Getting to know you

For all I’d read wikipaedia, browsed Google Earth and searched Google Images, I couldn’t have claimed to have any expectations of Petone. So driving down the street that first day, with talk of Maori gangs (almost on cue, a patched member of the Mongrel Mob had walked past), I was a little nervous that we’d pitched up in a ghetto. The slightly ramshackle appearance of the buildings coupled with the general age of the cars driving past reinforced this perception. However, after a couple of decent nights’ sleep, I felt a lot more comfortable. No ghetto could support the café culture so prevalent here, and the number of artisanal shops led me to make mental comparisons to Stroud or Hebden Bridge, although without the prolific inbreeding or lesbians.  Jackson Street, Petone’s main drag, has cafés and restaurants to cater for almost every taste. From the pub grub to curry with pizza, fish and chips or Chinese, the choice is wide. The only two global brands are the omnipresent McDonalds, and Domino’s Pizza. Better quality and more popular are the home brands of Burger Wisconsin and Hell Pizza. Somehow they manage to fit shops in too, and as well as small grocery stores (Dairies), there are banks, bookshops, kitchen utensils, outdoor gear, a toy shop, gifts, and even two sex shops. We can walk out of the front door onto the street, and without having to walk further than a block I can buy meat, books, kitchenware, a PC, toys and porn. And of course useless gifts, an industry which New Zealand seems uncommonly well provided with.

Kiwis seem far less obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses than many other people, and there is much witness to be borne to this. Many people happily drive round in cars 10-15 years old, and there isn’t the fear of the 100,000 mile mark that brits irrationally have. When the seats wear out, they simply put covers on them. The Warrant of Fitness (akin to the MOT in the UK) ensures that they’re by and large roadworthy, though there are almost certainly dodgers like anywhere else. Second hand white goods are easy to come by, and auction site tradme is a religion second only to the All Blacks. Discount store The Warehouse is also popular, and we were recommended to visit for everything from a pushchair to mobile phones. That’s not to say New Zealanders are tight, theirs is simply a culture of practical economy.

As a break from the endless beurocracy that has marked our first few days, we’ve taken a few drives out beyond the local town. Within half an hour’s driving there are wooded mountains, deserted beaches, a cosmopolitan city, museums and enough Lord of the Rings filming locations to excite the most hardened of film buffs. I think that there will be plenty to occupy us in the upcoming months.


3 Responses to “Getting to know you”

  1. Steve Hughes Says:

    Hi Rich

    How much is petrol over there?

  2. moustachedimmigrant Says:

    It’s $1.89 a litre, and every time we go to the supermarket we get a voucher for 20c off per litre. We haven’t had to fill up yet, as we’re still on the tank of fuel that the hire car came with.

  3. Nancy Bolton-Rawles Says:

    Hi, I am Kelli’s (and Steve H.) sister, Nancy, and I am really enjoying reading your blog. I have a travel site where I am finally posting our travels in NZ from 2002 ( and have linked your blog to mine. It is difficult to get more than a tourists point of view from a 23 day visit. My husband and I dreamed of moving to NZ but couldn’t make it happen. Thanks for taking the time to write down your daily life and thoughts about. Good writing!

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