Monday, October 30, 2006

NEW ZEALAND: Things that are different, Part I

...The start of an ongoing series of notes 'n' notions as your humble American correspondent continues adapting to kiwi life down here in the antipodes...

1. The metric system - I really wish I'd paid more attention in second grade. OK, I'm pretty good with kilometers and centimeters, but need remedial work on kilograms (I hopped on a scale the other day to learn I weighed just 87, a remarkable 100-lb. or so weight loss in a month, or so I deluded myself). And don't get me started on liters, hectares and ha'pennies.

2. That whole driving-on-the-left thing isn't as bad as you would think to get used to - I've done it before in visits, but doing it in Auckland traffic whenever we get a car will be daunting - but as a pedestrian, it's a little tricky to try and remember. Look right, then left, as opposed to what I've done the last 35 years. And in general it seems (my kiwi wife agrees) drivers here are less willing to give way to walkers, and there's less of the whole "pedestrian always has right of way" philosophy. Step carefully.

3. Dollar coins, two-dollar coins, smallest "paper" money (it actually feels more like a silky plastic, and very hard to tear) is $5. Smallest coin is now 10 cents which means stores do the curious thing of "rounding" your purchase up or down since items are still marked in sums less than 10 cents ($4.95, for example). Which is kind of odd, but makes sense... how many zillions of pennies do you have lurking in your drawers, anyway?

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