We just returned from New Zealand and I fell in love with this country again. After two weeks in middle earth. (Get a taste of their cool factor by watching the Air New Zealand Safety video), there is so much to share about this country. We traveled to the South Island (we were on the North Island last year) and had a great adventure. Here’s what stands out from the experience.
Fairness: The United States and New Zealand share three similarities: they’re both open societies, democracies, both were born with British colonial origins. Yet, the differences are bold too and they hinge on values. New Zealanders have organized their society around fairness, a principle that arguably divides Americans. The timing of New Zealand’s industrialization has a lot to do with the societal values. Fairness is defined as “not taking undue advantage of other people” and should not to be confused with equality. Providing resources and conditions to create fair access to opportunity and shape people’s choices. This is the essence of the country. For example, everyone is insured against accidents — regardless of fault or cause (hence you find a lot of people walking around without shoes, at least in the university town of Dunedin)
There’s a very interesting book (although long) written by David Hackett Fischer called Freedom and Fairness: A History of Two Open Societies, New Zealand and the United States that spells out the journey and differences that created the countries we know today.
Conservation and Nature: The country has a strong sense of place, wonder and often undisturbed and protected. It is sparsely populated (the country’s population is between 4-5 million according to different quotes and sources). This means natural beauty is on everyone’s doorsteps and unexpected adventures too. From Te Anau, Fjordland (the Doubtful Sound rocks!) to Wanaka, Queenstown to Curio Bay, the Catlins (these are all places we visited). We stayed in a sparsely populated coastal town in a studio, beautiful views of Hector dolphins’ playfully swimming in the ocean. Hector’s dolphins are endemic to the coastal regions of New Zealand, they’re the smallest dolphin on earth (approx. 1.2 meters) and there are approximately 7000 left in the ocean. We went to bed with the sun and woke up all throughout the night to the squeaking, cackling, crying, whaling sound of the hoiho, i.e. yellow-eyed penguins that nested under and around the studio where we stayed. They are one of the rarest penguins in the world with an estimated total population in New Zealand of between 6000 – 7000. They’re distinguished by their vivid yellow eye band. We saw them at a nearby beach but not up close and personal. We only heard them very loud and clear. An unforgettable experience.
Entrepreneurship: New Zealand consistently scores high on the World Bank list. The country was recently identified as the second best country in the world to do business. It is easy to start a business in New Zealand. It is reportedly a great place to test products or products because of their openness to testing technologies. For example, Shuttlerock, was launched in New Zealand. It’s a platform that allows brands to aggregate socially sourced content on their own websites. They have great ideas and ambition. They push boundaries (think bungy jumping!), those people we met were very friendly, ambitious and curious, not super egotistical. Qualities that make a great partnerships work, build successful leaders and teams.
If you’re looking for a holiday destination, playground for new ideas or a new adventure, New Zealand may be your calling. I’d move there in a heartbeat if the opportunity came around.