The Armpit of New Zealand?

A lot of travel blogs include a post or two on the benefits of visiting the author’s hometown, a “tourist in my own town” kind of thing. This isn’t one of those. This is more of a “in defense of my town even though it does have its drawbacks” kind of post.

Palmerston North has long been on the recieving end of disparaging jokes. It is flat and grey, windy like Wellington without the saving grace of being a quirky capital city, and some might even call it the “armpit of New Zealand.” Comedian John Cleese once famously (and rather distastefully) said that “If you ever do want to kill yourself, but lack the courage, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick.” The citizens of this city got him back by naming a rubbish dump after him.

But despite all of this, Palmerston North does kind of grow on you. A bit like mould, but still.

I have now lived in this place for almost 5 years. This horrifies me slightly. I like to say I am a South Islander from Nelson (the place of my birth) but the fact remains that I have now lived in Palmerston North in the North Island for much longer than I ever lived in the South Island. Though, if we’re saying where we come from based on years spent there, then I can just say Indonesia and call it a day.

I ended up in Palmerston North, or “Palmy” as it is often called, by default. After graduating high school in 2007 I wanted to go to Australia. Long story short, after hopping around Canberra, and then NSW for two months, I got ill and ended up on a plane to Nelson to live with my aunt and uncle. I got a job at a supermarket and a few months later realised that I should decide where I wanted to go for university. Auckland and Wellington were eliminated straight away because I decided they were too big for a city-shy girl like me. Christchurch, Invercargill, and Dunedin were too cold, and I didn’t know enough about Waikato to consider it. Which left Palmerston North.

I won’t lie, I hated this place for the first half of my time here. I still hate it on some days. But the university here has the most beautiful campus I have ever seen, and the daffodils here in spring are I think the brightest and yellowest in all New Zealand. The cherry blossoms aren’t half bad either. Maybe the fact that everything else seems grey means that bright things stand out more.

Spring is here!

So Palmerston North might not be the most exciting or the most attractive place to live. But, for a girl who spent a large portion of her life in a tiny mountain village, it has been a great place to find my footing in the world and grow. And when Josh joined me here in 2010 and we moved into our first place in 2011 it became a quiet place to begin our life together. Are we here to stay? Most definitely not. But I am finally at peace with being here for this time in my life.

Home sweet home. Yep, it looks a bit ragged on the outside but it’s cosy πŸ™‚


In my next post I will talk about something Palmy does very well indeed: Food!

  1. Gemma O'L said:

    I really loved this post Bonnie! I’ve never been to Palmerston North before but have heard all the jokes so it’s interesting to get the perspective of someone who’s lived there (for 5!! years), perhaps I could one day take a trip en route somewhere else and give the food a chance! (Looking forward to the next post). PS. that cherry blossom photo is gorgeous πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Gemma! If you do ever swing by Palmy I would love to meet up and show you some of that food πŸ™‚

  2. redfox said:

    Love this: “Maybe the fact that everything else seems grey means that bright things stand out more.” I really think you’ve hit on something here.
    I miss Massey Campus. And the Esplanade. Beautiful places.
    I don’t miss the wind, the grey, and the smell of bird crap that overwhelms the whole CBD.

    I miss my friends a lot 😦

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