One year on…

by Guest on February 5, 2008

This posting brought to you by Sandy Mamoli (deeply honoured inaugural guest blogger).

Have you got something to say about Wellington? Would you like to guest on the Wellingtonista? Drop us a line and we’ll add you to the door list.

I discovered the Wellingtonista on day two after my arrival. It took them almost year to discover me …

In fact, it took them exactly a year. I celebrated my one year New Zealand anniversary last Friday with the contradictory emotions of someone who simultaneously feels like a true long-term Wellingtonian and a rookie who has just stepped off the boat.

I am still struggling with a wee bit of culture shock – complaining about Wellington’s provinciality and second-world infrastructure while marveling at the vibe, friendliness and genuine feeling of community one can only find in Wellington (I think).

Apart from being with a Kiwi partner who has been too long out of the country to remember anything useful and having read halfway through a travel guide I didn’t know much about New Zealand a year ago. And my former life in Vienna, Copenhagen and Amsterdam proved to be way too limited an experience of the world to shelter me from the surprises I was in for.

What threw me most were the technological anachronisms in the form of slow internet connections, broadband caps and parts of Wellington being without any mobile coverage whatsoever. I hadn’t come across a dial-up connection for at least half a decade and definitely wasn’t prepared for the bizarre “Back to the Future” time travel experience in a country I was told used to be on the absolute forefront of the internet revolution.

I somehow learned how to cope with living in the technological backwaters but I am still struggling tremendously with the standard of housing in Wellington: Wooden houses without insulation, double glazing or central heating. You have to be kidding me! Especially as one should think that the collective sport of complaining about the weather would give people a hint that Wellington, contradictory to common belief, is not a tropical island. I wonder if perhaps New Zealand immigration could contemplate issuing free visas to Scandinavian architects …

Despite the above Wellington is a vibrant and wickedly worldly city that provides every opportunity to lead a rather enjoyable and pleasant life: Not being much of a nature girl myself I can’t but appreciate the amazing beaches around the city – especially since the unexpected discovery of the purpose of wet suits. My latest idea of a close to perfect lifestyle now includes living in a Scandinavian house right across the city beach on Oriental bay (donations welcome).

If someone asked me what I appreciated most about Wellington I wouldn’t point out nature or the vibrant arts scene, great as they are, but the number of small interconnected communities in the city. Especially the technology, internet and blogger scenes are unlike anything I have ever experienced in Europe. The amount of knowledge sharing achieved through various informal gatherings such as Kiwi Foo Camp and random coffees is truly incredible. I believe I have been exposed to more interesting ideas within my broader professional field since I came here than during my last 10 years in Europe.

My personal theory as to why the feeling of community is so strong and why knowledge flows so freely within Wellington is that kiwis are constantly aware of their remote location and are possibly overcompensating for a complex caused by living “on the edge of the world”. They somehow have to prove they exist which not only manifests itself in the shared goal of helping each other achieving something remarkable but also in the daily display of logos and images representing anything kiwi. Is there any other country in the world in which wearing a t-shirt with the logo of your own country is not only socially but also fashionably acceptable (read required)?

For all the good and the bad I have learned to accept that I live in a village where it is impossible to have lunch in the CBD without bumping into at least three people I know, where my life is more public than it has ever been and where I have been freezing in my own apartment more than ever before.

I won’t ever publicly admit it but I actually quite like living Wellington …

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