I’m drivin’ here!



Not only have we shifted to a different country but we’ve also transitioned from a relatively small rural town to a rapidly expanding metropolis. Suddenly we have everything we could ever possibly want just around the corner from us. However, with convenience comes the drawbacks. Like driving and parking in the city …

To be fair, for a city of approximately 160,000 people it’s pretty much on a par with Rockhampton as far as getting around goes. There’s traffic and sometimes it does bank up but on the whole, you can drive from one end of Hamilton to the other in less than half an hour.  For a couple of county hicks who’s idea of peak hour was between 5 – 5.15pm and consisted of waiting at the roundabout for a couple of extra beats than usual, it’s been challenging to take on city traffic.

One of the first challenges I completed in the “Moving to a new country” competition was to buy a car. I had the spiel down pat when I walked into a dealership – “Small, automatic, cheap”.  And that’s just what we got. Smurfette (as we affectionately call her) is a 2006 Nissan Note. She’s automatic, has a bit of guts to her, cheap to run and can carry at least two large suitcases plus one or two smaller bags in the boot plus three people squashed in the back seat. This was an important factor to cope with the potential demands of picking up/dropping off family flying into Auckland to visit us whilst allowing us the flexibility of finding parking in really small spots throughout the city.

Even though I have comfortably driven a manual for all my adult life, an automatic was preferable so I could concentrate more on the cars around me than changing gears effectively. Don’t get me wrong – Kiwis are just as friendly on the road as they are face to face. They’ll stop mid-traffic to let you in … but some are also inclined to follow road rules based on their personal needs and wants. I watched in awe one afternoon as a small truck in front of me mounted the curb and drove up the footpath until it found access to the left turning lane. It neatly dodged by a whisker the light pole that was in danger of being clipped, plopped down back onto the road and toodled on its merry way.

The car industry itself is an education. A vast majority of vehicles are Japanese second-hand imports, which means whilst they’re relatively cheap, they’ve all done a lot of kilometres and quite possibly have been fiddled with so they look better than they are. It’s quite daunting when you don’t really know the rules and/or urban smarts of a particular country. Whilst I would has considered getting an independent assessment of a private-sale car, I wouldn’t have thought to do it for one I was considering purchasing from a dealer. But here, you’d be crazy if you didn’t.

I kept seeing signs and ads for WOF. For some reason it would be transcribed in my mind to WTF?  Possibly that was because I had no idea what it was at first. It’s a Warrant Of Fitness – a required regular check to ensure your car meets safety standards. Once every 12 months for any car after January 2000 and once every 6 months for any car before then.  It’s pretty cheap – only $60 or so – and supposedly keeps junk off the roads, although there’s still a lot of craptastic cars getting around.

Even though petrol is expensive, sitting around $1.75 a litre, registration for smaller, newer cars like Smurfette is ridiculously cheap at only $88 for the year. Even factoring in the annual service and WOF, it would come to around $300 or about half of what we were paying in Australia.

At the end of the day it’s all swings and roundabouts. Some things are cheaper and others are not. Allowing more time to travel shorter distances makes up for having everything close at hand. Adjusting to the conditions you find yourself in is key to maintaining your sanity and we just have fun with the comparisons rather than getting whinny. We chose to come here and we’ll take everything that comes with it – good and bad.


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