How do you measure the smallness of a town? Count the blocks between its borders, the farm animals grazing in residential front yards? Or how often “the usual” gets ordered at the corner cafe?
After moving to tiny, twee Arrowtown, I began collecting the characteristics of New Zealand’s littlest places. Daily walks to town highlighted things that I could only associate with those miniscule dots on the South Island map.
Which seems just fine to the folks who live here. They’re proud of rural roots and hospitality. Let three-quarters of the population flood the North Island. Remote survival is just one of the many reasons they – and I – love small town New Zealand.
Plus a few reasons more:
1. You don’t need to look before crossing the street.
2. And you don’t need to lock your front door at night.
3. Or your car doors, either.
4. Strangers can be trusted to watch the horse/bicycle/baby you’ve left outside the shops for a second.
5. Of course, no one is a stranger once you say “hello” and initiate a conversation.
6. And you say “hello” to everyone.
7. Town halls still serve a purpose.
8. Though, in practice, the corner pub becomes the town hall on weekends.
9. It’s OK to go barefoot everywhere.
10. Or wear your gumboots.
11. Everyone has a hobby displayed in their garden or window.
12. The mom-and-pop cafes sell these mom-and-pop crafts.
13. Or stick them in highly public places.
14. Kids still play outside.
15. Yep, you can say “hi” to them, too.
16. The library only has 500 books, yet the rental limit is 100.
17. Sometimes, you can’t find things at the local dairy, because produce is transported and eaten seasonally. Limes disappear for weeks at a time, and peppers cost $6 in the winter.
18. Street side shopping is a sustainable alternative. Drop your coins into the Honesty Box and go organic.
19. And even though every cafe sells classic pies and sausage rolls, you can also find regional specialties like grass-fed venison and green lipped mussels.
20. The woman who cuts your hair lives next door to the uncle of that kid you went to school with who now dates your second cousin.
21. At least two other second (or third) cousins live down the road.
22. As do random Kiwi celebrities. An actor, ex-All Black or the country’s richest businessman may be your next door neighbor.
23. People plant fruit trees.
24. That rustling in the bush can never be anything more dangerous than a rabbit.
25. Each town features a creative motto and a well-tended ANZAC (Australia & New Zealand Army Corps) memorial.
26. And sometimes, they add a bizarre, yet loveable, giant statue.
27. It’s safe to hitchhike from town to town.
28. It’s legal to drink in public.
29. And community events literally include the whole community – all 127 members.
What do you love about small town New Zealand?