Knocking New Zealand

Grauniad travel writer shakes international relations

Posted: 7 March 2002
by Maria Thomas

A bit of a random news snippet for you, but it raised a smile here.

Young Grauniad travel writer Ellie Levenson managed to catapult herself to 'Public Enemy number 1' status in New Zealand this week when she condemned the country as "essentially the dullest place on earth".

Somehow Ellie managed to spend three weeks in a country renowned for its combination of great natural beauty, mountains, valleys and sea, without taking advantage of the fantastic opportunities for climbing, trekking, scrambling, mountain walking, mountain biking, surfing and sailing (to name but a few options).

23-year-old Ellie's opinion of the country: "parts of it are very nice to look at indeed. It just lacks something. Personality, perhaps?" has created a major stink in New Zealand. News website struck back with: "We can point out that some things in English life are as dull as ditchwater. Some of its people barely leave town, let alone the country. One who did, cricket legend Geoff Boycott, set out to become the dullest batsman on Earth. Their favourite characters are the likes of Mr Bean and Basil Fawlty. When the US had Dallas and Dynasty, the BBC came up with EastEnders. So if New Zealand is dull, England's up there with us."

Apparently the Guardian's servers have been inundated with hate mail from irate Kiwis and New Zealand-loving tourists alike. Ellie's comments also drew criticism from New Zealand's tourism minister, who said that if she found it dull then she couldn't have seen much when she was there.

You can see why they might be a little peeved, who on earth could go to New Zealand for three weeks and be bored?

Well, there's probably plenty of city-loving people like Ellie who may find the smallish cities of New Zealand somewhat lacking on the cosmopolitan bustle side of things. But it begs the question, if you're not the outdoors type, then why on earth try to entertain yourself in a mecca of outdoors and 'adventure' activity? Surely the most basic attempt at reading up before-hand would have given the travel diarist a good idea of what to expect? But then, maybe she's sceptical about travel journalism...

You can check out what all the fuss is about here.

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Discuss this story

The Grauniads net jetters have won a competition to send them around the world for free. In return they write a short column each week in the Travel Section. I've read quite a few of these, usually in disgust. The comments made about New Zealand were not the first time I smacked my hand to my head and thought 'who are these people?'. The columns are regularly nothing but a list of moans - it makes you wonder why they bothered going travelling in the first place. Shame on the Grauniad's judges - they picked a couple of right dunces. Now of course if they'd like to pay me to go to New Zealand.....

Posted: 08/03/2002 at 13:35

I read that piece by Ellie Netjetter with mounting disbelief - why on earth is she spending a year travelling round the world at the Guardian's expense, something I guess most people would regard as the opportunity of a lifetime, if she is unable to find anything good to say about the places she finds herself? Her comments about New Zealand bordered on the surreal - she seemed to be annoyed that there was no local equivalent of London, something I would regard as a major point in its favour, and her dismissal of the natural wonders as pretty but boring made me wonder what she does regard as worthwhile.

Posted: 11/03/2002 at 09:42

Talkback: Knocking New Zealand

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