Australia and New Zealand can feel tucked away at the end of the world in the southern hemisphere. These two nations share a common language, are members of the British Commonwealth, have the Queen’s face on their currency and the Union Jack and Southern Cross in their flags.
The different histories, physical geographies and climates of these two nations seem to only partially explain their very distinct characters. One Aussie I met remarked that his nation’s character was forged by its origins as a penal colony. That struck me as being at odds with the generally sunny disposition of
Even within the countries themselves you can begin to detect subtle differences as you travel to different regions. And that’s one of the things I enjoy most about travel—this opportunity to observe people and the way environment and geography influence their character.
Once you get past those common threads however, these are two nations with some very distinct differences. Australia is a massive continent; New Zealand comprises two islands about one tenth of Australia’s land mass; Australia is almost 80% desert; New Zealand is wet, green and mountainous; Australia northernmost point pokes into the tropics at 20 degrees south; New Zealand’s southern tip sits at 53 degrees south.
Flying from subtropical Sydney to temperate Christchurch, on New Zealand’s South Island, feels like quite a change. Not just in terms of climate, but also in terms of temperament. It could be said that the Aussie personality is large and expansive, like the continent. New Zealanders, or ‘Kiwis’, after the national bird and fruit, on the other hand, can seem more circumspect and quiet in comparison.
Oceania is more a region than a specific place. Spanning both the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, it includes Polynesia,Melanesia and Micronesia as well as Australasia. A fun little fact to consider: In all of Oceania there are 41 million people — about the same as the population of California.