Mariko, the Japanese university student that we met last time, is sitting down to dinner with her homestay parents, Jenny and Paul and Mr Boots (the cat!)
Jenny: “Hi Mariko, please sit down and I’ll dish up. Sit wherever you like expect for that seat because Mr Boots often sits there and you don’t want cat fur on your trousers, do you?”
Paul: “Ah, I don’t know Jenny, maybe Mariko might like some cat fur on her clothes! What do you say, Mariko? Want some cat fur? It’s really trending right now!”
Jenny: “Paul Smith! I don’t know what to do with you sometimes. You’re embarrassing our guest! Mariko, I do apologise for Paul. He really likes to be the class clown”
Paul: “A good laugh never hurt anyone, I say”
Jenny: “OK, let’s change the subject. Mariko, you sit there and I’ll get the roast from the oven. You do eat meat, don’t you?”
Mariko: “Yes, of course. Would you like a hand with it?”
Jenny: “No dear. You just sit there. Won’t be a sec”
Paul: “So Mariko, how’s the study going? Learn some useful stuff today?”
Jenny: “Here we go, guys. Traditional Kiwi kai, roast lamb, kumara, potatoes and peas plus my Mum’s secret gravy! Dig in!”
Teacher Ray says:
Kiwis often sit down to dinner as a family but will usually adopt a slightly more relaxed attitude if they are only eating as a family. If they have a guest, they will tend to be more formal and sit down around the dining table. If the guest is from overseas, they will often prepare traditional New Zealand food such as Jenny has in this case. A roast with vegetables maybe followed by “pavlova” and ice-cream would be something that many Kiwis would have mainly at weekends or on special occasions but not every day (it’s too expensive and time-consuming!)
This is an informal way of saying that Jenny is about to serve the dinner.
“What do you say, Mariko? Want some cat fur?”
Paul is teasing Mariko by asking her if she’d like some cat fur in much the same way he might ask if she’d like some potatoes. He is trying to make her feel relaxed and make her laugh.
This means that something is popular right now. You will also hear “on trend” (e.g. “Denim is really trending just now”)
“Paul Smith! I don’t know what to do with you sometimes”
Jenny uses Paul’s full name to emphasise that she is annoyed. She also wants to show Mariko that she doesn’t approve of his behaviour but she is really only joking herself. She also apologises to Mariko just in case she might be a little embarrassed.
“the class clown”
This just means that Jenny thinks that Paul is being a bit silly and trying to be the centre of attention.
Jenny uses this term of affection to make Mariko feel valued. It would be acceptable for Jenny to use it when talking to Mariko because they are both female but it could be a little strange if Paul were to call Mariko this way.
“You do eat meat, don’t you?”
Again this is a “tag question” that we’ve seen before. Jenny is checking to see that Mariko does eat meat but it would clearly be too late to change things at this point. She is also using this to include Mariko in the conversation.
“Won’t be a sec”
Short for “(I) won’t be sec(ond)”, in other words, ready very soon. You will also hear “There in two mins (minutes)” or “There in a tic (a couple of seconds)”
This combines a New Zealand word (Kiwi) with a Maori word (“kai”, meaning “food”). There are still some Maori words used in Kiwi English and these would be unknown to Mariko. If you are curious you can look at an online dictionary and you will see many other slang words as well.
“Mum’s secret gravy”
Jenny is suggesting that the gravy is a family secret so that Mariko will feel even more special. Many Kiwi families have recipes that have been passed down over the generations whether they be for cakes, stews or scones.
Jenny is asking Mariko to help herself and not wait to be served. Eating and serving habits can be different from those of Japan and it is not rude for a guest to ask for more food or to refuse if they are full or the food is not to their liking.
Enjoy your Kiwi homestay experience, be curious and ask questions. We love it when people show an interest in our country, our language and culture.
Haere ra.Ka kite ano!
(“Farewell.Until I see you again”)
Have a great safe stay in New Zealand!
Teacher Ray (the “friendly” Kiwi)