Thursday, 19 January 2012

Tall Poppy Syndrome

I had a very interesting and informative coffee date yesterday. I met with a fellow American in the mental health field who shared what her experience has been like transitioning from the States. She told me about how different she found the work culture to be here. She talked about the Tall Poppy Syndrome which a couple months ago would have meant nothing to me. The good news is, it isn't two months ago so I actually knew what she was talking about .
 I have heard it a few times since coming to this strange but beautiful country. Basically the Tall Poppy Syndrome is the idea that standing tall or above the rest is seen as a negative. From my understanding, self promotion, knowing your strengths, and being able to communicate them in a direct way would be looked down up. Basically, wanting to be the best you can be, whether you are in the army or not. Clearly you can see how different Kiwi values and attitudes are from Americans.
I got the opportunity to go to a very interesting presentation one of the first weeks I was here and it talked all about New Zealand culture and the values Kiwis hold most dear. Among them were: love of the land and outdoors, a DIY approach, a defining masculinity that is inclusive of both men and women, being non-confrontational, and the idea of this Tall Poppy Syndrome.
I recently met two sisters who moved their design business from the US to New Zealand and had an actual client request that the work they do for him "be good, but not too good." Can you imagine giving that directive?! I mean the only time I would say that to someone was if it was for a plagiarism job and Stephen Hawking was the person I had hired to complete my science report.
It's fascinating, this desire to not stand out and force yourself to blend in. Everyone (except the Kiwis I guess) know there is a line between confident and cocky, simply letting your light shine and shining your light in someone's face. People, get your shine on.
Lucky for me I'm still a hot blooded American and this Tall Poppy Sydrome has not gotten to me so I can tell you that last night we had  two, that's right TWO, offers to do something. This means that I actually had to turn a social invitation down. I also take this to mean that our Poppies were standing pretty tall and that I might have a fuller calendar sooner then I thought.
What we got to do last night was attend a low key work function at a beautiful home in the country and eat fresh fish caught that day. Who were these mysterious fishermen? Well none other then Adam and Blair and a few other skilled lads.  Blair is our one shared friend mentioned in an earlier post. He is awesome. Here we are about to enjoy some Snapper.

Here is a picture of me actually enjoying their catch. I learned an easy way to de-bone a snapper that I will keep up my sleeve should I need to break out any party tricks at my next social gathering.

On a completely different note, I've gone and sprained my ankle. I've never sprained anything before except for a finger in the 4th grade trying to do a flip over my friend Rachel's back. Too bad the circus had already rolled through town that week or my life could have taken a very different course. I was running and hit an uneven patch of sidewalk, a very common (according to the Internet) and uninteresting (according to me) way to sprain an ankle. Which is why I really don't have too much to say about it accept that it hurts and that Adam is a skilled Ace Bandage wrapper. I made myself laugh by singing to him while he wrapped -  "Doctor Doctor give me the news I got a bad case of loving you."

Thanks to my dear friend Stephanie, real doctor extraordinaire, who gave me a good prognosis and assured me I won't be Tiny Tim-ing it for too long.


  1. So interesting! While I was in China, a friend told me they have a saying there: "the bird that flies ahead of the flock gets shot down." Same philosophy as "Tall Poppy Syndrome" which sounds much prettier.

    Miss you and love reading about what you're doing! xoxoxox

    ps - sorry you sprained your ankle. feel better :(

  2. Thanks Rach! Agreed, the Kiwi version is prettier but yes sounds like same idea. Miss you!

  3. this made me laugh least three times. keep that witty poppy standing tall.