Sunday, March 31, 2013

Kindness as an aspect of national culture

My husband, Harold and I took a trip to New Zealand a few months ago.  The New Zealand trip had 2 parts: we drove around in a rental car on the North Island for 2 weeks and then we boarded a cruise ship to see the South Island for another week.  The cruise ship sailed to Australia after New Zealand but that's another story. 

Harold planned the driving trip using information he found on many sites on the web.  What a great source of information because he did not steer us wrong once.  We stayed in a series of clean, comfortable motels taking a circular route. 

New Zealand is a country that orients itself to the needs of ordinary people.  There are clean accessible bathrooms at no cost in towns and villages and at regular intervals along the 2 lane highways.  Every town has free attractions e.g. all museums and art galleries are free, as well as wonderful paid attractions too.  No one uses their horns on the highways becauses there are long passing lanes every 10 km where slower drivers can pull in so that others can pass.  There is no advertising for anything on the roads so you can count on useful information when you spot a sign, (sometimes too late to make the turn). There are no overhead wires or cell towers on the highways, just an unencombered view of the beautiful rolling hills, the sheep and the sea. 

In the evening, we would watch local TV and read local newspapers.  There were no murders, assaults, or robberies in the 3 weeks we visited.  We saw programs lauding the work of volunteers: rural fire fighters, SPCA volunteers nights and weekends, sport coaches and parks guides .  These programs were documentaries, showing what these volunteer did and encouraged others to play their part but no pressure.

The motel owners, usually a husband and wife went out of their way for us.  One woman drove her car to the area where restaurants were located in town for us to follow her.  Another motel owner offered her washer, clothesline and pins to me.  Another woman who was our waitress at a motel resturant phoned her cousin in the next town to assure us a visit to a Maori village.

In Canada, we say we are interested in the well being of our native people but in New Zealand, all public buildings and many private businesses as well have signs first in Maori language and then in English. 

If you want to travel to New Zealand, you should also be aware that food is expensive even in the summer because there is a high minimum wage for all.  No tips are expected because everyone, including waiters makes a fair wage.

I think that New Zealand might be an ante room to heaven.

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