Saturday, November 6, 2010

25 Fun Differences Between Canada and New Zealand

This may come as a relief to some: I have nothing to write about today! Well, aside from checking out of Base Wellington, squashing everything I have here in New Zealand into my suitcase and hiking backpack, and walking 2km across town in the wind and rain to check into Downtown Backpackers. This hostel has *such* a much more pleasant atmosphere than Base, and it is cheaper, too!

I spent the afternoon in the library reading, because for the last few days I have been suffering from an urge to actually read a book (I only brought one with me, wanting to avoid carrying unnecessary weight). While in the grocery store tonight picking up some vegetables for tonight's dinner, it occurred to me I could make a little list of some things that are different here in New Zealand from Canada that everyone back home might not have considered or be aware of. Here they are:

1. Shopping carts are called "trolleys" or "trundlers".
2. When walking down the street, pedestrian traffic is just like vehicular traffic (i.e. Kiwis walk on the left side of the sidewalk).
3. Yield signs say "Give Way".
3. Zucchinis are called "courgettes", and peppers (i.e. red bell peppers) are called "capsicums".
4. The milk tastes different. I'm not sure why; the cows look the same. It must be in the pasteurization process.
5. Bathing suits are called "togs".
6. Asking where the bathroom is will get you amused glances. "Oh, you must mean the toilet. As far as I know there aren't any bathtubs in there. Besides, you don't want to go have a bath, do you?"
7. The $5 bill is smaller in size than the $10, which is smaller than the $20, etc.
8. Traffic turning left yields to traffic coming the opposite way (turning right, across traffic) on a green light. This rule makes no sense, even to Kiwis.
9. Along the same lines, one can't turn left on a green light at some intersections without a special "turn left" arrow being lit. And forget about trying to do it on a red.
10. The most common rail gauge is 3' 6" (44 inches)
11. Shoe sizings are the ones used in the UK. (Men's and Women's shoe sizes are only 1/2 of a size apart, which means over here I wear a 5 or 5 1/2).
12. Toques are called "beanies", and pins (i. e., ones worn on the chest) are called "badges".
13. If a sink has two taps, sometimes the hot and cold water are reversed. This can get confusing, especially when they aren't labeled.
14. DVDs are Region 6.
15. Doorknob handles are generally a foot or so higher on the door than they are in Canada. I'm not sure why... maybe to frustrate children for longer?
16. Light switches are pressed down for "on" and up for "off" (this one gets really confusing).
17. Each electrical outlet has its own on/off switch.
18. Toilets generally have two flushing buttons: as far as I can tell, they stand for whole tank flush and half tank flush. However, sometimes the two buttons go down together.
19. Coolers are called "chilly bins" (for the thing we put drinks in) and the drinks we call "coolers" in Canada are called "alcopops".
20. Gas (pardon me, "petrol"), is $1.84 a litre.
21. Due to the absence of anything smaller than a 10 cent coin, all purchases whose total end in a 1-4 are rounded down to 0. All those ending in 5-9 are rounded up to the next 10. However, if one pays with debit (called EFT-POS here), the total stays unrounded.
22. Websites end in "" .
23. Landline phone numbers have three digit local area codes and four digit local extensions, just like Canada. However, area codes are only two digits. And cell phones are crazy: they have no local area codes, the first three digits indicate whether a number is a vodafone or telecom cell phone, and there can be either seven or eight digits after that, grouped in all sorts of ways.
24. Phones ring twice, i.e. ,"ring-ring" instead of the Canadian "ring"!
25. Dinner is called "tea".

I am sure I will think of more... I'll post them as they come to me.



  1. Hahaha #4! Great list! =D For #25, is tea the common drink to have with dinner? Do they have 'afternoon tea' as well?

  2. No, it's not common to drink tea at dinner. After dinner, though. And at breakfast. And "afternoon tea" can be either a snack or can interchangeably mean what we would call dinner. And yes, tea can be had at "afternoon tea" as well. Kiwis don't seem too picky... they just like having many opportunities to eat throughout the day. :-)

  3. this is pretty helpful i think! im planning on spending a year in new zealand (moving at some point next year). so how long did you stay there for? are you permanently living there? did you experience culture shock by any chance?

    1. sorry i think what i meant by the last question was if it was a BIG shock or a little shock

  4. I'm a Kiwi and I'm laughing at the word "zucchini" and how toilets in Canada only have one flushing button. Our milk tastes better because the milk here is good and it's natural. Asking for the bathroom won't always be ridiculous, it just sounds so formal. (besides, we don't call dinner tea, we just call it dinner)