Do the rest of the world care about the All Blacks?

“You’re from New Zealand? I love Lorde! Also your relationship with the native people is the best out of all the colonies.”

 …Said no one ever.

Once I tell other travellers where I’m from, it’s still Lord of the Rings and Flight of the Conchords. I mean I love LOTR as much as the next hobbit, but it’s been over 13 years since a GOOD Lord of the Rings movie came out. Yeah I went there.

However in a strangely routine fashion, once we’re done talking about Brett, Jermaine, and Frodo, some will quietly enquire about our national game. It’s almost as if they’re embarrassed to mention it in case I don’t know what they’re talking about.

“So… do you like rugby at all?”

Do I like rugby!? It’s the biggest source of national pride in my country. Some of my happiest early memories are at Eden Park with my family. The 2011 World Cup was the craziest I’ve ever seen Auckland with people shoulder to shoulder as far as the eye can see, some even doing hakas on top of busses. Rugby is the cultural pillar that my country stands upon…

“Bro. Course I like rugby!” That usually suffices.

What follows are conversations that surprise me, because people from all over the world love rugby just as much as we do. Their initial shyness could be because it’s hard to talk about it in their home country, where something else like hockey or chess-boxing might be the sporting religion.

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Yes it’s a real thing. One round chess, one round boxing.

WHO ELSE LOVES IT?

I’ve seen All Black apparel worn by all walks of life from Bali to Tokyo to Italy. I’ve talked super rugby with Filipino-Canadians, (who supported the Stormers?!) I’ve had broken English conversations about how sad it is that Jonah died.

The story that sticks out the most was at a bar in Tokyo (that had great tap water.) I was summoned by my friend to go talk to a Japanese dude he’d just met.

“He really wants to talk to you, he heard you are from NZ and he loves rugby.”

Cool I can deal with that.

I’ve never seen someone so excited to meet someone they’d never met before. He hugged me when I said rugby. With his broken English, and my broken Japanese both holding us back, all I really said was names of players, to which he’d freak out at.

“Richie McCaw?”

“Ooooooooohhh Rituchii!!!! Riituuchii!! I love I love!!!!!

He was so overwhelmed I might as well have been an All Black.

After 20 minutes of ‘oooh Rituchie’ he went around in a circle and felt all of our crotches. Just straight cupped us all. Must be a Japanese custom I didn’t read about? We took our leave after that.

Another story that made me laugh the most was meeting a group of Welsh lads in Budapest recently. All I had to mention was one wee word that set them off into fits of anger.

“Chiefs?”

“Aaaargghhhhhh fackin bullshit what the fack so stupid….”

They didn’t know much about Hamilton or Waikato, but they knew their national team, ranked 5th in the world, lost to them.

Finally the French. NZ and France have a healthy rugby rivalry, kind of like Jon and Ramsay. Throughout my French trip it’s amazing how little the 2015 World Cup was mentioned. 2011 was, along with how awfully biased the ref was toward NZ. There was also this gem I found in Nice.

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Blame the blur on my below average Vietnamese phone, & the bartender getting weird at me taking photos 

In hindsight they did host it that year, but it was humorous to be confronted with that particular year, while in France, as a Kiwi. I thought I’d successfully erased that morning from my mind.

STAY PROUD

We can get a bit isolated in New Zealand. I’ve been to many international bus terminals since travelling, and I get the feeling opening one back home wouldn’t be that smart. It’s easy not to realize how big rugby and the All Blacks are overseas, but the rest of the world has nothing but respect for our team, the haka, and our lengthy domination of the game.

I thought if I wore my jersey travelling I was going to be that weird new kid in school who plays with toys no one cares about and gets told to piss right off. That’s simply not the case. We’re awesome, and everybody knows it.

Now if anybody sheepishly asks me if I like rugby, I take a breath, relax, and know the following conversation will be easy, because my team could kick their team’s ass.

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“Hell is other people” (the tourist trap)

It’s not just history majors or art geeks here. Nor is it just the gamer fans who remember climbing on this cathedral while playing Assassin’s Creed. (Guilty…)

An arsenal of selfie sticks wielded by all ages search for the perfect angle, while accidentally bursting through each other’s personal space bubbles. It’s midday at the famous Florence Cathedral. It’s bloody hot, and a bit chaotic.

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The least populated side of the church

Opposite the cathedral is a really pretty door that I know nothing about, but people seem desperate to get a photo of. One peaceful looking couple in their fifties stood a fraction too long in front of it, unaware they were spoiling the shot for grumpy old Uncle Borris, a toad of a man who spent way too much on his DSLR to have the view blocked by anyone.

“Ey move! Shooo!”

This cranky old bastard literally shooed them away. I couldn’t believe it. He skipped ‘excuse me could you please move’ and went straight into fuck-off mode. Though visibly startled by his rudeness, the couple graciously moved on.

“Hell is other people.”

Recently I’ve seen some of the most famous tourist attractions in the world like the Colosseum, the Vatican Museums, and the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. Whether they’ve exceeded or fallen short of my expectations, the only certain thing is I wasn’t the only one who wanted to find out for themselves.

The sticks. The instagram photoshoots. The guided tours. The lines. The catch-22 of 10,000 people wanting to see a beautiful, serene place at the same time. Lastly, the complaints. Usually from fellow travellers back at HQ…

“Oh it was too ‘touristy’.”

I can’t stand this. When people complain about world famous, historically significant stuff being busy, it makes my corpse roll over in my grave and I’m not even dead yet. I’m talking irritated on some Hodor/Back to the Future level. I try explaining politely that they’re embodying their own problem.

It’s the same people that complain there are too many sausages at the fest, while they themselves have a cheerio. Or the people who sit in traffic at peak time complaining of the cars in front of them, oblivious to the fact that they are the traffic to everyone behind them.

In between tagging up gift shops, Banksy said it better than I ever could:

“There are no exceptions to the rule that everyone thinks they’re an exception to the rules.”

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Stumbled upon a Banksy exhibit in Rome. This is a real Banksy that I wasn’t allow to photograph, but if any artist wants you to break the rules…

I’ll happily admit I’m a selfie stick wielding, popular attraction attending antichrist. I usually do my best to be considerate, while inevitably accidentally existing in front of someone. Since I know what I am, I don’t get mad or look down on people who go to touristy places. It’s not a bad thing.

It’s not a bad thing to enjoy a place other people also enjoy.

Yes people can be rude and inconsiderate. Yes with higher concentrations of people these places can become hectic and it can be hard to move around. Often I’ll have to dodge people who just stop in front of me to take photos. It becomes a maze. But I also recall stopping to take a photo without thinking, causing someone else to play the maze game.

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Pretty sure it was this one. Doesn’t look like a lot of thinking is going on.

Harden up travellers, you are in these exotic places doing what millions, if not billions of people would want to be doing right now, yet you complain and excavate negativity because unfortunately other people are alive and are living just as vivid a life as yours.

A very famous French philosopher Jean-Paul-Sartre once said “Hell is other people.” Maybe he meant that without an exterior opinion, your life would be exactly the way you want it to be. Or that all hurt in the world is caused by humans.

Or maybe someone just blocked his view of the pretty door.