Travel Log 5 “Conversations” By: Stephen Sharo Dunedin, New Zealand

The person I chose to interview for my cultural differences discussion was Blaise Lidstone White. Blaise originally lived in the U.K but has also spent a small amount of time living in Egypt, but spent most of her life living just outside of Auckland.  I chose to interview Blaise because of her worldly travels and her experience living in different cultures. Although she is not technically a native Kiwi she has lived here most of her life and living in several other countries helps give her an insight as to what is important to Kiwi culture and what differs from other destinations around the world.

Blaise and I after our interview

Blaise and I after our interview

I think that me and Blaise’s conversation was very worthwhile. Since I have been in New Zealand I have conversed with many people on several different topics. I have talked to Kiwis about healthcare, politics, and even sports. The discussions were pretty useful in recognizing the differences between our political systems, healthcare systems, advertising, etc. However none of these conversations gave me an insight into the Kiwi culture. Talking with Blaise allowed me to compare and contrasts American and Kiwi cultures rather compare subjects within our cultures.

The passage from Hess could not describe my experiences in a different cultural setting better, “The cultural setting complicates the exercise.  Hindus don’t kick cows which hold sacred status in India. In Spain, people would tend to value saving face at the moment of a car accident, even if it means a raised voice or a clenched fist. They also don’t think it unseemly to urinate by the side of the road,” (Hess, 46). One of the biggest culturally differences within New Zealand is the alcohol laws. Within my first night in Dunedin we saw dozens of students walking around the streets blatantly drinking. We were in shock and awe that these teenagers were consuming alcohol outside and in front of security and even the police. Furthermore as I was talking to a fellow classmate he was talking about drinking while riding in the back of a car. I was astonished to find that there are no open container laws in New Zealand, anyone of age can drink the car as long as they are not driving. These concepts blew my mind because that’s highly illegal in the United States and no one would even think about taking that risk. However after my conversation with Blaise I learned that there are a lot of differences between American and New Zealand culture.

The first stark difference that Blaise mentioned was the idea of tradition. Personally Blaise is enjoys tradition and sometimes even encourages it. But she made a very definitive point about change due in regards to the New Zealand flag. Currently New Zealand is undergoing a vote in order to change the flag. Blaise talked about how the flag has been around for a century and how it means a lot to their country. However she also acknowledged the fact that New Zealand doesn’t have any ties to England like they used to, how Australia copied their flag, and how nothing Maori is presented on the flag. It seems to me that the Kiwis embrace their tradition, but are making the necessary changes in order to maintain that tradition.

The next two subjects that differed from America was the direct questioning and dealing with problems. Kiwis are not shy about directly questioning people. For example, within minutes of talking to someone I continually get asked my stance on politics. The Kiwis are far from shy when it comes to questioning. The other stark contrast I noticed was if two people have a problem with one another they confront each other directly. If matters aren’t resolved rather quickly, then a third party is introduced. I feel like in America that people either don’t directly confront the person or they take a long time to introduce another person into the disagreement.

Back at school I don’t participate much in school election or school government. I was always under the impression that our peers who run for office are more like figure heads and don’t really hold a substantial amount of power. By sitting down and talking to them I would probably have a better understanding about what they do, how they do it, and more importantly why they do it.

 

Hess, J. Daniel. “Chapter 5.” Studying Abroad/learning Abroad: An Abridged Edition of The Whole World Guide to Culture Learning. Yarmouth, Me., USA: Intercultural, 1997. N. pag. Print

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