I often sit and watch a group in their late teens play touch rugby on the beach and find it encouraging to see this age group enjoy such good natured fun. When you see a group of youngsters in the pub, although they like to chat and laugh, I do not think they are as noisy as a similar bunch in England would be.
New Zealand, sadly, has the highest youth suicide rate in the western world. Nobody seems to know exactly why, but the number of dysfunctional families seem relatively high and a lot of youngsters brought up in the small towns do not necessarily fare that well when they come into the cities.
The older generation here certainly get out and about and I have spoken to people in their eighties who think nothing of driving miles to enjoy a golf tournament or a game of bridge.
All age groups seem to mix well together and many are genuinely friendly, with the generation gap not seeming so noticeable. However some will chat to you and invite you round, then they will try to sell you their house or involve you in network marketing. If you make polite conversation at a social function and ask someone what they do, they’ll hand you their business card!
By the same token though, if you are telling someone what you do, they might well know of someone who needs your service, or will introduce you to someone they feel it would be useful for you to meet.
Only this morning I have found an invitation in my letter box to a gathering to welcome a new neighbour to the street. It is ‘bring a plate’ (no they are not short of crockery, you have to put some food on it and take it along) it is also a BYO (bring your own drink). The bring a plate system is used widely and when invited to any function it is wise to ask “What would you like me to bring?”.
If you are being invited to dinner (which they will call tea) there is a good chance you will be asked to bring dessert. If you are told “we are having a pot luck supper” then take along hot food, such as a casserole, or maybe a rice dish. “Just bring a plate - finger food” means sandwiches, cake or sausage rolls etc. always take your own drink too.
There is an element of ‘tall poppy syndrome’ here, whereby anyone who does too well for themselves is “chopped down to size”. It was interesting to note that the year the New Zealand film The Piano ran away with practically every award going in America, the young actress who received an Oscar for her part in film was given no recognition when New Zealand’s own young actress awards were given out.
Television, whether we like it or not has a huge influence on society. Most of the programmes screened in New Zealand are either American sitcoms or British cop shows. There are no ‘quality’ children’s programmes like ‘Newsround’ or ‘Blue Peter’ rather a continuous diet of Bart Simpson and the Cosby Show.
Some language, that would not be acceptable in polite circles at home, is freely used in New Zealand and can take a bit of getting used to.