The Northern Hemisphere summer has kicked off and I'm extremely jealous, writes Lee Suckling.
All my friends in Europe are jaunting off to sunny Mediterranean locales every weekend and I'm sitting in Wellington looking out a rainy window.
I wish I could say, "our summer will be back soon!" but in reality, it's not the same. Europeans do summer far better than Kiwis do. Here's how.
Unproblematic outdoor drinking
The ability to have some alcoholic beverages in the alleyway outside a pub, or taking a bottle of rosé to the beach, is something we Kiwis can't fathom. Our alcohol laws are so over-regulated and we demonise public drinking. Culturally, I think this perception of alcohol is why binge-drinking is so popular in New Zealand: it feels subversive.
Go anywhere in continental Europe and there are no problems with outdoor drinking. It's one of the things that makes their summers so much fun. There's no street violence, no aggression, no police intimidation... people are simply left to enjoy themselves moderately. The result is a far better summertime hospitality scene than we enjoy here, and their big cities don't get boringly empty like ours do, either.
Proximity to different cultures
This is a comment about Europe in general, but it's very observable at this time of year when people can go to a different country (and experience a whole different culture) every other day.
Not to dismiss New Zealand culture, but any summer holiday destination in this country feels overwhelmingly white and English-speaking. Go to any beach in Europe and everyone speaks a different language and has a different perspective on life. It's refreshing and helps you learn and grow. I like BBQs and Kiwi beaches as much as the next guy, but it feels like we're stuck with the same thing; season in, season out.
My affinity for busy places will be highly polarising. The crowds in Europe over summer are what most Kiwis hate about going there. But here me out: I love crowds.
When you grew up in provincial New Zealand (and have all the space you could dream of), feeling the summertime hum of European cities excites me. It makes me feel alive and part of something bigger. Going to Europe during its summer helps give me perspective: I revel in feeling like an ant; just one of millions. It helps me feel less self-involved.
Speaking of ants, the pace of life in Europe is stifling. It only gets worse between June and August as everybody goes on "continental time", which I'd liken to "island time" – a form of social lethargy where nobody cares about doing anything quickly.
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Nobody is in a rush and, while infuriating at first, I believe being forced to do everything more slowly is beneficial for your mental health. In Europe during its hot months, you accept that you can't control anything, and you accept when things go wrong. People are less angry on the roads (hello, Kiwi summer time road-rage!) and less demanding for service at cafes and restaurants. During the Kiwi summer, we expect everything to function with ultimate efficiency and that can prevent us from feeling like we're on vacation at all.
This might seem trivial if you don't really like music. All of the best party tunes come out at this time of year. Just as New Zealand freezes over and nobody leaves their houses for three months. The big artists all release their summer bangers in June and July and they become the sounds of the year, but don't make the same impact Down Under.
When our summer comes around – save for a few Antipodean artists who produce fun summer songs – we're either left with six-month-old music, or the much more subdued "winter releases" that the Northern Hemisphere is keen on. They dictate the music market, not us, after all.
Romance is alive
If you're looking for some short-term loving during summer, it's vastly less sleazy (and the options more plentiful) in Europe than here. New Zealand remains somewhat unrefined when it comes to summertime flings. Here, we seem to miss the romance of European summers – the slow dancing outside a neighbourhood restaurant on a warm summer's evening or a kiss by a Lombardy creek – and opt for a full-blown, drunken romp in a Gisborne tent.
Not so during the European summer. It's as if somebody puts pheromones in the water every June. Everybody is flirty, more open-minded about romantic encounters, and keener on the journey than the destination. This results in an air of palpable sexuality – something we miss out on during New Zealand's summers completely.