Antipodean Wars

There’s a tendency in Britain to conflate Australia and New Zealand, squashing them together into a single Antipodean mash of jovial sport-loving ex-colonies. New Zealand suffers most from this knowledge gap, as Brits have far more information about Australia, and seem to think they can simply extrapolate 2000 km across the Tasman Sea. (In pure geographical terms, this would be similar to New Zealand basing all their knowledge of Britain on what they knew of, say, Croatia.)

They share some similarities, of course. There’s that pesky colonial past and a love of the outdoors that presumably stems from the fact that it’s everywhere. They’re both developed predominantly-white English-speaking democracies and both their night skies are equally upside-down. Beyond that, one could argue that they’re separated by more than what unites them, and there’s no great love lost between the two countries – particularly on the New Zealand side of the divide.

Here are a few of the major differences I’ve noted:

New Zealand Australia
Climate New Zealand has a huge variety of climates, from sub-tropical to sub-Antarctic, but it’s certainly not the super-sunny beach paradise that many think it is. Honestly, it channels Scotland more than Australia in its weather: wet, windy and unpredictable. Almost always warm, if not hot. Drier than a sarcasm convention. Of course, it’s a whole continent, so you can’t really stereotype its weather in two sentences. Oh wait, I just did.
Size Small, both in terms of land and population. A little bigger than the UK but with a population of only 4 million (less than Sydney). A quarter of people live in Auckland. Like I say above, Australia’s basically just a continent masquerading as a country. Half the plane journey from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland is over the Australian landmass and twelve-hour bus journeys are considered a breeze. Surely one of the only countries where towns are so far apart that road signs have 4-digit distances on them.
Landscape Stunningly compact variety. Rainforests, mountains, glaciers and beaches all squashed together in one big group hug. Wet and therefore very green. Start in a desert, then drive for two days to reach another desert. Take a pit stop in a desert. The expanse is a sublime experience in itself: in Australia, size does matter.
Distance from the rest of the world Basically as far as it is possible to get away from everywhere except Fiji. Three-and-a-half hours’ flight just to Australia. Compared to New Zealand, it’s basically next door to you. Neighbours, if you will.
Indigenous people The Maori people have an increasing say in Kiwi culture and politics. Maori is an official language and the Maori people are guaranteed a certain number of MPs. The Aboriginal people are still out in the wilderness, both literally and metaphorically. It doesn’t help that they only make up about 2% of the population; compare that to almost 15% for Maoris in New Zealand.
Wildlife Nothing kills you. The complete lack of natural predators has made all the Kiwi animals fat and lazy (and therefore extinct, in many cases). There isn’t a single species of snake in the country, and the spiders are pretty tiny. New Zealand has only two native species of mammal, and they’re both bats. Everything kills you. Even the thing that kills the thing that kills you also kills you. Almost everything is a snake, unless it’s a spider the size and shape of a climbing frame. Finally, if you learn nothing else, learn this: marsupials – such as kangaroos and koalas – live here, and not in New Zealand!
Personality Super friendly and eager to please. Kind of awkward and introverted. Hard to tell if people are masters of deadpan or just a bit dim. Super friendly and perky. So extroverted that it’s almost aggressive. Sort of seems like everyone is flirting with you.
Hostels Pretty good, unless you compare them to those in Australia. Stunning, frankly. More like hotels than hostels in some cases.
Flag Union Jack in the corner, and then a bunch of stars on a blue background. In stark contrast to the Australian flag… Union Jack in the corner, and then a bunch of stars on a blue background. Okay, how on earth are these two flags so similar? Not even the respective countries’ citizens can tell them apart.
Cricket Reached the final of the 2015 World Cup in spectacular style. Then, um, we don’t talk about it. Winners of the World Cup. Again. Sigh.

Snapshots of Oz

Hanging out with good friends: Grant, who I haven't seen for over three years, and Dan, who I haven't seen since a drunk Skype conversation in January.

Hanging out with good friends: Grant, who I haven’t seen for over three years, and Dan, who I haven’t seen since a drunk Skype conversation in January. (I wasn’t the one drunk.)

Our album cover for when we form a lame religious rock band.

Our album cover for when we form a lame religious rock band.

Inside Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art.

Inside Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art.

OMG KOALA. So soft.

OMG KOALA. So soft.

Echidnas: not quite as soft as koalas.

Echidnas: not quite as soft as koalas.

Great.

Great.

Sunset selfie fun.

Sunset selfie fun.

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2 thoughts on “Antipodean Wars

  1. Seriously, JT, I enjoy your blog an embarrassing amount. I think I may have commented to Loren the other day that you’re ‘like the new Bill Bryson.’

    However, I just have to speak up for Australia on one point – while it is, admittedly, like 99% desert, don’t forget beautiful and proud Tasmania, where the weather is also somewhat Celtic, and which I am reliably informed is “a bit more like New Zealand than the rest of Australia is”. But Tasmania generally ranks only very slightly above Canberra as a destination of choice for travellers with limited time, I think. I can’t think why, I mean it’s got the self-declared ‘Platypus Capital of the World’ in it and everything…

    Like

    • You’re way too kind, Jodie, but thank you. 🙂 I’m just thrilled that people still read this thing – it’s much appreciated!

      Basically all my comments about Australia are hugely unfounded, and I’m just lazily rehashing all the Aussie clichés I know. Sounds like I should check out Tasmania, although I suppose going to the New Zealand of Australia is less necessary when you live in the New Zealand of the world.

      Hope everything’s going well for you in London…

      Like

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