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Speaker: ReEntry V: Finding my Feet

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  • Simon Grigg,

    and I'm periodically reminded that I think like an American ....

    I have a friend here in Bali. They carry a NZ passport but are of Dutch blood. The family came to Indonesia in the early 1800s and lived here non-stop until 1949 and independence, whereupon the government gave them two weeks to 'go home'. They were allowed to take nothing.

    Considering the history I'm not having a problem understanding the anger that led to that but it underlines that no matter how long I live her, I don't belong.

    And it's a weird feeling, as I feel rather like an alien in my hometown now too. My memories and thought s of Auckland are clouded by nostalgia, but little things like putting gas in the car or going to the supermarket, or the money, are no longer instinctive and require much more effort. There is an oddness (and I know it's just me) that I can't quite get over.

    And Auckland International Airport is, I have to say it, just weird on arrival.

    But it seems to stubbornly resist that in favour of provincialism.

    Can I hail your bravery in saying that, George? People get very angry....

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    But George, people don't move to NZ for a cosmopolitan lifestyle. Look at where we are! Widely accessible jet travel to and from New Zealand only started in the 60s; my mum went to the UK in 1966 on a boat. It took her six weeks. Widespread use of the internet is only a little over a decade old. I think it's asking a bit much to turn us into a global hub of something-or-other so quickly, particularly when I'm sure our appeal to some immigrants is that we aren't anywhere. We're far away. We're on the edges. We don't, in the grand scheme of things, matter much. And for some people, I bet it's really nice to live somewhere that doesn't matter. That's why you'd choose NZ in the first place, perhaps.

    I'm 'from' two places and have found it awkward sometimes. I'm a strange New Zealander (too talkative) and an even stranger Cajun. Go to rural Louisiana, be driven mad by boredom and racism and being 'too weird'; come back here, miss people and food... feel like you're losing your heritage... I can't even rustle up the right accent without a reminder phone call. And it's not like I can go and join the local Cajun New Zealander Association or something. Heh. I'm a club of one!

    I wouldn't live back there, though, because I really love living in NZ. Love. It. (I clearly missed all the requisite transplant misery. I never felt it even when I first came back in 2002. I was terrified they'd turn down my husband's permanent residency application!) I'd just like some brilliant person to invent the Star Trek transporter for fortnightly Louisiana visits. Particularly in crawfish season.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    Nobody ever told me that it was possible to be homesick regardless of where I lived.

    It's possible to feel that way and yet never left the country for an extended time. :-)

    poorly insulated homes, ratshit public transportation, high food prices, a vacuous mass media, and fewer and smaller niches than wherever we came from.

    Might be just me, but there seem to be fewer, less populated niches than there used to be 20 years ago. Seems to be a lot more aggro and intolerance even, which I find hard to comprehend.

    But it seems to stubbornly resist that in favour of provincialism. Such connections are performed quietly and individualised. And I can't explain why. It isn't 1850 any more.

    Not many of us know our own history or understand it. Late 20th C was pretty challenging of everything we had been and done. I reckon many are still in shock,either pulled the blanket over their heads, or still running round like headless chooks. Or left.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    people don't move to NZ for a cosmopolitan lifestyle.

    True that but I get thoroughly irked by the endless need to compete on a cosmopolitan level. I was pissed of by the person who though it was smart to put a clear shot of the Gucci and LV stores in that Auckland promo thingy I saw oh YouTube.

    The rest I loved, it made me feel rather warm and it was so what I miss, but the Gucci store (which are in every bloody mall in the rest of the world and are little more than an upmarket Postie Plus) felt like a desperate attempt to say 'we are sophisticated, see...'

    Auckland is one of the world's wonders on its own terms and doesn't need to to do that...it's a wee bit sad.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Beautifully expressed, Daniel. The best of the series, I think.

    For me, the feeling that the five years I was living in London was never permanent made living in London easier, and coming home easier.

    As I've written before, I strongly identified with the New Zealanders before me (Fairburn in particular) who had their identity settled for them by travelling. I had to go to Europe to know I wasn't European. And from there, resolving to come home and be part of the New Zealand story was a logical progression.

    I count myself lucky that I was away on my own cognisance -- there was never the lure of a prestigious, highly-paid job overseas to complicate things. I assumed, correctly, that there would be good work to do back home, but perhaps not good money to go with it.

    Like Danielle, I didn't get "transplant misery", and I didn't particularly despair of New Zealand either -- and I had to sit through nearly nine years of National governments!

    It helped that Auckland had become more diverse in my absence -- I feel like I'm in a city that faces the Pacific. I know where to go to get great beef noodles for 10 bucks, or to get a really classy meal for a bit more. I'm five minutes from the city and I have a beach around the corner where I can swim in summer. There's a farmer's market at the weekend, and places to go at night. And the wine is exceedingly good value.

    It helped that I eventually fell into a job involving several junkets a year. I still find I need to juice up on the world.

    I took my first trip back to London 10 years after I left: I dropped right back into the groove, but after a week I was feeling like I couldn't be bothered with the noise and the stress (I also felt culturally affronted by the Tate Modern). At the same time, part of me will always be a Londoner. I still follow the British newspapers online, and I torrent the TV programmes they don't show here.

    Although Tom's phrasing was typically infelicitous, he did have a point. I think there's a danger of wasting time and energy fretting about whether you can do better -- which is perilously close to thinking that you are better than the place you're in. Sometimes, you need to just get on with it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Daniel Kalderimis,

    All interesting comments; thanks.

    Tom - always good to hear a dissenting voice. I don't entirely disagree. I too reckon patriotism is an underrated virtue and that NZ is a privileged country whose "people have and will achieve great things".

    But your response seems inapposite to what I wrote, for two reasons. First, I don't think I said anything about NZ's attributes as a place to live (you appear to have read the words "brave" and "wise" out of context). I'm describing, as Stephen noted, the process of transition. Secondly, you've confused an account of my experience with an assertion of a moral position. The thing about experiences is that they are personal - you can hardly intelligently disagree with them.

    Your advice to "harden up" is noted. I am sure I will do. But senses of belonging don't all come in one formula. Your forebears were pioneers who came here many generations ago. My father came here as a refugee in the 1950s. I suspect we are probably rather different people. And, while I respect your heritage, I don't think it - or the views it has passed down to you - gives you a monopoly on how a "real" New Zealander ought to think and act.

    Hilary - yes, that column was written by my father (no doubt based on my middle class railing against poor insulation...).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    True that but I get thoroughly irked by the endless need to compete on a cosmopolitan level. I was pissed of by the person who though it was smart to put a clear shot of the Gucci and LV stores in that Auckland promo thingy I saw oh YouTube.

    I don't think anyone in Auckland related to that part of the ad. But it was an internal tourism ad: it was meant to impress the rest of the country ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Daniel Kalderimis,

    Just saw this: "Although Tom's phrasing was typically infelicitous, he did have a point. I think there's a danger of wasting time and energy fretting about whether you can do better -- which is perilously close to thinking that you are better than the place you're in. Sometimes, you need to just get on with it." Agree also.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 11 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Just saw this:

    Ah, wondered if you had. I'm the one with the privilege of of second-thoughts editing. But it's coming people, it's coming ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I feel like I'm in a city that faces the Pacific. I know where to go to get great beef noodles for 10 bucks, or to get a really classy meal for a bit more. I'm five minutes from the city and I have a beach around the corner where I can swim in summer. There's a farmer's market at the weekend, and places to go at night. And the wine is exceedingly good value.

    Yeah, I dig what you're saying.

    Last week was Samoan Language Week. It was the kind celebration we need more of. Not in a 'StuffWhitePeopleLike' kind of way, but in recognition of the fact that people don't shed culture and language easily, and our differences are to be valued. I think we're getting there in parts, despite the efforts of some.

    I agree that there are few things less becoming than a kind of reverse cultural cringe. It's easy to do, as others here have noted. Engagement with the world that means rootlessness or denying indigeneity and 'home' is equally undesirable.

    Talking with the world should not, and need not, come at the expense of celebrating and being who we are.

    But there are interesting and important things happening elsewhere, and it seems that as the UK diminishes in importance in the collective consciousness, none have yet replaced it as sources of ideas and interest. Perhaps we need to be sure enough of who we are first? Do we need a new flag and a republic? I'm at least half serious.

    I also suppose that having grown up palagi in a very diverse neighbourhood in 1980s and 1990s in Auckland, it's hard to imagine why there isn't more difference represented at the national level.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I'm the one with the privilege of of second-thoughts editing.

    Heh.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    it's hard to imagine why there isn't more difference represented at the national level

    Or local, for that matter. I'd bet on lack of social and financial capital combined with offputtingly monocultural institutions.

    That "Heart" of Auckland advert is bloody typical - could be anywhere in the world rather than confidently planted in the planet's largest polynesian city.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    That "Heart" of Auckland advert is bloody typical - could be anywhere in the world rather than confidently planted in the planet's largest polynesian city.

    I don't understand that ad. Why is an old man riding a bicycle on the footpath without a helmet up to the gates of an old cemetery?

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3196 posts Report Reply

  • TracyMac,

    @Tom Semmens, I didn't realise that cultural jet-lag was a class-based phenomenon. Wow, it must mean that something was seriously up with my lower-working-class enculturation, because I've certainly experienced what Daniel describes.

    As for "hardening up" and getting on with it, if you're so proud of our country, why are you quoting the Aussies (or, at least one of them)? Also, I didn't see the part where Daniel wasn't "getting on with it". Job, wife, house seems to be pretty much getting on with it to me. Some people can both do and think/reflect, it seems. Others may not.

    Canberra, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 701 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Phoebe at Tumeke notes the apparent lineage of the "Bug Luddle City" advert - Tim Burton.

    The inclusion of this stylistic nod means that Auckland is reterritorialised as fairytale America and the assertion of locality is largely not through landscape but through the cameos of local celebrities who supposedly embody Auckland: Denise L'Estrange-Corbet, Bic Runga and Peter Gordon.

    Auckland is presented as if it could be interchangeable with any other continental city, including prominent placement of Gucci and Chanel's concept stores. The styling as Americana is evident in the bike our elderly guide rides, the costuming of the flowergirl and fedora-topped business man as 1950s, the traditionally dressed maid and the use of the carnivalesque - a mode that is more asociated with the US than anywhere in NZ.

    Internationally, the phrase "big little city" is already associated with more Americana...

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg,

    But it was an internal tourism ad: it was meant to impress the rest of the country ...

    I was pointed to it by an organisation aimed at NZers abroad so somewhere along the line that intent got sidetracked.

    The inclusion of this stylistic nod means that Auckland is reterritorialised as fairytale America

    Which misses the point that much of Auckland is a strange mutation of Americana, as is much of the world, but with strong local flavours overlaid and interwoven. But I for one couldn't look at that advert, regardless of any cinematographic stylings, and see any other city that I've spent time in..certainly no city in the United States, fairy tale or otherwise.

    The placement of those global chain stores was however the one thing that seemed thoroughly incongruous. One point of difference between Auckland and much of the world is that it's styling thankfully isn't dominated by the mass market designer brands that you see everywhere else from Sydney to Bangkok to NYC.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3283 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    The inclusion of this stylistic nod means that Auckland is reterritorialised as fairytale America

    And those carnivalesque gates strike me as not just Americana, but American gothic... Ray Bradbury-esque. The only thing missing was a guy in a clown mask wielding a meat cleaver, but perhaps he was busy at his other job, delivering trays of daintily iced pastries.

    I agree with Simon - those brand names really stuck out, in a jarring way. Were they paid placements, do you think?

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    I'm periodically reminded that I think like an American

    I'm dying to know what this entails. "Mmm, this feijoa is great, but it needs more corn syrup and cheap gas"?

    The flip side of homesickness and struggling with reentry is the way your sphere of familiarity widens. If you're in NZ then Australians are foreigners, if you're in the UK they're cousins, if you're in the US they're practically siblings. Right now part of my looking forward to a trip to the UK is that it's Such A Relief, almost like going home, to be able to talk without seeing stunned incomprehension in the face of my non-rhotic accent. Plus they understand about cups of tea.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    to be able to talk without seeing stunned incomprehension in the face of my non-rhotic accent

    Danielle Ordering in Any Restaurant in the US South: A Play in One Brief But Oft-Repeated Act


    'I'd like a glass of water, please.'
    <blank look>
    'Water.'
    'What was that, hon?'
    'Wahdder.'
    'Oh, a glass of WAHDDER! Coming right up.'

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Amy Gale,

    'I'd like a glass of water, please.'
    <blank look>
    'Water.'
    'What was that, hon?'
    'Wahdder.'
    'Oh, a glass of WAHDDER! Coming right up.'

    I have had that exact conversation more times than I can count.

    (See also: beer --> bee-ERRRRRRRR)

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report Reply

  • Bruce Wurr,

    sorry a bit late to this one......

    BUT!!! Give me a decent transport system over Gucci any day - then you've got a city!

    Auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 97 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I find NZ reasonably cosmopolitan. But then, I wouldn't live anywhere other than central Wellington.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Seeing as we've been talking about it, here's the Media7 discussion about "Big Little City" ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I don't understand that ad. Why is an old man riding a bicycle on the footpath without a helmet up to the gates of an old cemetery?

    I think this makes more sense when you see the follow-on adverts, which are done in cartoons. The gates open and it floats around the city with 'whats on' type signs.

    The first advert can then be seen as 'Auckland waking up', and the follow up adverts - hey, we're awake, look at all the cool stuff.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    "fedora-topped business man"

    Phoebe at Tumeke fails -- that dude's carrying a sax and is clearly on his way from a gig. The actual problem there is that any real musician would have their precious instrument in a case.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

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