Karen’s letter #5 – In a tipless country



K’s most recent letter. A reminder that the photos have no bearing on the text.


Hi all,

The title is TIPLESS, not TOPLESS!!! Don’t get excited!

We have discovered some great advantages to living in NZ (and some disadvantages too):

1. Although the NZers complain about crime – it is safe – at least that is our take on it. The whole country has had 43 murders in the past 6 months, compared to SA’s 45 a day (my stats stand to be corrected – but the general idea is what matters). Most of the murders are as a result of drunken brawls / bar fights in specific communities; the Samoan and Maori communities seem to have more social problems than others. I have not yet heard of a single: rape / gang rape / farm murder / torture and murder of old people / cable theft, although I am sure all these things must happen here too.  I have heard of: child abuse, armed robbery, theft. But to be honest it is rare and they make a huge fuss of it. I have not yet seen ONE single house with burglar bars or an electric fence, although houses often have a security screen on the front door. NZealanders, of course, think that crime is spiralling out of control.

I, myself, have become a wanted fugitive by parking for 109 seconds (I kid you not-somebody timed me) in Delia’s driveway (which gives access to 2 other houses) and was fined $40. I found that a bit mean since there was no parking in the street, I was sick as a dog AND I was taking her flowers, nevertheless- a parking infringement I received in the mail. Sue- you will love it here.

2. Although some things are expensive, you save a lot on other expenses. Housing and food is expensive and unfortunately, necessary. We are paying just under $500 per week for our house and Phillip you know how small it is. On the other hand, it is 59 seconds walk to the picnic table on the beach and 5 minutes to Musick Point golf club. It is a beautiful area. If we stayed out of the Macleans zone we would save money on housing. One could save even more by moving to Christchurch, which  is probably pretty reasonably priced now, but, of course, Christchurch has its downside, so to speak.

3. Cars are cheap (I don’t know how the new carbon tax coming in Jan or the Japanese tsunami will affect prices though). You get a very reasonable second hand car for $10 000.
4. Schools are cheap; we had to pay $150 for 6 months of Etienne’s school- that is about R750. In Pta we were paying R4000 – R5000 PER MONTH. His school has HUGELY better facilities than his private school in Pta.  His classroom has 4 computers that are on all the time as well as a smart board. The kids come in early in the mornings and play around in the class room on the computers and smart board (no teacher present) for an hour before school starts. They do maths games etc.

5. Medical facilities – you do not have to have a medical aid (although we are looking to get one). We pay $30-$50 for a visit to the dr. Medication is virtually free: $3. We went to visit Granny May in Middlemore hospital today. She had a stroke last week, but is surprisingly well and spritely, and apart from some confusion does not seem too badly off.  It is a public hospital and I can only compare it to the private hospitals in SA. It is a BIG hospital- lots of staff, it is clean,  there is lots of equipment that looks as if it works and generally has good facilities. I would not be terrified to land up there. There was a poster on a wall stating that they have not had a hospital-spread infection (can’t remember what they called it- but basically think Klebsella virus killing babies in SA) since 1996.

6. One of the absolute pleasures of living here is that we have not paid a single tip since we have been here. You pay no tips at restaurants or coffee shops, no tips for car ‘guards’, no ‘tips’ to people at the traffic lights, no tips to petrol attendants. If you add it all up, it can come to a lot; a few hundred per month, at least.

 7. Setting up home is cheap. Friends and family loaned us loads of stuff when Steven and Juliette moved in. Almost all the rest of the stuff we have we bought at the Sally’s (The Salvation Army shop). You can get anything there from beds to bedding, pots to puzzles and desks to dumbbells. Sometimes brand new, most often used. Usually in good condition and cheap; R150-R200 for a desk or chest of drawers- however, think functional- not classy. You can also buy stuff on Trademe. Besides buying 2nd hand stuff- the home ware stores are ALWAYS having sales- this place is not known as ‘The City of Sales’* for no reason. I buy virtually nothing anymore if it is not on special – this includes food.

Also- your rental property comes with curtains and most probably a dishwasher- so you don’t need to worry about that either.

Another sunset from the Howick Golf course

8. Electricity is cheaper – although they complain terribly about it here. In addition, we have just received about R1500 BACK from our electricity company. As users we are also shareholders and since it is a non-profit organisation we get a dividend every year. MY magtig mense!!! ESKOM, you have a loooooonnnnnnggggg way to go.

9. What else? Mmm- you don’t have to go on holiday to the beach.

10. A downside – while winter weather is warmer and wetter than SA winter, spring is just strange. Yesterday it was cold, windy and rainy and today is a glorious day of sunshine. It is totally unpredictable and it is difficult to imagine that yesterday’s weather and today’s weather occurs on the same planet, never mind the same season in the same country.

11. … and a final upside – we have a B -team to shout for in the RWC now that SA is out of the running. We are really struggling to support the All Blacks- it does not seem right, somehow, but we are trying (PLEASE don’t anyone tell Chrissie or Debbie). The team is actually so accessible and friendly that we can’t help liking them, but still, it is not easy.  There are loads more flags up now than there were a few weeks ago; clearly another shipment of flags has arrived from China. It is such a pity that SA is out and we were quite devastated at their loss. A lot has been said here in the press too and the general feeling is that they are not 100% sure that SA really did lose the game. Nevertheless, SA is out and of all 4 Naudes, Jules was by far the most upset.

12. An observation, rather than an upside or down side- although it is more of an up than a down. This is a country of mixture. It is strange coming from SA where the colour lines are quite easily  distinguishable. The other interesting observation, that I was not expecting is that of the SAfricans here- possibly 30% are NOT ‘white’. I would have thought that it would be 99% white SAfricans here. Not so.

… and in other news – Granny Smith is in hospital again (but hopefully out by now),  Et and Jules are on a school break for two weeks, I had tea with Margaret’s best friend from school, I held my first workshops and they went very well. We are very excited that the Spectors are planning a visit in January and the Noomes later the year (we hope) and pray that you will all start your planning soon.

We are missing you all and wish you could be here,

Lots of love,

Karen and The Kiwis

*I have heard some people calling Auckland the ‘City of Sails’, but clearly, they have never spent time in the shops.

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