Auckland has a habit of reminding you that bad some good things can be. Take live music for instance, which is normally a great thing that nobody can get enough of. There we were, sitting in a K Road bar imbibing far too much alcohol and enjoying a good conversation. Then, all of a sudden, a group of middle-aged men with guitars jumped onto the previously empty stage (to get some idea of what they looked like picture Elvis Presley in his later years if he had quit music and gone on to middle management at your local council) and started strumming their electric guitars. I’m still not entirely sure what genre of music it was because the sound of their music did this odd thing where their music somehow drowned out the sound of their..er…music, making it virtually indistinguishable from the ambient noise of a malfunctioning garbage compactor.
Needless to say, it was an annoying turn-of-events for my friend, though not as annoying as it proved for me, it was just the latest in a long line of Auckland disappointments.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment for me has been Auckland and its latte-sipping reputation. In the rest of the country it is common to pair the word ‘Aucklander’ with ‘latte/flat-white drinking yuppies(or guppies, for the older – more geriatric – ones)’ who wouldn’t know how to survive in the real NZ (the real NZ being one where there are, presumably, no flat whites or lattes).
My problem is not with the stereotype but with the fact that I still have no idea where Aucklanders actually got this reputation from. Most of the coffee shops that are open at semi-reasonable hours are generic coffee chains that aren’t all that different from McDonalds, and appear to specialise in serving burnt coffee 24 hours a day. Of the independent cafes that don’t burn their coffee (I will admit, it’s not just the chains in Auckland that appear to do this), the others appear to be in a perpetual state of cashing up for the day. It seems no matter what time in the day you walk in they’ll be stacking/banging their chairs loudly, turning the lights off on their cabinet (as a sort of morse code signal for you to get the fuck out), or adding the phrase/question ‘in a takeaway cup?’ to the end of your order.
There’s no place in Auckland like the one I’m currently in, where – at nearly 5PM in the evening – I can sit in a non-chain cafe with a laptop, coffee and cake – and there are other people that will be doing the same. It’s not too noisy – even though there’s plenty of socialising going on – but it’s not deathly silent like a library either. The place I’m in isn’t in Auckland, or a subsidiary of Auckland, it’s not even in Hamilton (although I could probably find several similar places there), it’s in Cambridge – population: 15,000 (and not a yuppie in sight).
It seems to me that if Cambridge is able to support a nice, friendly – but active – cafe and bar scene then it is far more deserving of the latte-sipping reputation than Auckland is. In fact, given how naturally the people of the Waikato seem to rely on and use their local cafes/restaurants at all hours of the day, I’m left wondering if perhaps the ‘real’ New Zealand is the one with the latte-sipping culture and the yuppie/guppie capital is the backwards cousin playing catchup.