11 November – day of the crazy, St Maarten or just an ordinary NZ day when good things can happen

On the 11th of November in NZ Armistice Day is celebrated, the end of WW1, a great contrast to what the day means in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, in the area where I grew up, the 11th of November was day of the crazy. The official start of the Carnival season at 11 minutes past 11. The number 11 always played a big role as the crazy number. Carnival being a very big party, with lots of dressing up, comedy, and total craziness. It was also St Maarten, a Saint that cut his cloak in half to share with a poor homeless person. What a hero!

On St Maarten we also had a tradition that was very similar to another Dutch tradition Sinterklaas on 6 December. In the evening st Maarten would come around and throw handfuls of candy into our house. I remember as a kid being terrified by the arm that showed around the door that threw delicious pepernoten (gingernuts) and schuimpjes (a type of very sweet and coloured meringue type) into our living room.

My inspiring coach Frances from find my forte challenged me today on starting another little project. To commit to writing one thing everyday that I have done that has contributed to the good. No matter how small, every little bit counts. In St Maarten’s great spirit, and as Carnival this season ends on 17 February, 98 days from now, it is almost too perfect to not take up this challenge!

I’ll post my daily updates on my twitter account with #somethinggood. Will you join me finding the good things you already do?

Real Kiwi in an orange Jacket

Bruce mason centre in Takapuna is buzzing. Lots of people: old, young, families, couples, all sorts. 450 of them. All very excited. As am I! And no this is not for a concert, or a comedy night. We are all here because we want to be and will be NZ citizens after tonight’s ceremony.
I am going to be a real kiwi!! After living here for 9 years and feeling more and more passionate about this beautiful country, I thought it was time to show my true allegiance.

So the final stage tonight is standing up, reading the allegiance together with all those others from so many different parts of the world. And we all want to live in NZ.

And singing the National Anthem for the first time as citizens. Wow, I really wasn’t expecting the emotion. Almost every second sentence I just had to stop. To stop the trembling. And to understand what the words really meant. ‘ At thy feet’ .. ?

Very special. I am looking forward to my kiwi future, to contributing to the future of NZ.

Not without my orange jacket though…

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Outworn Graduation gowns

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Its uni graduation time in Auckland. There are black gowns everywhere. Students looking like they are by no means ready to enter the labour market are celebrating their uni degree by dressing up in a long black gown and a cap and parading through the mains streets of Auckland.

NZ is a lucky country. Basically everybody who wants to, can go to university. Yes you’ll build up a debt, but unemployment in NZ  is pretty low, so you can pay that off pretty quickly afterwards. There are degrees in all sorts of areas that would not necessarily have been seen as academic years ago and are still not in most European countries. It doesn’t mean the skill learned is not valuable. It maybe should just not be a uni degree nor should it follow the academic traditions like the formal graduations. The only reason it does is because tradition is just applied : we’ve always done it this way.

For some reason NZ likes their education traditions. Take all the incredibly ‘important’ school gala’s, where girls are expected to basically dress as if they are getting married, with all hairdo, nail polish and expensive limousine transfers bells and whistles attached. The amount of grief and unnecessary expense it causes! Becaue if you’re not there dressed as a princess, you are ‘missing out’. And this is not only at the last year of high school, there are at least 3 years you have to go.
The other week somebody told me there was a formal graduation ceremony they had to attend from day care with presents and all. Really?

I can see this is my practical down to earth Dutch mind at work here. The mind that questions traditions for traditions sake, all having to dress in the same uniform (and paying big bucks for it too) because heaven forbid individual expressions amongst a group and yes, mandated unnecessary expenses too.

I am very happy for all of them that they have passed their exams. Education is fantastic and  achievements should be celebrated. But do they really have to be so traditional, so regulated and so costly and commercial? Go celebrate, do it your way and not because others tell you to put on that outworn gradation gown again.

Zest-zone New Zealand

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Is it coincidence that zest is related to orange and to a life full of energy, passion and enthusiasm? And that these zestful oranges grow so well in New Zealand?  I don’t think so.

New Zealand is made for zestful living and most New Zealanders definitely seem to do so.   According to the OECD happy life index more then 83% of New Zealanders say they have more positive then negative experiences every day in life.

And how could you not. Unemployment is very low, and although wages are not the highest in the world, money certainly can’t buy everything. Life expectancy is higher then the OECD average, and there are so many things to enjoy for free!  Go on hikes or mountain bike trails of any difficulty level, go fishing in rivers and the ocean, identify the Southern Cross in the brightest starry nights you have ever seen, explore active and dormant volcanoes, discover the shy but very cute native birds and marvel at trees as big as a large apartment building. The climate is great for the biggest part of the year to be able to enjoy the great outdoors. Even if it rains, it generally doesn’t last too long as clouds just fly over the fairly thin New Zealand land mass between the two oceans.

So no, I really don’t think it is a coincidence that you see so much Zest here.  New Zealand is just one big Zest zone.

Yeah right….

Humour is always one of the hardest thing to grasp when moving from one culture to another. And then even harder is trying to explain it.

Kiwis have a great sense of humour. It is subtle, very ironic. It definitely has links to English humour but has developed its own slant. It’s also undeniably different to Australian humour, which is a lot more blatant and brash. And of course in real Kiwi fashion, it’s often defusing, used to avoid conflict and calm the situation.

The Tui “yeah right” campaign that has been going for years shows off some great Kiwi humour. The campaign basically exists of billboards along the motorway that appear with short statements, that then get the full negative ironic “Yeah Right’ after it. To understand the statements you generally have to know what’s going on in the news at the time. although it can be generic too. A great recent example is

Yeah right billboard. owned by Tui breweries tui.co.nz
Yeah right billboard. owned by Tui breweries tui.co.nz

This appeared around the discussions on blaming the current trend to create a safer cycle environment for the traffic yams in Auckland.
Some other classics are: ” I’ll call you”, “I’ll do the dishes after the game” and ” Dad’s new husband seems nice”.

Dutch humour is impossible to explain, mostly because it depends so much on knowing the language. It does have irony and sarcasm in common with the kiwis though. And no, I am not ending this statement with “yeah right”!