Friday, April 6, 2012

Land of the Long Flat White

            Since I have recently finished the work part of my working holiday, and will soon be leaving the Land of the Long White Cloud, I felt like it might be appropriate to compile a few observations about the country that thus far haven’t made it into any of my previous posts.   

            One of the more unexpected things about living in New Zealand  is that I had to learn an entirely different terminology for ordering caffeinated drinks.   I’m not quite sure how it happened, but New Zealand seems to be the sole country in the English-speaking world that has not adopted Italian terms for describing espresso-based coffee.   For example, espresso in New Zealand isn’t called espresso.   Here, an American trying to order a coffee is confronted with a confusing list of drinks that sound like they could be types of wall paint – flat white, long black, short black, et cetera.    Also, no one makes, or drinks, regular, American-style, filter-brewed coffee.   It doesn’t really exist here - I don't think there's enough demand for it to justify brewing up large pitchers as is normal in American restaurants.   If you want a regular coffee, your barista will make a shot of espresso and add hot water to top up the cup.    (This sort of drink is referred to as an Americano in other places, and now I understand why.)   Instant coffee, on the other hand, seems to be perplexingly popular here, even though it tastes just as bad as it does in the States.   Interestingly, the gourmet brands of instant coffee come in little bags that you dunk in hot water as though it were tea; this is something I have never seen before.  

            One thing I will miss about New Zealand is the burgers.   This might seem like a strange sentiment for a vegetarian, but it’s true.   Kiwis approach their burgers like Dagwood Bumstead approaches sandwiches.   Everything that could possibly fit between two buns gets added onto the plate.   This includes usual toppings like lettuce and tomato, but also includes more adventurous toppings like cole slaw, shredded carrot, beetroot slices, onion chutney, and fried egg.   Frankly, you could take the meat out of the burger entirely and not notice its absence. For a vegetarian, this is great, and is a direction that I wish the rest of the burger-eating world would embark on.

            If you are wanting to work in international tourism, or just work internationally in general, I have heard various theories on which language(s) are of most benefit to learn.   One friend proposed English and Spanish as the two most important ones, since between those two languages you can converse with pretty much everyone on three continents (North and South America, and Australia) as well as a good chunk of Europe, Africa, and Asia.   Mandarin is also a candidate, as the population of China is huge, and for New Zealand, the Chinese are actually the fastest growing section of the tourism market.   

            German, sadly, is a little useless (unless perhaps you are going to live in Germany) since every German-speaking person I have run into over here generally has better English than I do.   Ditto with most other European languages – people who speak Flemish, or Dutch, or Czech (the ones who travel, at any rate) all tend to be very conversant in English, a fact that my Czech friend in Haast attributes to the fact that Czech TV stations don’t dub English-language programs and movies into Czech (they use subtitles instead), so that most Czechs grow up hearing English frequently from a very young age.

            In my own opinion, the most useful language for a tourism person to know would be… French.   Not because there are a large amount of French-speaking travelers, but because, in general,  French travelers have atrocious English.   It was a huge help at the motel that my boss knew French; I envy her ability.   In a few instances, I had to resort to mime and vocabulary from high school French class to get through a transaction.   The worst part is explaining how the coin-operated showers work – that you need to put a certain coin in the slot if you want hot water.   Il pleut… et c’est tres fois…

            I am happy to report that limited English ability does not seem to hinder French people from travelling in English-speaking countries.   They appear confident that between their skills in English, and other people’s skills as mimes, eventually the communications barrier will be breached.   Sometimes it’s a long siege.   I think is actually very brave.   I certainly would have second thoughts about trying to travel solo in France with only the stagnant remnants of two years of high school French classes – yet many French travellers here are basically attempting the same thing in reverse.    

No comments:

Post a Comment