Initial Foreign Contact

An interesting part of our of our time in Queenstown was the effect on our social and business activities by the mixing and assisting the many Foreign Families who visited our Country regularly. But more often than not, it was the French who took their annual vacations with us. In the main they were wealthy, and came to escape the high humidity and heat of their Summers. Over time they purchased considerable real estate properties in the Area. My French at the time was limited to ‘Bon Jour’ and Re’pondez s’il vous plait. Their English was on a par with my French. To correct my ineptitude, Laura bought me a lingaphone and cassettes. (English/French) I then spent an half hour every morning while showering and shaving, listening to, and endeavouring to speak another language.


As well as the French, we had many American friends who were mainly connected with Airlines. They were one section of the public who could fly around the world cheaply with discounted fares. Most of our friendships with foreigners was spread over a forty year period, so over time they became very firm friends. One American family even gave me my first computer. A ‘Commodore 64’, what a treasure it was! I became addicted to computing from that day onward. Computers at this time were issued without a screen, as they were meant to be hooked up through your conventual TV. Our TV system in New Zealand at the time was PAL, but to make it work I now required a set compatible with the American system NTSC. I solved this problem by asking my son to post a note on the American Deep Freeze bulletin Board in Christchurch. Someone would have been bound to have brought an American set over from the States, not being aware our TV system was a different format. But the biggest area of change to our lives as a result of our various friendships was enjoying the various cuisines they brought with them. What a change we experienced in our eating habits. I would like to record, that we too had effected some changes in them as well. Earlier, we had been introduced to a new cuisines to some degree, by our friendship with the Chinese Community. They acquainted us with their wonderful Cantonese cuisine. Our cooking must have been really boring, until we met up with these various ethnic groups. The French also came not only with their own regional recipes, but with many dishes from their former Colonial Territories such as Algerian, Morocco, Vietnam and some other North African countries who they had been associated with for a couple of hundred years or so. Many descendants of these cultures were still closely affiliated with the French, and working alongside them in New Caledonia. New Caledonia was an interesting ‘Pot Pouri’ of many other cultures, every country seemed to be represented there, Javanese, Malaysia, Italian, Japanese. So with their assistance and I suppose by osmosis, we were quickly introduced to Garlic, Chilli Peppers, Soya sauce, and many other spices we had never heard off. To think I was being paid to work amongst these interesting people. At this time nobody in New Zealand, just nobody, used garlic, Cous Cous, chilli peppers, and the endless list of all the other flavours in the world. Another area the French introduced us was the appreciation of wine. Our wine earlier was commonly regarded as plain ‘Plonk’ by all and sundry. Some of it was just that. In addition New Zealand had the most archaic set of liquor laws imaginable. Drinking in the evenings had to cease at 6:00pm unless you were having a meal. No wonder binge drinking was considered a normal activity. But if you looked for it, there were wines to be found here that were equal to any in the world.


At one time I was offered a job to work with the French, but I turned it down preferring to work on a ‘ad hoc’ friendship basis, when required from time to time. What it did mean over the years, we enjoyed many winter holidays in the tropics. I really liked the total immersion of the French culture and their language. It wasn’t all that difficult to take French citizens along to the Dentist, Doctor, or Medical Specialist, or to assist them with their financial or property problems, especially when they didn’t have a good command of English.


I also had to come to grips with some of their more pleasant social habits, such as kissing the women when first greeting them, or saying goodbye. My Staff soon got used to this, and after time accepted it and stopped their sniggering.



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