Shopping is useful for things, like cheese acquisition. Perhaps you don’t want to visit New Zealand because you’re terrified that shopping will be a completely alien experience. Perhaps you fear that all their supermarkets are underground and guarded by attack moles, or perhaps you think that they still use a system of bartering involving eyebrow gestures and whimsy.
Panic no longer, for with my indispensable Top 10 Tips for shopping in New Zealand, you’ll be able to shop in New Zealand all over the world.
- Don’t wear shoes
Kiwis don’t wear shoes for anything, including driving and weddings, so why on earth would they wear shoes to shops? They don’t. The quickest way to get labelled as a Pretentious Outsider is to cover up your feet in the local supermarket. Don’t make such a mortifying mistake.
- Don’t be in a rush
I’m from London. In London, if the customer in front of you takes more than three seconds to buy their entire week’s worth of groceries, you’re legally entitled to batter them unconscious with a Snickers. London supermarkets always store nut-reinforced chocolate bars next to their checkouts for this precise reason. In New Zealand, it’s different, because everyone is either related to the cashier, or the best friend of the cashier, or the new best friend of the cashier. Checkouts are the nexus of socialising for most Kiwis, and the only time they get to talk to people that aren’t sheep that they dressed up to look like people. In New Zealand supermarkets, they don’t stock chocolate bars next to the checkout. They stock free copies of War and Peace. (This is a joke about how long it takes, and not a joke about how much Kiwis love Tolstoy.)
- Don’t buy anything online
Amazon doesn’t exist here. The Internet barely exists here. It all comes under the Tasman Sea from Australia in one huge cable (this is actually true) and cannot be used by more than three people at once. Even if, by some miracle, you manage to connect, it doesn’t matter, because there’s no-one to connect to. No-one will ever deliver to where you live, because you’re so far removed from civilisation that the middle of nowhere is your nearest metropolis. This video (that Loren showed me, thanks Loren) depicts the state of Kiwi online services pretty accurately. It’s also the funniest video I’ve ever seen. Nitflux!
- Don’t shop for clothes
Kiwis don’t shop for clothes. They just wear cloaks stitched out of their personal roadkill. You can’t wear clothes because everything is imported and costs about the same amount as the building in which it’s sold. If you want to buy glasses, they have to be imported from Australia, because New Zealand doesn’t make its own glasses. If you want to buy socks, it’s cheaper to buy a return flight to London and go to Primark. (My manager actually basically did this.) The best way to buy clothes is to walk into a shop, look at the price tag, and then sell your consequential tears to raise the money you need.
- Do shop at The Warehouse
The Warehouse is the only exception to the Don’t shop for clothes rule. The Warehouse sells everything and it is all ludicrously cheap. It’s the only place you’ll ever shop where the price is always wrong, but always cheaper than the label. It’s so much cheaper than the rest of New Zealand that it’s intensely suspicious and is almost certainly run by Satan. But never mind, because you can buy a pair of jeans for $15.
- Don’t buy dairy
Holy crap, the price of dairy in New Zealand is ludicrous. It’s also ludicrously ironic, because the country is essentially run by the cow lobby (also actually true) and corner shops are actually called dairies. When I said at the start of this article that shopping was useful for cheese acquisition, this is sadly untrue in New Zealand. The only way you can afford cheese is to remortgage your house when your house is an airport-sized bar of gold.
- Know your supermarkets
There are only three chain supermarkets in New Zealand: Pak n Save, Countdown and New World. Often they have sneaky local monopolies on towns (part of the problem is simply that towns aren’t large enough to sustain two supermarkets) but if you have a choice, this is how you choose. Pak n Save is Asda, but with a sense of humour. Countdown is Tesco, but without the disquieting air of corporate oppression. New World is Waitrose, but with free wifi. The most important thing to remember is which one stocks Whittakers Coconut Chocolate Bar. I’ve forgotten.
- Count every cent
New Zealand brings new meaning to this well-worn phrase, because it still prices everything in units, despite the smallest available currency being multiples of tens. If you pay by cash, your final bill will be rounded using the ‘Swedish method’, which means 1,2,3,4,5 are rounded down and 6,7,8,9 are rounded up. If you pay by card (‘Eftpos’), the exact amount will be charged. All of which means – if you’re a really really financially-impoverished traveller, not naming any names (me) – you can save yourself irrelevant but symbolically empowering amounts of money by paying in cash whenever your bill ends in 1,2,3,4,5 and paying by card otherwise.
- Know your ATMs
It costs money if you withdraw from an ATM that doesn’t belong to your bank. Thus begins your very own Lord of the Rings-style expedition, as you trek the length and breadth of your local settlement, determined to discover the One Cashpoint for you. It doesn’t help that basically all the banks are near-identical three letter acronyms. ANZ, BNZ, ASB, TSB… FML. Also sometimes there just are no ATMs and you have to drive 100kms to find one (also actually true).
- Embrace the Kiwi philosophy
So it costs money to acquire money, you can’t acquire money, you can’t find the things you want to buy, the things you want to buy are ludicrously expensive and it will take you about a day to queue to buy them anyway. Cool as, bro. No worries, eh?