Today I went through culture shock.
It started in the airport when the incredibly nice New Zealand man sold me my ticket for the Airbus. When I said the street he knew what hostel I was going to, told me a little about it, and pointed it out on the map in relation to the bus stop where I needed to get off; and when the bus pulled up he looked at me and gave me a thumbs up to show it was the right bus. And I got everything he said because it was all in English! On the bus, the driver asked over a loudspeaker for our attention please as she announced the stops, and if we would like to get off just push the button. I’ve never heard such a polite bus driver in my whole life. The entire bus experience was so easy and pleasant, two words I never used to describe public transportation in South America.
As I walked around the clean, large, well-paved streets of Auckland, I smiled at the ability to understand everyone. English was everywhere. And no one was staring at me; my blonde hair no longer screamed “I don’t belong here.” Cars stopped for me the instant I approached a crosswalk. But what the hell are they doing on that side of the road? I continually looked the wrong way when crossing the street and openly laughed at the right turn arrows instead of left. And it is expensive. Coffee for NZ$4, lunch deals for NZ$12, and NZ$18 just to get to the top of Sky Tower. No more Blue Dollar to help make this city affordable.
It’s amazing what you get used to without even knowing it. I didn’t realize how accustomed to South America I had become until I got out of it today. I am curious to see how long this shock lasts. I have a suspicion it’s city-related and I will get over it when I am out in the countryside. Then a whole different type of shock will set in; shock and awe at the landscape.
(An aside: the Airbus system is fantastic. A sign “Bus to city” is clearly written right outside baggage claim next to a booth to buy your ticket. For NZ$16 it takes you from the airport right into the city to 5 set stops, and you can take one from the city to the airport from any of 7 stops. It runs every 15 minutes. I’ve never seen such easy airport transportation. Let’s work on this US.)