When travelling overseas, one way to get to grips with the new surroundings is to look at the presence of police.
Are there a lot of them in public spaces? Do they seem calm or stern? Obvious or discreet? Busy or bored? But the big one is: How heavily are they armed?
A person's perception of gun-toting cops will be informed by the firearms culture where they come from.
For some, seeing armed police may provide comfort and a sense of safety and protection.
As a Kiwi, I found it unsettling. It told me I was not safe and that I must be on edge in a way I rarely am on home soil, where police only carry guns in specific circumstances.
New Zealand is one of a handful of countries holding out on generally arming police.
The debate on whether to give more or all frontline police guns has reignited in recent weeks amid a series of violent attacks on police and incidents of gun violence.
A police officer was shot during a routine traffic stop in Hamilton earlier this month while in recent weeks Auckland has seen an alleged armed carjacking, a drive-by shooting of a home and a barbershop and bar shot up.
Gun crime hit a new high in New Zealand last year.
Radio New Zealand reported police figures showed 2399 people were charged with 4542 firearm-related offences, nearly double that of a decade earlier. Firearm seizures more than doubled.
The Police Association has called for more frontline police to be armed because of a growing number of criminals carrying guns.
There appears to be little political support for arming all police permanently, but National is calling for armed response units (ARTs) to be reinstated.
A trial of these teams of armed officers was carried out in 2019 in three regions, but was heavily criticised - and, in my view, botched - for failing to consult with Māori and Pasifika communities that felt they would be most impacted.
Police elected not to continue the teams after the trial, with Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said ARTs "do not align with the style of policing that New Zealanders expect".
Police Minister Poto Williams this week said she did not support the general arming of police, including ARTs, and was accused of interfering in an operational matter.
I am disturbed by the recent spate of gun violence, but I'm also uncomfortable with the idea of more or all frontline police staff being armed. Are more guns really the answer?
I am not convinced the benefits outweigh the harm that measure could do - what studies have suggested it would do - to the relationship between police and the public.
It would fundamentally change the fabric of our peace-loving society - or at least our idealised version of it.
But an escalation in gun crime also tears at that fabric. What use is it then to cling to an ideal?
It's time for the police to engage all Kiwis in an open debate.