There’s a reason it’s called culture shock and not cultural differences-that-are-to-be-expected. Here’s six examples of things that were shocking about life in New Zealand:
- Driving on the left. It only took a few car rides to get used to driving on the opposite side of the road, but I still have to consciously think “right, left, right” when crossing the street. Driving on the left also means people go to the left when passing others on the sidewalk, which is why I may or may not have almost walked into like 10 people on the first day of class.
- Kmart is nice and no one calls McDonald’s by its name. Just because stores and fast-food chains are owned by the same company, it does not mean they are the same as back home. I never thought that I would hear someone say “Let’s go to Kmart” in an excited tone, and I wasn’t prepared to go from the dollar menu at McDonald’s to prices in the double digits at “Maccas”.
- It’s socially acceptable to not wear shoes. I thought it was interesting that the dining hall had a sign that reads “Please wear shoes in the dining hall” but then I learned that it’s normal to go barefoot wherever, including the grocery store and Kmart.
- Roommates don’t exist. At LVC, I was blessed with not one, but two amazing roommates (s/o Caite and Julia), who I lived with my freshman and sophomore year. Whenever I mention having roommates, people look at me like I’m crazy and say things like “so wait, there’s three of you…in one room?” and “I could never share a room like that” and “Having your own room here must be nice, huh?” and “Would you rather have roommates or your own room?” (to which I always respond: “I’d rather have my roommates than my own room”).
- Scheduling classes is crazy. At LVC, there are Monday/Wednesday/Friday classes, Tuesday/Thursday classes, and night classes. In New Zealand, there’s lectures, tutorials, and labs. One class could meet for lecture for an hour Monday evening, an hour Thursday morning, and an hour Friday afternoon. There isn’t a set schedule, so it is more likely that class times will clash. On top of lectures, you have to sign up for labs and tutorials. It’s basically like the Hunger Games trying to get the time slot you need before it fills up. Some students have overlapping classes, so they have to leave one class an hour early to go to another.
- School spirit (or lack thereof). During my first week here, I went to the on-campus bookstore and was surprised to see that it was just that: books. There is one sweatshirt for the university, but you have to order it online and nobody really wears it. The university doesn’t have a mascot either. It’s the opposite of back home where everyone is wearing college gear. Even as I’m writing this, I’m repping an LVC Dutchmen shirt which a girl from the Netherlands asked me about since they don’t really have school apparel at her school back home.