Wow, our trip to New Zealand and Australia has been an eye-opener. Bad things that we take for granted in the States just aren’t happening there. In fact, here are 5 shockingly good things I learned Down Under:
1. Bathrooms in gas stations don’t have to be disgusting
I was pleasantly shocked to learn that bathrooms even in the most rural of gas stations in the South Island of New Zealand were pristine. I mean not only clean, but also fully stocked with TP, liquid soap, and paper towels or electric hand dryers. Wow. Compare that to your last foray to a gas station bathroom in the States.
2. Public transportation is a wonderful way to travel
Buses in Sydney have something I have never experienced in the SF Bay Area. They have published schedules that they stick to; if the bus is scheduled for 1:14 pm, it arrives at 1:14 pm. You can count on it. You can plan your travel around it. It is reliable!
The buses are clean, comfortable, have real accommodations for parents and people with disabilities (e.g., there are seats that fold up so prams or wheelchairs can easily slip in). The bus drivers are friendly and care about the customer experience (e.g., they actually wait for people running to catch the bus, they say good day and Happy New Year and seem like they mean it). Folks here use the buses, not because they have to, but because they want to—amazing.
3. People are nice in public
Everywhere we went in New Zealand and almost everywhere we went in Australia, people were genuinely nice. They say good morning and good evening. Over the holidays, everyone wished us and everyone else a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Most amazing was everyone said thank you for public services…people automatically said thank you to the bus drivers when they got off, thank you to the ticker takers at whatever event they were attending, and thank you to anyone and everyone who provided them even minor services—we got used to hearing “thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.” If you are contemplating a kinder, gentler way of living, this will be music to your ears.
On New Years Eve in Sydney, there were thousands of people exiting the various areas set aside to view the over-the top-fireworks that Sydney displays every year. As we left our viewing site (the lovely Botanical Gardens), we were exhausted (it was almost 1 AM). But we were surprised to see that the vast sea of humanity trekking alongside us were still polite, calm, laughing, and smiling….there was no alcohol-fueled bickering or shouting or shoving or profanity or well any other type of aggressive behavior…it was eerily quiet except for folks wishing one another Happy New Year…another BIG WOW.
4. No tipping – “we pay our service workers a good wage”
In the U.S., we are used to adding on 15-20% or more to the tab for “service”. Not so in New Zealand. We were told by locals multiple times that “we don’t automatically tip here. Rather, we pay our service workers a good wage. Tipping is not customary. We only tip if service is extraordinary.”
The Kiwis we talked to who had visited the states had horrendous stories to tell about being chased down the street because they had not left a good enough tip. They were shocked by this behavior, but not as shocked as we were to learn that there is a better way to do things when it comes to paying people providing services.
5. Environmentalism is not a dirty word
Everywhere we went in South Island, New Zealand, protecting the environment was considered an accepted way of life. Pathways were clean, no garbage, no litter. Recycling bins were everywhere and used by everyone. On our multi-day drive through the south coast, there were no billboards, no roadside ads. In Australia, public buses have banners on them proudly proclaiming that they are eco-sensitive. Waterways are so clean that people swim in them despite sharing them with ferries.
It all seems so wholesome, and good, and not at all politically laden with red or blue rhetoric. It is, rather, just the right thing to do if you want to preserve a wonderful way of life. And that is pretty cool.
And, pretty amazing and wonderfully shockingly good.
Happy New Year.