It’s hardly surprising that a country on the other side of the world, one that has been inhabited by humans for ONLY 700 years, is full of the unexpected and quirky. I love travelling, but in these days of Corvid-19 and lockdown restrictions, physically exploring our wider world is not an option for any of us. So I thought that I’d share with you some quirky, surprising and interesting facts about New Zealand. Ones I discovered on my teaching trip last year.
Interesting facts about New Zealand from the quirky to the surprising
I learnt so many things on my travels, for example:
- Date scones, which seem to be sold everywhere, are delicious.
- New Zealand is 13 hours ahead of GMT
- The star constellations are upside down, something I’d never considered!
- The west coast has black volcanic sand whilst the East coast has golden sand, who would have known?
Here are some more interesting facts about New Zealand that I found fascinating and surprising.
Drive anywhere outside of New Zealand towns and cities and it won’t be long before you see the distinctive shapes of tree ferns.
These tree ferns, which can grow up to 10m high, give the landscape a kind of primaeval feel. They made me think of dinosaurs and giant flightless birds. Walking through them was quite an experience! The ferns also add an interesting texture to the forests canopy, which you certainly don’t see in the forests of south Shropshire.
Did you know the silver tree-fern, or ponga (from Māori kaponga), has been a symbol of New Zealand’s national identity since the 1880s? To Māori, the elegant shape of the fronds stand for strength, stubborn resistance, and enduring power.
Land of the long white cloud
On my travels around New Zealand, I often saw long white clouds stretching across the sky. I now understand why the Maoris name for this diverse country is Aotearoa – The Land of the Long White Cloud.
Pohutukawa – New Zealand Christmas tree
I was lucky enough to spend almost five weeks in New Zealand, from the end of October to end of November. When I arrived, I was told about the pohutukawa trees. I was also informed and that if I was very fortunate I might see them in flower. Fortunate I was, the weather was unseasonably warm and the trees burst into bloom as I travelled around North Island.
What an unusual and fascinating flower…
Same words different meanings
I don’t know about you, but I always find language fascinating. New Zealanders speak English but they use many words differently. This can be highly entertaining and also, at times, confusing. When you’ve been in the company of New Zealanders for a few weeks, you realise it’s a good idea to get to grips with the lingo. Here are some of the words I made a note of:
- Park = Car parking space. I would say there’s a space – NZ say there’s a park
- Section = Building plot or land a house sits on
- Batch = Holiday home
- Crook = sick or not feeling too good
- House shifting = moving an old house to a new section (plot)
- Bench = Kitchen worktop, this got me very confused in the beginning
Who knew kiwis grew on vines? Also discovered that a kiwi (New Zealander) would never call these fruit kiwis – they are KIWIFRUIT!
Have you ever tasted golden kiwifruit? I can report that they are absolutely delicious and nothing like the green kiwifruit we often find in UK supermarkets. Golden kiwifruit are a modern cultivar that was first released commercially as a variety in 2010. I also discovered that to grow these delicious golden kiwi’s growers need a license. This I gather, has to be tendered for and if won, is quite an investment.
I’ve been an admirer of Hundertwasser’s work for quite a while. I’ve even used his work as inspiration for a cake in my ‘Mini cakes academy‘ book. So imagine my surprise to discover that this Austrian born artist and architect permanently moved to New Zealand in the 1970s and that his work has inspired a number of buildings
In Whangarei Town Basin, I was delighted to discover Te Kakano – ‘The Seed’. An experimental building built as a testbed for the now being constructed Hundertwasser Museum. A chance for local construction experts to adjust their building know-how – how not to build something with straight lines!
I guess most people have heard of Manuka honey but like many, I didn’t know what manuka actually looked like. I discovered that Mānuka (Leptospermum scoparium), is a prolific scrub-type tree. And yes I saw it growing wild in many uncultivated places during my travels. Other names include manuka myrtle, New Zealand teatree or just plain teatree. The flowers are usually white but occasionally pink. As you can see I was lucky enough to find this deep pink plant.
Other places my teaching has taken me
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my quirky, surprising and interesting facts about New Zealand. If you’d like to read about other teaching trips I’ve taken here are a few suggestions:
You’ll also find many others on this blog too – I’ve been teaching and travelling since 2001 so plenty to discover…