I didn't think it was going to happen. I almost didn't even realize when it did.
I'm not sure how I feel about, but I don't actually think it's a bad thing; it was just surprising for me.
I'll give you a little background on why I feel this way first. Unless you've actually never met me, you know that I am interested in and care about language. I wrote a whole blog post about Kiwi language actually. So it's safe to say, I usually put a reasonable amount of thought into not only what I say but how I say it.
In general, I stick to American slang. I don't say "heaps" or "sweet as" too often because it feels hokey. I do find it's easier to say "togs" and call it the "boot" around the kids because they don't know what a trunk is. But it's always a very conscious usage on my part.
One language usage here that struck me as a little funny was how all food here is described as "nice" instead of "good." Ex: I ate a nice apple. Or the chicken at dinner was nice.
Even though the meaning was perfectly clear, I amused myself imaging an overly polite and well-mannered chicken at the dinner table. I don't think I'd ever heard anyone describe food that way or done it myself. Nice was always reserved for people in my book. So I just kept on saying the food was good and tried to stop personifying food in my head.
I even pretty much stopped noticing such a minor thing after a few weeks.
Until tonight at dinner. When I said, without any conscious thought to the matter, "Oh yeah, that sauce was really nice."
I don't even know if that was the first time I've done it, but I noticed this time. I used a Kiwi phrase unconsciously. Now, before you think I'm actually blowing this out of proportion, I'm not. I only care about this moment insofar as it is a sign of my larger acceptance of Kiwi culture.
Certainly everything here isn't perfect, but I do love it. I love being walking distance to a fabulous beach and 10 minutes in the car to about four more. I love how many vineyards I live close to (it's over 20 you guys). I love that I live 2.5 hours from outdoor rock climbing.
I am trying to dive head first into the lifestyle here, and so far, I think I am doing well. That's not to say I am trying to actually become a New Zealander because that won't happen. I just think living in a foreign country is about finding how you operate and can be happy within the culture instead of trying to make it fit to you. I have enjoyed seeing who I've become here.
To me, this happening is more a sign of my general assimilation into Kiwi culture among other things. I look the correct way when crossing the street (right, left, right) instead of looking left, taking one step out and then realizing my mistake. I rarely walk to the wrong side of the car anymore (but it does still happen). I kind of know the names of places and where they are, and I can distinguish the Maori names of places. It's all the little things that help make a place feel like your home, and when I walk around here, I just feel like I belong.
Part of the reason I can feel ingratiated into the culture is because it's so friendly and welcoming. Italy was a warm and passionate place, but I never quite felt like I fit in. In fact, I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb most of the time. It didn't bother me but it didn't feel very homey.
Sure, my accent does make me stick out a bit, but there are tons of English accents here (granted they are mostly from the U.K.) It has been an "easy as" place for me to fit in probably because a lot of the activities are the sorts of things I always wanted to do but didn't have the chance in Kansas: climbing, hiking, bungee jumping (invented in New Zealand!) and all sorts of ocean activities. I just can't get enough. It still blows my mind how I see the ocean every single day. Plus, I'm totally going to get to pet a lion soon.*
I wouldn't say I am losing my American identity, nor am I fully adapting a kiwi one, but I am taking bits and pieces of everything I have learned and experienced and making it in to something new and wonderful.
|This is the driveway where I live. What's not to love?|
*Okay, so I'm probably just going to get very close to a lion in this exclusive tour of an animal sanctuary, but I really want to pet one.