The first-year of uni, I lived on the corner of Queen Street and K’Road – where we were woken by drunken domestics, smashed glass, and some dude (with a beautiful, but incredibly loud, voice) singing a waiata at four in the morning.
Moving to Auckland was an adjustment. And I didn’t even have to move all that far. Auckland “Super City” (which still sounds like an off-brand Gotham) swallowed my beach town in 2010, but that didn’t stop everyone I knew decrying ‘Bloody Aucklanders.’
Traffic? Bloody Aucklanders. Overpopulated beaches? Bloody Aucklanders. Increased housing prices?
Yeah, so, retrospectively, a lot of the things we complained about weren’t that far from the complaints of every other Auckland dwelling citizen. Our inclusion into Auckland city limits may have been more justified than we would have liked to admit.
For those of you coming to this city for the first time, here is one (highly bias) account of what to expect. By the end of your degree, like the ever-expanding limits of Auckland’s edges, you too may find yourself unwittingly included in the pejorative term ‘JAFA.’
Con: In the city, you don’t know everyone, which can feel like you don’t know anyone. You can’t just walk to the dairy and bump into primary school friends, your old neighbour, and that family you cat-sat for once. There’s no easy community to fall into, you’ve got to put in the effort to create your own.
Pro: In the city, not everyone knows you! You can go for a run through the domain without your old school teacher telling your mum, “Oh! It’s just so great Gabrielle’s getting out there!” Anonymity is its own kind of freedom.
Con: Town’s a bit shit. Go out on Wednesday nights. Hit up all the usual suspects, Bar 101, Shads, graduate to Cassette 9 or one of those fancy places by the Viaduct. After a while, it all starts to feel a bit familiar.
Pro: Town’s great! Second-year, I started to check out some $10 gigs at Gelatos, the Wine Cellar, and Anthology Lounge. Sometimes I’d venture to a bougie café one bus ride into the suburbs – I could have a good time and be home by midnight (hell yeah!). Auckland Fringe is on right now: go to a weird artsy play, go to the Tuesday night poetry at the Thirsty Dog, catch some comedy. In Auckland, people are always trying to show off the cool shit they’ve made, and it’s fun to be in on it. Kind of like an inside joke, or discovering a book before the movie adaption – there’s a satisfaction to it you might not want to admit.
Con: Auckland is loud. A lot is going on, all the time. When I moved to Auckland I fell out of the habit of checking the tides as if they were the weather. I stopped writing in my journal. Everything was happening all at once, always.
Pro: It’s not that far to go to escape Auckland’s loudness. I recommend a West Coast beach, the Pinnacles (if you have a car), or the top of one of Auckland’s many volcanoes. There are spaces in Auckland that give you space. If you need that room to breathe, seek them out.
Overall, Auckland City gets a 3.9-star rating.
It took me a while to admit that I love this city, it’s just way more fun to rag on. I didn’t want to be included in the Chemex coffee drinking, perpetually frowning, aggressive driving masses. But I have a Theory™️ about the Auckland JAFAs:
Aucklanders only suck outside of Auckland. It’s when to take your learned aggressive driving cus-damn-it-if-you’re-gonna-miss-that-one-free-carpark-left-on-Princes-St to small-town Ohope that it turns from a survival technique to an all-round dick move. You can’t smile at everyone on Queen Street, unless you want to be pulled into a non-consensual hug by a strange man at the bus stop. Things I, unfortunately, learned the hard way.
But there are moments – killing time in-between classes at Albert Park, walking out of a gig off K’Road with my mates, and even, on the way to work, just sitting in the front seat of a 300 bus at 6 am – moments that I’ve felt like an Aucklander. By that I mean, I felt as if I have some sort of ownership over this city, I care what happens here, I want to see it better, and I want to see it grow.
All I really know is that, last week, I was driving towards the harbour bridge at night. My Toyota Vitz doesn’t have a speaker, so I was blasting music from a slowly dying UE boom. I wound down my windows slightly, slowed to see the skyline, and at that moment, I loved this city. Although a part of me still hates to say it, I felt like I was coming home.