When you think about it, New Zealand and North Korea actually have a lot in common.
Yes, you read that right.
Really, the Land of the Long White Cloud and the Hermit Kingdom have quite a few similarities. Here are 18 examples to ponder:
• Mountains are a big part of national lore. One of the most famous Kiwis (Sir Edmund Hillary) climbed one. North Korea's last leader (Kim Jong Il) was allegedly born on top of one.
• One of the most iconic figures is a guy named Kim. Though I'm sure Kim Dotcom throws parties decidedly less dangerous than Kim Jong Un's.
• Both nations gained independence from imperialist powers. Yet while Aotearoa gradually broke off peacefully from the UK, North Korea achieved nationhood after a long and bloody campaign against the Japanese.
• Immigration is a hot topic in both countries. New Zealanders seem less likely to literally beat you up if you declare you wish to stay, however.
• National leaders are associated with pizza. Yet while many Kiwis view Bill English as a villain for his choice of toppings, the late Kim Jong Il is celebrated as a hero for helping open Pyongyang's first pizza joint.
• The flags of both countries have at least one red star. However, I'm certain the red stars on New Zealand's flag aren't meant to signify the supremacy of communism, despite what somewhat less liberal members of society may believe.
• Both places are disturbingly clean. Why do I say "disturbingly?" Because it's just not natural to walk down a busy street in a city with more than a million people (Queen Street in Auckland, Sungri Street in Pyongyang) and not see at least one overflowing rubbish bin, several discarded beer bottles, or various stinky fast food wrappers flapping in the wind.
• The colder the weather gets, the puffier the jackets become. Honestly, if puffy jacket wearing were an Olympic sport, New Zealand and North Korea would have to be the favourites for gold.
• There's a weird fascination with the past. North Korea seems permanently stuck in 1963. New Zealand seems to have a strange obsession with reality shows that were big in America about a decade ago (here's looking at you,
•You can't go too many places on the train. Although, to be honest, Pyongyang's rail network is far more extensive than Auckland's. To boot, its underground stations are literally built to withstand atomic bombs.
• Everyone seems to be permanently glued to their smartphones - at least the people who can afford them.
• Some of the most popular sports are rather violent. Seriously, ever checked out North Korean knee fighting? It's more brutal than the time I tried to pay for an in flight meal with a credit card.
• School uniforms are the norm. I'm yet to understand their purpose.
• Policies about nuclear weapons have caused controversy abroad. But while New Zealand bans them, North Korea believes them necessary so they don't find themselves being invaded.
• The 38th parallel is pretty important. Go south of that in North Korea and you've successfully escaped to South Korea. Go south of that in New Zealand and you've escaped most road signs telling you how far you are from Auckland.
• Some of the prettiest natural sights are waterfalls. Ever been to Chilbosan? The whole area is beautiful enough to make you forget you're in, well, North Korea.
• Winston Peters has been photographed shaking hands with important people in both places, prompting a flurry of speculation from the press and/or triggering heart palpitations.
• The entire time you're in both places feels like you're on a giant movie set. Differentiating between reality and whether or not something has been set up for tourists is not easy.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. You really can compare anything if you try hard enough.
It is interesting, though, how we always seem to want to compare things to each other, isn't it? Apples to oranges. Rugby to American football. Pavlova to, well, some other type of pavlova-like food. You get the idea.
The other thing we often do when we compare stuff, of course, is decide which one we like better. Cats or dogs? I'm an unabashed cat person. Pencils or pens? Pens. Poppies or petunias? Petunias, I suppose. Flat whites or long blacks? Flat whites every time.
And New Zealand or North Korea?
Shocker of the century here, but I'm going to have to give Aotearoa the slight edge, though I do miss the kimchi.