Listen up New Zealanders. Yes, you lot that read my blog. I know from the Clustr map installed on this blog that New Zealand by far outweighs any other country when it comes to readers. So Kiwis – read this post, smile smugly and know that we live in the best country on the planet.

If you’re new to this blog, a refresher is in order. In May 2010, I moved from Australia to New Zealand. To the South Island. Near Christchurch. Yep, The Quake City. You read right – an Australian voluntarily moving to NZ. Shock, horror! Mostly, Aussies stay in Australia and Kiwis invade us. (And if you’re a Kiwi thinking of moving to Oz, read this). But I decided that I wanted a more sustainable lifestyle, in a smaller country with plenty of space and clean air. My Aussie mates told me I was bonkers to move from the land of Oz. But move I did.

My parents and grandparents, in fact the whole of La Familia, were born in New Zealand. I’m the black sheep of the family but have always been an NZ citizen (by descent) and travelled on an NZ passport. I’ve never had an Australian passport. So to some extent, I’ve always considered myself a Kiwi (although I’ve met with people in the South Island who tell me nah, you can’t ever be a Kiwi, you’re Australian). Whatever.

Now that I’m living for a couple of months in Italy, I’m going to tell you Kiwis – we have it pretty damn good. Sure, the economy might be in the toilet but hey, look at Portugal, Spain, Italy and the US. They’ve practically flushed themselves down the loo. And Australia – well, I’ve always thought that Oz would one day not be the strong economy it appears to be. May not be such a smart move to tie Oz more closely to China considering China is vulnerable to the US, courtesy of its huge exposure to American debt.

Enough economics. Here in Italy, sure I’m surrounded by wonderful, ancient Roman ruins. The Italians are a vibrant, chic lot. No doubt about it. The women here sure know how to dress and accessorize. And the chaps are pretty snappy dressers too (unless they’re some oily old goat with a belly and gold chains, wolf-whistling the Italian girls as they go by). But unless you’re well-off, seems to me they all live in cat boxes and have very little land. In Rome, it’s apartment living and I’ve seen some dodgy apartments. Even the villa apartment I’m renting, in a good area, has issues. For example, the kitchen is basically a bench with a microwave and tiny gas stove. The rooms are small and you have to be a mountain goat to get up and down the teensy weensy spiral staircase that connects the two levels. The trains are packed, with passengers stacked like sardines.

You have to be very wary of thieves and pickpockets on crowded public transport. They target Metro stations, particularly Termini (the main train station in Rome) and the various bus stops around tourist destinations. Because transport is so crowded, the unwary tourist or foreigner is clinging on for dear mercy, whilst very practiced thieves are making your pockets lighter or stealing your wallet. I’ve been told by colleagues at work to watch out for the Gypsies. And I’m not talking gaze-into-the-crystal ball, scarf wearing, bracelet jangling Gypsies. I’m talking very well-dressed Gypsies who hang out in upmarket places like Via Condotti (where all the brands are). Now, there’s probably some anti-Gypsy sentiment going on here but I’m telling you what I’ve been told. Of course, any urban area these days has thieves and pickpockets but, fellow Kiwi, don’t know about you but I feel pretty safe in the streets of Wellington or Main Street Oxford.

And don’t get me started on the food. It’s pasta. More pasta. Then more pasta. Oh and gelato. Oh and pizza. After a week in Rome, I was literally dreaming of Pad Thai or a good chook curry. International cuisine is not necessarily on the Roman radar. Even good old Rangiora, a mere half hour from my home in rural Oxford NZ has a pretty good Indian restaurant. I can think of quite a few places to go, within say a 40 minute drive from Oxford, where I’ll get different cuisines made from lovely fresh produce.

My great mate and I were discussing the monotony of Italian food via email and she had me ROFLMAO with this pithy observation:

“It’s like the Greeks: they invented democracy, built the Parthenon and called it a day. I guess they (the Italians) feel the wake of achievement is so impressive they can focus on their food, football and politics.

Back to the land. In NZ, particularly in the South Island, it’s wide-open spaces, crystal clear air, stunning, rolling scenery. You have the very real possibility of buying a section (10 acres) or more. So you can have sheep (a good Kiwi must have sheep); goats, horses, cattle, even llamas. You can grow a decent-sized vege patch. New Zealanders are very friendly people (discounting the occasional whacko I’ve encountered). We have it good Kiwis. Despite the occasional quake. Or tornado. Or bitterly cold southerly blast that is said to be a one in fifty year event.

Okay there’s more variety here in Italy. The fashion is amazing. But Italy has Silvio Berlusconi with that dyed hair. He makes John Key look positively Presidential in comparison (actually I like our PM).

So I don’t want to hear Aussie envy just because of their higher salaries and sunnier climate. Stop whingeing and cringing because good old little remote New Zealand, the Land of the Long White Cloud, is the country to be in. Let’s keep it our secret Kiwis.

Ooooh look: yet another FRIGGIN' BLOODY DISH OF PASTA.