Saturday, April 16, 2016

So Your Character is From New Zealand ... Featuring Tessa Ann @ Books, Bubbles, & Arohanui and Grace Bridges

It's time for this month's So Your Character is From Another Country! This is a monthly or bimonthly segment where I interview lovely volunteers from around the world to give you a firsthand account of being a citizen of their respective country. I'm hoping to encourage international diversity, break stereotypes, and give writers a crash course on how to write a character from these different places on our planet. If you haven't checked out last month's So Your Character is From Canada ... be sure to hop on over there and give it a read!

New Zealand is a country I've dreamed of visiting since I saw Lord of the Rings, not only because Hobbiton is there permanently now, but because of the beautiful scenery and wildlife. Reading these answers by these ladies makes me want to go there even more!

Let's welcome Tessa Ann and Grace to the stage!

Disclaimer: The content below may be culturally shocking to some. Each of these posts are as uncensored as possible to preserve the authenticity of the cultures of each of the interviewees.

Hey everyone! My name is Tessa Ann, and I live in the beautiful little country of New Zealand! If you're not sure where that is, it's down a bit and to the right of Australia. I live quite near the bottom of the North Island, in a (fairly small) city called Palmerston North. I'm currently a student in my last year of high school, and I spend my free time reading, cross stitching, and blogging. You can find me at Books, Bubbles, & Arohanui

Grace Bridges is a dreamer whose muse blows best when it's fresh from the sea. A graduate of the University of Auckland, she translates German and edits novels for a living, and writes from her hilltop in New Zealand although faraway places call to her just as often. Her short works of fiction and nonfiction are found in multiple international anthologies and literary journals, and she continues to work on novels in The Vortex of Éire series. Find her on her website, Facebook, Pinterest, and check out her latest book Mariah's Dream!
What do you feel is unique to your country? Landmarks? Celebrations?
Tessa Ann: Well, we have a giant carrot and a giant L&P (fizzy drink) bottle. I'd say that's pretty unique. You may have heard of the haka somewhere, which is a Maori war dance, although it's now used for sports and as a sign of respect. (If you want an example, look up the PNBHS Haka for a funeral service on YouTube.) It's a pretty unique thing that we have.

Our celebrations are fairly similar to that of America. We've got Waitangi Day (which is kind of like an Independence Day? Ish?), ANZAC Day (to commemorate our soldiers, like Veteran's Day), and Guy Fawkes (which is British in origin and basically an excuse to let off fireworks and probably the dumbest holiday ever, in my opinion). I think that the most unique thing about us is our laid back, friendly nature. Almost everyone who comes here from overseas comments on it. We're just a pretty chill country, which you don't find in many places.

Grace: On February 6th we celebrate Waitangi Day, which is when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 at…wait for it…Waitangi! This is the closest thing we have to a Constitution and regulates many things from relations between Maori and settlers, to stewardship of land. Today it is often politically fraught, but every year tens of thousands of people gather at Waitangi for a dawn service and all-day festival.

December is summer for us, but Midwinter Christmas is a frequent theme for group getaways and office parties around June and July when it is cold and wet, since we don’t have anything big to celebrate in the winter otherwise. And at Christmas…we’re likely to spend the day at the beach!
Waitangi Day (Image Not Mine)
Tell me about your country's environment. What are some of your favorite places?
 Tessa Ann: Our environment is green, that's for sure. When driving from one end of the North Island to the other, you basically just pass field after field after field. It's actually quite lovely. I'm not as much of an expert on the South Island, but I'd guess that it's pretty similar. As for my favourite places, I just love the whole country. It has a really unique feel to it, compared to other countries that I've been to. However, to be more specific, there's this place called Tolaga Bay, north and to the east a bit, which is an absolutely gorgeous beach, with great hilly walks surrounding it, as well as the longest pier in the world (or something like that). I also really love my home city, because it's just lovely. Fairly small, but not too small, and rather beautiful too.

Grace: The coastlines are a great treasure to me—there’s just nothing like them anywhere I’ve travelled. Whether in the cities, the local islands (and by local I mean there’s a commuter ferry!), or out in the wild. Auckland has more miles of shoreline than any other major city in the world, and I love all of it.

Tolaga Bay (Image not mine)
Piha (West Coast Next to Auckland)
 Tell me about your country's food. What are some of your favorite dishes?

Tessa Ann: Fish and chips are a bit of a Kiwi staple, although I'm pretty sure that's actually a British thing. We don't put vinegar on it, however. Tomato sauce (aka ketchup) is pretty popular. We're keen on our pies as well. Most people love to chuck some sausages on the barbecue (although I can't stand them), and we're known for our hokey pokey ice cream. 
As for my favourites, I love this wonderful dessert called pavlova (which is not Australian, no matter what they say), and these glorious little chocolates called pineapple lumps. And all of this makes us sound like we never eat healthily. We do, I promise. All of that healthy stuff just isn't as exciting.

Grace: The fish and chip shops have a marvellous selection that includes all sorts of deep-fried seafood as well as vegetables and fruit, and even chocolate. Here it’s also standard for them to sell burgers—huge and messy, made to order with such diverse additions as sliced beetroot and fried eggs.

Pavlova is a meringue and marshmallow dessert created in honour of a Russian ballerina who toured here in the 1920’s. And another homemade favourite is self-saucing chocolate pudding, in which you place cake batter in a pan, and sprinkle it with extra cocoa and brown sugar followed by a little hot water. After baking, the liquid on top becomes this wonderful hot fudge sauce.
Pavlova (Image not mine)

  Tell me about any different speech patterns in your country. Slang? Idioms? Words for things such as “biscuits” instead of “cookies”? 
Tessa Ann: Our speech patterns are a combination of British, American, and Australian, with our own Kiwi (our name for New Zealanders) twist on things. We have a lot of phrases like “chur,” “sweet as,” and” yeah nah,” which are laid back ways of saying other common words. “Chur” and “sweet as” mean “cool,” while “yeah nah” means “no.” We tend to say “bro” a fair bit, the same way that Australians say “mate.” 
Our everyday language tends to have a bit of Māori (our second language, and the people who first lived in NZ) thrown in there. I can't speak for everyone, but I personally tend to use both “biscuit” and “cookie.” There are many other instances where we use either or both of the British and American words for things.

Grace: Yes, biscuits are definitely cookies. We say togs for the item of clothing one swims in, and “bring a plate” for pot-luck. Chips (US: fries) and crisps (US: chips) must never be confused. Near water, “bombs” are dives from a wharf or cliff, aimed at attaining the greatest splash. I’ve also noticed that where Americans say “a bunch” for just about anything, we tend to say “heaps”.

We also have a good quantity of loan words from Maori, which is an official national language (beside English and NZ Sign Language). While some are hard to translate (mana: a person’s earned respect and authority), others are simply used in place of an English equivalent (kai: food; maunga: mountain; kia ora: hello/thank you/health to you). Here’s a cute short film with some local lingo and scenery.

(Image not mine)
Describe briefly a regular day in your country.
Tessa Ann: Depends on who you're talking to. As someone who's still in high school, my typical day involves sleeping in, quickly getting ready so that I don't miss the bus, attending school, coming home, and spending my afternoon procrastinating and doing various social things, depending on the day of the week. Just like most other countries, everyone has different schedules. As far as I'm aware, there's no specific daily rituals that we have that differ greatly from other Western countries.

Grace: Here in Auckland the rush hour starts soon after the sun rises over the islands. Commuters pour into the central city by car, bus, train, bike, or ferry; shoppers congregate at malls and cafés, while a myriad of contractors zip around the city’s ridgetop arteries delivering packages, repairing plumbing, collecting rubbish, and all the things that keep society turning over.

In summer, people hit the beach or the bush with their kids, friends, dogs, after work and on the weekend, cramming the carpark, the sand, the waves, the forest trails. In winter and during the week, even a city beach might be completely isolated, and some of the bush reserves are so huge you can get lost in them and forget you’re surrounded by suburbs. In the evenings we like to go out to eat occasionally (that’s kind of pricey here), or go to a movie, a show, or a pub—and that’s pretty much all the options we have. Cafés and many restaurants close at four or five in the afternoon. We do enjoy quiet evenings at home, and it’s just as well.


Beach in the City

How does your country compare to others, especially the States since my audience is primarily American? Environmentally? Politically? Culturally?
Tessa Ann: Well, we're a lot smaller than a lot of other countries, in both area and population. (We're a similar size to Great Britain, but with about 1/15 ish of the population.) Our political system is fairly similar to that of the States (meaning it's a democracy), although I believe that it's a slightly less complicated version.

This is purely based on comments that my mum has made over the years. From what I see in the news, we seem to be quite a calm country in comparison to others. As a nation, we're generally pretty laid back, and we care a significant amount about our heritage (at least, I do). Most Kiwis have quite a strong sense of NZ pride. Really, though, we aren't all that different from the States. Just smaller. And more outdoorsy.

Grace: We are small. We are multi-cultural. We’re proud of our landscapes: mountains, rivers, forests, islands. We are nuclear-free. We have free hospitals, and no that’s not socialist, haha—we pay for it in our very reasonable taxes. Visits to a regular doctor cost about 30 bucks, with assistance for those who need it more often. 
We’re on top of the latest technology: we were the first to introduce cashless shopping in the 80’s, and it was here a guy invented the first functional jetpack not so long ago. We have a vibrant arts culture in which the sea plays an enormous part. We do live on top of faultlines and dormant volcanoes, but at least there are no snakes nor any dangerous animals out in the wild.

And hey, we have great music! Here’s a song that carries a little of our essence: 

What are some stereotypes about your country that irk you?
Tessa Ann: Most people consider us to be rugby obsessed, which is true for some people, but not for all (including myself and my entire family). We're also viewed as somewhat primitive, which is absolutely not true. I've seen examples of people who genuinely believe that we all live in huts, don't wear clothes, and eat each other. And as much as I like Australia, I strongly dislike the way that people assume we are either the same, or a part of it. Neither of those things are true.

Grace: Some think we’re just this tiny backwater, out of touch with the world. Sure, it’s a long flight, but people have asked me how long it takes to drive to America (huh?) and whether we have schools and shops (ehh!). Getting us confused with Australians is about our least favourite thing—just don’t.

New Zealand Rugby Team (Image not mine)
What media portrays your country badly be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Tessa Ann:
The problem is that New Zealand is barely portrayed at all, especially in overseas media. I can't think of any examples of international media featuring New Zealanders. (Please correct me if I'm wrong!) Our own media isn't the best either. Films like The Piano and Once Were Warriors paint an ugly, abusive picture of New Zealand. There are many other films and TV shows that show us as a violent nation. Which we really aren't.

(Image not mine)

What media portrays your country well be it a movie, a book, or a TV show?
Tessa Ann: One thing that the world seems to agree upon in regards to New Zealand is that it is a beautiful country, which has made it the location for many movies to be filmed. Movies like The Hobbit, Lord Of The Rings, and The Chronicles Of Narnia have drawn attention to our beautiful scenery, and while they may have confused some people (New Zealanders are not all short, despite what The Hobbit makes people believe), they have also done a great job of showing the world one of the main reasons that I love my country - the beauty that surrounds me every day.

Grace: These are really interesting questions and I think I need to answer them together. No doubt you’ve seen our landscapes time and time again in the movies—posing as Narnia, Middle Earth, and all sorts of places. On the one hand this is a true representation because it really does look like that: sublime mountain ranges, high alpine meadows, all those things. On the other hand it’s not quite right because it isn’t really that empty; they’ve cleared out the cattle and the farmers for the movie shoot—and it really only shows one side of New Zealand. Where are the cities, the urban beaches, the bird-filled forests, the small towns? There are some locally-made movies showing these, but they don’t tend to go international.

As far as books go, I’m currently reading The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, which won a bunch of prizes. She does a great job of describing the West Coast and Hokitika during the gold rush of 1866.

Who are your top three favorite characters native to your country in books, movies, or shows?Tessa Ann: This is very difficult one to answer, because I can't think of one, let alone three, characters who are New Zealanders. Like I said, I can't think of any international media that features New Zealanders, and I'm not the biggest fan of our own media over here. I haven't seen any movies set here, our most famous TV show is a soap opera drama thing which I have no interest in watching, and last time I read a book that was set here, it was rubbish. Someone needs to start featuring our little country in international media.

Grace: Well of course we have to talk about Mazer Rackham in Ender’s Game. Such a mysterious person, and then in the movie they underlined his origin story even more by having him wear a moko (tattoo) on his face.

Paikea Apirana from Whale Rider is also a classic—both the book and the movie.

And I do love the Footrot Flats comics, starring Wal the farmer and his laconic sheepdog. There’s a movie too, called The Dog’s Tale

Mazer Rhakham from Ender's Game (Image Not Mine obviously)
Me: Thank you so much Tessa Ann and Grace for this wealth of information! I'm pining even more to go visit your beautiful country! Come back next month for So Your Character is From England or Scotland ...!

Are you interested in participating in this project? Slots for Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, and the Philippines have been filled, but if you are from any other country, shoot me an email at howellvictoriagrace(a)

Do you have any New Zealand characters? Did this inspire you to write an Kiwi character or set a book in New Zealand? Are from this country and you have further input? Feel free to share! Do you have any questions for Tessa Ann or Grace? Be sure to thank these ladies!

You may also like:
So Your Character is From Australia ... Featuring Cait, Imogen, & Ely

If you liked this post, come back every other Tuesday for book reviews; Friday for tags, character interviews, and link-ups; Saturdays for writing advice and life updates; and Sundays for the Writerly Bundle which includes a new soundtrack piece, vocabulary word, and tea review! To help support my dream to be an author follow this blog, like me on Facebook, watch me on deviantART, and follow me on Pinterest and Twitter. If you want to know more about my books check out them out here. Thank you! :)

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