Kiwi cacophony meets British reserve – Guest post
There are many positive traits one can associate with the British people. Great shoes. Exquisite manners. An endearing sense of self-control and restraint. Some of these mannerisms are very contagious. After only two years of living in the UK I am already in the habit of saying “sorry” for everything. I am definitely a little more uptight than I was (although Kiwis are so laid back they are almost horizontal so this does not count for much) and I no longer subject my British friends to tea that has been stewed to an almost tar like consistency.
There is however, one characteristic that will always mark me out as different, always make me stand out. I am loud!
Have you noticed that in a country of almost 65 million people it is really quite quiet? Granted, there are some loud folk but the average middle-class, middle income British person tends to be both softly spoken and gently mannered.
Now your average New Zealander has many wonderful qualities as well. We tend to be very open, enthusiastic, and friendly, a bit like a Labrador puppy except we don’t drool or play fetch. However, you would not typically use words like demure or reticent to describe us. You would probably not use these words to describe many Australians or Americans either.
So as a New Zealander I am loud. “You have a voice like a fog-horn” is my British husband’s constant admonishment every time I set foot in our back garden as he scuttles inside, fearful of being associated with rambunctious individual. “But I am being quiet” I bellow after him. And I genuinely do not understand how I can possibly tone myself down any further without giving up and simply saying nothing at all.
Now I know the Kiwi open, forthright, slightly boisterous nature can be quite appealing to the British people. After observing that many of my New Zealand girlfriends were coming back from their overseas experience (the Kiwi equivalent of a gap year) with a British husband in tow I asked a former colleague, himself married for twenty five years to a New Zealand lass what the appeal was. “New Zealand women are very assertive” he told me. Unfortunately he did not elaborate any further so I was left to wonder what he meant. Did he mean Kiwi women were strong, dynamic, irresistible creatures that had the power to captivate the dapper Englishman’s heart? Or was he trying to convey that once they became involved British men were too scared to leave in case their New Zealand love yelled at them! My husband remains resolutely silent when I ask him to provide clarification.
I do make a real effort to try and remember to lower my voice. However, when my two year old decides to ride his bike over my foot, my dog starts barking madly at his doggy friend next door or I simply get excited the volume tends to go up and up.
When friends come to visit me from down under I am struck by the volume of their vocals so maybe I am becoming more sensitive to big voices and perhaps mine will soften with time. The big question is “do I want it to”? Although I greatly admire British gentility I do love the relaxed, laidback style of my home country. I would love my children to have a combination of English courtesy and Kiwi openness. In one of my favourite books “Almost French” about an Australian living in France the author is told by an old Greek expat “it is a bitter-sweet thing knowing two cultures. Once you leave your birthplace nothing is ever the same”. This strikes such a chord with me because I know that no matter how much I appreciate certain qualities of my adopted home country I will never be able to change my inborn cultural traits and to be honest I would not want to.
So sorry dear husband and children, venturing into the garden with your Kiwi born wife and Mother will always be a little bit embarrassing. But hopefully not too much.
Corinne is originally from New Zealand, is married to a British man, has two children and is living in England and runs her own business McKenna Legal Copywriting