A serious dilemma I faced when I moved down to Christchurch was deciding whether or not it was acceptable to wear gumboots to the store and leave them off at the door, walking around in my thick wool gumboot socks as I did my shopping.
That was the small town norm in the middle of dairy farming country. I would run to Four Square, the small and pricey grocery store (called supermarket here) where I could pick up items I needed in the middle of the week. The store also contained the local post office (known as a post shop in NZ), so I would send letters and packages home from there, as well. Boot jacks resided next to the building’s sliding doors so that farmers and farm staff members could go directly to town after work without changing shoes. I’d remove my coveralls and waterproof bibs and jacket before leaving the farm, setting them on the floor behind my driver’s seat. Before entering the store, I’d slip off my boots and leave them on the sidewalk. I’d straighten my socks and walk carefully once inside the store so I didn’t slip. It was rather comfortable. I followed the same procedure at the fueling station when I went inside to pay for my purchases.
Pondering what to do with boots was a culture change in moving from a rural area to a major urban center. However, there also have been adjustments to make in moving from the U.S. to New Zealand. One of those major adjustments has been vocabulary and phrasing. While English is prominent here, there still have been times over the last four months where I found myself asking what a particular word meant.
The biggest phraseological adjustment came in the form of a question.
The first time I met with the church in Auckland, a woman asked me, “You okay?
I thought, Oh no, do I look sick? Am I not smiling enough? Is there something wrong? Do I look unhappy?
I answered, “Yeah,” totally confused.
In the U.S.A., friends will ask, “Are you okay?” when they are concerned about my health or well being. The question is rarely, if at all, asked by someone whom I have never met or don’t know well. In this situation, the woman who asked me if I was okay did not know me at all. It seemed a question too personal to come from a stranger.
As I continued traveling, I learned that “You okay?” or “You all right?” is an equivalent of “How are you?” or “How’s it going?” So I was eventually able to answer, “Yep, doing well,” without wondering if I looked tired or ill or sad. Still, I can easily revert to wondering if something looks wrong, as I did yesterday after feeding the animals and being asked if I was all right. I was tired and had to think longer than I usually do about that phrase and what it means here.
“Petrol” and “fueling stations” also are phrases to which I’ve needed to adjust. While in the U.S., I called fuel for cars “gas,” but here, I’ve switched to “petrol.” “Trash bags” are “bin bags,” and “trash” is called “rubbish.” (It took a while to become accustomed to the latter, as I had usually heard the phrase “Rubbish!” as a response to a silly or outrageous proclamation.)
Here are some more phrases and vocabulary words I’ve learned while here* (and some of them have crept into my regular vocabulary):
- Car park = parking lot
- Boot = car trunk
- Bonnet = car hood
- Tea = supper or evening meal, as well as the drink
- Zed = the letter “Z” (New Zealand is sometimes called “En-Zed,” much like Pennsylvania is known as “P-A.”)
- Dairy = convenience store
- Dear = expensive
- Flat = apartment
- Gumboots = rubber boots, usually used for work on the farm or large rain puddles
- Jandals = flip flops
- Togs = swimsuit
- Tramping = hiking
- Sunnies = sunglasses
- Jumper = sweater
- Lift = elevator
- Mince = ground meat (e.g. beef mince instead of ground beef)
- No worries = no problem (or “You’re welcome” in answer to “Thank you”)
- Hob = stove burner
- Chemist = pharmacist
- Arvo = short for “afternoon”
- Too easy = said after completing a task
- Sweet as = cool or really good
- How you goin’? = how’s it going, how are you
- Are ya winnin’? = a hello, often asked by the farm hand when I was working on a task like fixing the motor on the milk truck
- Gidday = Good day, hello
- Kia ora = hello
- Kiwifruit = the fruit, kiwi (do not leave off fruit when referring to food; people would not look kindly on eating a kiwi (bird) or Kiwi (a person from New Zealand)
- Knackered = exhausted
- Bickies = biscuits (in America = cookies)
- Bloke = a man
- Brekkie = breakfast
- Candy floss = cotton candy
- Cheers = thanks, so long, take care, sometimes said before a meal as “enjoy”
- Chips = fries
- Crisps = chips
- College = high school
- University/Uni = college
- Chook = chicken
- Holiday = vacation
- Post shop = post office
- Motor bike = motorcycle
- Quad = 4-wheeler
So the title of this post should paint quite an interesting picture….
*To help me remember what all I had heard, I had some help from New Zealand Slang. It will be interesting to see how many of these words stay in my vocabulary based on what country I’m in at the time.