It has been suggested that people planning to move here to live should be able to recite a sort of cultural catechism that would prove they know how we like things done.

Apparently, that is defined as the way a group of conservative malcontents likes them done —​ so, not that hard to work out.

As an idea, it has merit. In fact, the public servants are way ahead of Winston, as usual. People can inform themselves about life in these islands by visiting a government website.


"We describe ourselves as 'friendly but reserved' and 'open but respectful'," it says. "Putting a finger on what exactly that means can be hard, so expect to feel a bit confused."

Well, I do after reading that, and I'm into my seventh decade here.

Surely it would be easier just to drop the future drains on society a line covering what they really need to know:

Dear Person Planning to Move to New Zealand,

There is only one rule here: If what you encounter seems strange, it's really nothing to worry about. So here are some of the things that are part of our way of life.

First of all, it is most important to demonstrate respect for the indigenous culture. You might also want to look up "lip service".

It will also help you to settle in here if you come from a country where the average person does not have an expectation of owning their own home. Or of having any kind of home at all.

You may hear that we have a high number of people who choose to make their home in prison and that their number is disproportionately made up of Māori people who are a minority of the total population.


Well yes, but they are nearly all Māori people who also happen to be poor. There are many affluent Māori - a couple of doctors, a successful film director, probably some others — and none of them is in prison.

You may wonder about our fertility patterns when you hear that girls as young as eight are beginning to menstruate. Once again — not all girls. Just those from poor families who cannot afford proper food for their children and fall into what we call the obesity cycle.

We know they are poor because many of those girls cannot afford sanitary products. They may have thought they still had a few years before they would need to start saving up for pads.

You may also have heard that our very young children have no teeth. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many children have full sets of beautiful teeth. Once again, it's the poor people making the rest of us look bad, with their addiction to sugary drinks and bad diets and their susceptibility to advertisements depicting a lifestyle to which they could never aspire in reality.

You may encounter other medical oddities, including diseases such as bronchitis and rheumatic fever, which are connected to poorly heated accommodation. For some reason, poor people don't heat their houses properly. Let's hope you're a bit smarter than them.

And please remember — poor people are still a minority of the population. If you're moving here, you are almost certainly not poor. These seeming contradictions are not something you need to worry about — nobody else does.

Some of you may not have the ability to rise above discomfort caused by exposure to the aspects of the New Zealand way of life we have just described. Please think very seriously about whether you can live in such a society. And if you think you can tolerate these things, please stay away. We've got enough of your sort here already.