New Zealand: Winter is coming

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New Zealand: Winter is coming

Country: New Zealand

From Christchurch to Christchurch

Lesson learned: New Zillund English isn’t easy.

Laughed about: Happy Kiwis in shorts and barefoot at -3°

Most wonderful miracle: Natural wonders just around the corner

Food we ate: Homemade food, burgers, cocktails, fruit, and cherry tomatoes

Greatest challenge: Winter is coming


In Christchurch we were neither cyclists nor adventurers. We were a sushi maker and a salesman. We waited for our shifts to end so we could sleep in the same bed in the same house every single night.

Zunächst nur ein gemütlicher Abend zu Haus mit Nikh, Lalo, Sean, Jess, Trevor, Ellen und Anaid

One of our small parties with Nikh, Lalo, Sean, Jess, Trevor, Ellen and Anaid

In our free time I grew sweet basil seeds and practiced the violin (with zero success) and Roberto sanded old furniture he found at the flea market, so he could paint and sell them.


Before …

... und nachher. Das grüne Krut mit den Blüten ist mein Baby Basilikum

… and after (my baby sweet basil is the one with the bright flowers)

We rode our bikes every day – to get to work and back home. It didn’t take long and we had reached a real every-day lifestyle. We made some very good friends real quick and met to watch the newest Game of Thrones episodes, go to the movies or to the local swimming pool.

Eine unserer Hauspartys

Party Time to get some fun into the cold winter

We started weekly cook-offs (the Tuesday Dinner Club) and had some parties at home. Somehow everything just felt so normal. It was hard to believe that just a few months earlier we had called a little green Wechsel Tent our home.

I had wanted spices, herbs, big shampoo bottles, a wardrobe with hangers, a steady income and friends that we didn’t have to leave after a short period of time.

Am Tag des Finales stand ich 15 Minuten nach regulärer Spielzeit im Dienstplan. Mein Chef bestand darauf, das plus minus 2 Stunden zu ändern, sodass ich den Deutschland Sieg ansehen konnte

On the day of the soccer world cup final, I was scheduled to start work 15 minutes after regular time. My boss decided to change that into plus/minus two hours.

Now finally we had all that. And it felt good. But yet we tried to save every penny. In a place where the local pub sells beer for $8 and a burger for $24 we rather share a six-pack at home. But there wasn’t much time for going out anyways, as we both accepted every shift of work that we could get our hands on. One week I ended up with whooping 76 hours. Who knows how much more time would pass until we made it to another country where we could both get work permits so easily.

Meine lieben Sushi Kolleginnen Jenver und Ellen

My Kiwi Sushi colleagues Jenver and Ellen

Life in New Zealand was easy and comfortable – even with minimum wages. We managed to save an average of half our earnings. But we counted literally every cent. I kept record of all money spent and earned and we had weekly meetings to see how well we did.

In my job at the outdoor-shop Kathmandu, both customers and colleagues raved about the beautiful tracks and bike paths, about fiords, mountains and lakes. There was a ski field less that 100 kilometers away and an hour further was Arthur’s Pass, a National Park full of wildlife, camp grounds, views and … well if I am really honest there were some moments that I just wanted to pack my six bags and hop on my bike. But those thoughts disappeared as soon as I saw the grey and cold drizzle outside. Brrr…

Piratenbowling mit Robertos Arbeitskollegen

Pirate’s bowling with Roberto’s workmates

Usually winter meant either cold but sunny days, or mild and wet days. Not too bad – if you had a heating system at home. Most kiwis didn’t. Our house was no exception. Our only way to keep the house from freezing was a little heat pump that was installed in the living room. And we had to make sure we didn’t use it all too often because we spent half a fortune in electricity. The heat pump helped heating the air that was right under it. The rest of the house remained cold. I spent most of my free time in my cuddly down jacket making or drinking tea and oat meal right under the heat pump and only walked around the house occasionally to avoid frozen toes. The only times of the day that I striped my down jacket off, was at work (except for breaks), in the shower and in bed.

Manchmal friert es sogar in Christchurch

Even Christchurch can be below freezing

So why didn’t we go someplace warm you might ask. Well, during winter there was no place warm. Work, malls, supermarkets, restaurants, banks, offices and the cinema all were about the same temperature: a bit warmer than outside and a lot colder than my comfort-temperature. It was a bit like camping nonstop. In fact the sushi place that I worked at, was even colder than outside because it was situated right between the three entrances of the mall and the doors created some freezing wind tunnels.

Mitten im Winter besuchen wir die heißen Quellen von Hanmer Springs

The hot springs of Hanmer Springs are even more appealing during winter

But the kiwis (that’s what the New Zealanders called themselves) didn’t seem to mind too much. Even at -3°C they still biked to work in shorts and flip flops (called jandals), accompanied by a down jacket (called puffer jacket). They were used to middle cold winters with no heating. I, on the other hand, wore up to six layers of thermals under my work uniform. In spring when I went back to one shirt, my colleagues were all surprised that I wasn’t quite as chubby as they thought I was under all my layers.

Im Winter helfen nur Jacke, Decke, Tee und Suppen

The only cure for winter are jackets, soups, sheets and teas. Or plenty of fish and chips.

It was not a rare thing to see Kiwis buying cold sushi barefoot and in a T-Shirt, while I secretly sipped my hot coffee at work, hoping my managers wouldn’t notice.

Kiwis in general seem to enjoy the freedom of toe-movement without shoes. No matter if city or countryside, student, parent, worker, child or adult – there are far more barefoot people in New Zealand than I had ever seen before in a place where most people can actually afford shoes.

Eine weitere wilde Party in unserem schönen zu Hause

Cartoon Party at Casa Euston

Most Kiwis were very nice and polite people. My customers always said “yes please”, “no thank you” and “have a nice day”. They cued properly, were honest with their change if they paid in coins, and they did not seem to make a big difference between young students with black lipstick, business people in expensive suits, elderly women, backpackers with rastas and important politicians. Those were all addressed “mate” and “bro” and you’d talk to them as if they really were your old mates.

"Casa Euston" ist nun für ein Jahr unser zu Hause

“Casa Euston” would be our home for a year

It had taken me a while to get used to all that concept and to the language. The base on British English was no problem. Footpath, crisps, autumn and mince meat were all words I had known and used before. That’s what I had learned back in High School. Yet it took me a while to get used again to the extra u in colour, flavour and neighbour and the twist in centre, litre and metre. Well, at least the pronunciation is the same, you may think. Well, think again. The most difficult part for me to understand was, that there was no “short e” as I knew it.

Alan and Fabi on one of those Tuesdays

Alan and Fabi on one of those Tuesdays

What sounds like “Ear” is “Air”, what sounds like “Brit” is Brett”, what sounds like “Mic Kennock” is a “Mechanic” and what sounds like “Icks” are “Eggs”. The Kiwis made a quite funny advertising about a paint remover, taking a first dirty and unattractive, but now shiny clean and popular “deck” as their example. As there might be kids reading, I encourage you, dear adults, to google this for yourselves if you are interested. Instead I present you a short and funny part of one of my favorite NZ series “Flight of the Conchords” that shows how confusing Kiwi English can be.

So that’s the pronunciation. To complete the confusion, the meaning of words isn’t the same here either. The first time that out flat mate Alan offered to prepare Tea and pudding I thought of a nice hot drink and a wobbly yellow or brown dessert. But tea means dinner. Unless it is a morning tea (breakfast) or afternoon tea (snack). If you actually meant the hot drink you’d say a „Cuppa“ (for cup of (tea)). And a pudding just means dessert, no matter if pudding or ice cream or cake. A pie is not a pudding though, but much rather filled with steak or mince and can be eaten for afternoon tea.

Sushi Company Christchurch

The sushi that didn’t sell throughout the day was ours to keep. Believe it or not: I am still not tired of Sushi

So I was just trying to get used to all these new words and sounds, when I started my new job as Sushi-saleswoman and later sushi-maker in a Japanese restaurant surrounded by my mostly Japanese colleagues and with Japanese hierarchy and politeness. But they all knew that I was foreign and forgave me my faux passes.

Tuesday Dinner Club Champion

Alan, the first Tuesday-Champion in the category “Burgers”. Price two and three go to the twins Roberto and Lalo

Most of the winter time was yet ahead of us and I already had enough of it. To make the best out of it, I decided to work even harder, try new soup recipes and take Roberto for his first ski trip. Not quite as adventurous as wild animals, exotic street food and street signs in new alphabets, but we were every-day-life people now and this was our new type of adventure. And comes fall, we’d be back on those saddles exploring New Zealand.


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