On our last day in Auckland, we spotted a Mexican restaurant that was open for breakfast. I said to my husband, “Mexican food for breakfast?” He said, “If it’s Mexican and open for breakfast, it has breakfast burritos.” Yum. Mexican food is one of those things that I pine for when I travel.

The place was awesome. It’s called Mexicali Fresh, California Mexican fresh food, and it’s on Hobson Street, with several other locations in Auckland.

Turns out the restaurant is owned by a California transplant. We had an interesting conversation. I was really impressed by his business plan and his design skills. He was able to immigrate 11 years or so ago, with an Expression of Interest Visa, because he had graphic design skills, which they didn’t have enough of at the time.

His design skills really showed in the restaurant. I was impressed with how he nailed the exact design flavor, California fresh Mex. The color scheme was bright and vibrant hues from the south American palette, there was a rustic feel imparted by distressed bricks and wood, and attention to detail showed in electrical conduits painted an attractive bright orange which rendered them a color pop instead of an eyesore. I was also impressed by the use of technology: Three big-screen TVs displayed the menu in rotating graphics that showed specials with photos of the dishes. As for the business plan, he has 10 shops now in Auckland and it looks from his website like he offers franchise opportunities.

When we were there, he was training an employee on using the IPad for management tasks.

He looks like a surfer dude, casual, fit, relatively young. After he finished training his employee and talking to us, he headed off, probably to visit another store.

Now for the cultural observations. I noticed that he talked to us quietly, coming over to stand by our table so he could speak softly. In fact, I noticed this quietness in New Zealand a lot. When we rode the public bus back from the Northland tour, the passengers were very quiet, and if you were loud (which I tend to be), people gave you a dirty look. Well, the young people did. The older folks didn’t seem to mind. I quieted down, adjusting to local norms. Although, one caveat I have, the restaurant where we had dinner in Paihea, (Lovely Place in Maori, the access town for the Bay of Islands), was very loud, but there was a group there who had participated in a race car rally that day and they were partying. Plus there was an obnoxious group of big guys who came in to do a hazing ritual by singing loudly until the manager kicked them out. So maybe it’s not possible to generalize too much, but overall, people seemed to be quiet in public.

The other observation comes from something that the Mexicali owner said. He is from Southern California. He said when he goes back to California, he is struck by how different it is from New Zealand. Naturally, I asked him in what way California is different from New Zealand, expecting him to say it’s more crowded. (There are around four million people in New Zealand. It’s really not crowded.) But he said, while waving his hand over his eyes, he wasn’t used to being bombarded by so much constant advertising.

I looked out the window, considered everywhere we had been in New Zealand, and found his observation to be true. There were very few billboards, none on the highways, and just a few in Auckland. I hadn’t realized how much Americans are subjected to advertising. I can’t complain too much, since I advertise my books! But it was interesting to compare the two experiences.

Here are some more shots from New Zealand for you to enjoy.

Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. This is the Tasman Sea.
View from the cafe in Taipa, a beach town in Doubtless Bay (an area on the north island, as distinct from Doubtful Sound on the south island.)
Looking down from the mountain pass to Doubtful Sound (south island)
Another Doubtful Sound photo from the mountain pass.

13 thoughts on “New Zealand, cultural observations

  1. Spectacular scenes! Great writing! Can we ask for more? Yes, that you both come home safely! I am sure that you are bringing a new vision of the world, new ideas, experience with the several cultures that you had to deal with, etc. Certainly we, your readers, will take advantage of these pluses that you have accumulated during this trip. An epic journey, Nia, as you had wisely said. Welcome home, my friends, and thanks so much for this terrific series of posts that you have shared with us! Big smiles and cheers!!! Take care!!! 🙂


      1. Good to know that you are back home, Nia! For sure you will be thinking and writing about your trip for some time. These journeys change our lives. Take a good rest, walk through the neighborhood, make light meals, and enjoy beautiful California. Take care, my good friend! 🙂 Fabio
        PS: This morning I gave 5 stars to the Last Straw on the amazon site. Not as a favor to a friend – well deserved! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Fabio,

        It’s funny, I’m doing all those things you suggest!! I’m easing back into my routine, although in all honesty, I spend all waking hours glued to my computer, Facebooking, IM’ing, emailing, blogging, writing and editing. But I’m going to try making something for dinner inspired by one of the amazing vegan meals we had in New Zealand. And I’m making myself go for a walk. We’re enjoying cooler weather and some wind today. 🙂 Possibility for rain, too!

        Off to look at that review! *rubs hands with glee* So glad you liked my story.


      3. Nia, I still need to write the review. I will prepare one over the weekend. Until now, only the five stars. It takes some time to reconnect to our Internet world – you are doing the right things. And you are a writer, editor … you have many hats! Take care, my friend, and enjoy the dinner!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thank you, Nia! You are a seasoned traveler. Despite our constant travels, each trip adds something different to the way we see the world. We are also influenced by the media we ‘consume’, the people we talk to or listen, and our own experiences through life. The same Nia but also a different Nia came back to California. Welcome back!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thanks, Fabio. It really did change me. This trip in particular, going around so much of the world, and spending time with people in these different places, reading the news, seeing the US from afar, like a distant and not so vast and invincible country, had a huge impact on me. I no longer feel like events and cultures are far away! And the little enclaves of nature seem small in comparison to the vast human population. There’s a sense of vulnerability rather than invincibility, and also a lot of appreciation. I felt so good going to my yoga class today and then going for a walk to the grocery stores. Every day is a gift, as is every friend. Thanks for the welcome back and for following my trip and reaching out to me when you thought I needed it! 🙂 Nia

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Nia, A treasure to have you as a friend! Thanks so much for your views about the world, your measurement of this country from afar, your honesty and openness when you describe your feelings! In addition to all of that, you express your thoughts in a very elegant manner and with a total control of the language. You are an excellent writer! Thanks so much for your friendship! Have a good night! 🙂 Fabio

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Being in Australia, I have had thousands of interactions with Kiwis (what we call those from New Zealand). Many are quietly spoken but there are just as many who are loud and brash. Yesterday we had an entertaining conversation with a loud Maori salesperson who became even more animated when the Rugby came up in conversation. I guess the majority of them are quiet but there are those who aren’t.

    Liked by 1 person

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