Londoner Sara Akkad is 26 years old and is a charity fundraiser. She and her partner now live in the Auckland CBD, not far from the Civic.
Auckland is the place to be... sorry London. I have lived in South London for 25 years - in the not so posh bit - the part where you may find yourself clinging to your handbag when you walk down the street. You may consider taking up Muay Thai self-defence classes. That's what I did.
I do like London and it will always be my home but when I arrived in Auckland a few weeks ago I was overwhelmed by the friendliness of those in this beautiful city, something I hadn't experienced before.
When my partner and I arrived in our new flat in the heart of town, we opened the front door to find that the flat had been kitted out by the landlord and that he had stocked every item possible to make our move easier, including plasters and cotton wool buds and folded towels on the bed. I thought I had walked into a hotel room.
The same day we went to the bank and the cashier not only sorted out our banking but told us where the local supermarkets were, how to get there, and even did a price comparison so we were well versed on the cheapest supermarkets around town.
She was so friendly I started telling her my life story, what jobs I was applying for, why I couldn't work for the same company as my partner and she seemed so interested that I thought at one point she was going to put the kettle on so we could have a cuppa and talk it through!
In London if you asked the cashier where the local supermarket was the response you may hear is 'do I look like a tour guide?' Ok, maybe it wouldn't be that bad - but people here seem to go out of their way to help you and it's a noticeable difference.
A few weeks ago my partner and I visited Elliott Stables in town - a foodie's heaven. I love the fact that you can sit anywhere and order from any of the restaurants. If you dine on the cobbled street outside the De Niro restaurant you feel like you're in Italy or if you have a crepe at the French restaurant, in a flash you are in France. The aromas of the different foods fill the place and I think I put on a few kilos just looking at the dessert menu.
We visited again a few weeks ago, and there was a slight delay in the service as the restaurant accidentally lost our order. The manager insisted that we have a full refund as well as our scrumptious meal. My partner - being a chef by trade and knowing how hard it is working in the kitchens - refused the refund but the waitress insisted and a refund it was. I have never experienced this in London.
I was in our apartment block the other day and someone said 'hello' as they walked into the lift. I was taken aback by their friendliness, and now I find myself saying hello to people in lifts as well! Somehow I don't think I would be so ready to do the whole 'greet the stranger' thing in London, but maybe I will give it ago when I head back to the UK. That could show the Londoners they could learn a thing or two from Auckland.
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