New Zealand existed before America started paying attention

OPINION: Americans love New Zealand. Not least because it's a favoured refuge of the super-rich in the event of a cataclysm. 

Our accent is endearing. Our symbol is a flightless bird on the brink of extinction. Our country — or archipelago, or small continent — is located, quite literally, at the bottom of the world

Largely thanks to John Oliver, the world knows about our crowd-sourced flag designs, our ruling party's court battle with Eminem, and the reason a certain government minister gets called "Dildo Baggins".


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For the most part, we relish our role as the Western world's light relief. We're content with our headlines about new traffic lights, sports stars visiting children in hospitals, the slipperiness of tiles at a local swimming complex. (Those are actual examples of front page stories around the country today.)

That's not to say we're always isolated and introspective — Kiwis love to travel, in fact, more than one fifth of our population lives overseas. And when we return home, we exchange stories about the world's ignorance; about that time someone assumed New Zealand was a Nordic country, or part of Australia, or America. 

As a journalist, I'm well aware we suffer this quirk of re-reporting anything and everything said about us in international media. You see, every now and then, we're relieved the world remembers we exist. Like a lurker just outside the circle, we're curious about how we're regarded. 

This one guy, British writer Peter Foster, in 2009 — yes, 2009 — wrote how his life in a New Zealand "paradise" tuned sour pretty quickly. 

"Whisper it softly, but bliss is, well – I'll say it straight out – boring as hell. Or should that be boring as heaven?"

Unlike the British, who are cutting yet eloquent in their derision, Americans are obsequious, even obsessed — as NBC News puts it — to the point of condescension. 

"It's become a thing, apparently," Keith Morrison narrates, "to come here, that is, to rhapsodise about impossibly green sheep dotted valleys, white-coated rocky mountains, and glorious surfer sunsets, all in one, modest, miniature package."

Yes, he's talking about Aotearoa. He goes on to describe it as "the current little 'it' country". 

My internal response reminds me of that scene from The Lion King when Pumbaa confronts the hyenas closing in on Timon and Zazu. You know the one?

The hyenas turn as Pumbaa darkens the cave's entrance, and ask: "Hey, who's the pig?"

Pumbaa, who is actually a warthog, responds with a question of his own: "Are you talking to me?"

He asks again: "Are you talking to me?"

And again: "Are you talking to me?

"They call me," he's yelling now, "Mis-ter Pig."

He charges, saves the day, the rest is history. 

Despite what the tourism brochures would have you believe, this isn't paradise. New Zealand languishes behind other developed countries when it comes to family violence, teen suicide, and child abuse.

No, NBC News, I get it, really. From the moment I first caught sight of New York City through the rain-splattered window of a taxi, overwhelmed in the most cliche way possible by the bright lights and sirens, I became painfully aware of what I was missing out on.

Perhaps we relieve a bit of that pain by having a laugh at ourselves. We can do that, because it's self-deprecating. But NBC News can't, because it's patronising. 

Consider this Kiwi's feathers ruffled. 

 - Stuff