Our (Almost) Top 10 Lists as of January 2017

Happy New Year!  I know I am VERY behind on blog posts and just realized that I didn’t get even one up during the month of December.  Life has gotten in the way.

Since we have been here a little over 3 months it is time to revisit ‘Our (Almost) Top Ten Lists’.  Here is the original post in case you missed it.

Our original lists were written on 8/31/16, while still in the US.  We kept the lists but added new comments to give our points of view as of January 2017.

The scenery and animals are a lot different than we are used to but who doesn’t love an alpaca?!?

Kristy List 1 – Things I think I will miss most about the US

  • Aldi – The cost of food in New Zealand is typically higher for most groceries. When I compare grocery prices to the US, I generally like to use Giant Eagle (Pittsburgh’s largest supermarket chain) for reference.  If I use Aldi as reference I could have possibly been brought to tears our first few weeks here.  I can’t believe I didn’t step foot in the Aldi stores when we were in Australia.  Regardless, every time I eat a salad I am reminded of much I miss their three cheese and greek vingarette dressings.
Sometimes you can find American foods but you really have to pay for them. You’re eyes aren’t playing tricks, the price is $14 for one bag. While the marshmallows are mega, the bag is not.  
  • Central AC and heat – This hasn’t been too much of an issue yet, as we have been here in spring and summer. One thing about the weather here is that it isn’t consistent.  It can be 26C (79F) one day and then 13C (55F) the next day.  On a positive note, if it’s 17C (63F) and sunny it actually feels hot.  The sun is much stronger here.  They say it’s from a hole in the ozone.  Okay, that part isn’t positive.
  • Cheap gas – Luckily we only have one vehicle right now to fill, and it’s a small car, so it doesn’t sting as much. We generally fill up once a week at a cost of $60NZ.
  • Bug spray – I have been very fortunate that this hasn’t been an issue while in NZ or on our travels abroad….Yet. Damn bugs just love me.
  • Internet speed – Yep, it’s slower. I especially noticed it when we were staying at Maree’s.  During the evening it would spin and spin.  I also notice that browsing the web while on 3G or 4G generally takes longer here.
  • Amazon Prime – YES, this is missed!! There is so much you can’t get here.  They really promote buying from NZ-based retailers, at least on the South Island.  We have also heard that you have to pay GST (Goods and Services tax, which is 15%) for packages that have to go through customs, anything that you would have shipped from overseas.  GST isn’t charged on anything that is a gift sent from someone else, hint hint..
  • Homeland Season 6 – Good news is that we seem to be on track with this. We got an IP un-locator so we can watch US television shows in NZ.  We plan to purchase Showtime so we can watch online in time for the season premier.  Fingers crossed it works as it should.

Things I’ve missed most in the 3 months of being here that weren’t on the original list:

  • Target – I don’t know how this wasn’t on the original list. I would do anything to have the variety, prices, and quality of items available at Target.  I also didn’t step foot in Target when in the Gold Coast.  BIG lesson learned.
  • Food –
    • Eating out – The cuisine is different here. I often struggle when ordering at a restaurant or café.  Even when you find something that seems like it will be something from “home” it won’t taste the same.  A burger isn’t a hamburger like we know.  A burger translates to a hot sandwich with some sort of meat on a bun.  Examples – A chicken sandwich would be a chicken burger, a fried fish sandwich would be a fish burger.  Sounds simple enough but it’s really not – the number of condiments and toppings that will be on the burgers even though they aren’t mentioned on the menu description are an issue for a plain Jane eater like myself.
    • Pizza and pepperoni – This had to get a separate mention. Both are very different than what we are used to.  Pepperoni is more like sandwich salami, with a very different taste, and often the sauce can be barbeque instead of tomato sauce.  Luckily we found Sal’s Authentic NY Pizza which helped remind us of the pizza we know and love.
      You will find a lot of places, including supermarkets, will advertise New York pepperoni. We made the mistake of ordering here based on the picture only to watch them put on the sandwich-sized pepperoni salami. I consider this false advertising!
      • Grocery shopping – While we are getting more familiar with what is available here, it is difficult to find a lot of ingredients needed for recipes we like and to meal plan because of differences in taste.
        I made rice krispy treats as something “American” to take to a Kiwi BBQ. I picked out the strawberry marshmallows and used only the vanilla ones. The butter doesn’t come quartered into sticks. It is just one big block of butter and the package will direct you how to cut into grams not tablespoons. Overall, they turned out pretty good but the marshmallows were stickier. Please refer to earlier marshmallow pic as to why I used these.
        • “Proper” Heinz ketchup – While I am getting used to the runny tomato sauce or thicker NZ ketchup, I still had to mention this one. Especially because when we left Fiji we got hash browns from Burger King and they came with packets of Heinz ketchup that said manufactured in Pittsburgh, PA.  This is the Heinz I know and love!  They have Heinz ketchup here that is manufactured in New Zealand.  While it is the best ‘tomato sauce’ in NZ, it’s not the Pittsburgh, original Heinz.

Kristy List 2 – Things I am looking forward to most in NZ

  • Proximity to the beach – While we haven’t spent a day at our local beaches yet we look forward to hopping in the car and being there in 15 minutes.
  • Farmers Markets – The farmers markets do have a lot to offer here, although we haven’t been as often as we have thought.
  • Day/weekend trips – It is awesome to have so many beautiful places within driving distance and also available by short flights. Being on the other side of the world has opened up travel to places we never would have gone if we still lived in Pittsburgh.
  • Better work/life balance – Since I’m new to the workforce, I am still trying to figure this one out. I can say that I appreciate the 2 week shutdown over Christmas.
  • Traveling outside of NZ – Visiting Australia and Fiji when we’ve only been on this side of the earth for 3 months is a pretty decent start.
Not a bad view on New Years Eve Day in Fiji.
  • NZ Vineyards and wine – We loved visiting the vineyards in Blenheim and plan to visit more vineyards across New Zealand. There are so many.  I can also confirm you can buy a good bottle of wine for $8-$10 in the supermarket.  And they seem to be way more into bubbles (AKA champagne) on this side of the world, which I personally can’t see as a bad thing.
  • Meet people from all over the world – I spend most of my time with an Aussie (my manager) and a South African (my Project Manager). While there are so many more people I’ve met and continue to meet, I’m fortunate to learn so much from these two daily.  Can’t forget to mention Maree, a wonderful Kiwi who not only let us stay with her but treated us like family.  I can’t imagine how different our transition would have been without her.
  • Doing things outside of my comfort zone – I drink coffee now, I drive on the other side of the road, I’ve eaten food I never would have thought, and these are just the simple things I do on a daily basis.
My original coffee choice was a flat white when we arrived in NZ. Everyone here drinks coffee so I couldn’t be rude and decline. Cafes are the most common storefront seen around the country.

Anthony List 1 – Things I think I will miss most about the US

  • Penguins hockey games – I haven’t kept up real time with the games, but I know Sid is leading the league in scoring and the team looks good. The best way to keep the boys on my mind is to add them into a fitness program.  I started doing “pushups for Pens” where I do 10 pushups for every goal scored in the games.  Those high scoring games are fun to watch, but can be hard to keep up with.
The sporting goods stores look a bit different here in New Zealand. Instead of seeing golf clubs, baseball bats, and hockey sticks you see the wall filled with cricket bats.
  • Cheese steaks – Still no hope that I’ll find a good one here. Our first attempt was a steak on a piece of bread.  I don’t put this one on the kiwis because many places in the states have tried and failed also.
  • My Jeep – It has been replaced with a 2005 Nissan Wingroad. While it may not have the same appeal as the jeep it certainly serves its purpose.  I do get excited every time a see a jeep though.
  • The availability of goods – we’re learning more about where to find the things we need, but it’s amazing how much stuff just doesn’t exist here.
  • The star spangled banner at live sporting events – still miss it, and the vibe that comes from it! Maybe seeing the All Blacks Haka live will mellow my emotions.
  • The beer venue network we’ve established – while I do still miss this, it is nice that we are slowly learning our way around the local establishments. Some of the local small brewers are making excellent brews, and stores like Punky Brewster and the Beer Library offer a large selection of great beer to choose from.  Punky Brewster even has monthly parties with grilled burgers, great beer on draft, and lots of craft been enthusiasts enjoying the environment…plus we can walk to it.
Punky Brewster doesn’t brew their own beer but their selection of other NZ craft beer is on point. It is very refreshing to find people so passionate about beer and that can give you a good recommendation based on your taste (not a ton of bartenders do that here in Christchurch).

Things I’ve missed most in the 3 months of being here that weren’t on the original list:

  • The nightlife we’re familiar with – we are struggling to figure out the nightlife culture. People don’t do it like we did it in the states and we aren’t sure why.  Maybe it’s because there is no central hub post earthquake.  Maybe it’s because eating/drinking out is expensive so people spend more time at home.  Maybe it’s the active kiwi lifestyle we’ve heard about that keeps people out of the restaurants and pubs.
  • Having 2 vehicles – we have to transport each other places, or carpool, or take the bus, and every day can be a struggle just to figure out transportation. Hopefully I can find a permanent job in the CBD so that I can bike or walk to work every day and Kristy can take the car.
  • Hearing people speak Spanish – not that Pittsburgh was full of it, but we often travelled to places where it was spoken. You don’t get much of it at all in NZ.

Anthony List 2 – Things I am looking forward to most in NZ

  • All Blacks games – so far I’m a little disappointed because it’s not like American sports with the routine game schedule, and the following seems lackluster. I think we need a live game experience to really get into it.
  • Meat pies – You can buy the $2 version at the corner dairy and survive, or you can buy the $5-$6 version from the local bakery and maybe experience a few bites of heaven!
  • Road trips – We’ve done 2 longer road trips to this point and we’ve been overwhelmed at the amazing landscapes. This country is full of jaw dropping scenery.  The water is all so pure, the fields are so green, and the mountains are majestic.  Driving around this country should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Some typical South Island New Zealand landscape.
  • The accents and slang – Are becoming more commonplace, but we get the occasional eureka moment when someone blows our mind with a saying, or when something sounds nothing like English. The guys on the popular radio station (Hauraki) are pretty good at maintaining the proper Kiwi vibe alive.
  • Growing a new Beer venue network – Eagle Brewing, Cassels and Sons Brewing, Three Boys Brewing – just to name a few of the good local (Christchurch) brewers. We still have lots of exploring to do, and are looking forward to The Great Kiwi Beer Festival in Hagley Park on January 29th.
Anthony had his first “beer hop-off” with Boundary Road Brewing beers. It was a NZ hopped Double IPA versus an American hopped Double IPA. The American hopped Double IPA came through the winner during this round.
  • Meeting a new unique culture of people and slowly turning them from strangers into friends – Steve from England, Ryuto and Nozomi from Japan, Tim from Ireland – just a few of the people that have turned from strangers into friends.

Overall, things seem to be pretty good except for the fact that I can’t lose my American taste buds fast enough!  Now that the holidays will be coming to an end soon, life will get more routine.  We need to get you up to speed with our NZ travels and trips to the Gold Coast and Fiji since our travels will become more limited for a bit.

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