28 November 2008

How are New Zealanders like?

As I was riding the bus a couple of days back, I was thinking about what to write next for my blog. We have been here for two months now and so I thought it will be a great idea to share my impression of how Kiwis (that's what New Zealanders are also called) are like in the eyes of a migrant.

Admittedly, one of my main concerns was discrimination. Filipinos have had their share of this, including stereotyping. This can especially be an issue because my wife and kid is with me. What if it happens to them?

It is undeniably a sense of hope that New Zealand is a welcoming place to migrants. And they even have an admirable track record for being a family-oriented place and where migrants are appreciated for their contribution to society.

And after two months' stay in Wellington, how was it like? Wonderful. The people are generally friendly. Many people you meet on the street would smile at you or utter a greeting. They say "thanks!" to the bus driver when leaving. When you didn't understand what they said the first time, they would say it again a bit more slowly.

There was even a time when we were walking back home and it was an uphill climb on an early sunny afternoon. A lady stopped her car and was montioning us to hop in, so she can drive us up the rest of the way! How nice is that?

On the downside, there were some minor instances with bus drivers. In my first time at the bus the driver got a bit impatient when I got the bus card off the reader too early and he had to input our fare again but later on in the journey he even pointed out where we have to get off and walk to Te Papa Museum, and where to get a bus ride back. Another driver was a bit impatient for us to get in. But there are ultimately more friendly drivers.

And then my wife brought to my attention this incident. We have to face the fact that discrimination is something that can happen anywhere. It happens in the Philippines, it can happen here, it can happen anywhere else. What we do about it is what can make the difference.

That said, I still believe that New Zealand is a great place to be in. They have a growing awareness of the multicultural society and acceptance of their Maori heritage. It's the growing pains we have to watch for.

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