(An image of some classic Kiwi icons, generally known as Kiwiana. Which ones do you know?)
1. It's just like in the movies. You know, the ones with the hobbits and wizards and such. Amazing mountains, rolling plains suitable for epic battles, empty roads stretching to the horizons. You can even go and enjoy a banquet in the Green Dragon Inn. Everything you've seen in the background of those scenes - it's true New Zealand.
2. It's not at all like in the movies. They left out all our cities, our beaches, our farms and industrial areas. While the movie images are true, they are more like the half-truth we've all heard about. New Zealand is so much more than that. Come and slog through a cow paddock, observe Queen Street for an hour, visit Takapuna Beach the day after Christmas - good luck finding a spot to lay out your towel!
3. It's really far from, like, everywhere. Supposedly it's only two hours' flight to Australia, but I've never been on one that got there that quickly. Call it four hours and we're probably nearer the mark. It's about ten hours from Japan, twelve from Hong Kong and the American West Coast; twenty-four to London, in either direction. I really wish sub-orbital transport would go mainstream.
4. It's not really that far from anywhere. Sure, so it'll take a whole day to get here, but pretend you're in your car and it won't seem so unreasonable. From most anywhere on the planet, you can catch two flights and be here no later than the next day. Okay, the flight is certainly gruelling - it's no pleasure to sleep sitting upright - but it's not the worst thing in the world by far.
5. It's a little small country. We have 4 million people, which is less than the population of Ireland, say, or Colorado or Missouri. We have a saying that the world's six degrees of separation become just two degrees hereabouts. Everyone's a friend of a friend.
6. It's a big, wide open country. There's lots of wild land and untamed space... if you lay a map of New Zealand over one of Europe, we'll stretch from the German North Sea coast all the way to the tip of Italy's boot, or from Seattle to San Diego. Admittedly some of that length is only a few miles wide, but that has the distinct advantage that no one has to live more than an hour from a beach.
7. We do speak English here. I'll never forget the lady I met on a Greyhound in Kansas: when I told her where I'm from, she commended me on my grasp of the language. Legitimate questions may arise as to our understanding of American slang, however I'm quick to assure folks that we do get most of our movies and TV from there. We learned to interpret.
8. We have our very own brand of English here. We share some of its words with other British-influenced lands, but much of our slang is home-grown. Heapsa poncey pavlova from the dairy at the bach in the wop-wops for Waitangi and a chocka tiki tour in sweet-as jandals, anyone? Don't let your noggin get munted, just have a cuppa and she'll be right.