Auckland, New Zealand: Culture and Accessibility

Updated: Apr 13

I just ate a bowl of wonton soup and, for dessert, I got a regular bubble tea. This would be ordinary if I weren’t at an airport! I have traveled a fair bit and never have I been able to go through security and purchase this combo. I am currently waiting to catch a flight to my last new city on this trip, Melbourne. Before my wheels touch down on the ground in Melbourne, I want to share with you my thoughts on Auckland, New Zealand. Since I am struggling to even get five hours of sleep each night, you know it’ll be a struggle for me to weave a dozen thoughts together into a few succinct paragraphs of beautiful prose. Thank God for lists, here we go again...

1. Auckland is absolutely beautiful and it makes me WANT to slow down and feel the wind, smell the flowers, talk to the people and contemplate about shenanigans. My favorite area was Devonport by the shore. The houses are white, cream or light blue with ornate designs. Many of the houses even had my favorite hydrangea flowers planted in the front or to the side. The people all seemed to have a sun kissed glow and charm. Many areas of Auckland are quite idyllic and charming just like Devonport.

2. Several people have told me there is no ozone here in Australia and New Zealand. Hence, they feel the power of the sun on their skin more intensely. Perhaps this is why people here are more conscious of their activities on the environment. The progress isn’t astronomical, but it is certainly noticeable and appreciated. The bowl of said wonton soup 🍜 was delivered to me in a paper bowl. The bubble tea came with a paper straw. And when you are done eating, it is not rare to see that there are no garbage cans to dispose your trash. In some restaurants, the staff has taken it into their own hands to recycle ♻️ the trash so you just leave your stuff on the table when you’re done.

3. Just like in Australia, moral is high and people are generally very helpful and kind. I have seen quite a few people ask if I need help and if I ask for assistance, they are eager to participate in whatever endeavor I’ve set on. For example, this guy and his infant son was on their regular morning stroll when I asked how to get to the Auckland War Museum. He not only told me where it was, but pushed me and his baby for over an hour to the museum way above the hills. I have experienced countless instances like this between Australia and New Zealand. However, I have also experienced some rare negative exceptions that I will not get into detail with.

4. The Auckland Airport not only has their signs written in English, but everything is written in Chinese as well. And when you are on the SkyBus (aka city airport shuttle), the recorded intercom says everything in English, Chinese, Spanish and quite possibly other languages. I kind of drowned it out with music after I heard the English version...

5. Words people love to say here: heaps (for a lot), cheers (for goodbye and other departing phrases), and rubbish (for trash).

6. People seem to acknowledge and smile at one another more often when they happen to make eye contact.

7. Whether its Australia or New Zealand, airport staff have been understanding when they see that I am bringing my wheelchair tools in my personal item or carry-on. This has been quite a relief for me.

8. There seems to be a lot of South Africans here. I met at least three people from South Africa 🇿🇦 in one day and they were all white. One of ‘em said you make better money in New Zealand than you would in South Africa.

9. The inner city (aka tram/bus like transportation system), ferries ⛴ and (I think) public buses are wheelchair accessible. There’s a huge bus strike where bus drivers are demanding for higher pay, so most (if not all) of the bus lines are down. This made it hard for me to be a budget friendly tourist, but I hope the bus drivers get the pay they think they deserve. The locals say the bus drivers plan to strike through Christmas 🎄.

10. It is so clean, orderly and new looking here. The sky is extra blue. The water is extra clean. Even the fish market is extra structured, less smelly — almost like a shopping mall; polish, slick, and new.

11. Obviously New Zealand is not a place without its flaws. When I checked into my hostel on my birthday, all the lower bunks on my 10-bed room was taken. When I told the staff this, they said it was not their duty to reserve a lower bunk for me and that I should’ve checked in earlier to give them further notice. They then asked that I sleep in the noisy common space right next to the receptionist desk. I finally got fed up and said it’s not your duty to reserve a lower bunk for those who may need it, but it’s the right thing to do. They said they were sorry and that there was nothing they could do. After feeling thoroughly exasperated and having encountered the exact situation in Sydney, I told them perhaps they could ask one of the lower bunk people to switch to an upper bunk...genius, I know (sarcasm). As if a switch flipped, the issue was resolved one hour later. A second example of imperfection is, when I visited the University of Auckland, one of the bathrooms I went into did not have a single wheelchair accessible stall. I didn’t go into any other buildings, so I don’t know if the others did or not...

12. The Kiwi/Aussie accent is beautiful! It’s honestly music to my ears. I hate to say it, but I think I like it better than the British or American accent. I find it so calming and warm. Everything seems to sound better when said with an Oceanian accent.

Well, that concludes my 12 random thought bubbles. I started writing this at the Auckland airport. And now, I am halfway in-between Auckland and Melbourne. By the time I post this, it’ll be well into the wee hours of the night. As always, feel free to agree/disagree, provide insights, feedback, corrections and solution plans for any issues I’ve brought up above. Thank you for reading!

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