Right now I am at Auckland airport and it is nothing like Sydney airport. For starters there are All-Blacks jerseys everywhere and people are laughing at my accent and not Scott’s. It’s Bizarro-world!
Now a serious question for my USian readers. Do you guys have any theories as to why so many of the USian blog reviewers of Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead are under the impression that her extremely New Zealand book is set in Australia? Many NZ cities are named, such as Christchurch, where it is largely set. The South & North Islands are frequently mentioned as are many other very very very Kiwi things and people. No mention is made of Australia.
What gives? Are you taught at school that NZ and Australia are one and the same place? I am also wondering if this happens to all New Zealander writers when their books are published in the USA. Are USians the only ones who can’t tell the difference between our fine nations? Or do the French and Armenians and Chileans labour under the same delusion?
I am confused. Your explanations are most welcome.
Update: To re-iterate because apparently I was not clear: my question isn’t about ignorance per se, it’s very specifically about the way this one book is being read as Australian, even though it’s very clear that it’s set in New Zealand. Yes, including using the words “New Zealand” in the text. That’s not mere ignorance, but a really interesting and consistent misreading of the text. That’s what’s been puzzling me. Are there people who think that New Zealand is part of Australia?
I don’t think that USians are any more ignorant than any other peoples in the world. Nor do I expect everyone in the world to know all about Australia or New Zealand or any other country for that matter.
As a New Zealander, I am intrigued to discover why people can’t tell the difference.
Even though I know that NZ is somewhere above or below Australia, I actually think of it as Middle Earth. It sounds silly, but the first time I ever heard of NZ was when LOTR was made into a movie, and I was young, and knew very little of the world besides Africa, America, and Central America. I really liked Africa. So, even though I know NZ is a real place, I subconsciously think of it as Middle Earth. Australia is very separate from NZ in my mind.
Being a USian who has lived briefly in both Ausralia and NZ, I’ll hazard a guess. To most USians, that side of the world is fairly vague, as far as I have learned from the people I’ve met. I myself didn’t really know the difference between the two until I visited. Now, I’m in love with both, but for entirely different reasons – but before I went on my study abroad, I had NO idea of any difference.
Since NZ is so small and so near Oz, the accents sound extremely similar to untrained ears (throw British in that one, too – apparently most USians can’t distinguish the three), and since most USians know absolutely nothing about NZ except for that fact that it allegedly exists a la Peter Jackson, it isn’t shocking to me that most get them confused.
I don’t know how it is for the rest of the world. It’s probably better everywhere else, just because of our surprising lack of knowledge of the outside world.
I’m from Sydney too and it’s so odd that people think both nationalities are the same. I can’t comprehend believing something like that.
I know the difference, but admittedly, this is largely because I have kiwi and Australian friends, and enjoy the difference in their accents. (and more sheep than people! Awww, NZ, you make me laugh.) I know that for the most part, the south pacific is completely ignored in American educations. My guess is that many people haven’t been exposed to NZ, and therefore default to AU when reading/trying to figure out where things are.
But to be honest, let’s face it, Americans are not that great in geography in general . . . (I say as former teacher.)
Reaching way back to elementary school is a bit difficult, but I think you’re right… Sorry, but I don’t think I really knew the difference between NZ and Australia until I was an adult… Pretty sad!!
Now that I know, I make sure to um… set fellow USians straight when they refer to them as one in the same!
Just for you, though, I will make sure that my daughter knows the difference!! :o)
I’m going to ask Brittany in the morning about this. I know she’s learned more world geography in school than I ever did. We learned the 50 states, the continents and I think we probably had to know which one was Canada and which one was Mexico.
A vast majority of my geographic knowledge, which I suspect is well above-average for a USian, comes from reading on my own.
I really think it’s just a problem with American teaching of geography. We learn basic geography (i.e. continents and big world players) fairly young and then don’t touch it again until high school. Even then, it is rote memorization, enough to pass a test and move on.
Most Americans make no distinction in accent and assume that if you sound similar and are located fairly close to each other, you must be the same. It’s easier that way. Those who make the differentiation are few and far between, and are usually highly motivated. The vast majority of Americans however, will never make the distinction.
We know they’re two different countries; what we don’t generally know is what makes them different. Do you think the average Aussie or New Zealander would know the difference between Puerto Rico and Costa Rica based on a description of the cities and topography?
People: I’m not asking about not telling the accents apart. They’re pretty close. I get that.
I’m asking why someone reading a book (words on page—no accent) that’s clearly set in NZ thinks it’s set in Australia. It’s mystifying.
I don’t have an answer for you Justine (and don’t really qualify to try ’cause I’m an Ozian), but I do have a question: why do USians think that Tasmania is a country?
I know it’s physically separate from the continent of Australia, but Hawaii isn’t attached to the US mainland and it still manages to retain it’s statehood?
Actually, now that I think about it, I might know the answer(s)…
Oh, and New Zealanders become Australians once they become successfull (everyone knows that!).
Lack of actual reading? I have no idea. I just finished Guardian of the Dead. Loved it, LOVED the Maori worldbuilding, and would never confuse Maori with Australian aboriginal culture/New Zealand with Australia. For one thing, “Maori” is spelled differently. 🙂
I think it does have a lot to do with how geography is taught, yes, but it’s also a general lack of American awareness of the outside world. Isn’t there a number of studies that show that few US citizens can point out most other countries on a map? That probably has a lot to do with it.
It’s just a lack of knowledge… Many USians don’t even know that they are two different places and would therefore not recognize the difference between the two. Sad, but true…
I think the same could be said for USians knowledge of other geographic areas ie – the Middle East, Africa, even South America.
Arrogance or ignorance?? Doesn’t really matter. It needs to change…
Then again, some USians have a disturbing lack of knowledge about the US as well. *sighs* At least we have reality tv… ;o)
Editorial Anonymous: We know they’re two different countries; what we don’t generally know is what makes them different. Do you think the average Aussie or New Zealander would know the difference between Puerto Rico and Costa Rica based on a description of the cities and topography?
No, I wouldn’t, but if they were reading a book where the country it was set in was mentioned, like Guardian of the Dead, I’d be just as surprised at anyone making that mistake.
As a USian studying geography in college, let me take a crack at this one.
Most US students learn about all of Oceania, from Indonesia to NZ, in one fell swoop. There’s no effort really made to differentiate any of the cultures, with the sole exception of Australia. Add to that that, occasionally, “Australia” is used to refer to the entire region (as in a continent rather than a country).
That said, if you asked the average American which country Canberra was in and which country Christchurch was in, even if you said “Your choices are Australia and New Zealand”, I would wager that half of them wouldn’t be able to answer.
Honestly, if I weren’t a geography nerd and I didn’t spend my spare time playing with Google Earth, I wouldn’t know the difference between NZ and Australia. You look at a map of the Australia region and you think “Oh, hey, Australia has outlying islands just like the USA!” Yet you never stop to think about how those are different countries.
This would make a lot more sense if it weren’t 12:30 AM where I’m at. 🙂
I can think of a few things.
*Until around middle school I’m pretty sure I’d always heard Australia-and-New-Zealand as if they were one country.
*Most Americans are incurious about the rest of the world. People of my acquaintance can’t tell a Korean accent from a Vietnamese one. They think of Africa as if it was one big country.
I think it might be result of how USians are taught the continents. In Mexico, kids are taught there are FIVE continents: America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. In the US kids are taught there are SEVEN continents: North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Europe, Antarctica, and Australia. No Oceania, so it might be that USians are not really referring to NZ in Australia as a country, but more like NZ in the Australian continent.
Have you asked the confused American blog reviewers individually?
I think Healey’s book first mentions New Zealand explicitly around page 5 or 6, so I don’t think there’s any particular deficiency on her part. My guess: we Americans drill the “seven continents” approach to geography pretty hard. Guess which continent New Zealand gets lumped in with? Hint: it’s not Asia. (I’ve seen some teachers do a unit on “Oceana” but as far as I know this has never become standard.)
It is easy to put knowledge of one’s home region in the “essential things every thinking person should be aware of” box, but New Zealand has strong geographic and historic ties to Australia, from early colonialism through World War II (Wikipedia even tells me it almost became part of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901). Confusing the countries is a silly mistake to make, but hopefully not one Healey is losing any sleep over. I doubt her countrymen know much about the difference between Kansas and Arkansas, but I promise those places are at least as different as Australia and New Zealand.
I see no need to impute that ignorance to a deficiency in New Zealand’s education system, though.
Okay, the Oceania thing makes a lot of sense. Thanks.
Though I have to say, wow, you USians are being harsh on yourselves. No country has a monopoly on igorance! There are plenty of super ignorant Aussies. Ignorant about New Zealand even.
To reiterate, however, my question isn’t about ignorance, it’s very specifically about the way this one book is being read as Australian, even though it’s very clear that it’s set in New Zealand. Yes, including using the words “New Zealand.” That’s not ignorance, but a really interesting and consistent misreading of the text. That’s what’s been puzzling me.
It’s just possible that US readers are living in an alternate universe where New Zealand chose to join the colonies on the continent of Australia to become a single nation, and that Tasmania chose not to join but to become a separate nation. There are probably variant universes within that in which Western Australia chose to join or not to join, or to join and then secede, all of which definitely happened in some variant of history. I think the ones where Australia was invaded and setled by the Dutch or the French rather than the English have failed to materialise anywhere.
OZ & NZ are different countries? Next thing you’ll be telling me is that New Mexico is part of the good ole USA.
Really Justine. Most readers know the difference. And the reverse is true as well. I remember a lovely young grad student once who thought we could pop down from SF to LA for the afternoon–“it’s the same state!”
I’ve a friend from Brighton here who is often asked what part of OZ he is from. But that might be because of his thing about vegemite and marmite.
hugs and puppies!
This would not be a problem if more Americans were exposed to Cricket.
Aishwarya: That is the truest thing anyone has ever said EVER.
I suspect that it’s similar to my theory of many people seem to get confused about America and Canada, or Korea and Japan – they *know* there’s a difference, but they’re generally too lazy to work out exactly what it is, and really, they’re kinda from the same area and have the same language/accents, so what’s the big deal already? 😉
I’d have to second the continent theory. The first time I realized that New Zealand wasn’t near the coast of Australia was when I was trying to decide whether to fly Air New Zealand or Qantas to get to Adelaide. When you see them on a Mercator projection, you don’t really get much sense of scale. I knew that they were separate countries, but didn’t realize *how* separate, so I might well have used the term “Australia” to refer to both land masses.
As has been said, it’s a matter of geography. American kids are taught America History and World History (which only covers Europe) and that’s it. Forget Africa, Asia, the Middle East, South America, or anywhere touching the Pacific Ocean. Anyplace not in America itself or in Europe is located in this nebulous null-space labeled “Other.”
I’ve seen this misconception applied to Singapore as well, which people either confuse for Hong Kong, or think is located somewhere in China.
Confusing the countries is a silly mistake to make, but hopefully not one Healey is losing any sleep over.
I don’t lose any sleep over it, but it *does* bug me. Quite apart from my nationality being a strong part of my personal identity, to me Guardian is a book very much about the way we negotiate identity and culture in the land, and misidentifying New Zealand as Australia, or as part of Australia, neatly undermines all of that. Even worse, I worry that people are reading the elements of Māori culture I use as that belonging to a (singular, imaginary) Aboriginal culture instead.
I doubt her countrymen know much about the difference between Kansas and Arkansas, but I promise those places are at least as different as Australia and New Zealand.
Yeah, but they’re also states, not independent nations. A better comparison would be wondering what non-New Zealanders know about the difference between Otago and Canterbury. I bet it’s very little.
I’m not saying New Zealanders are geographically unchallenged – growing up, I thought New York was like Friends and LA was like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and lord knows that was completely inaccurate, but I did have those shows as models. American audiences have Flight of the Conchords – which is New Zealanders *in* the US. I think the USA’s simultaneous spread of its cultural products and internal isolation is really interesting (particularly when it’s a fairly diverse nation!) and I worry about its effects.
I haven’t read the book (although I plan to) or the blogs that state that the book is set in Australia so my guess is based on no evidence whatsoever, but I wonder if–aside from the possibility that it’s just based on ignorance–the problem is one of memory. I’ve had friends from both NZ and Australia who’ve talked about the differences between the two places and as a giant nerd I like to read the CIA World Factbook, so I am aware that they are in fact two different countries, but I have a terrible memory and tend to just remember vague associations rather than the actual facts. For instance, I loved Jellicoe Road but wasn’t confident enough to be able to say whether it was set in New Zealand or Australia; I just had to look it up to be sure that, yes, it’s Australia. What I remember is that I loved the story and the vague association with ideas of pretty-country-in-that-area-of-the-South-Pacific-where-people-speak-English-with-a-cool-accent-where-I’d-like-to-go-someday. And those vague associations can get translated back as either New Zealand or Australia. It was long enough ago that I don’t remember if Jellicoe Road had any very obvious signs like recognizable major city names or actually stating that it was in Australia—it probably did, and I probably recognized them at the time, but the further I get from the book the more I fall back on the vague associations. So even though the bloggers probably had far less of a lapse between reading and reviewing the book, perhaps the charitable explanation (? At least more charitable than the ignorance explanation) is that they also performed this sloppy mental shorthand and didn’t bother to double check.
This interesting discussion actually ties in with something that has puzzled me for years and I would be very happy for some of the USians out there to comment on it. I have never been to the US but I’ve met a number of Americans over the years in countries all over the world and every one of them without fail when introducing themselves has said what state they are from rather than what country. That is, I’ve never heard an American say, ‘I’m from the US.’ Instead, they say how they’re from California or Florida or whatever or even what city they’re from. Do Americans assume that people from other countries can automatically tell from their accent that they’re American (even though to most people the American accent is very close to the Canadian accent) and are familiar enough with the names of all 50 American states for that to be sufficient? Or is it that USians identify more with their home state than with a national identity? And is that the confusion between Australia and New Zealand as well? Do people imagine that it’s a state of Australia?
I hazard a guess that whatever is behind someone from the US being unable to tell the difference between Australia and New Zealand is also behind the inability to recognize that Alaska is not an island that floats off the coast of Mexico (among other strange beliefs about my home state.) I don’t want to point fingers, but after my recent encounter with the modern US school system, where production of an illusion of intelligence is more valued then actual learning, I’m really not surprised.
While I haven’t read their posts (all of the reviews I’ve seen acknowledge New Zealand as a separate entity), I think the bloggers you are talking about really must think New Zealand is part of Australia.
While I’m not going to claim that Americans are more or less ignorant than people of other nations, I will admit that we are a self-centered nation, and much of our population would be hard pressed to place all of the states on a map or name each of their capital cities, let alone know the names and capitals of other nations. Also, I don’t doubt that there are number of other nations that Americans would assume are cities or regions of a larger nation – especially those that think of Africa as one country. People are likely to know the names of nations that are deemed “important,” be it because of proximity, economic importance, or threat level, and Australia has been deemed important enough (and, the learning about it as a continent), while New Zealand apparently hasn’t. Or, partially contradicting that, it could be that Australia is seen as a continent and New Zealand part of that continent, rather than both of them being a part of the geographic area known as Oceania or Australasia.
I also suppose that the bloggers could be confused by the “New,” which may remind them of states in the US like New York, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and New Jersey, rather than a nation of it’s own – Yes, I’m grasping for straws trying to come up with a logical reason here.
I could go on about evidence that they should have recognized that showed that New Zealand is obviously its own nation, including the word Australia never being mentioned, even when Karen Healey talked about the mythology and culture of the nation, but that really isn’t useful. Either they really didn’t read the story very thoroughly (NZ is mentioned within the first 6 and the last 5 pages) or they are quite determined to think New Zealand is a part of Australia, or both.
P.S. After writing the above, I checked to see, and if you type “New Zealand part” in to google, after “New Zealand Party Pills,” your first two responses are “New Zealand Part of what continent,” and “New Zealand part of Australia,” which would mean that people obviously believe it (and are then corrected, hopefully).
This comment is way longer than I planned, but oh well.
This Swede is fully aware of that Australia and New Zealand is different countries. Although I went most of my life having no idea that Tasmania existed, and when I learned about it, I thought about it upside down for months and months. But um, I did meet some people while in USA (not saying you’re ALL like that, mind you) who asked me if Sweden wasn’t “kind of like Italy”.
(It’s not. Trust me.)
Not sure if my Tasmania-sacrilege measures up to that. Maybe it does. Who knows?
My theory is that people are confusing New Zealand with New South Wales (and a bit with Tasmania).
(I don’t actually know if it applies to this particular book, since I’m not allowed to read it for another three weeks, and I haven’t read any reviews because I don’t want to be spoiled. But you can’t let these little details get in the way of a good theory!)
Conflation is a weird thing, and I think it is due to the countries being close. As an Irish lady, Americans are often like ‘well, you’re British’ or ‘you’re part of the UK’ – which, NO. It’s not that they don’t know Ireland’s a country, but they identify it with the bigger place next to it – perhaps it’s the same thing with New Zealand? Proximity and shared history, and they *know* it’s New Zealand but ‘it’s all the same sort of thing.’
I’m a Brit but grew up abroad so probably wound up reading more books from around the world than is typical. However I still tend to assume (if I don’t know anything about the book at all) that it’s set in the UK and then stumble when I find something which contradicts that (like sunshine, heh). So for example I might go “ooh, dollars” – that’s the USA then. [read half a chapter] Ooh, dollars and rice pudding – Australia. [two chapters on] Dollars, rice pudding and snow – Canada. OK, we’re in Canada.”
Perhaps these reviews have tripped several triggers – enough to get to ‘Australia’ from whatever their default setting is – but somehow managed to skip over the actual country name?
People are sloppy readers. Add to that the conflation of countries that folks have described so well here, and someone who reads “New Zealand” will internalize it as “Australia” or “Australia continent.” When asked where the book was set, well, they’ll say Australia, although they’d be wrong.
Someone from Australia who reads the book will immediately understand that the book is not set in their country, and therefore will not not say the same.
To give a local example, if I were to read a book set in Brooklyn, I’d know it wasn’t Manhattan. But someone who isn’t as familiar with New York City might internalize it as “New York City.” And, later, when asked where the book was set, would say New York, conjuring the iconic images of lower Manhattan (giving a Brooklynite conniptions.)
It happens occasionally to Canadians as well. “It’s all the same sort of thing” as the US, because we’re next to each other and (some of) our accents sound similar and, well, we might as WELL be Americans, right? People from other countries sometimes wonder why this mix-up causes Canadians to weep into their Tim Horton’s coffee, but it does. So I have always felt a certain sympathetic kinship with New Zealand whenever people mix it up with Australia.
Maybe we need to have an Olympics in New Zealand! I would totally watch the opening ceremonies for that one.
Can you elaborate on what you have come across that makes you suspect that the book is being read as set in Australia? And do UKian readers make the same mistake as USian ones?
Perhaps if one reviewer has made the mistake, other brief descriptions of the book may repeat the error again and again? Or perhaps something of the presentation of the book somehow unwittingly misleads readers? In these cases, it still does seem strange that all sorts of New Zealand-ish things throughout the book wouldn’t shake the mistaken notion of it being set in Australia regardless. But then again taste studies suggest that if you tell people that they will be given strawberry yogurt, blind fold them, and give them vanilla yogurt instead, most subjects will still insist that they tasted strawberries!
The seven vs five continent teaching thing makes sense (and that’s what I remember learning) but my first thought was it’s because the only thing I ever heard about NZ in school was (literally) “New Zealand is off the coast of Australia”. Also, geography was moslty lumped in with history, and almost all my history classes only taught US history. In middle school I had a year of Ancient Civilizations and in HS one of my US history classes *might* have detoured into the French Revolution, but that’s about it. I’m fairly certain the only thing we were taught about Australia is that at one point prisoners were sent there. I suspect the situation has improved slightly since then because of Xena and Lord of the Rings, and of course Steve Irwin, but the point is that’s all stuff picked up outside of school (as an aside, now everyone teaches that sting rays are extremely dangerous).
I lived in a American town where many people didn’t know the difference between India and China. *sigh* So I feel the pain here.
I am horrible with geography but I do know OZ and NZ are different.
Healey references NZ several times in the book and the Glossary. If someone is actually paying attention while they read it would easy to see that Guardian of the Dead is set in NZ.
Though here is my theory on why some people have made the mistake. Many USians (myself included) crush hard on YA from OZ. So many some readers just want it so badly to be set in Oz they don’t see whats right in front of them.
As far as I known the only other NZ author I’ve read is Paula Morris, her novel Ruined (loved)which is set in New Orleans.
I think this problem of confusing OZ and NZ can be solved by having more NZ authors or novels set in that country published in the U.S.
If this happens I think USian readers will appreciate NZ as its own country and not just say its OZ.
Can someone name a few well known NZ authors?
I had no idea that the continents I learned in elementary school were different from those taught to students in other countries! But yeah, I was going to say something similar to what Cristina said.
I had friends from New Zealand when I worked in a summer camp that hired international counselors, but before then, I’m not sure I had much of a sense that New Zealand was a separate country, as opposed to a state-like region of Australia.
As a middle school teacher and librarian, I see students all the time misreading texts in a way that fits in with their particular experiences and worldview. I just read a story with a group of students where the character was referred to as “she” over and over again, and described as another character’s daughter, and when the kids read it out loud they said “she” and “daughter” repeatedly. But when I asked them questions about the story, they referred to the same character as “he”. When I pointed out the she words to them in the writing, it blew their minds. They said, “I didn’t notice that”. The same thing happens with changing the character’s race, or age, or the setting of the story. I think that maybe our brains just try to make things fit with what we already know or have experienced? But I guess the idea is that you get older, you practice careful reading as well as thinking beyond your own point of view, and when you start reviewing books professionally you don’t make these mistakes.
My cynical theory:
USians, even if we do know the difference, think that Australia is way cooler.
Australia: Barrier Reef, deadly fauna, walkabouts.
New Zealand: Lord of the Rings, sheep.
So it’s a trick to get USians to read the book!
I do know the difference between the two countries, but I don’t know anything about Maori culture and mythology. If I hadn’t seen this book recommended in several places, I wouldn’t pick it up based on the description.
As a weird side-note about American education — at least here in Virginia, most of the “advanced” kids never really take a geography class. We got a little bit of geography in elementary school of course, but in high school, the advanced students take World History freshman year while the “regular” students take World Geography (and then take World History the next year).
And sadly, I don’t think Australia was mentioned even once in my World History class! (So now I read lots of Australian YA to make up for it!)
Sara, in my experience, Geography is a year-long class in seventh grade.
If more people would just watch Flight of the Conchords, this wouldn’t be a problem. 🙂
(But, yes, I think it’s a deficiency in geography teaching here–both in terms of continents when younger and on European history when older. I didn’t study New Zealand and its history until college anthropology.)
Wait — New Zealand isn’t Australia?
It could be that some USians think NZ is like AU’s Hawai’i.
Then again, some of the operators for the US Olympic ticket center in 1996 told people from New Mexico they would have to call the number for their own country since the number they called was for US residents only.
I don’t expect people in the USA to know what countries make up North America. I don’t even expect folks to know what the region of the USA they reside in is called (was horrified as a college student from Massachusetts to learn that people from Pennsylvania and New York thought that they were from New England). We just don’t get taught geography very thoroughly.
I know that NZ is its own country. But I was certainly taught Australia is a continent that includes NZ. I guess when I was a kid I thought of NZ, as somebody said above, the equivalent of Hawai’i – like an outlying island that is still somehow connected. Same… queen?
Mebbe people are just not careful readers and they lump it all under “very faraway places I have never been”. Like the same reason they might think that Taiwan is part of Japan, or everyone in India speaks Hindi.
I’m terribly sorry, I’m responsible for the confusion in the USA. For the past 20 years, since I moved from Sydeny, I’ve been telling americans that NZ are the eastern islands of Australia, just like Tasmania is the southern island. I never thought they’d believe me, but they did. I’m sorry.
Shoot me now – I miss-typed Sydney.
I do think a lot of people from the U.S. think New Zealand is part of Australia. I discovered this in the eighties when I spent a lot of time in NZ (I’m from Los Angeles), and I not infrequently had to clarify to U.S. friends where I was going and that no, New Zealand is not part of Australia. I have no idea where this misconception comes from, but there you have it.
I’m American, and in high school I had a choice between taking Geography or World History. I chose World History. I don’t think I’d even heard of New Zealand until I was an adult, and I mainly associate it with Lord of the Rings. And sheep.
Wow. That’s a lot of comments. Fascinating discussion.
Doret: My fave NZ authors are Elizabeth Knox & Margaret Mahy.
Being a USian in high school I would venture to say that we simply are not taught geography well enough to know the distinction between NZ and AU. It’s like, you want to know where they are located? Okay, go look it up yourself. I must say though, if you are reading the words NEW ZEALAND, then it your own darn fault that you are calling it Australia. You should really take better care to understand what you are reading, and not get things wrong.
I don’t know about anyone else out there, but it is one of my biggest pet peeves when people get clearly stated information from the text wrong. Come on people. It was apparently clearly stated. But I blame the schools for my geography knowledge, or lack thereof.
1. Nicola @#29: Yes, Americans associate themselves with the state they are from. That is why our country is called “The US” — states are *very* important. For instance, people from the south still think a LOT about the civil war that happened almost 2 centuries ago. Though I’m not an expert in American history or politics, I think it’s very much a product of the way the country was settled — as disparate nations joined together, rather than “oh, we’re X many provinces of Australia” or etc.
Also, most Americans travel more within the states than outside of them. When I talk to folks about where they’ve traveled, they usually start with other states they’ve been to, and then are like “and these international places.”
2. The average person is bad about geography. Period. I had a pretty good education, but I had no idea that NZ was as far away from Australia as it is until I went to Australia and then flew to New Zealand. But geographical ignorance is not limited to Americans only! Most of the people I met in Australia and NZ thought that Washington DC (where I’m from) is in Washington State. (They are at opposite ends of the country.) I understand their confusion. It’s confusing, especially if you live on the other side of the world.
3. Honestly, I don’t think the confusion over Guardian is anything but bad reading, that you see in any book about any subject. How many times have you seen a review that got the most ridiculous basic info about a book wrong?
As several people have already mentioned, Americans can also be ignorant about our own country. I grew up in a rural part of New York State, and I keep running into people who are certain the entire state is like Midtown Manhattan.
When the second Woodstock Festival was going on, one member of the ny.upstate Usenet group was a Thruway toll taker in the extreme Northwest corner of New York State. (Any farther north and you’re in Lake Erie; any farther west, Pennsylvania.) Drivers of cars with Ohio license plates kept asking her if they could get to the Festival in an hour. It’s several hundred miles….
Just a quick update – the 15-year-old was offended by the idea that any American would think New Zealand was part of Australia.
I’ve been loving reading these comments but they keep showing up in different orders every time I show up here! Agh! Here are two mildly off-topic comments I thought might have gotten lost in the confusion that I felt I had to respond to:
Nicola: definitely people associate themselves more with their state than their nation, because the US is so dang BIG– I’m from Pennsylvania, and I watch movies and things that take place in California or Arizona or something and it’s like they’re on a completely different PLANET. Why doesn’t it RAIN in those places, to begin with?!
and Doret: MARGARET MAHY!!!!!!!!!! Thank you.
My response to the original question was originally that, when something is on the other side of the world, if you’re going to travel to one, you might as well make a side trip to the other while you’re at it, which could confuse the details of, say, a friend’s recent trip in ones memory. But now I think I agree with the theory that it’s the “CONTINENT of Australia” people are trying to fit New Zealand into.
My spell-checker is insisting that I’ve spelled New Zealand wrong, so even computers can be stupid on this subject apparently….
While I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know that New Zealand and Australia were different countries, I will admit that I have no idea where many states are in the US. I can point out everything the West Coast, Arizona, Florida, maybe Minnesota… and that’s about it. Last week on a test I had to guess where Michigan was (I was right, luckily). I was never taught where the states were when I was a little kid — however, at my house we did have a huge map of the world. That’s what I grew up seeing. I never had any actual geography lessons until my first year of high school (so that was Europe and Africa).
My only run-in with Australia/New Zealand confused USians was last year in World History when some kids were looking at a map, picking out where they’d like to go. I had to show them where New Zealand was. They thought it was close to Greece (I don’t know why).
So I’m also in agreement that because geography isn’t taught in a very uniform way (or maybe a very good way), we’ve just heard Australia and New Zealand together – because they’re fairly close on a map – and always connect them that way.
I’m not sure the question requires a theory of education (and American education isn’t on a national curriculum but varies between cities, so it’s difficult to come up with a general theory). Education or culture may well play a role, but I’d start with the *reading* (or misreading) aspect. Lisa’s experience as a teacher gets at the question that interests me most: What enables a reader to see place-names such as New Zealand, Christchurch, etc, and still have the impression the book is set in Australia?
I’d guess it’s partly about the reader’s style and focus on character versus description or worldbuilding. If the described world of the book is less interesting to the reader than the characters, then all kinds of details could be elided. Some readers skim dialogue; some skim description. And some readers treat books impressionistically; later they might describe a book as about “an artist or maybe a musician”, in “San Francisco or maybe LA”, where strange things happen to “either a boyfriend or a best friend”. (I know people who describe books this way, and I love working out how they abstracted the book’s actual characteristics into such a way-off description.)
So for me, it’s after the selective reading and retention that education, culture, etc may come in to play. If the reader remembers every line of dialogue but retains “somewhere in Africa” or “South Pacific” as the setting, then depending on her geography lessons or recent media consumption she may well grab for whatever place-name comes to mind (e.g. Kenya instead of the DRC, or Australia for NZ).
Could it be as simple as the fact that the book’s from Australia? The setting and the author may both be kiwi-flavored, but she’s lived in- *checks her site* Melbourne for a while now. So maybe the reviewers are just picking up the book from someplace that indicates where it came from and conflating origin with setting.
As to the question about Americans identifying very strongly with our states, absolutely. Those of us from the really big states in particular are prone to it. (Every Californian loves to note that our economy would would constitute a top 10 world power separate from the rest of the US; Texans just like to brag about everything.)
I think our minds are so blown by someone talking about going to the beach over Christmas holidays that we just can’t cope with the niceties of sovereign nations. (That actually happened to me while reading my first Margaret Mahy novel, and yes, I must admit that I thought she was Australian and not New Zealandian (New Zealandish?)) I think in grade school I got the idea that New Zealand was a state of Australia (like the Hawaii analogy cited by others.) Then the two countries got more fused together when I learned about the ANZACs in World War II. It was only when I read the mysteries by Ngaio Marsh that I began to get an idea of New Zealand as a separate entity with a separate heritage and culture.
As a social studies teacher, I find these comments both fascinating and frightening. I can readily assure you that in my sixth grade classroom New Zealand and Australia are always studied as separate countries! However, I also know that facts that you do not put into use are often stored in the nethermost recesses of the brain where they fade away or combine with other unused facts to create mutants known as misconceptions.
Someone not being able to identify an explicitly stated setting is mind-boggling to me, and I would attribute that to a lack of careful reading which could result in various faulty statements about any book. But I also agree with the comments made by Lisa and Elizabeth about how we as readers connect what we read to our own prior knowledge and world experiences. I would guess that those mixed-up reviewers had little or no prior knowledge about New Zealand and so connected what they were reading with Australia about which most people have at least some basic knowledge.
Though the discussion on how geographically-challenged some people might be is fascinating, I’d agree with the theory put forward by a few people that the reviewer’s lack of careful reading is to blame.
As for the rest, as a lover of maps I simply don’t understand the idea of people not knowing, or caring to know, where places are in relation to them, or vice versa. If I’m fuzzy about something when reading a story, I go to a map, real or virtual. Funny how a person tends to think everyone else must be of the same mindset. Funny how very wrong a person can be.
Hi, Speaking as a kiwi (our name for ourselves after our national bird) New Zealander, I have been interested in this discussion. There are very obvious differences between our two countries but I can understand that on the other side of the world we would get lumped together. The US is so big and I guess that the rest of the world gets lumped into the US and them catagory.
So NZ writers you may have heard of…Margaret Mahy winner of the Little Nobel for children’s literature.
Joy Cowley-yes she’s kiwi. Elizabeth Knox, Lloyd Jones Finalist for the Booker a couple of years ago. Keri Hulme winner of the Booker a couple of decades ago. Lynley Dodd-Hairy Macleary creator..New writers being sold in the US, Brian Falkner-The Tomorrow Code and Helen Lowe-Thornspell
We have great children’s writers here and a lot of educational material gets written here for the US school system…but thats another story….
Am I going to be the only Kiwi to say I sort of get it? OK then. While I think it’s genuinely bizarre that people are making this mistake in actual reviews, where presumably (hopefully) they have the book to hand, I do see how you could make this kind of conflation with, say, six months’ difference, and I bet you could too.
Here’s a question: the first time you read The Handmaid’s Tale, where did you think it was set? Now that you’re an adult (if you are an adult) and/or you know that Margaret Atwood is Canadian, does that affect the way you think about it? Think fast: Barbara Kingsolver, Canadian? (No, of course she’s not, but I did tell someone she was the other week – and I’ve read six books by her including four set in the States.) Is Canadian author Gordon Korman’s hysterical book Don’t Care High set in New York or Toronto? (New York – but I had to wikipedia it, and I’ve read Don’t Care High at least five times.)
There is something really distinctively, specially New Zealand about Guardian of the Dead that makes my knee-jerk reaction to this kind of thing ARGH WHAT WERE THEY THINKING. But I can sort of ******only sort-of***** see how it happened. It is symptomatic of ignorance, and I think we should fight that whenever we see it in ourself, but it doesn’t surprise me all that much. We’re brilliant, but we’re also a very long way from anywhere else.
In elementary school, my classes learned the seven continents, and not much else about the rest of the world. NZ is part of the Australian continent, and I remember not really knowing there were any separate countries there. I knew Europe and Asia had a few different countries (France, Spain Germany, Italy, UK, China, Japan, India), but really my knowledge of countries was really limited on those continents as well. I think we got drilled on countries in North and South America, and I knew there were a bunch of countries in Africa, but most of what I knew about Australia came from things like Crocodile Dundee. We just weren’t taught.
In high school, I have World History, but what that really meant was European history that led up to the US becoming a nation, and then stuff relating to the first and second world wars, and Vietnam and the cold war. Basically, I think since the US hasn’t had that much political and military clashes with Aussies and Kiwis, we don’t learn much about them. And since the continent is called Australia, and the country of Australia is large and has a bigger representation in popular movies, it’s easy for us to assume everything there is one country.
I’m finding all of this really interesting. I’m from the US (but, well, I generally identify myself as “American” and when people correct me I say, “I don’t have another adjective!” Because I’ve never seen USian used outside this blog), but I live in Germany.
I think Americans do identify really strongly with states. I’m from North Carolina, and I’ve certainly introduced myself that way. I had a conversation with someone about it just a few weeks ago, and another reason is that if I say “from the US,” the next question is almost always “what state?” So just skipping ahead, I guess 🙂
I was never really taught geography in school; it was never offered as a course, and in elementary school, we learned the seven continents and that’s pretty much it. But I do remember spending an entire year learning North Carolina history when I was about nine, including the first long-term project I ever had to do in school. More focus on that even than American history. In middle school, I remember learning a bit about Europe and then about the ancient world (Greece, Egypt, Roman Empire) and that’s it. In high school, I had US History and World History (which really was world history in this case–more about the big picture than specific regions, and the only region I don’t remember covering was Australia/NZ other than to mention that convicts were sent to Australia).
I don’t think most Americans are particularly knowledgeable about any geography, even our own, but I don’t think that’s unique to America, either. I mentioned to a German friend that I couldn’t name every state capitol (most, but not all!), and he said, “well, I don’t know the capitols of all 16 Bundesländer, either, and there are only 16.” Bundesländer being German federal states, for those who don’t know. And I’ve certainly encountered the attitude that Africa is a single entity from non-Americans! And these are well-educated people I’m hearing these things from, from all over the world.
People keep going on about the differences between Australia and New Zealand, but my knowledge of both countries is very very limited, and I have to say, I don’t consider myself to be particularly ignorant and I couldn’t really list the differences. I could find them both on a map, but when I think about the two countries, well, the only associations I have are New Zealand: Lord of the Rings, Maori (I saw Whale Rider!), and sheep. Australia: Sydney, great barrier reef, kangaroos, koala bears, various other animals, some history lesson about mistreatment of aborigines that I only now half-remember from a long time ago, a few novels I’ve read set there (Justine’s, Melina Marchetta’s), and the proposed internet filter. Obviously, there’s a lot more there for Australia, but I’m curious–what would you say the differences are? Besides New Zealand having more sheep 😛
Ridiculously long comment, I know. I guess once I got started it was a bit difficult to stop!
Obviously, there’s a lot more there for Australia, but I’m curious–what would you say the differences are?
What would we say the differences are between two nations that are geographically, historically, and culturally distinct?
Well, clearly, the only real difference is that New Zealand Sign language and Māori are not official languages of Australia.
I wasn’t talking about the things I get out of Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook 🙂 Although really, official languages? The sign language part is cool. I meant like….daily life. For example, regarding the two countries I’m familiar with, in Germany everything closes a lot earlier than in the US and there are far fewer processed foods in the grocery store.
Obviously, there’s a lot more there for Australia, but I’m curious–what would you say the differences are?
Oh well, here’s what I know about New York State: it’s on the East Coast, it has a really big city where it’s expensive to live, there’s a big park in the middle, and there’s lots of fashion. Here’s what I know about California: there’s a really big city where they make lots of movies, it’s close to the border with Mexico, there’s a city where they have a really really enormous comics convention. What would you say the differences are between NY and CA? Or between Canada and the USA? Or between the Northwest Territories and South Carolina?
*g* I understand how people who don’t know very much about either Australia or New Zealand could get them confused, and there are certain similarities. But it’s not really possible to list the differences and it’s a bit silly to suggest that anyone could!
I’m not getting them confused; I know the difference geographically and historically and so on, but I’m asking about daily life. It’s not possible to list every difference, but it is possible to point out a few things that are different, I think. I can’t answer for any of the places you listed since I’ve never lived in or spent significant time in them, but I can point out a few differences in the daily life and mindset of people in the two countries where I have lived….And asking for the differences between US states when I ask about countries only emphasizes why people get confused 🙂
“I think this problem of confusing OZ and NZ can be solved by having more NZ authors or novels set in that country published in the U.S.”
My NYC Agent is working his butt off for me trying to make it happened.
Anyway, my review copy arrived today. I saw that it was an Allen and Unwin title so made an assumption it was Australian until I read this first paragraph ‘duvet wrapped around my legs’. Doh! Can’t be set in Oz cause they say doona.
In answer to your question: ignorance of both geography and culture of the two.
Almost completely off topic: Hairy Maclarey from Donaldson’s Dairy is a wonderful example of what happens if you don’t translate key words when publishing in another place. That is, as far as I know, only in New Zealand is a shop that sells ice cream etc called a dairy, yet it makes not a whit of difference that the word is left unchanged for Australian and USian publication.
Also, in New Zealand they say ‘section’ where in Australia we say ‘allotment’ and in the US (I think) they say ‘lot’. ANd yoghurt comes in pottles, which I wish happened here. (That’s not a typo for bottle.)
Jocelyn, the fact that Māori is an official language in New Zealand *is* increasingly a part of everyday life (NZ Sign Language not so much unfortunately (yet?)). Governmental organisations have bilingual names, libraries tend to have bilingual signage; there’s a Māori TV channel; official opening ceremonies are frequently conducted according to Māori protocol and in Māori; and then there’s people who get really annoyed at people daring to speak Māori when they “should” be speaking English.
Climate might be “just” something you can read about in Wikipedia, but the fact that most of Australia is a lot hotter than most of New Zealand is a part of daily life. My Australian friends have mango trees in their backyards; I have peaches and plums. Heavily inhabited parts of Australia frequently have severe droughts and/or forest fires that threaten major cities; New Zealand… not so much. AU weather is more stable because it’s a gigantic landmass; NZ gets four seasons in a day because we’re a couple of islands. This changes how you select what to wear every single morning.
New Zealand is more prone to earthquakes (hence earthquake drills at school) and more vulnerable to tidal waves.
I think an Australian friend once said that over there shops still tend to be shut on Sundays (unless that was just her city), whereas here many shops open on Sundays.
Dialect is different, politics is different, racism is different, soap operas are different, humour is different. Beaches are different, farms are different, forests are different, plant life and animal life is different.
Karen Healey has a lot more to say about the differences over on her blog.
Can I just express my absolute love for Zeborah’s last comment?
To Karen & Justine,
As a Kiwi, born & raised in Wellington, who now lives in Australia and has also lived in US, I couldn’t agree with you both more!
While I have not yet read the book, but viewed the comments by Americans here, I conclude their ignorance is insulting to our distinctive culture…their bad!
The problem is that the NZ Education system is second to none and superior to that of American education at High school level. They have a very high drop-out rate after Year 10 (Form 5).
Couple that with America being a VERY insular nation. For 90% of the population ‘World’s End’ stops at LA on west coast and NY on east coast. Only 10% of the population have passports.
They simply have no interest in rest of World…sad but true.
Also, bear in mind US is 67th down on ‘Freedom of the Press’ list and you never hear what is going on in rest of World through Media unless there has been some catastrophe some place. I had to get online every night to catch-up on World News.
It was a real shock to me to discover this, since our education teaches us about the WHOLE WORLD. From intermediate school I learned the 50 states of US and can still name them all, not only that I know exactly where they are! We also studied American History!…BIG difference in outlook. New Zealanders’ proudly possess a ‘global thinking’ view and are more sophisticated than the average american…believe me!
Most of them have no curiosity whatsoever outside of the box, hence the bigotry we see in American conservative politics …it’s rather pathetic.
Did you know that Kiwis are also the World’s No.1 travellers? Contrary to belief, it has much less to do with geographical isolation as it has to do with our education, ancestral roots and the very adventurous spirit we all share.
I very much look forward to reading your book Karen…Good Luck!
It’s nice to know that obnoxious nationalism at least is not a uniquely USian trait.
You’re correct that the NZ education system is second to none. It’s quite a bit further down the list of international rankings than that. Your intermediate school and your memory must both be very good – I learned the 50 states from Wakko, Yakko and Dot, and I’m still not positive about where to stick most of the Midwest and South.
I’m interested in where you’re getting your facts. This page, for example, has a 2008 paper based on government information indicating that people with passports make up 28% of the US population: http://www.gyford.com/phil/writing/2003/01/31/how_many_america.php
Anecdotally, almost every American I’ve ever spoken to for long, inside or outside their borders, regardless of their knowledge, has been interested in where I’m from and what that’s like.
Marissa at 80: Most of them have no curiosity whatsoever outside of the box, hence the bigotry we see in American conservative politics …it’s rather pathetic.
Wow, that’s a rather sweeping condemnation of a nation of 350 million-odd, Marissa.
As for Justine’s original question, I suspect that some readers assume New Zealand is part of Australia because they don’t know much about the geography and history of the area, and since New Zealand is smaller than Australia and both were British colonies, clearly Australia must be in charge. It makes an odd sort of logic, if you tilt your head sideways.
To Joe Iriarte,
You say: “obnoxious nationalism”, Hahaha.
Yes indeed, most everyone else in the world is every bit as patriotic as Americans, but we are more modestly so.
If you are lucky enough to have been born in such a beautiful country as NZ, which cultivates fairness & open-mindedness, it’s a wonderful feeling. There are over 1M Kiwi Expats living out there in the big wide world and every single one of them watches the AllBlacks’ games whenever they can and shed a tear when we hear our National Anthem and watch the ‘Haka’ been performed. We may very well be a rare human species from a small country, but we pack a punch above our weight on Global stage. We stand united where-ever we may be & immensely proud of our heritage, which taught us how to be World Citizens.
“wow, that’s a rather sweeping condemnation of a nation of 350 million-odd”
I have to ask, are you an American? The population of US is way below that, currently at 309,049,300 according to pop. clock.
Not a sweeping condemnation by any stretch of imagination, that was an exaggeration. Rather it is an observational reality for many Foreigners living or travelling in US.
That’s not to say Americans aren’t friendly and US has great diversity geographically. I had a wonderful time, living in CO and road trips to 15 other states. Unfortunately, I encountered the same the mind-set, one of indifference to outside world. I’ve met many Americans inside & outside of US, and while initially they may feign interest in where you are from, the conversation doesn’t go much past that.
I didn’t say NZ was No.1 on Education World list, but that Kiwis’ are the World’s biggest travellers. NZ’s education system is a great all-rounded one. I believe it is far better than US’s up to end of High school. Wellington has a very high standard of education and the biggest occupation percentage of Wellingtonians is listed as Professionals.
Yes, we covered USA at Immediate school, the States, History and the political system and even visited US Embassy twice.
The 10% of American passport holders has been around for a long time. I went on the link you gave, but if you research it varies considerably between sites.
I can think of three reasons, if as Phil says it’s jumped to 28% according to US consensus in recent years. There is another consensus being conducted this year actually, so I will be watching for more accurate results.
1. US has a huge intake of immigrants per year, which necessitates passports.
2. 15% of population are ‘legal’ Hispanics, of which many go back & forth, particularly from Cali, El Paso TX and Miami. They require passports.
3. All American citizens need a passport to travel to Canada & Mexico now. This has only been the case for the last few years. Prior to that, all they needed was ID.
Karen, I am sorry I’ve gone off on a tangent on this thread. Suffice to say I truly empathise with how you feel.
You wrote a wonderful book set in NZ and in this day & age of internet, it is hard to comprehend that some people would not research New Zealand and educate themselves.
Best to you…
Marissa: I’m an Australian who has lived in the US for the last ten years and I’m sorry but none of my friends or acquaintances here has ever been as obnoxiously patriotic about their country as you’re being obnoxiously patriotic about New Zealand in this thread. I say that as someone who happens to love the USA and New Zealand and Australia for that matter. But I’m well aware of the flaws of each of those countries. No country is without them.
I know plenty of Kiwis who don’t care about sport, let alone rugby and the AllBlacks. Also New Zealanders are not a “human species”. I hope that was a joke. In fact, I hope all your comments are an elaborate parody of jingoism because they’re absurd.
As for “We stand united where-ever we may be & immensely proud of our heritage, which taught us how to be World Citizens.”
Give me a break. No country stands united. No country is without dissent. And if they are I call fascism. No country’s citizens are uniformly proud of their heritage and no country has just one heritage. If your notion of being a World Citizen is to boast about your country’s unique fabulosity and piss on other countries, well, um, good luck with that.
If your comments continue in this vein, Marissa, I’m cutting you off. This is your only warning.
I have seen exactly one full All Blacks game in my life, and I have never cried at the national anthem, and I am no less a NZer than you. New Zealand is a diverse nation, and there are many ways to be a New Zealander, none of which mandate unthinking allegiance to an unrealistically utopian ideal of unity and a mistaken belief that our nation is universally devoted to open-mindedness and fairness.
Indeed, I rather hope that I am *more* of a NZer than you; ie, that you are some sort of non-Kiwi troll trying to disrupt this thread, because otherwise you are being a *terrible* cultural ambassador for the country I love so much.
I’m an American who lived and traveled extensively in Australia and New Zealand — and is well aware of the phenomenal differences between those two nations. I loved how in those countries (NZ especially) there was a real culture of travel established. It was expected that NZ youth would travel outside of their homeland for a time. We don’t necessarily have that in the US, but we also have such a huge country with so much diversity of people and environments that you can do a pretty good job of broadening your horizons without crossing national borders. Detroit is not the same place as Arizona is not the same place as Alabama is not the same place as Kansas.
I also realize that my ability to participate in extended international travel is a product of my privilege. Most of my relatives have not traveled outside of their country. There are lots of people who would love to travel and can’t because of financial, career, and family obligations. That’s why people like Karen write books set in distant lands — people can’t always go to New Zealand, but they can read about it. And they CERTAINLY DO.
I am sorry, Marissa, if the Americans you met seemed disinterested in learning about another country. I urge you not to judge all Americans by that marker, as I do not judge all Australians, or even all Queenslanders, by a few bigoted people I met in Cairns.
Guardian of the Dead is book that evokes modern and mythic New Zealand very powerfully. Highly recommend it. For me, despite living just three hours by plane from NZ I only visited the country earlier this year.
Believe me, it’s not like Australia. Mostly in a good way. The people are, sorry to say, much nicer. Not as aggressive or in-your-face. Some things take a little more time (public transport?) but some things are worth waiting for. Like the icecream,which is everywhere and excellent. It was nice to see rivers with water in them, too.
I thought visiting NZ a bit like visiting the cousins. They are related but certain things they do ever-so-slightly differently. And NZ-ers are producing some great YA fiction – yes you KH, Bernard Beckett and Kate di Goldi.