Positive Identity Reinforcement

Identity Anxiety.

Identity Anxiety.

Closely linked with ‘Taking Ourselves Seriously‘, a trait unique to the Kiwi psyche is the need for constant, positive reinforcement about just how great a country it is. This is probably because, deep down, most Kiwis have a niggling fear that it might actually be a bit shit.

Travel though a country such as Great Britain, and the first question the locals will ask you is ‘What the f**k are you doing taking a holiday in this crap-hole?’.  Travel round New Zealand, and the first question locals ask is “Isn’t it great? Are you having a wonderful time?”.

Not unlike a teenage girl with low self-esteem, Kiwis are always seeking out compliments about their country. It is thought this personality disorder is a common symptom among all colonial countries, but is particularly prevalent in New Zealand – the youngest and smallest of the group of countries colonised in the last 500 years (which includes Australia, Canada, USA etc).

A country of immigrants, the need for Positive Identity Reinforcement is a result of the long and uncertain process that preceeds the desicion to pack up everything and seek out a better life on the other side of the world. Forever plagued by the nagging worry that one might have made the wrong choice, immigrants to NZ seek constant reassurance that their adopted home is totally awesome, and that leaving their cold/overcrowded/racially-troubled motherland was definitely the right thing to do.

This trait is passed down through the generations, until it disperses and is replaced by the sort of blind, flag-waving, cock-suredness evident in Australia or USA. NZ has a way to go before reaching this state of harmonius equilibrium.

A word of note: If travelling New Zealand, do not, under any circumstances,  answer a question such as ‘Isn’t it great’, with something like ‘Actually it’s a bit quiet, out of the way, and not as sunny as Australia’. Kiwis have not yet developed either a robust sense of irony, or cast-iron self belief, and you may bring about a deep period of depression in the person asking the question, or, at the very least, a firm fist in the face.


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  5. Matthew

    Heh. On the flipside, 99.6% of people outside New Zealand (out of those who’ve actually heard of the place) will respond to you saying you’re a kiwi with ‘Oh that’s such a beautiful country – I wish I could go there – What is it like to live there?’.. To which you should always reply ‘It’s shit’. @matthewjctalbot

  6. LMAO

    This comment was originally posted onPurse Lip Square Jaw

  7. You Canadians just need to harden up.

    This comment was originally posted onPurse Lip Square Jaw

  8. chui

    Your article so true! and when asked ‘how do you like new zealand’ immigrants must never use the kiwi expression ‘its not bad’!!

  9. A Kiwi friend Tweeted Selwyn’s article and this “blind, flag-waving, cock-sure” Aussie felt motivated to respond.

    Selwyn says Kiwis suffer from a post-colonial lack of confidence in their country and their place in the world – but I reckon those of us on the other side of the ditch (dutch?!) are pretty much the same.

    Sure, our country is bigger and maybe sunnier, but we’re only 200-odd years out from colonisation, and I think there’s still a bit of an inferiority complex going on at some level, because we’re a very outward-looking country.

    Up until the 1960s, Aussies looked towards England as the mother country, and in recent years this focus has turned towards the US.

    Our media is saturated with US sitcoms, dramas and crime shows, and our journo’s constantly cover US events. Barack Obama’s recent gaffe about a police arrest got as much coverage as if it was our own PM in the hotseat.

    Our young people leave Oz in droves to tour and work overseas, and a sizeable proportion don’t come back.

    In recent years, Aussie films have died at the box office because not enough of us want to see stories about our own country.

    Sure, you’ll get a fair bit of blind patriotism and flag waving at big sporting events (and maybe on Australia Day – which is, ironically – a celebration of colonisation) but apart from that, I don’t see the kind of cock-suredness that Selwyn talks about.

    Whilst I rail against the Aussie fixation with mediocrity in any endeavour outside sport, I don’t believe we’re a blindly patriotic or cock-sure country. That crown, surely, must belong to good ole’ Uncle Sam.

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