The old joke is that, when you land in Aukland, the cabin crew announce: “Welcome to Auckland. Please turn your watches forward 13 hours and your calendar back 40 years”.
There may be a little bit of truth in that. There are some aspects of life in New Zealand that remind you a little about life in the UK 40 or even 50 years ago.
But, but don’t think this means that New Zealand is some a staid and conservative country. Milford Sound: Breathtaking scenery, rather than modernity, is the draw to New Zealand.
This a young country with a strong sense of adventure. After all, Kiwis virtually invented the insane adrenaline rush that is bungee jumping and every where you turn people are jumping out of ‘perfectly good planes’ or walking around the edge of tall towers.
Old cars do seem to keep going long after they have turned to rust and been crushed for scrap, back home. I saw more Singers, Sunbeams and Triumphs than I have over many years back home. And many were cars not cherished and polished for the occasional outing to classic car rallies. Many of them were out on the road, or parked at the kerbside, apparently used as everyday transport.
That may be the most obvious example of ‘turning back the calendar’. But, you notice it in other ways, too. Get away from the biggest cities and many shops still shut at lunchtime on Saturday. In smaller towns, a significant number of restaurants are not open in the evening as it seems that lunch is still the main meal of the day for many, just as it was here in years gone by.
There is also a noticeable (and welcome) lack of global chains. Search for online local operations for global names like Amazon and you will search in vain.
Yes, there are the inevitable McDonalds (they get everywhere), but the majority of shops and restaurants are local businesses, employing local people, creating local wealth and using local services and produce.
Go into a bar and look for American Budweiser and you are likely to be disappointed. However, the local brews are plentiful and (in my opinion) much better.
Kiwis are fiercely proud of their local businesses and you will find the slogan “Kiwi owned and operated” pops up quite often.
So some things in New Zealand may be a bit like turning the calendar back. But, as one who wants his holiday destination to present different experiences from home, I welcome the Kiwi difference.