One of our favorite parts of New Zealand is the people we’ve met. Not only have they been friendly, inquisitive, polite and respectful, they’ve also been chock full of tourist advice and not shy about giving it. As a matter of fact, I’m always a bit shocked but also a lot thankful of the Kiwi (the nickname for a New Zealander) confidence in telling us what we should do without knowing anything about us.
Here are three recent conversations:
Eric and I were straddling our bicycles on a sidewalk in the center of Nelson looking at the city map we’d snagged from the campground. A middle aged woman stops mid-stride….
“Are you lost?”
“No, we’re just trying to decide what to do this afternoon.” (We were actually trying to decide if relaxing in a coffee shop or sightseeing would be the best way to spend our lazy afternoon)
“Ok. We’ll, here’s what you should do. You should go to the Center of New Zealand. Ride your bikes to the parking lot here (she pointed to a place on the map). Then hike to the top of the mountain. It’s really a beautiful place. You’ll like it. You should do it.”
“Sounds great! And, thanks! We needed some help figuring out what to do.”
(I tucked the map back into it’s plastic sleeve and starting cycling in the direction she’d pointed before Eric had a chance to ask what happened to the coffee idea..The hike was fantastic and and gave us a 360 view of Nelson.)
2) Eric and I were chatting with a couple of New Zealanders from the Wellington (North Island) who were on a cycling holiday on the South Island and staying at the same B&B as us.
“Are you going to the North Island?”
“Yes, after we finish the South.”
“You really should go to the Te Papa Museum in Wellington. It’s fantastic. It will give you lots of New Zealand history. It also has some fantastic Maori displays.”
(We spent over three hours in the Te Papa Museum and it is fantastic. Unfortunately, it was also the ANZAC holiday and almost everyone living in or near Wellington also visited the museum that day…we later learned they were there for the Gallipoli exhibit that had been designed by Peter Jackson as in THE Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings, which, unfortunately, we missed because nobody told us we should wait in a three hour line to see the special exhibit. Thank goodness I’m not a LOTR fan, so I can’t feel too sad.)
3) Eric and I were eating meat pies at a local bakery and trying to warm our toes and fingers after a late fall/early winter cloud burst drenched us with some freezing rain. Two brothers – retired teachers – struck up a conversation.
“Where are you from?”
“The United States.”
“Where did you cycle from today?”
“Brrrr. That was a cold ride. You should stay here. Go across the street to the i-Site and they’ll find you a place. You should sit by a warm fire and take a warm shower.”
“Great idea.” (We followed their advice so I’m sipping hot chocolate and writing this blog)
I’ve been super appreciative of all the good advice we’ve been given. As a matter of fact, I’ve been so impressed with the Kiwi advice that my new motto is to do whatever it is they suggest even if it’s out of the way or on a different route than we had originally planned.
But, I’d also been wondering….
Where do they get this confidence?
Is “talking to tourists and giving advice” a social convention that is taught in school?
Are there public service announcements or advertising promotions that show the citizens how to make tourists feel welcome?
Are all students required to pass a citizenship test that includes a section on politeness to tourists?
Then I got to thinking….
Would I be so confident and assertive as to give tourist advice in the US prefaced with “You should?”
Would I walk up to a total stranger and take (or make) the time to direct them to something interesting?.
Would I be worried about “stranger danger” as taught overtly in children’s school units or covertly in the media with the emphasis on crime and danger rather than e beauty and strengths of the US?
I like the confidence and pride that “You should” conveys and with that self-realization, when I return to the US I shall welcome tourists and be prepared to tell them what they should see and do.