The Road to Whangarei


Kia Ora from Aotearoa (English Translation: “Greetings” from “The Land of the Long White Cloud”).  After what felt like two full days of flying and hardly any sleep, we were extremely relieved to finally land in Auckland and get off the aeroplane after such a long and uncomfortable flight!  The jetlag was rather rough for the first week as we were not used to waking up to freezing cold, pitch black mornings (the sun only began to rise around 7.30am) and it didn’t help that our bodies were still telling us that we were meant to be going to bed (6am here equals 8pm the night before in South Africa)!  Plus, the colder weather has been a bit of a shock to the system … cold, windy, rainy days with the midday temperature reaching a chilly 11°C to 14°C!

During the first few weeks everything was so different and new to us, but there were a few things that were the same as back in South Africa, these included:  driving on the left-hand side (huge plus, we were able to convert our drivers licenses without having to re-do tests, etc.).  There are no highways, but there are main motorways and the speed limit varies depending on the area you’re in.  50km/h in residential areas, 70km/h in other areas and 100km/h on the motorway.  All other road rules seem to be the same as in SA; Indian Mynah birds (yup, they have those here too) and a few items in the grocery stores that look familiar.   Even the local lingo over here is slightly different.  Some of the words are the same as in SA, but they mean something completely different.  A few examples would be:

Dairy – In SA this would be where cows are milked.  In NZ it also refers to a corner shop or cafe.
Cafe – In SA this would be a corner shop or coffee shop.  In NZ it refers to a restaurant where you would sit down and eat.
Jandals – depending on where you’re from, these could be referred to as “slops” (SA), “flip-flops”, “thongs” or “slip-on’s”. They’re those rubber beach sandals.
Shame – In SA “Ag shame” or “shame” means “poor thing” or “sorry”; a sort of sympathetic response.  In NZ the same phrase would be used in a teasing manner or slightly sarcastic manner.
Plot – In SA a plot often refers to a “plot of land”.  In NZ, a plot (of land) is where someone is buried and the land where a house would be built is referred to as a “section”.
Roundabout – In SA it’s a traffic circle.
Togs – Swimming costume in SA.
Traffic light – over here there’s no such thing as a “robot”, unless you’re talking about some type of mechanical machine.


Pronunciation of names of places is also a little tricky, as “Wh” over here is pronounced very similar to the English “F”, so “Whangarei” is pronounced “Fung-a-ray”, which then leads to some rather innocent looking names sounding rather rude when pronounced correctly (for example “Whakapapa” or “Whakatane”) and certain vowels when put together, make a slightly different sound from what they would usually make when said in English (for example “Taupo” is pronounced “Toepaw”).  It almost feels like we have to learn how to speak a new language with all these strange names, but it’s all part of the adventure and getting to know new things.  Just feels a little odd if you have to ask for directions and you’re not sure on the correct pronunciation or how other places that may have been mentioned might be spelled on the signboards!

One of the first bits of advice we were given, was that if we ever got lost and couldn’t find our way back to Albany, we just needed to follow the signs to Whangarei and we would eventually drive through an area that looked familiar and would be able to find our way back.  “Follow the road to Whangarei” was our little motto when we began driving around and exploring on our own, but now “The road to Whangarei” now has a slightly different meaning when we’re in the car driving back from the CBD or a day out exploring.  The first “Whangarei” signboard often causes a bit of a laugh and there’s usually a comment about how we’re “on the road to Whangarei”, but it also reminds us of how valuable this little snippet of information was and how it definitely gave us some peace-of-mind and a good guideline that we were driving in the right direction to get back ‘home’.

Something to remember if you’re visiting New Zealand … generally shoes worn outside are a big no-no inside, especially when it’s raining or muddy out!  With a very wet climate and many gravel or dirt driveways and paths, this ensures that mud, grass, stones, etc aren’t trampled into clean carpets and prevents dirt and shoes from scuffing or scratching wooden floors.  Wearing slippers indoors is perfectly fine and walking around in your socks, stockings or even (clean) bare feet is acceptable.  So, if you’re looking at a place to rent, visiting friends & family or even staying in someone else’s house, please be courteous and remember to always remove your shoes at the door!