The scenery IS beautiful, and we haven't even been to the South Island yet, which, according to locals and those who have traveled both islands, the South is at least ten times more naturally beautiful than the North... yay for our future travels!
The culture here is VERY similar to Canada. Many times I have found myself zoning out while walking down the road and genuinely forgetting that I am in a different country. There are minor differences of course, such as the words and slang they use, the accents, and the clothing and such, but in general the average persons' attitude is similar to what you would find in Canada.
The people, especially those who's family goes back generations and generations in the South Pacific, are incredibly friendly, kind and inviting! They are so very proud of their culture that they cannot possibly pass up an opportunity to share it with a few friendly travelers just here to experience New Zealand! They must really trust their instincts as to whether to trust a complete stranger or not and invite them into their home.
In the past four days I have experienced two different locals who have gone above and beyond the call of the "friendly stranger" and have taken time to get to know Luke and I. In the end, they have invited us for a cultural feast with their families! This is one characteristic of New Zealanders that I will definitely miss one day when I am back in Canada!
Thursday night we found ourselves at the local Irish Pub enjoying a few drinks and playing pool. The hotel I work at had a mid-year work party where we all enjoyed massive amounts of food at the Chinese Buffet and then wandered down the road to the Pub in order to let the food digest and continue the get-together. Two women were playing pool beside us and went out of their way to include us in their game. They were clearly having a good time, laughing and joking and they ended up playing a few games against Luke and one of my co-workers. Laughter erupted with every single shot.. it was a lot of fun to watch! One of the women, a very out-going and friendly woman, hit it off so well with us that she invited us for Christmas to "put down a hangi"! She didn't like that our travels so far consisted of traveling about and seeing sights, but no real focus on "culture". She wanted us to come and experience a true Maori Hangi with her family for Christmas. A Hangi is a "traditional New Zealand Māori method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven still used for special occasions."
It is small moments like these, and kind guestures of this nature that make this trip one of a kind. I will always boost that Canadians are a generally friendly folk, but I cannot say that the average Canadian would invite a complete stranger to their home for a delicious feast!