Growing Up Kiwi


I often get asked about New Zealand.  What’s it like?  Is it quiet there?  What was it like growing up in New Zealand?   And I explain that no it’s not quiet when you’re from Auckland and you have to sit in a traffic jam for an hour, and that your childhood is completely carefree spending most of it outside in bare feet.  But I never really feel I do the country justice with my explanation.

This morning, whilst searching for an email, my keyword search located an email from 2007 that an ex-housemate had sent me about growing up in New Zealand.  I started to read through it and its accuracy was astounding.  It made me laugh out loud, because I felt like I was reading my very own biography.  This is exactly what it was like Growing Up Kiwi!

Some of it won’t make sense if you’re not from New Zealand and I’m sure some of the freedom we had is not as accessible to today’s kiwi kids.  Nevertheless I felt the need to share my childhood with you and what it was like Growing Up Kiwi….



I’m talking about hide and seek/spotlight in the park. The corner dairy, hopscotch, four square, go carts, cricket in front of the garbage bin and inviting everyone on your street to join in, skipping (double dutch), gutterball, handstands, elastics, bullrush, catch and kiss, footy on the best lawn in the street, slip’n’slides, the trampoline with water on it (or a sprinkler under it), hula hoops,jumping in puddles with gumboots on, mud pies and building dams in the gutter. The smell of the sun and fresh cut grass.

‘Big bubbles no troubles’ with Hubba Bubba bubble gum. A topsy.  Mr Whippy cones on a warm summer night after you’ve chased him round the block. 20 cents worth of mixed lollies lasted a week and pretending to smoke “fags” (the lollies) was really cool!  A dollars’ worth of chips from the corner take-away fed two people (AND the sauce was free!!).


Being upset when you botched putting on the temporary tattoo from the bubblegum packet, but still wearing it proudly.  Watching Saturday morning cartoons: ‘The Smurfs’, ‘AstroBoy’, ‘He-man’, ‘Captain Caveman’,’Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’, ‘Jem’ (trulyoutrageous!!), ‘Super d”, and ‘Heeeey heeeeey heeeeeeey it’s faaaaaaat Albert’.  Or staying up late and sneaking a look at the “AO” on the second telly, being amazed when you watched TV right up until the ‘Goodnight Kiwi!’

When After School with Jason Gunn & Thingie had a cult following and What Now was on saturday mornings! When around the corner seemed a long way, and going into town seemed like going somewhere. Where running away meant you did laps of the block because you weren’t allowed to cross the road?? A million mozzie bites, wasp and bee stings (stee bings!).


Sticky fingers, goodies & baddies, cops and robbers, cowboys and indians, riding bikes til the streetlights came on and catching tadpoles in horse troughs.

Going down to the school swimming pool when you didn’t have a key and your friends letting you in, drawing all over the road and driveway with chalk. Climbing trees and building huts out of every sheet your mum had in the cupboard (and never putting them back folded). Walking to school in bare feet, no matter what the weather.

When writing ‘I love….? on your pencil case, really did mean it was true love. “he loves me? he loves me not?” and daisy chains on the front lawn. Stealing other people’s flowers from their gardens and then selling them back to them…


Running till you were out of breath. Laughing so hard that your stomach hurt. Pitching the tent in the back/front yard (and never being able to find all the pegs). Jumping on the bed. Singing into your hair brush in front of the mirror, making mix tapes…

Sleep overs and ghosts stories with the next door neighbours.

Pillowfights, spinning round, getting dizzy and falling down was cause for the giggles. The worst embarrassment was being picked last for a team. Water balloons were the ultimate weapon. Weetbix cards pegged on the spokes transformed any bike into a motorcycle. Collecting WWF and garbage pail kids cards.

Eating raw jelly and raro, making homemade lemonade and sucking on a Rad, a traffic light popsicle, or a Paddle Pop… blurple, yollange and prink!


You knew everyone in your street – and so did your parents! It wasn’t odd to have two or three “best friends” and you would ask them by sending a note asking them to be your best friend.

You didn’t sleep a wink on Christmas eve and tried (and failed) to wait up for the tooth fairy. When nobody owned a pure-bred dog.  When 50c was decent pocket money. When you’d reach into a muddy gutter for 10c.

When nearly everyone’s mum was there when the kids got home from school.

It was magic when dad would “remove” his thumb.

When it was considered a great privilege to be taken out to dinner at the local Chinese restaurant (or Cobb’n’Co.) with your family.

When any parent could discipline any kid, or feed her or use him to carry groceries and nobody, not even the kid, thought a thing of it.

When being sent to the principal’s office was nothing compared to the fate that awaited a misbehaving student at home.

Basically, we were in fear for our lives, but it wasn’t because of drive-by shootings, drugs, gangs, etc. Our parents and grandparents were a much bigger threat! Some of us are still afraid of them!!!


Remember when decisions were made by going “eeny-meeny-miney-mo” or dib dib’s-scissors, paper, rock. “Race issue” meant arguing about who ran the fastest. Money issues were handled by whoever was the banker in Monopoly.

Terrorism was when the older kids were at the end of your street  with pea-shooters waiting to ambush you, or the neighbourhood rottie chased you up a tree!

The worst thing you could catch from the opposite sex was boy/girl germs, and the worst thing in your day was having to sit next to one.  Where bluelight disco’s were the equivalent to a Rave, and asking  a boy out meant writing a ‘polite’ note getting them to tick  ‘yes’ or ‘no’. When there was always that one ‘HOT’ guy/girl.

Having a weapon in school meant being caught with a slingshot. Your biggest danger at school was accidentally walking through  the middle of a heated game of “brandies”.

Birthday beats meant you didn’t want to go to school on your birthday!

Scrapes and bruises were kissed and made better. Taking drugs meant scoffing orange-flavoured chewable vitamin C’s, or swallowing half a Panadol. Ice cream was considered a basic food group.  Going to the beach and catching a wave was a dream come true.  Boogie boarding in the white wash made you the next Kelly Slater. Abilities were discovered because of a “double- dare”.

Older siblings were the worst tormentors, but also the fiercest protectors.

Now, didn’t that bring back some fond memories??

If you can remember most of these, you’re a Kiwi legend!!! Pass this on to another Kiwi legend who may need a break from their “grown up” life…


(Author Unknown)


  1. I LOVE THIS POST! It is so awesome and brings back some great memories, how could I have forgotten spotlight in the park? Are those Mr Whippy pics taken at Pauanui by any chance?

    • Sara they are! haha! We have a place there. I still get excited when I hear the ice cream truck, followed by panic trying to find enough change in time!

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