Fun fact: Did you know, there are more sheep in New Zealand than people?
I haven’t seen THAT many sheep yet, but I did notice cows at the airport when we landed.
Speaking of landing, I believe a place can be more or less accurately judged by the experience one has at its airport. I developed this theory (the former scientist in me would stop here to say, “it’s a hypothesis, Jenny, not a theory. And I suppose next you’ll be using ‘data’ as a singular noun.”) when I went to Scotland, and it’s held up so far. Granted, the scientist in me would also note that I’m basing this on a sample size of two, so readers should be cautioned to take this theory (hypothesis) with a grain of salt.
To summarize, when I traveled to Scotland, I went via London-Heathrow. My experience at the London airport was very bad, and I later found London itself to be a place I need not visit ever again.
Scotland, on the other hand, was a positive airport experience and I found that, accents aside, I would go back to Scotland in a heartbeat. I loved it there. The people were friendly and didn’t treat me like I was stupid, even when I deserved it (for instance, when I asked to be pointed in the direction of a bus I was standing directly in front of.)
I suppose I shouldn’t bad-mouth London because I only spent 24 hours there, but I found it to be so—self absorbed. It was like New York City on steroids, where no one wants to be bothered by anyone else. They walk quickly and with purpose, and heaven forbid you slow them down in any way. I have a friend who hates it when I roll my eyes at him (well, it’s likely many friends hate when I do that, but this one brings it to my attention), and I feel like London is just one big eye roll toward America. And toward Stupid People, which I believe I they think are one and the same.
Before I was let loose on the city, however, I had my airport experience. It went something like this. Get lost. Travel in a big circle. Ask for directions. Be looked upon with scorn. Stand in the incorrect line. Be looked upon with scorn. Stand in the correct line. Be looked upon with scorn. The latter was to get through customs—not the customs to enter into England (the incorrect line) but the customs to continue onto Scotland.
There were two people checking passports: a young fellow, in his late 20s perhaps, and an old fellow, who looked like his last drop of humor had dried out during the dark ages. Naturally, I hoped for the young guy. I thought he would be friendlier and easier to get through, especially since I was a young 20-something year old female, and he was, well, hormonal.
Little did I know he would label me a security threat.
I think things would have been okay, or at least better, had I not answered the question, “What makes you want to visit Scotland?” in complete honesty. It was not proper to respond with, “I think Scotsmen are attractive.” Or that Scotland is Gerard Butler’s homeland, or that the Scottish accent is mega-appealing. I received a look that said, “You think you’re funny? I’ll show you funny,” and he proceeded to ask me where I was going, where I was staying, who was I staying with, how did I meet her, how long have I known her, how much money is in my bank account, what am I doing in the States, what I’m studying, why—if I’m still in school—am I leaving during the middle of the semester, etc. etc. and then he told me because he didn’t like my answers, he was flagging my passport. I think the only time he smiled, and even then it was more of a half-smirk than a smile, was when he said security would be paying extra attention to me as I continued with my travels.
On a similar note, Australians do not like to be trumped by New Zealanders. Sydney-siders (as they call themselves) seemed to take personal offense when they found out I was spending three months in NZ and only one week in Australia. (I was careful, however, to not mention any sort of attraction to New Zealanders themselves, or to their accents. Or to the beauty of their country, or the kindness of their people.) Anyway, my airport experience in Sydney was…disappointing, not to mention costly, and I will again mention the visa thing.
WHY MUST I PAY YOU IN ORDER TO SPEND MONEY IN YOUR COUNTRY?
(you can expect to spend $5 on a cappuccino that’s half the size of your Starbucks “tall,” just so you know. And the Australian dollar is stronger than the US dollar.)
Right, the airport. The people are friendly, no worries. Unlike London, I had no feeling of inferiority or stupidity when I needed to ask a question. But there were several mishaps at the airport that made me want to ball up at the check-in counter and have a good cry, and in the end, I felt like Australia was kicking me out.
THE POINT OF THIS BLOG IS:
arriving into New Zealand was the smoothest transition I’ve ever had. The airport was simple to navigate, my visa worked (and was free) and everyone was SO NICE—even the customs people smiled at me and asked how my flight was and wished me good luck finding a job. I felt like they were all relatives of mine, not real relatives, but the kind you see in movies where everyone gets along.
Therefore, I’m hopeful that New Zealand is going to be a positive experience, and so far all signs point in that direction. So I say,
Bring on the sheep!