Author: Haylee

Of Clouds and Kiwis

12. Trade Me – the NZ way

Not too long ago, I rang my husband up to ask him a very important question. “Is it possible one of our children could have just purchased a car on Trade Me?” I asked, trying to keep the note of panic out of my voice. He quickly checked out our Trade Me profile. “Nope”, came his calm reply and I breathed a sigh of relief. That was close – and the last time I let the kids browse for toys on Trade Me!
Every self-respecting immigrant should know about this particularly useful website. Trade Me, characterised by its banner and Kevin (think that’s his name), the little blue Kiwi bird with a big eyeball, running flat-out, can be compared, I suppose, to Gumtree in SA, only better, I think (I confess I never really used Gumtree). Trade Me, according to Google, is “NZ’s #1 auction and classifieds site”. In other words, it’s an online platform for people in New Zealand to buy and sell pretty much anything. From furniture to pets and livestock, properties (rentals and sales) and vehicles, clothing, books, gadgets and thingy-ma-bobs. Just about anything you can imagine is sold and bought here. (I have yet to see any grannies or in-laws for sale though – just kidding!). They seem to have strict rules about how auctions are run, payments are made, and deliveries/collections carried out. So those with Trade Me accounts ensure their record for good, trustworthy transactions stays clean and they can happily carry on trading. We have bought (or sold) a boat, a rhino (side-by-side agricultural vehicle, not the endangered four-legged, horned creature), cars, books, furniture, vehicle parts, ski clothing and toys, to name a few things.

While it’s not bartering beads, it is easy to use. Items generally sell on auction, with a set reserve (or not). People with Trade Me accounts can bid and watch an auction on an item they are interested in until it closes. The person with the highest bid “wins” the auction. For instance, one of the husband’s good Kiwi friends sold his Land Cruiser and bought a flash (Kiwi word for “very smart/fancy”) Audi from somewhere down near Wellington. He had never seen the car in person and obviously hadn’t test driven it. Going on what the person selling the vehicle had relayed and the photos, he flew down. The seller met him at the airport, he took the car for a drive and when the deal was done, husband’s friend drove the car back north, happy as Larry (whoever Larry is) with his purchase (of course, the seller sent him on his way with a full fuel tank too). Nice.

How we laughed to hear another South African couple relate their car buying and selling experiences on Trade Me. “Oooh gom!” is the particular expression used by the husband when he accidentally purchased a car. It may well have happened a few times now because his wife gets a bit jittery when her husband, sitting on the couch in the evenings, trawling Trade Me on his phone, suddenly mutters, “oooh gom!” We see them driving another vehicle and wonder if this purchase was “aspris” (on purpose) or accidental. Either way, it makes for a good ribbing!

Did I mention one can also browse jobs on Trade Me? Maybe I should have…


PS. Trade Me isn’t paying me for this bit of good press. Just thought it a resource worth sharing.

Of Clouds and Kiwis

11. One man’s trash, another man’s treasure


Our propensity to gather stuff, wherever we go, is pretty astounding. As mentioned previously, we did ship a container over, but still needed to get a few odds and ends. Well, a few years down the line and we are bursting at the cliched seams with stuff. How did this happen? It’s not like we set out to cram our space with a random collection of odds and ends, but somehow the cupboards are full and the garage can take about all it can contain and still be useful.

So over these last summer holidays, with it being the start of a new year and all that, I thought it would be a good time to start doing a bit of a cleanout. I started with clothing – this seemed to be the easiest place to start as there were more than a few items in our cupboard that needed getting rid of. Fortunately, we have some amazing Opportunity Shops (aka Op Shops) here in NZ and they take in anything from old clothing that is still in reasonable condition, to kitchenware, furniture, books and any other knickknacks one may find cluttering up one’s home. I remember Charity Shops from my stay in the UK, a lifetime ago now. Handy places to pick up this and that at a real bargain – with slogans like “new to you,” they turn unwanted surplus into cash for good causes like the Salvation Army, St Johns or SPCA, to name a few. I remember thinking that these sorts of shops would go down well in SA. But perhaps South African’s are not as bitten by the consumerism bug as those in first world countries.

Anyway, back to my story. To my great surprise, I discovered that the Op Shops in our little town where all suddenly stuffed to the hilt with unwanted things, especially clothing, and were, therefore, temporarily, not taking any donations. Especially not clothing. They had been completely overrun with, well, stuff! At first, I thought that this might be because everyone seemed to have had the same marvellous idea as I – that January seemed like a good time to declutter. However, I was chatting about this to a very good Kiwi friend of mine and she started telling me about Marie Kondo. Marie what? I had never heard of the woman who seems to be taking the decluttering world by storm. What had I missed? I was determined to find out and hit google hard. Ah ha! So, perhaps this is the reason why the good ol’ Op Shops are currently buried under piles of unwanted goods!

Where did that leave me and my boot full of bags of clothing and boxes of kitchen ware. Well, frankly, it left me driving around for a couple of weeks with said stuff in said car boot until I could find an op shop that would be happy to lighten my load. A lesson in patience on my part with the added benefit of much relief once I had offloaded the last bag.

My friend (same lovely person I mentioned earlier), suggested that now might actually be a good time to do some op shopping ourselves, as the quality of goods they are retailing at the moment might be higher than usual as people are not just getting rid of well-used things, but also relatively new things that they have found does not bring them, um, “joy”, after all, and so therefore one could maybe find little gems that might meet a need. But wait. The whole point of the exercise was to declutter, not to reclutter with someone else’s clutter. So, for the time being, besides popping past to drop off a box of books or something, I will try not to spend too much time browsing their wares, just in case I come away with something I really don’t need. Although I did find a great pair of name brand jeans, in next to perfect condition, in my size, for a tenner, that I am very pleased with indeed…

Bits and bobs

While we are in the very privileged position of being able to declutter, many South Africans arrive in NZ with precious little. So perhaps all those people riding the Marie Kondo wave (if that what it is) may have just paved a little bit of the way for immigrants to cheaply furnish a home and bulk up a wardrobe.

If one doesn’t mind an eclectic mix of this and that, then I reckon Op Shops can be helpful when trying to make ends-meet on a shoestring budget. Not only that, but if one is inclined to want to do your bit for the environment (probably more a first world than third world concern) they can be the way to go. Whether its, clothes, fitting out a kitchen or finding bits of furniture to fill a home, these volunteer-run organisations are fabulous. Google Op Shops in your area.

Don’t forget the Facebook groups for South Africans. Maybe you can find what you need there or on Neighbourly. And remember to pay-it-forward when you have found your feet again.

Then there is also Save Mart, a huge recycle shop that I have yet to brave. I have friends that have been and come back with some good deals – this may be helpful as it is tough to see your hard-saved Rands shrivel next to the mighty NZ dollar. Learning tips and tricks to make them stretch is something I could have done with when we first arrived and the months thereafter.

Remember to shop the sales. Half price sales often on a Thursday at Farmers (get onto their mailing list for upfront notice of their specials) – I have touched on this before but perhaps it warrants another mention? I have also seen more than a few South African’s shopping at Cracker Jacks, formerly known as The Clearance Shed, and not without good reason.

Of Clouds and Kiwis

10. Back to school

The summer holidays may be well and truly over now that the kids are back at school, but the days are still long and wonderfully warm. The air is thick with the sound of cicadas, chirruping away all day. The evenings are balmy, and the crickets take over where the cicadas leave off, ensuring the nightfall resonates with their summer song. I don’t mind either. Their sound is neither jarring nor unpleasant – it just somehow blurs into the background.

With the weather so lovely and warm we considered getting a little splash pool to put up in the garden to enjoy as a family over the holidays. Nothing big or fancy, just big enough for the kids to play in and for us to wallow a little and cool off. This, however, was not to be. It was a great idea, we just didn’t have the desire to put up a fence around the pool or empty said pool. Every. Single. Day. So, no pool in the backyard then. NZ is strict about water safety. We opted to use the pools at the local recreation centre and, of course, the sea instead. What a treat to have these options just about on our doorstep!

Besides swimming, there are plenty of things to do, as a family, that are free or almost free during the summer holidays (or over weekends) and one doesn’t necessarily have to spend much money to have a great day out with the family (or Whanau, as the Maori’s call it)  and this can go a long way to stretching that December paycheck through January.

Things can get trickier and more expensive though if, as a family with kids, both parents need to work full time over the school holiday period and you don’t have luxury of grandparents or aunties and uncles to call on, or even hired help like you may have had in SA (although au pairs are an option). Fortunately, there are a variety of holiday programmes for school kids. They vary greatly and you would need to find the right one that fits your children’s needs or family ideals. When needed we used one called Kids After School (also a before and after school care option). Auckland for kids lists some options too (we haven’t used these and can’t vouch for them). There are also holiday camp options available, but our kids are young and we have yet to explore this idea.

Don’t forget the local public primary school playgrounds are usually available for use over weekends and holidays. Auckland also has some “very cool” playgrounds worth a visit.

Otherwise, there are road trips to be had. This is, after all, an adventure, is it not! A South African friend and I were chatting about some of the  differences between NZ and SA when it comes to road trips and she said that one thing they, as a family, had to get used when taking a road trip in NZ is packing your own padkos (food for the road) as there are not a lot of places that one can pull in to and grab a good bite to eat (and neither are there a dozen petroports between you and your destination). At first, they thought of this as a negative but have since changed their minds as they have discovered that they enjoy being in control of what food they take with and can eat better (for less) by packing their own. NZ is home to some pretty amazing pies, but other than that they lack imagination and variety when it comes to meals on the go (sorry Kiwi land, you have still to prove yourself better than SA in this regard – I am happy to be proved wrong on this though). There are, of course, big yellow arches, in many towns, but not much in the way of padstalletjies (in SA, roadside stops where you can buy biltong, droëwors, dried mango and fresh fruit, cheeses, yogurts and preserves or a gourmet sandwich. If that’s what road trip food is means to you, then you’ll need to pack your own.) We too are getting better at packing in old fashioned picnics to enjoy en-route to wherever we happen to be headed, and we are probably the healthier for it. Of course, there is always the coffee exception. Seems like one can usually buy a cuppa jo just about anywhere. There are even mobile coffee carts that set up shop near the beach, or on some of the main thoroughfares of smaller towns. Of course, it is easy enough to take your own too. Is it just me or does one’s hot beverage, be it tea or coffee, always taste different when drunk out of a flask?

Of Clouds and Kiwis

9. Summer’s coming

Spring is slowly giving way to summer and with it, the swallows have arrived from wherever they spent their last stint in their quest for the perpetual summer. Sitting like fine little gentlemen in their pointed coat tails on wires, sweeping low and fluttering below eaves, looking for old nests or the ideal site for new ones. More native feathered friends are also waking earlier and earlier – up and chatting excitedly about life around 5:30am at the moment. I far prefer waking to their happy conversation than the sound of the alarm clock, truth be told. Their good cheer seems contagious, the alarm clock, more often than not, has the opposite effect.
So far, I would reckon that the fourth term is my favourite. Things get warmer (well, they are trying too, despite last week’s temporary relapse into mid-winter) and the warmth brings with it the anticipation of long summer school holidays, Christmas and time off work for husband which means lots more family time – just thinking about it puts me in a good mood.
This will be our fourth Christmas in New Zealand. For many, I would hazard a guess that it could be a time to feel sad and miss family and friends in SA (or wherever else they may be scattered across the world). We have created a few new family traditions, which we look forward to each year now, and we have made good friends, some of which are in the very same boat as we are and so, instead of dwelling on what we have “lost” we make plans and an effort to get excited for the season to come. It’s not the same. It could never be the same, as what we enjoyed and treasured back in SA. (I am trying not to say, “back home”, because somewhere along the line a switch needs to take place so that I can absorb the fact that where we are now is home).
No, of all the times of the year, this is not a time to feel sad. It’s not the season to dwell on the things that are behind, but rather to imagine and hope for the seasons and experiences that are yet to come. I can appreciate just how heartsore expats may feel at this time of year – especially perhaps those that have been here just long enough for the initial excitement of the move and adventure to wear thin but not long enough to feel settled and have formed friendships yet. That place in between – perhaps a bit like the spring season – may well be the place where you need to encourage new growth in your relatively young friendships and acquaintances. We decided up-front to make ourselves a little more vulnerable, inviting people around for meals, coffees and afternoon teas. Pressing past the awkward acquaintance to that place were tentative friendships bud and start to blossom. When we moved across, we really wanted to integrate and immerse ourselves in this Kiwi culture. This has been one of the most rewarding things for us. We are now in the blessed position of having a diverse mix of friends – Kiwi and Cape Townian, Johannesburger and Natalian. We certainly are the richer for it.

A few random things to love about Kiwi summers – in no particular order:
Forget “brown-paper parcels, all tied up with string” or “snowflakes that fall on your nose and eyelashes” (for a few moments anyway)
BBQs (must call them that as a braai needs to involve wood, charcoal or briquettes – something other than gas, right?) salads, pavlova and ice-cream with friends
Long, long summer days (the children must think we are trying to hoodwink them into going to sleep before the sun has set!)
Swimming in the sea and eating Mr Whippy in the sunshine
The feeling of sunshine and a warm breeze on your skin
Christmas – such an incredibly special time, wherever you happen to be
Exploring new beaches and places and things to do
Pohutukawa trees – flowering in December along the coastline – real live Christmas trees with nature’s finest adornment
Long summer school holidays – I love school holidays – probably will mean a lot less blogging and writing get done – but there’s a season for everything, right?
Do you think one can include the sound of cicadas and crickets? Surely, they provide the soundtrack to summer…

Of Clouds and Kiwis

8. Grassroots

Last week the weather, as a Kiwi friend of mine so aptly put it, “turned to custard!” It was snowing in some areas of the South Island and hailing in others! Up here where we are, it just got cold and wet. What happened to spring? It was warming up so nicely and then the summer download got “paused”. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, when it comes to NZ weather, things can change quite unexpectedly.
So, I found myself shivering and voicing some complaint about the sudden temperature drop. But I would have done well to bite my tongue, as I need only grab another jumper (to add to my existing three layers of clothing) or flick the switch on the heater and I would be relatively comfortable. I really have nothing to complain about. Moving past my own puny discomfort I turned to think about the poor farmers down in the South, with lambs and calves and spring crops in. How much more they must be feeling it!
New Zealand has a very big primary industry. A large portion of that is agriculture – something the nation prides itself on. Surely all have heard about the NZ dairy industry? What about NZ lamb or wool?
Many Kiwi kids have a wonderful, very hands-on experience when it comes lambs, calves and chooks (chickens) as one of the best days of the school calendar has to be calf-club day (also known as pet day or ag day). From what I can tell, this day is scheduled around the end of the third term to coincide with spring. School kids spend part of the term raising their own lambs, calves or even goat kids. They teach the animal to walk on a lead and come when called when off the lead. They are then judged, perhaps in a similar way to how livestock are judged at an agricultural show (another big thing in NZ – ever heard of Fieldays?) on how well the animal responds to their handler and, of course, export quality (um, whether the lamb will make good chops). The kids (human, not goat) can do other things too, like raise vegetables for competition or show off their chicken’s ability to perform tricks. At the little school our children attend, they have a “create and celebrate” part to their pet day programme. Here the kids work within set guidelines to create various floral arrangements and works of art and these are then judged, and they can win a certificate and house points. Talk about a well-rounded education!

Another good way to get better “acquainted” with (at arm’s length anyway) or appreciate rural NZ living is to watch a local programme called Hyundai Country Calendar, a weekly thirty minute or so TV programme about (you guessed it!) people who make their living off the land or sea. I usually always come away feeling a great degree of admiration for the hard-working Kiwis that love to work their land. They work hard, but still take time to watch their kids’ rugby or netball games on the weekends, even if it means standing in the pouring rain on the side-lines. Others painstakingly plant indigenous plants along waterways (riparian planting), in their own effort to do something to protect rivers and aquatic life from the nastier side-effects of agriculture. From what I can see, Kiwi’s are good at caring – there is something very genuine about them. Of course, this is me generalising, but it is a refreshing generalisation to make.

Other bits and bobs

Hyundai Country Calendar – try a sneak-peek episode?
Calf-club days –
Fieldays is the largest agricultural show in the Southern Hemisphere –
Farmers markets, local markets and fares abound – we have a local Saturday market which takes place weekly – one can buy fresh veg, meat, plants, tuisnywerheid goodies and so forth – Google to find one near you

7. Mark, Mike and the Carpet Tree pic 2 Of Clouds and Kiwis

7. Mark, Mike and the Carpet Tree

This is not a tale about two boys off on an adventure with a magical, carpet-bearing tree. No, it’s more a tale about a Kiwi education, of sorts. You see, we had not been in New Zealand very long and our little ones were fairly new to their respective pre-schools / kindergartens (kindies) when one of the early childhood educators (pre-school teacher) came over to tell me just how much our son had been enjoying the carpet tree that day. I looked at her a little blankly, I am afraid, as I mentally ran through a whole range of possibilities as to what this mysterious carpet tree could be and why it appealed to our boy. I shudder to think just what she must have been thinking as I clearly failed to respond in the way she hoped. I can’t recall exactly, but I guess the conversation must have gone something like this: “Carpet tree?” I floundered. “Yeh, you know, using hammers and nails and building things with wood,” she patiently explained. The penny dropped – ah! Carpentry! Yes, I can imagine that our boy would have loved being let loose with all those things! But wait! They can do that? Safely? My mind baulked at the thought of a group of four-year-olds sawing and hammering away. Building things out of plastic – with plastic nails and things, right? No. Not these kids, they had the real deal. It didn’t end there. They were encouraged to use hot glue guns too. Wow! How awesome! This is the stuff most kids would love to do. A little bit of responsibility and creativity coupled with an element of danger and they loved it! But it became painfully obvious I had some learning of my own to do, too. I was very thankful that while I learned to decipher just what these kiwis were saying, that at least it was with the kind, patient ladies at the kids kindie and not in some fast-paced business environment!

Unfortunately, this was not the case with Mike and Mark. To this day I will listen very carefully when being introduced to a bloke called Mark, as to me, the name Mark sounds like Mike when spoken in “Kiwi”. Even then I will probably double-check with husband – whose ear for this seems better trained than mine – just to be certain I don’t find myself calling Mark Mike or Mike Mark – arrrgghhh! Is it just me, or are there a lot of men that go by this name in our part of Kiwi land!

All that aside, it was a Kiwi friend of Justin’s (thankfully called Rob!) who, after living in SA for many years and returning to NZ, casually mentioned that it is impossible to get a bad education in NZ. Well, so far I have been very impressed. Our kidos are young so we have been through the kindie experience and are now on to primary school. I really liked the free play kids have at pre-schools, supervised (they are well taken care of), but free to play and explore. They are encouraged to bring togs (swimming gear) on warm days to play outside in the mud and puddles. Some kindies have chickens and vegetable gardens and trees to climb. They have playgrounds – but not only the general the run-of-the-mill type (ie. swing, slide and monkey bars) – but also really interesting things to climb up, scramble over, under, inside. Wish we had those when I was a kid. At the lovely kindie where our daughter ended up going before starting school, each day brought with it something new and interesting to try like playing with foam, making playdough, baking, going for outings to places like the library or park. The teachers also document your child’s progress in a fun and personal way – each child has their own folder, with stories about what they did, what they learned, things they really enjoyed and so forth. We could borrow that folder to read through and enjoy or share with family, then give it back for more stories to be added. Then we got to take it home when our children moved on to primary school. Both kindies our kids went to put on a party on their leaving day (around their fifth birthdays) – they were made to feel very special and they really looked forward to their chance to have their goodbye celebration knowing it was time to move on to the next chapter.

For more info:

Other bits and bobs

This link gives a great overview of the school system

Schooling is mandatory between 6 and 16 years of age
School starts on your fifth birthday, or close to it (or the term after your fifth birthday)
Your child will attend the primary, intermediate or high school which you are zoned for – various suburbs fall into different school zones (school catchment areas) – this is something to consider if your kids are of school going age as schools range in size and decile
School deciles range from one to ten – for more info on this

There are lots of schools – including rural schools – and depending on your school and area etc, there are school buses too.

You’ll need to check for yourself what your visa category enables access to education-wise:

Wellington Of Clouds and Kiwis

6. Sometimes it rains

Winter in New Zealand. Sometimes it rains. Well, actually, it may be fairer to say sometimes it doesn’t rain. It will pour for a few minutes. Then the sun will break through and drench everything with light. Of course, the rain will not be outdone by the sun and so it will rain while the sun shines. Then it will cloud over and, living in Auckland, it will pour some more. It’s not raining, you say? Wait five minutes.

The ground turns mucky. Your shoes look horrible and track mud everywhere you go – into the car, the classroom, your home. For some reason I can’t quite fathom, Kikuyu grass is the great grassy nemesis to most Kiwis – they far prefer fine fescue – and clover – which turn to mud the minute you step onto the lawn in winter. Oh, for the spongy layer of Kikuyu to keep mud and feet apart. So, I find myself tippy-toeing over the lawn. Or eying my sheepskin slippers a little dolefully, knowing that it will cause far too much hassle to go get to the rosemary, next to the raised planter box which sits across a small section of clover and fescue lawn. The rosemary can wait. I need new gumboots. In fact, the clever thing to do may be to get a pair to place at each door – that way I can happily go collect mandarins (naartjies) from the trees behind the house – yep, they sit on the other side of the wintery quagmire – definitely not to be attempted in aforementioned slippers.

Now it may seem that I am skating very close to complaining. I am not. You see as a kid growing up in South Africa, I spent many happy hours wallowing in thick Kei River mud. The kind of stuff that you sink to your thighs in and then have to wriggle and slurp out of very slowly, all the while ensuring every other part of your body is thoroughly covered in the goo. Bliss. But somehow, this cold, wet sludge doesn’t bring about the same satisfaction. It squelches through your toes, or seeps into your trainers and sticks to the bottom of gumboots so that every time you go out you gain another layer – which dries a little and creates the perfect place to acquire yet more mud. After a couple of days your find yourself walking on a veritable platform.

The thing is this. I can look at my mud speckled toes, the mud smears all over my kids clothing, the filthy entrance hall to our home and sigh. But I could also look up. If I take my eyes off the mud and look up… I’ll see the green rolling hills that I my eyes can’t get enough of. Leaves sparkling like the finest diamonds ever cut as rain drops quiver and glisten. The clouds are like no clouds I’ve ever seen in Africa. While the land here may be tame, the skies are wild. The clouds shunt sometimes with hard stormy edges, others soft and wispy. Sometimes dark and ominous looking. Other times, especially at the beginning or the end of the day, coloured in every shade of gold and silver imaginable. And if all I could see was the mud between my toes or glued to the sorry soles of my shoes, I would miss out on the fiery clouds. The sparkling webs. The glistening leaves. I look down and sigh. I look up and my heart feels light and alive and full of possibility… Perspective… New Zealand, you are a fine place indeed…


fuel-pump-dollar-sign Of Clouds and Kiwis

5. GST, fuel tax and sales

For some reason, I have been hedging a bit about writing this post. I couldn’t figure out why and then I reread the last and I realised that I had committed to discussing GST. Sigh. Why did I do that? I am not very administratively inclined. My husband is the minister of finance in our home and so these sorts of things come naturally to him – you know, willingly talking about aforementioned subjects. Perhaps this is a good place to introduce him as my co-blogger and let him explain the intricacies of all things financial, business and maybe even political?

I’ll take a small stab at it for now and cover a couple of basics very swiftly before moving on to quickly mention sales, The Warehouse and then, perhaps, we can talk about pav (pavlova) – back to food – a subject I am most happy to scribble more than a few notes on!

In a nutshell, GST stands for Goods and Services Tax which is a value-added tax (i.e. VAT in SA). It is currently 15%. When purchasing goods and/or services in New Zealand you will pay 15% GST.

Which brings me to another tax you should probably be aware of – fuel tax and the Auckland regional fuel tax – a regional fuel tax introduced by the relatively new to office labour government. Now I am no political commentator so I’ll stick to the bare facts and leave it at that: Auckland fuel tax (will obviously only affect you if you are headed to that region) will see you pay an extra 10 cents/litre (plus GST) on petrol or diesel sold within the region – this was introduced on 01 July 2018 to help fund Auckland transport projects. However slow the progress may be, they are trying to address the problem and the only reason I make mention of this is that it has been a fairly hot topic. Especially if you live south of Auckland. First world problems, eh?

From having to spend to wanting to spend – all you shopping inclined people will be happy to know that NZ is big on sales. There is always a deal to be had somewhere. Whether it be something for your car, home, wardrobe or belly, if you shop around, keep an eye on the junk mail in your post box or even on the tele in the evenings you will probably be able to find what you are looking for at a reasonably reduced price. Husband is adamant one should never pay full price for anything in NZ. Of course, this is particularly rewarding for those happy to exercise a little patience, just in case what you need or want does not happen to be on sale at this exact moment. If it’s not on sale, just wait. If you can… I needed some brown winter boots, but I needed them yesterday. So, I bought a comfy pair, full price – from the local shoe store – only to have that ‘oh dear’ feeling when I saw them advertised around a month later at, well, a lot cheaper. Sigh. Planning and patience will save you more than a few bucks. That being said – I did score, on the Briscoes (home store/home appliances – Mr Price Home, Woollies, Home Etc) deal on bedding last month – over $1000 worth of bedding for half the price – sweet as!

The Warehouse is another local store we frequent – kind of like Game / Macro. They too run plenty of specials and one can easily grab a few household essentials for a relatively good price. Yes, you can buy some food stuff there too. Talking of food, I think I may run over my self-induced word limit if I start on that topic at this point so the pav will have to wait…

Bits and bobs:

Scout out some prices – these stores have online shopping too so you can do your homework.

Briscoes – Homeware and home accessories stores

The Warehouse – like Game / Macro – can get just about anything there, often have sales – big post-Christmas sales

Mitre 10 (and Mitre 10 Mega) – similar to Builders Warehouse – good hardware store, also sell some homeware, plant nursery etc

Farmers – a lot like SA Woolworths, I’d say. Dearer (more expensive) but Thursday’s are their specials day – great half-price children’s clothing deals etc

Farmlands – a co-op – rural supplies (stock good gumboots too!)

Postie Plus – cheaper clothing store

Number One Shoes – yep – it’s a shoe shop. Like their buy-one-get-one-half-price type specials – handy when getting kids shoes for the season


Tip – sending postal packages from SA to NZ can be very expensive (on the SA side- just ask my Mom!) and sometimes they get opened and checked before delivery this side (we have experienced this, but beside the packaging being opened, all contents were accounted for) – anyway, we have found that online shopping and delivery is a great way for grandparents to spoil their grandbabies on birthdays and at Christmas, when they are so far away and can’t do it in person.

breakfast-for-1-hamilton Of Clouds and Kiwis

4. Food, glorious food

Well, this morning I took some time out to laboriously draw up a list of some basic food and household goodies and what they cost. As admin is not my strong point this was a labour of love. I think. Or maybe it was just me being a little dumb because, if you really are so inclined, you can pop onto the Countdown website and see for yourself what things cost. Anyway, it wasn’t such a pointless and futile effort as it has forced me to re-familiarise myself with what some things cost, and it also reminded me of a few things I needed to learn about grocery shopping New Zealand style.

For the sake of this article, I am only going to mention two of the grocery supermarkets (there are others) which heaps of people use – namely Pak n Save (NZ owned and operated) and Countdown (Aussie owned, I think – don’t quote me on that). Pak n Save is like a big warehouse, rudimentary merchandising and you pack your own bags (which you can either bring with you or purchase from the tellers). They pride themselves on being cheaper, and often they are, but Countdown has a loyalty card which can make them competitively priced if you shop their specials and use your One Card (loyalty card). Unfortunately, Pak n Save doesn’t have an online shop, so it will be tricky to compare prices, product for product. But Countdown does have online shopping which makes checking out what everyday groceries will cost you fairly easy. And, given that New Zealand is home to countless sales, chances are, you’ll get a fairly good idea, as to what to expect.

Now, when grocery shopping, here are a few things to consider.

Yes, you can buy Freshpak Rooibos, Ouma Rusks, Tennis biscuits and All Gold Tomato Sauce at both Countdown and Pak n Save. Sometimes they have an international section/isle and you can buy your old favourites there, and sometimes those things actually appear on the shelves alongside the Kiwi brands – so at the Pak n Save in our little town, the All Gold tomato sauce can be found with all the other tomato sauces! Mrs Balls is also easy enough to find. If you really are longing for good ol’ SA products, you can also visit the local SA Shop. Our lovely local is called Mama Africa (check them out on FB) and we are quite partial to their koeksisters. SA shops will sell just about anything you could be longing for from SA – from Bisto to Biltong (en droëwors), Cream Soda to samp and Springbok mielie meal. Just remember you will pay quite a bit more, so save the Pronutro and Futurelife for high days and holidays.

Speaking of breakfast cereal. The dairy products in NZ are pretty good. However, you will need to decode your milk by the colour of its lid. Dark blue = full cream, light blue=light, green=trim, silver=full cream non-homogenized (has the cream that floats to the top) and yellow top, from what I can see = added calcium (fortified).  You also get a wide range of dairy alternative milks, so if you prefer soy or almond or rice or coconut, they have something for everyone.

When it comes to bread, well, not all bread is created equal and you’ll have to find the one that suits your taste and health requirements – but the range is wide so there is plenty to choose from. Personally, we enjoy the local bakery over the supermarkets’ offerings, but each to their own. The only thing to remember is whether you want your loaf sliced “toast” (thicker) or “sandwich” (thin) – you’ll see toast or sandwich on your pre-sliced, store bought bread too. Now you know. Oh, and NZ butter is just plain good! Their regular butter is like Woollies butter… Just saying.

So that covers breakfast – moving on to lunch. Just kidding. Seriously, we can’t do lunch until we have covered morning tea (also known by ye old English “elevenses”). Which means we must digress and contemplate coffee for a while. Kiwi’s love their coffee and it’s not uncommon to see people making their way around town with a cuppa something in hand. Perhaps it’s the weather here, but there is something just so comforting about a mid-morning cuppa java (the one that comes a few hours after the effects of your early morning kick-out- of-bed cuppa have worn off). And you can take it with you – kind of like the Americans do on American movies. So, whatever your poison, be it flat white, short black, long black, latte, Americano et cetera et cetera, you can have that with vanilla, caramel and hazelnut flavour and, well you get the picture… For those instant coffee people who prefer Douwe Egberts over Nescafe – you’ll be pleased to know that Douwe Egberts goes by the name Moccona here in NZ. The bottle even looks the same.

This week’s piece on grocery shopping is getting a little long so I’ll split it and next week we can broach the subject of fun things such as GST (like VAT – yawn!), sales, The Warehouse and pav.

Of Clouds and Kiwis

3. One life live it

If you are reading this then perhaps you’ve decided that my last piece was not a load of hogwash (or if it was, it was interesting enough to have you come back to see what else I may come up with).

So, while you are working on your “why”, here’s a bit about ours.

We immigrated to New Zealand three years ago. By we, I mean my husband and I and our two small children (and our two furry feline children). When it came to moving, emigration was one of our options. We considered small-town South Africa as well, as we wanted to find a place with oodles of space for the children to roam and a close-knit community where we could feel a part of something bigger, play a role in other people’s lives and have them play some sort of role in ours. We wanted an adventure. Something different. The big, bold letters on the back of our Land Rover Discovery TD5 looked me in the eye every time I used the rearview mirror or turned around in my seat to reverse – “One Life Live It”. Somehow it didn’t feel like we were really living those words. We believed them. But there was a rift between those words and our reality – living in a little ordinary house, in a little ordinary suburb of the sprawling, unforgiving concrete jungle of Johannesburg. I think that when there is a disconnect between what you believe or dream and how you live it can lead to a gnawing sense of frustration.

So, we considered our options and then went for the one that said husband fell in love with on his look-see-decide visit. The one that ticked all the boxes for us, and then some. In all fairness, we didn’t even get to have a look-see at the other option, Canada. We prayed about it extensively and then had one of those enviable experiences where everything just miraculously fell into place. We ticked boxes, prayed, did admin, prayed, jumped through hoops, prayed and did some crazy things like buying husband’s ticket before our passports had been safely returned with precious new visas safely ensconced (yes, we prayed) because he needed to start work in the new office on a set date.

Just when we got to the finish line – or perhaps the starting line – we were thrown a curve ball. Husband had to go alone for the first six months. At the time we thought this was terrible. But I have since heard of other South African families that have had to spend months apart as one spouse does the move, settles in and then brings their family over. In the end, it worked out well for us. The pressure of new country, new job, new systems, new ways of doing things got worked through before the additional pressure of family arrived.

So, our cats and container arrived just before the children and I, (separately, they arrived separately, of course, cats and container – we did not ship the cats with the furniture!) and we had a lovely, warm four-bedroom home to move straight into and beds to sleep in – bliss. Thank you, husband.

Kariotahi Beach SunsetI remember being woken around midday (I think, maybe, can’t be sure) by one very enthusiastic husband who just couldn’t bear us all sleeping the day away on our first day in New Zealand – we had to get up and drink smoothies, go out for a New Zealand pie (the best pie in my known world) and go to the beach. In my jet-lagged, sleep deprived state I forgot my handbag at the cafe but had it safely returned to me.

The tired haze in my head was mirrored, that first day, by the eerie fog that clung to the mysterious black beaches of Karioitahi. We were actually here. A reunited family warmly welcomed into a beautiful new country. Here our story continues. Here new adventures await.


Useful bits and bobs:

Flight time to NZ via Sydney – there are currently no direct flights between New Zealand and South Africa. The most direct route, and do check me on this, seems to be on Qantas via Sydney (about 11h45m), then connecting flight from Sydney to Auckland – different airlines to choose from (if that’s where you are headed – about 3h5m)

We packed up and stored our furniture and set it onwards with Pickfords . Who then shipped it, delivered it and unpacked some of it in our new home. No breakages, no hassles.

Pets en Transit – emigrating with pets needs to be well thought out and planned. It is doable but allow plenty of time for the vaccinations, blood tests and other veterinary requirements – it’s admin intensive, for you and your vet so don’t leave it til the last minute. I also used Feliway spray to try make the experience less traumatic for our two girls before they left and when they arrived – ask your vet what you can do to help reduce your pet’s anxiety when moving. Too bad Feliway doesn’t work on pet owners…

Oh, one last thing, the whole process takes longer for dogs, I think – and, at the time we immigrated, NZ would not allow certain dog breeds into the country. I think that still stands.