Of how ridiculous New Zealand is as a concept, when seen from this side of the world (particularly from Italy – ancient, antique filled Italy) – a country that was largely uninhabited for much of history, that is so, so far away. Estimates put the arrival of the first people in NZ at 1250-1300 AD, at a time when Italy and the rest of Europe were already going through the middle ages, having witnessed the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.
As a general rule, people don’t know much about this tiny, under-populated country located at the bottom of the earth. Some pops of information make it into the wider consciousness, such as the haka (and the All Blacks), the rumoured beauty of the landscape, and occasionally the filming of the Lord of the Rings, or even Flight of the Conchords – enough for people have heard of us, but not enough to remove the mystery.
The length and cost of the flight to reach this far-flung country means it is so far out of reach as a holiday destination that, for most people, it is in the realm of impossibility. Australia shares some of these distances but somehow still manages to attract more visitors and immigrants. It’s almost as if New Zealand is so small that people think they could easily overshoot it if they’re not careful.
All this combines to create the impression that New Zealand is some kind of Shangri-La, this mystical place that almost shouldn’t exist. And the Italians cannot understand why we would leave.
Photo of Akaroa, from ages ago.