Talking with my host mom, it seems that New Zealand basically just gets it. And by “it” I mean almost everything.
1. Gun laws – Anyone who wants a gun, mostly just for hunting, has to go through the police to get a special license. With that license, people are required to store their guns in safes and keep the magazines in a completely separate location. They are also required to keep the key to that safe in a separate location, as well. People just don’t own guns here unless they’re farmers. The police don’t even carry guns or wear bullet -proof vests. Melanie (my host mother) said it’s national news if someone is held at gunpoint in a burglary or shot and she can’t remember any time that she’s heard of a child accidentally shooting themselves or another by getting a hold of a gun. When I was talking about the gun violence in the US my host sister, 14, said “oh my gosh! I would be so scared to live there!” Which, compared to here, makes total sense.
2. Healthcare – Healthcare is basically free. If you have an accident, all of your costs will by covered by the Accident Compensation Act. Even if you’re a tourist. If you have major medical procedures, for example if you had cancer, all of your costs are covered. That’s if you don’t have health insurance. If you do have private health insurance, you can bypass the long waiting lists for big procedures and it will cost you a whopping $700 a year. That’s roughly 60 bucks a month. They pay about $6 for three months of birth control. We pay about $80 for one month of birth control uninsured and about $12 insured. Oh and they get 14 paid weeks of maternity leave and 38 unpaid weeks. That’s 52 weeks. That’s about a whole year.
Dental work, however, is not free. See potential future post titled “Getting a Root Canal in New Zealand.”
3. Welfare – Not having an intimate understanding of our own welfare system, this tidbit is offered with a grain of salt. In New Zealand, when you apply for assistance it is mandatory that you take a class on how to prepare quality and inexpensive meals. According to Melanie, you can apply for assistance three times throughout the year. If you need to apply a second time, they provide mandatory budgeting classes. You also have to prove that you are applying for jobs as you collect assistance money. And if you lose a job offer due to a drug test, you lose your assistance. Instead of testing everyone on welfare for drugs, they let the companies that they are applying for foot that cost. Kinda makes sense.
Other Fun Facts:
- New Zealand was the first country in the world to legally allow women to vote. Kate Sheppard, the woman who led the movement in New Zealand, is on their $10 bill.
- They are absolutely appalled at the starting salary for our teachers. While our starting salaries are around $25,000, their minimum starting salaries are around $40,000 NZD (roughly $35,000 USD).
- They don’t need to pay for water in their utilities because there’s just so darn much of it.
Oh and whenever it gets a little bit chilly everyone starts up their fires making the air smell like a delicious, tropical bonfire.