We decided we're going to try and summarize our experience in each country with a list of pros and cons. This one is a tad old by now, but oh well!
The list of pros for NZ are extensive:
1)Jaw dropping natural scenery. Everyone on the North Island said the South Island was even prettier but I had a REALLY hard time imagining that to be possible. But now I believe it...we've gone from lush greenery and rolling hills to giant snow capped mountains plunging directly down into the the clearest, bluest ocean/lake/river (insert your preferred body of water here) you've probably ever seen.
2)The Kiwis we run into are truly the friendliest, most helpful people who genuinely take an interest and joy in helping you along your way.
3)The fruit (Anya, you would die!). We bought a 20 lb. bag of KeriKeri oranges (the area is dotted with orchards) for $3 USD and they are the sweetest, juiciest oranges I've ever tasted. They are like candy! We've been eating them for breakfast/lunch/snacks/dessert for weeks now and they haven't gone bad. The kiwis are juicy and amazing (and inexpensive) too.
4)The exchange rate. It's bounced around a tad since we've been here, ranging from .52 to .62 cents on the dollar. Nice.
5)The birds. There must be a gazillion different types of birds in NZ, all with their own sound and personality. When they get going together, it's really something. We seemed to wake up to a cacophony every morning, no matter where we were. I had an existential moment listening to the birds one night, but when I've tried to convey the experience to anyone else, they all look at me with the crazy eyes, so I'll keep it to myself. It was an amazing moment though. Now that I think about it, I've had a few bonding moments with the wildlife on this trip so far.
6)NZ is a very environmentally friendly place, which the hippie in me absolute loves. Every toilet (even in gas stations, campgrounds) has a half flush option. Rarely will you find paper towels for drying, and the superpowered airdryers dry your hands in a flash. Recycling is generally easy to find, everyone uses cloth shopping bags, and the population is conscientious enough to pick up after themselves. In general, it seems much less wasteful in terms of nearly everything. It's refreshing. They are obviously aware of this treasure of beauty they are living on, and intend to do whatever they can to keep it that way.
Cons (aka things America does better):
1)Single ply toilet paper. Wow, I didn't realize how much I appreciated that nifty little invention until it was gone! Eeeevery once in a while we'll stumble upon a place with double your pleasure two-ply and it really feels like Christmas when that happens!
2)Sand flies! These buggers are so small you don't see them coming but boy do they leave a lasting impression. They love to snack on our feet and ankles, leaving itchy welts that last for WEEKS. They are like the mosquito's evil cousin.
3)This is one I've yet to figure out – the faucet sinks are nearly always separated out into two taps. This means that you can't have a happy medium temperature when washing hands, doing dishes, etc. It's either scalding hot and removing layers of skin or freezing cold so that you can't feel your fingers after washing. This is not a better solution! Not only that, the taps are usually always very short in length so that the water runs at the very back edge of the sink which makes getting hands and especially dishes actually INTO the water stream somewhat of a feat.
So all this being said, the pros of New Zealand infinitely outweigh the cons. It has been one of our favorite places to visit so far and we HIGHLY recommend it.