comes out everyone flocks to the nearest green space with their budgie smugglers, cans of beer and disposable bbqs (which are actually very good). It’s not unusual to see people using their lunch time to strip off the corporate get up and catch a few rays. Undies v Togs isn’t even an argument here (and no one knows what togs are anyway).
5 – Driving is a very serious business
If you announce that you’re going to do something mad like drive to Cornwall for a long weekend you will be met with horror stories about being trapped by Stonehenge for hours and recommendations on the best M25/A road/hole in the space-time continuum to take in order to beat traffic. Don’t let the melodrama stop you. Yes sometimes traffic is bad but for some reason telling people you chose to spend 4 hours in a car elicits the same reaction as if you had said you just set your nipples on fire.
6- People will think you’re quite strange
No matter where you’re from a lot of your childhood memories and pop-culture references will seem totally bizarre to your colleagues and friends. I’ll never forget telling people about Pet’s Day (an annual event at my country school) and having them look at my like I was deranged. Or when I was so excited for my sister who had just shot her first deer. Someone asked me what she was going to do with it and then looked horrified when I replied ‘EAT IT’.
7- You will suck at pub quizzes
Because although you might know that Sherlock Holmes lives at 221B Baker Street, you probably won’t know the entire line up from the 1966 world cup game against a country that doesn’t exist anymore, where the ball was taken by a passing bird of prey. You need obscure sporting and pop culture knowledge to succeed and that can be hard to come by when NZ television has only just started playing Dad’s Army for the first time.
8 – People will assume you’re Australian
Just say “Flamin’ gallahs, Hobart is bloody great, struth’ and then move on. There is no point being offended by it as it will happen 90% of the time when you meet someone new.
9 – Tea is a BIG thing
If you work in an office the tea round is quite possibly the most important task you will perform. Every fifteen minutes someone will head to the kitchen to make tea for themselves and their colleagues. Everyone will have their preferred tea variety and strength and god help you if you add the milk the first, prepare for a lynching.
10 – Embrace being different
People like Kiwis! We have a rep for being friendly, hard working folks who might talk a bit funny but on the whole are great additions to the London community. You can pretend you used to live in a Hobbit house and that you’re baffled by all of the above, even if it’s just to enjoy the astonishment on people’s faces when you have no strong feelings about the best by-pass for the B road to Lower Wallop.
Leave your favourite misunderstandings in the comments below!
Featured image by: Thomas Kelley