Sunday, January 23, 2011

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

"Don’t sweat the small stuff – and it’s all small stuff." ~ Richard Carlson

I found an article on Yahoo that said that New Zealand was the 5th happiest country in the world. The article stated:

"For most, being happy starts with having enough money to do what you want and buy what you want. A nice home, food, clothes, car, leisure. All within reason. But happiness is much more than money. It's being healthy, free from pain, being able to take care of yourself. It's having good times with friends and family."

In the short time that I have been here, I have definitely started to examine what it is that makes me happy. And I have to agree; it’s not the car, food, clothes or home that put a smile on my face. Since I have moved, my life has drastically changed and I have been “forced” to go back to the basics.

Back home, my daily ritual included driving my SUV to the local coffee shop to get my gourmet latte (of flat whites as they call them here) before work, dining out for all three meals a day and then closing the day with some sort of social activity. I never wanted for anything…if I saw something I desired, I ran to the closest store and bought it new. I was living the American dream. Or was I? Was living in excess, really more of a nightmare? Well, it was at least a nightmare for my pocket book!

In one week, all of this has changed! We cook almost every meal at home, I search for sales at the store, I sleep on a twin bed, I walk just about everywhere because I don’t have a car, and I drink instant coffee (wtf?!?!) However, I wouldn’t change a thing. I needed to simplify and get back to the basics.

Although I moved to one of the happiest places on earth, relocating to new country was no small feat. I moved to an English speaking country, but I have so much to learn from a cultural standpoint. My first weekend here was epic and was filled with adventure, but early last week it was time to get real and start “living life in New Zealand.” It is a little bit overwhelming at times, but I quickly realized that I couldn’t “sweat the small stuff” and that it would take time to truly fit in. I sometimes feel like a child who is seeing the world for the first time and so I am constantly asking questions. If you plan to visit New Zealand in your lifetime, I will share with you some of the things that I learned this week:

1)    Everything is backwards! – The toilets flush counter-clockwise, cars drive on the opposite side of the road and people walk on the “wrong” side of the sidewalk. I have to admit, I have been too scared to drive. I am extremely intimidated by the crazy drivers and all of the roundabouts. It is also a big transition moving from Portland, which is a bike & pedestrian-friendly city, to Hamilton where cars won’t stop and will hit you if you are in their way.
2)    Can you convert this? – Right about now, I wish I had paid better attention in school. I have to convert everything into in kilometers, kilograms and military time. I think I must have been sick the day we learned all of this or perhaps I was daydreaming in class about visiting a far away destination. Who knows?!
3)    What’s for dinner? – As I mentioned, I rarely dine out. (However, if you were to visit and eat out it is important to note that you don’t tip.) The cost of living is quite expensive in New Zealand, so now we cook most of our meals in. However, the trip to the grocery can be quite daunting for two reasons. 1) I don’t really cook, so I have no idea what ingredients to buy. 2) Stores don’t carry all the brands I was used to at home. Good news, is that I have almost completely cut out processed foods from my diet (because they are so expensive.) It is also important to know that people refer to meal time as “tea time.”  When I attended my first BBQ someone said, “tea time” which meant it was time to eat. Don’t be a fool like me and think it is actually time for tea…they will laugh at you!
4)    Slow down you’re moving too fast! – Everyone moves a little bit slower here and I have had several kiwis tell me to slow down. When I got here, I instantly started searching for a job and people are amazed by that. Well, it paid off because I start my first day at Convex today…it’s a part-time gig at a printing company until I find something in a field of interest. But at least it is a paycheck!
5)    What? Say that again. – I can’t understand half of what people are saying, so I often have to have them repeat themselves. The accents are strong, but the challenging part is learning all of the kiwi "slang". Jandels = sandels. Tramps = hikes. Partner = boyfriend or girlfriend. Rubber = eraser. CV = resume. And don't forget to swap z’s and s’ – i.e. organise.
6)    No shoes, no shirts, no service! – Bollocks! No one wears shoes here. I went to the grocery store this week and there were several people without shoes on. Gross! Also, all elementary students aren’t allowed to wear shoes at school. I asked if athlete's foot was a problem and they said "Never!"
7)    It’s getting hot in here! – apparently there is a giant whole in the ozone layer above New Zealand. Within one day, I had a killer tan and a crazy tanline. Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen…and nothing less than 30 SPF. The country actually has a pretty massive ad campaign promoting sunscreen use because they have such a high rate of skin cancer.

Of course there is going to be a learning curve, but I am up for the challenge. I not only love the cultural experience, but New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my life. On Saturday we did a five hour hike in the Pinnacles which is located in the Kauaeranga Valley on the Coromandel Peninsula. The hike (or tramp as they call them) was amazing! I felt like we were in the rain forest because of all of the palms, rivers, rata trees and swing bridges. We did the entire hike in the rain, but we managed to finish majority of the loop before the big storm hit.

On Sunday, Laura and I had a nice little girl’s day. We headed to the Te Aroha Thermal Pools, which are built at the base of Mt Te Aroha. The thermal spring water that flows in the pools is supposed to be good for skin conditions and arthritis. While at the spa we also treated ourselves to much needed pedicures. It was such a relaxing day. I swear my stress level went from an 8 to maybe a 1 or 2. I am definitely not sweating the small stuff anymore. After we left the spa, it stopped raining at there was a beautiful rainbow arched at the base of the mountain. It was a perfect end to our day of relaxation.

I could definitely get used to island life!

The Pinnacles


  1. Hi Amy-
    I don't really know how to do this. This is my third try and if it doesn't work this time, I give up. Love your blog - so interesting! We studied New Zealand in 6th grade (and I know you were paying attention!), but it's so nice to get your personal perspective of this beautiful country.
    My picture is Taryn after she put on mascara - she is so much like her mother it is scary.
    Hope you get the Super Bowl there because the Packers are officially in it. Go Packers!
    Keep smiling and sharing-

  2. You already sound so "de-stressed"...I love that you're doing it! You are going to be in kick-ass shape in no time. So happy for you! xoxo