This story from the Herald archives originally appeared in August 2016
In an open letter to the people of New Zealand, an American travel blogger has taken it upon himself to express his sincere gratitude for an attitude he describes as helping him see the world with "new eyes".
From Rochester, New York, Lucas Barber and his wife Lisa, who co-write the blog Barbers Go Global, bought one-way tickets to New Zealand, sold their house, resigned their jobs and set about travelling the world. They have documented their travels in Aotearoa in several posts but their latest post is a tribute to the people of the land and the generosity and kindness they consistently encountered with Kiwis.
Barber describes his culture shock arriving in New Zealand from a climate of fear and scaremongering in the United States, "where 'Stranger Danger' has become our mantra.
"Everyone and everything has become a threat, and our ability to experience meaningful human interaction has become nearly impossible.
"Only after visiting your country have I taken the time to reflect on my sad situation. I realised that as a result of my scepticism I rarely have the privilege of enjoying great encounters with people I meet for the first time."
He experienced another side of our culture that is not as overt as the traditional art, food or music, but the culture of trust and amicability between people.
"When I think of culture I often think of food, fashion, music, or the arts, but by doing this I fail to recognise the values that are at the centre of those outward expressions ... During our first seven days in New Zealand, we had been recipients of so much unsolicited kindness and generosity that our human interaction paradigm was spinning.
"In those first few days people that hadn't known us up until a few hours beforehand offered us rides, invited us to their homes for coffee and cake, invited us out to dinner in the city, took off work to show us around the country they were so proud of, engaged us in deep and meaningful conversation, bought us lunch and dinner, offered the use of their vehicles and homes to us, prepared us dinner, brought us home to meet their family, and even invited us to cross-fit with them."
Lucas says that the level of kindness was so foreign to him that it exposed his "cynicism towards strangers", and that it has challenged him to re-examine himself and his attitudes.
He propounds one of the reasons for the renowned laid-back Kiwi attitude is that "it does not appear that you have succumbed to living in a state of fear of others as many of us do in the US. Perhaps this is the Maori influence and their culture of helping anyone that figuratively and literally shows up at their door."
"Regardless of the reasons, at least for now you have not let go of your grip on the kindness that has endeared you to my wife and me. For this, I applaud you."
To conclude the effusive letter Barber says that we all need our worldly paradigm rocked from time to time and that the first stop on his travels has provided a very significant cornerpiece in the puzzle to rebuilding his world view.
"If you take nothing else from this letter, take this - please don't change!"
Along with giving ourselves a deserved pat on the back, we should take that last piece of Barber's advice on board as well.