Through all my travels it absolutely amazes and saddens me how few people I’ve met who have the intention to listen. Really understanding what someone is saying to you and listening to how it makes them feel is the only way to really get to know people, and most travellers say they are on the road to get to know people as much as to see the sights. But the general ‘conversation’ I’ve witnessed usually involves someone saying something, then the other person autobiographically responding/interrupting with ‘I have a different story along those lines’ or ‘I think the opposite and I’m going to make you feel bad’, with actually no acknowledgement at all of the point that the other person has just been trying to make. I’m not saying I’ve never done this myself, but to me this is not conversation, this is two people talking at each other. Each just wants a piece of the action, and the other person isn’t really inviting them in. It’s so much more rewarding when you really listen to people and understand their personality and let them finish their point. And it’s so much more rewarding to be really listened to. Also why do some people ask question after question BUT not wait for the answer?!
To the people I’ve met who do converse properly, thank you from the bottom of my heart, and to the friends I have at home who do this too I treasure you!
I’ve also noticed a difference between the people who just take what they want (the seat in the bus, use of the bathroom first) and the people who let those others take it instead because a) they don’t really mind and b) it’s less hassle than listening to the other person grumble about not getting what they wanted. Plus (and this is key) the second type feels guilty when they ask for what they want and get it. (Yep, that’s me.) Why is that? They are just automatic thoughts in response to something, why do we listen to those and let them make us feel guilty?!
People metaphorically shove me out the way instead of going round, and I move. The other day someone asked me to move from the communal table to give them the space and I did! Even though I’d been in the middle of a conversation with people sat there and then had nowhere left to sit. Immediately I wondered why I did that.
However, I think New Zealand is making me feel more comfortable in myself so I seem to be, in very small ways, managing to put myself first sometimes and not feel guilty. Standing my ground when people are walking towards me three abreast on the pavement instead of stepping out of their way, getting on the bus first if it stops with the door directly in front of me even though that stranger was there before me, asking for what I need from reception in the hostel even though the person is looking a bit busy.
In Union Books, I spent a very lovely hour or so sitting on the floor reading sections of a couple of travel books to compare them to decide which one to buy. Ignoring the thoughts my brain occasionally threw at me of “It’s not a library!”: if the staff had actually said that to me, I would’ve probably stopped reading and immediately made a choice without enough basis. But they didn’t. 🙂
I spent a wonderful weekend at the very hospitable home of a kind friend of a friend, something that would normally fill me with dread for how to show enough gratitude and act appropriately. But he made me feel really comfortable, he had chosen to spend his time the days before tidying up (even though I had emphasised it wasn’t necessary) and I seemed to not have the usual critical voices in my head telling me I was doing things all wrong. I didn’t feel guilty for accepting kindness, which felt refreshing! He insisted I ‘pay it forward’, return the favour to someone else. Although I will still try to repay it to him if I get a sliver of a chance.
Before that I’d spent a few days hostel-hopping as it’s high season, starting in the very lovely Mount Eden (Maungawhau). This is not just ‘culture shock’, this is ‘proper tea, organically-grown, wholegrain, wholemeal, ladies who lunch and new buses with electronic signs and Santa in springtime’ culture shock.
Then I settled in Ponsonby which felt comfortably like home and gave me chance to stay put for a week and decide what to actually do now I’m here. What I decided was to do some wwoofing for a few weeks before Christmas to give me more time to think about work and travel plans. So I’m heading to Wilderland near Whitianga, in the Coromandel area. More on this to follow!
For now, here are some small observations of New Zealand so far, and the contrast to South America:
You can drink water from the tap! And there is cordial available. 🙂
I can walk down street without fear of random big holes or metal sticking up for no reason.
You need ID for alcohol.
Need to carry cards with me again, not just simple cash: credit card, drivers’ licence, BBH card, phone card, IRD card, IEP card… hm, I remember this life-complicating state!
They do rounding to nearest 10c when paying by cash, even though the price goes to the penny – there are no smaller coins!
There’s lots of Britishness – brands, Queen on coins, feel of towns and roads.
BUT there are tropical plants, and I saw a parrot in Albert Park.
Everything happens in Summer – music festivals, xmas, school holidays, all at once. Must be pretty quiet in winter!