My wife and I have now lived in the South Island for two years. They've been a great two years. We've enjoyed the scenery and the people. And for the most part, these Southern folk are similar to their Northern neighbours. They share similar qualities and values: DIY, gumboots and number 8 wire, tramping and extreme sports, Tall Poppy Syndrome, L&P, Rugby and cricket. On the face of it, we are one people. But after living amongst these Southerners I've picked up on a few quirks. Let me share some of these distinctive qualities that have emerged from my engagement with the Dunedin locals.
1) The Weather
When I first arrived in Dunedin, I was given the advice to never bring up the weather. That has never been a problem for me, because Southerners seem preoccupied with the weather. I'm not sure whether it's because half of the folks are farmers and the weather is really important, or whether it's because they are in some ways constantly apologizing/defensive about the 10 seasons in one day that Duendin constantly serves up or the way the window freezes up on the inside of the house in the middle of winter.
2) Holiday Homes
I use the word 'holiday homes' to make sure we are all talking about the same thing. You see, in the North Island we call them 'baches'. In the South Island, they are 'cribs'. I always thought a crib was something a baby slept in. It made for an interesting conversation when I was first invited to stay in someone's crib...
3) The word 'wee'
Now this one, I'm pretty sure is localised in Dunedin due to its Scottish heritage. When I use the word 'wee' I mean to say 'little' or 'small' rather than something that you do in the toilet. Folks down here use that word all the time. In fact folks use it so often, they sometimes don't use it in the proper context. For example a 'wee' visit may last a couple hours.
4) Attitudes toward the North Island
The other day I was describing a recent holiday and in the course of the conversation caught myself using the word 'bach'. Well, the look I received. All I can say is 'if looks could kill'! But I think it's a pretty fair summation of a general attitude down here toward the North Island (It's pretty similar to everyone in the North Island's attitude toward Auckland). North Islanders are quick to say to tourists they should definitely tour the South Island. South Islanders are very quick to tell tourists not to bother visiting the North Island. Suffice to say, I don't often volunteer the information that I'm a born and bred North Islander...let alone the fact that I lived in Auckland for 6 years.
5) Everyone seems related
Growing up in Taumarunui I got used to everyone calling each other their cousin. Down here, everyone actually seems related. One time I managed to introduce a sister to her brother. It does create a lovely familial feel though where cousins grow up together. The problem though is you have to be very careful complaining about someone to another person. Chances are they are somehow related.
6) Puffer Jackets
Up north, it's generally hard core adventurers and 12 year old girls who wear big, down feather puffer jackets. Due to reasons which will remain unnamed (see point 1) this is one contextual anomaly which I have whole-heartedly accepted. I'm pretty sure it must be part of the uniform down here. I have barely taken mine off the whole time since arriving. And the best bit is, you are no less of a man for wearing one.
These are just some of the quirks and distinctives of the South Island folks. I've thoroughly enjoyed the culture and my time here. It's well worth popping over the Strait for a wee visit. The scenery is amazing, and the people are brilliant too!