I became a kiwi girl abroad when I left New Zealand at 23 years of age. I can still remember the smile across my face as I made myself comfortable in my window seat on the Air New Zealand flight bound for Sydney, that smile said everything my heart felt; looking back I liken it to the same feeling I’m assuming one gets when they are released from jail.
For as long as I can remember I did not want to be in New Zealand, not because I was unhappy because that definitely was not the case. Its just I never felt like a New Zealander in my heart. It was born out of the idea that I saw myself as a citizen of a global community and being in the arse end of the world left me feeling isolated. As a result I grew up cringing all things kiwi; the accent, kiwi-isms, music, rugby in fact I was so unpatriotic that I would root for any country that played New Zealand in any sport even if that other country was Australia (mea culpa!)
It wasn’t until I had had a lot of distance, experienced some of what the world has to offer and heard how highly New Zealand is regarded on the global stage that I started to feel a stirring in my heart for my home country. That stirring that turned to pride was first felt when I went to my first All Blacks game and started blubbering when I heard the national anthem, so much so I couldn’t even sing it. Now it’s just part of what makes me ME, as is unfortunately the on cue crying that happens every time I hear ‘God Defend New Zealand.’
So I am a kiwi and that’s not easy to define to the unversed as I found last year when I was on a course in Singapore. I had befriended a young lady and during the time we spent together I think I must have been throwing the word ‘kiwi’ into the conversation quite a bit because she eventually asked ‘what makes a kiwi different?’ We were already acquainted with each other at this point, I knew she grew up in rural China and she knew I was from New Zealand so her question wasn’t about origin it was quite literally ‘what makes a kiwi different?’ I was stumped, I couldn’t articulate how being a kiwi was different from being from another part of the world other than the obvious geographical distinction. The only thing I knew in that moment was that after spending the first thirty or so years of my life slating the country, I felt it my duty to say something profound so after some quick thinking this was my answer…
“It’s not that we are different, we are all human after all, it is about the feeling one gets when one enters kiwi soil. Say you were to go around the world and take all the best bits of the people you meet… that’s a kiwi… they have generosity of spirit, laid-back no nonsense attitude, warm friendliness, great sense of humour which includes the ability to laugh at themselves, they are loyal to the core, creative, adventurous and they are very natural people and you see this everywhere from the kia ora you get from the customs officer at the airport to the smiles you get from strangers you meet, strangers who more often than not become new friends.”
I know not exactly profound but definitely heartfelt and I must have done an alright sell because she recently told me she is booked to holiday in New Zealand later this year. Tourism New Zealand has got nothing on me. It’s true you know that old adage… you can take the girl out of the country New Zealand, but you can’t take the country New Zealand out of the girl and although I do still feel I am a global citizen, I do love my little corner of the world (barring the accent, I will NEVER love that) #veryproudkiwi
“Men love their country, not because it is great, but because it is their own.”~ Seneca the Younger