Barefoot Kiwis and their Yeah Nah genius

This is the winner of the Generation Emigration Why I Love Living In . . . competition

Anne Tiernan and family: It probably goes without saying that we enjoy a sunnier climate in New Zealand. The downside is cockroaches, mosquitoes and man-eating sharks

Anne Tiernan and family: It probably goes without saying that we enjoy a sunnier climate in New Zealand. The downside is cockroaches, mosquitoes and man-eating sharks

 

New Zealand is well known for its long, golden, pohutukawa-lined beaches, dramatic snow-covered peaks rising from pristine turquoise lakes, glaciers, fjords, and the southern night sky unpolluted by artificial light and crammed with stars. But it takes more than aesthetics for a place to really get under your skin.

On my first visit here I was deeply affected by the warm, hospitable, endearingly informal Kiwis. You soon start to almost enjoy being greeted loudly and enthusiastically by shop assistants as you try to skulk, Irish-like and inhibited, through the entrance.

This informality extends all the way up to the prime minister, John Key, who had a penchant for pulling the ponytail of the waitress in his local cafe when he popped in for a flat white. (He had to apologise to her recently when this turned out to be unwelcome behaviour.)

The relaxed attitude is also evident in the ageing national car fleet and in the national dress code. Flip-flops are acceptable footwear for just about any occasion. Indeed, going barefoot is also considered acceptable (unless you are a neurotic Irish mammy mortified by the sight of your shoeless children waiting at the school gates).

I have grown to appreciate the ingenious approach to language here. My favourite is the Yeah Nah response. This handy linguistic technique gives one the appearance of being empathetic and open towards others’ ideas while simultaneously rejecting them. So you might opine that this may, finally, be the year that Ireland beat the All Blacks. “Yeah,” your Kiwi friend says slowly, pausing to look into the distance as though taking your opinion seriously. “Nah,” he then says, almost regretfully. Thus your friend has dismissed your opinion, but gently. Genius.

Another handy trick is the lazy simile. Take any adjective, follow it with “as”, and just leave it there, hanging. New immigrants, especially from the English-speaking world, may at first find it confusing. Sweet as what, you wonder. But soon you too begin to use this trick, where you can describe anything without having to think very hard. New Zealand English is full of practical short cuts, making it an opposite of Irish English, with its poetic verbosity.

It probably goes without saying that we enjoy a sunnier climate in New Zealand. (In fairness, there are few places you could emigrate to from Ireland where the climate would be worse.) The downside is slightly more annoying wildlife – cockroaches, mosquitoes, man-eating sharks – and significantly greater geological activity.

The weather is important because you will be expected to participate in and, crucially, enjoy all manner of outdoor pursuits. Sailing, fishing, hunting, skiing, surfing and tramping are all worthy ways to spend your free time. Fear not, though: if all this sounds too virtuous, the climate is also conducive to producing excellent wine. You can quaff this while bemoaning New Zealand’s binge-drinking culture and the fact that it is now the fourth-fattest country in the OECD.

Another advantage is New Zealand’s proximity to Australia. If you have always fancied living down under but find mutant wildlife, bush fires and Tony Abbott too terrifying, then New Zealand may be the country for you. Some decent shopping and winter sun are only a short flight away.

Picturesque, down to shaky earth, friendly New Zealand. If only it were a little closer to Ireland.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.