On being quiet in one of the friendliest, most outgoing cities in the world

I started reading Quiet by Susan Cain on my second week in Auckland, where I am based until 2017. It’s the perfect book for this phase of my life. My introversion is such a contrast to the reality of this mega-friendly city . The book is giving me some kind of validation – that it’s perfectly fine and acceptable to be an introvert. Sadly, I’m finding it difficult to squeeze in non-academic reading so I haven’t made much progress with the book. Nonetheless, the chapters I’ve read so far are packed with well-researched, interesting examples and arguments. The book does a good job tackling extroversion and how/why our society thrives in it and how introverts are amazing too except we have no choice but to live in/with the world “that can’t stop talking”.

I’m from the Philippines. Filipinos are quite friendly. We are very warm but we usually save that demeanor for loved ones, special visitors, foreigners, balikbayans, or people we regard highly. On normal days, we keep to ourselves. We are not friendly to strangers, we do not talk to people in public transit, we barely say hi to that co-worker we see everyday. We’re not really friends with them so why start a conversation now?

Kiwis on the other hand are a sociable bunch. They love small talk. They will talk to anyone and show genuine interest in what the other is saying. My Kiwi flatmate, a very sweet and smart girl, always asks me how my day is going whenever we see each other (so that’s every single day!). Some days, she also asks me how my family is doing and she seems genuinely concerned.

They ask how’s it going like it’s their job. I never know how to answer. I feel unprepared every time even if the casual chat comes up every day!

They also have no problem inviting people they barely know to activities usually spent with close friends or family (at least in the case of less outgoing societies). These range from playing cards at someone’s flat to a big hike somewhere outside the city. We have a Facebook group for residents living in my student accommodation. 75% of the posts are residents inviting other residents to come join some kind of activity. “Anyone keen to…“, and people reply “I’m keen“, like, all, the, time.

It’s a consistent trait I find in  many people I meet here, many of whom are not natural-born Kiwis, but immigrants or children of immigrants. I guess that’s exactly why they’re friendly. They know from experience how it’s like to move to a new place. Being surrounded by warm, friendly people definitely helps newcomers in adjusting and feeling less lonely.

I’ve been here almost a month and I still find it fascinating how it’s so natural for New Zealanders to be sociable. For introverts, we have to work hard at it. Because life. Because genes. Because historicity or whatever that means. I’m not outgoing and “keen” enough and I doubt that will ever change.

Last weekend, I met a couple of Filipinos my age who were introduced to me by a common friend. We had dinner and drinks and we talked about life in Auckland. One of them is new like me and the other has been living in NZ for 8-9 years. We talked about New Zealand being different from the country we grew up in. The topic of being outgoing kept coming up. I admitted to being “shy”, so they spent the night convincing me to be the opposite because that’s how it is here, that it will be good for me and it will make make my stay more exciting if I become more sociable, if I meet new people and go out a lot. We made plans to do exactly that even if in my head I knew I am going to regret it and eventually back out.

I did not tell them about introversion and how some people don’t mind not meeting new people (or even close friends) for long periods of time. How some people prefer spending their Friday nights by themselves, doing nothing and still find it enjoyable. How I would love to go on road trips but I’m not really interested in clubbing or drinking (except I surprisingly liked the summer ale beer I ordered that night, I think I’d love to try it another time but maybe not in a few weeks, or months).

This is an exact manifestation of what Susan Cain says in the book. Introversion is perceived as a negative trait. We’re made to feel we’re lacking as individuals if we are not extroverted. We are then encouraged, sometimes, forced, to try to “overcome” the “shyness”.

“Aya, why are you so quiet in class?”, my professor asked me yesterday. I wanted to say “I’m not very comfortable sharing my thoughts in class. It takes me a while to formulate what I have to say. I’m also an easily anxious person (anxiety is different from introversion, so I also have that to deal with), and I’m not very articulate so even when I have something insightful or interesting to say, I get so nervous that I fumble for words and it comes out not the way I formulated it in my head, which makes me even more nervous and self-conscious.” 

Except I did not say that. I just told her I’d rather listen to what others have to say, which is true. My classes are very interesting, although heavy on the readings. Most if not all my classmates are participative, sharing what’s on their minds without any hint of reluctance. Very often they have good insights and make good arguments. I’m learning so much just from listening actually. Introverts are good at listening and I hope more people gave us credit for that.

Going back to university has been a struggle for me — mentally, emotionally, physically and socially. But at least I’m not at Harvard Business School. Susan Cain studied how it was at HBS and it goes without saying that people there are overflowing with confidence and social skills and the introverts have to feign confidence and enthusiasm to survive. If they are not inherently extroverts, they are trained to appear as one.

My brother, who is also an introvert but has done a great job developing his communication and social skills, told me I should enjoy reciting and reporting in class because those are “Life Skills”. I agree. Learning how to speak well and make good presentations are necessary because our society made talking such a big deal…

I’m still struggling to come to terms with my introversion. The book is very helpful in that sense so I really hope to get back at it.

For now, excuse me while I cancel a Tinder meet-up………….

 

 

 

NZ Newbie

I’ve been in New Zealand for 11 days (in Auckland to be exact) and so far it’s been interesting, laid-back but also tiring (probably my body coping with the changes), eye-opening and still surreal. It’s bound to get stressful once classes start. I don’t think I’ll be able to post regularly. For now, I suppose I can tell you my first impressions of NZ:

Everything is Expensive

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Mission Bay establishments

I’m extremely fortunate to be here, barely shelling out my own money for living expenses because I am on a full scholarship. Thank goodness because everything is way more expensive than what I’m used to back home.

It really stood out how pricey it is when I got pot holders from The Warehouse, an “affordable” go-to store for most home and personal needs. The cheapest was 9 NZD for a pair. That is approximately Php 270! You can buy pot-holders for less than 1 NZD in the Philippines!

Every trip to the supermarket or any shops for that matter is a painful experience because my brain automatically calculates the Peso equivalent of everything.

I won’t even dwell on the cost of food and eating out. Let’s just say, masakit sa bulsa.

EthniCITY

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Lantern Festival at Auckland Domain

It’s so easy to blend in in Auckland. It’s a very diverse city home to Kiwis/Maoris, Pacific Islanders, Southeast Asians, Chinese, Indians, Europeans, etc. In my university alone, there are more than 6000 international students! I’m flatmates with a local from Christchurch, a Chinese girl from Japan and a Danish exchange student (who are all super nice by the way!).

Being multicultural means there’s an array of Asian supermarkets and dining places all over the city. I’m happy to find a Daiso here! It’s still more expensive than the Philippines/Japan but cheaper than most stores (a pot holder is 3.50 NZD huhuhu). They sell tabo! I love Daiso!!!

And since almost everyone’s from a different background and speaks a second language, no one’s judging your accent or grammar in casual conversations. University has higher standards though so I need to brush up on academic English.

Sunsets and sunscreen

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On top of “One Tree Hill” at around 7PM

All my life I’m used to the sun rising and setting at around 5 or 6 and that is more or less fixed throughout the year so my body gets a bit confused when it’s not yet dark past 7PM in Auckland. During summer, the sun sets in New Zealand at past 8PM. I also don’t understand Daylight Savings Time. Nonetheless, they have epic sunsets.

There is literally more sunshine in New Zealand in terms of daylight hours (longer days in the summer) and when it comes to UV rays. The sun’s harsher here! Wearing SPF is a must.

There’s the body clock issue too. I haven’t completely adjusted to the time difference. 5 hours is still 5 hours so I keep falling asleep around 2AM and waking up at noon or later.

There’s still so much to see and do in Auckland but I also cannot wait to explore outside this city! Itching to go to South Island actually but there’s time for that. I’ll be here for almost 2 years which is both scary and exciting!

[Edit]

I feel like I need to say something about the public transport and traffic in Auckland as those are the top 2 things I hate most about Metro Manila and why I wanted to get out in the first place. Auckland also has “traffic” but it’s nothing compared to Manila. Actually, I think most of the traffic/slow movement is only caused by stoplights and evident during rush hour when vehicles fill up the roads. Most offices close at 4 or 5 while  shops close at 8 latest so that’s also different from what I’m used to in Manila.

I barely ride the bus and I don’t have a car or bike so I just walk all the time so no traffic for me! Yay! I don’t mind walking but a lot of the walks are uphill. Auckland is very hilly and it can get exhausting but hey, instant exercise!