Overstaying Wanaka

New Zealand part II - Posted On

Nadège writes:

Five months ago, we left our bicycles in Wanaka, where Scott, the manager of the bike shop Outside Sport, kept them very nicely for the time of our trip back to France. Our panniers were staying in the Poilvert family’s house, the local French family Olivier met six years before.

We are so glad to see our bikes again! The feeling is very much like coming back home. We still have many things to fix before kicking the road, and we plan to stay one month more in Wanaka. We live between the Poilvert’s house and a friend of Olivier from his first trip (see the story below). The legendary Kiwi hospitality comes to reality!!

But maybe we needed a good kick in the ass to get started for good! Or we would have stayed there forever. That happens after a month in this beautiful part of the country (see text from Olivier below). I think that the more confortable your journey is, the longer you can travel. And that’s why the comfort need to be well prepared, but one must not forget to leave… We really spent too much time making things and things on our equipment, for the sake to be much more comfortable, and it is, really! But what a time killer to make it just perfect!

Olivier writes:

When hitchhiking our way up to Wanaka, we got to meet a guy I met in my previous trip here, in 2006. He has a super nice lifestyle close by Wanaka and is very keen to host us while we could then make for him a “firebath” at his place. The idea is perfect; we would pay back the willingly given hospitality by our work. And when the firebath is made, he looks happy; we enjoy the time very much together.

We stay a week at his place working also a lot on our equipment to get ready. But something extremely strange happens on our last day there. 

All of a sudden, our host and friend at that time, seems to be very angry. Very uneasy with the situation, we act ourselves in a clumsy way, not understanding what is happening. And finally the guy explodes of anger, shouting terrible things we did or not did, things that was not of his taste anyway! We are told to leave immediately, under the rain and through the night, which we happily do since we were really seeing the all thing getting worse and worse through the day. 

On this occasion, we lose a friend and gain considerable amount of doubt on our general behaviour toward our hosts found on the road. Are we really acting in a bad way? Should we change something there? After this experience, we quite hesitate to go and ask for hospitality on people’s gardens, we become reluctant of interacting with the locals. It’s true we don’t have much to bring to our hosts, materially speaking. What should we do?

Then we discover we are not the first people who had similar problems with this guy. We are told it is quite typical that he doesn’t say much about his feelings, and everything explodes after some time. Thereafter we could see such behaviour (in less devastating manner) happens with other New Zealanders. We realize people have different customs here that are different from typical French behaviour. Being polite and smiling is considered as more important than taking the risk to be frank and direct. And this has leaded us often in misunderstandings in tricky situations. Something we never experienced before.

This story comes as a lesson for travelling and upon social life in general: one who does not express his feeling cannot expect the others to guess it. Also we take it as a warning for being more cautious about one that can feel different from what one says.