The Kiwi Agony Aunt - brought to you as a public service by the sites at Web4U

Due to the volume of enquiries received, we regret that Aunt Agatha is unable to offer or guarantee a personal response to emails.






& Personal

Not for Profit





This site is sponsored by Web4U and supported by the sites in the Web4U co-operative.

Hotel Bookings
Budget hotel bookings NZ and worldwide

The Shopping Village

Balloons in a box delivered (almost) anywhere in NZ
Balloons to Go


Dear Friends,

Recently a young friend of mine came to me for some advice. As the topic was a little beyond my ken I suggested that the young lady search the internet. Advice abounds, but she could find no sites which consider matters from our own Kiwi perspective.

Having been 'blessed' with various experiences in life which should be used for the good of others, I approached the good people at Web4U who kindly offered to let me have a couple of pages, and now this dedicated site.

Your questions are welcomed. A personal response may not be possible to every question. It may also not be possible to publish every letter here.  So bear with me.

I would appreciate a brief message if you have found my comments helpful - or more importantly should the reverse be true.

I hope that you will find something of interest and something which will help you in these pages.

                                        Aunt Agatha

You can read your way through the letters or click on one of the subjects below to go straight to that area.

School Holiday Occupations Impressions at job interview
Table Settings Birthday Gift Ideas
Feng Shui Difficult Children
Thank You Peacock Feathers

On Other Pages:
Household Hints  Relationships and personal matters

Thank You

Aunt Agatha,    Thank you for providing this service. I have found one of your comments most helpful to my particular situation.

JKN Lower Hutt

Dear JKN,

Thank you for letting us know.  It keeps us encouraged!

Back to the top

School Holiday occupations

Dear Aunt Agatha,

School holidays coming up again and it is so hard for those of us with young families to take the kids to worthwhile activities in Auckland City. It gets so expensive. Any suggestions?

KL North Shore (abridged)

Dear K,

You don't actually say how old the children are but I gather they are at Intermediate School.

Have a look in the North Shore Times. They often have a feature on what to do for the holidays and have some excellent ideas. I expect other local newspapers will have similar. Certainly the NZ Herald often runs such features and there is a 'Whats On' article every Saturday. 

I have had Uncle Tom search the internet for ideas and he hasn't come up with much that's free. Try the Visitor  Information Centre in Takapuna.  Uncle Tom's favourite, the Maritime Museum (between Princes Wharf and the Viaduct Basin)  isn't free, but it offers family entrance and can easily occupy a whole morning.  When you group that with a ferry trip, and a look around the Viaduct (some nice boats there to drool over!) the kids are almost guaranteed to come home 'tired and happy'.  They often run school holiday programmes phone 09 373 0800 (or 0800 SALTY SAM out of Auckland).

Tip: phone your selected venue beforehand, check family tickets prices and conditions and combine with a friend to make up the most cost-effective party! 

If ships and boats is your thing, Uncle Tom says the Ports of Auckland have a weekly trip around the harbour on a Wednesday morning (currently fully booked, but phone them, there may be cancellations) and the Navy Museum (at the end of the Parade next to the Naval Base gate in Devonport) is open every day from 10 to 4. Both of these are FREE!

It is not easy dear, but it is SO important to occupy young minds constructively. Good Luck.

Aunt Agatha

Back to the top

Table settings

Dear Madam

This question is prompted by an article I saw in a "home and garden" type magazine that featured the home and the entertaining style of a socially prominent New Zealand lady. I was appalled to see the table set for a formal dinner with no cloth or placemats and not a napkin (serviette) in sight; the entire setting was on the bare wood of the table. As a very recently arrived immigrant, this brought to my attention that perhaps I should acquaint myself with Kiwi etiquette since it apparently differs from my own. Thus, I began an internet search on the subject, particularly searching for guidebooks, and, alas, I could not find a single one nor a single site where the subject is discussed until I arrived at this site. I do hope you or one of your readers can offer some assistance.

Thank you,

jh - Auckland


Dear jh,

How nice to meet someone who, in this day and age, is concerned about good manners! Aunt Agatha doesn't actually read the 'Home and Garden' type magazines that you have followed, but it is our experience that social prominence in New Zealand does not necessarily become any arbiter of propriety or good manners/breeding!

Mind you, my dear, having said that I should say that if I read your comment correctly, it is you who is somewhat surprised at an apparent lack in what you have seen. I have to admit that I find it somewhat unusual that there was no evidence of any napkin or serviette in the picture you cite. This IS surprising, but the essentials otherwise appear to have been covered.

Table mats and cloths, surely, are to protect the table itself (or to hide an unsightly tabletop) . Many of the modern polyurethane-type varnishes and coatings are really quite heat resistant, and rather more so than the french-polished tables with which you are no doubt more familiar.

It may have been that the table was set for a cold summer meal (Aunt Agatha suffered through a full English Christmas dinner in the middle of a very hot New Zealand summer day soon after arriving from the 'old country' and thus greatly favours cold collations!) or that the hostess deemed that the table's surface was suitably resistant! Perhaps she was prominent enough to have the table polished after each meal (I jest, dearie!)

Well then, Aunt Agatha is not aware of any New Zealand books of etiquette, but perhaps our readership can assist?   Essentially we follow English traditions/conventions; use cutlery in from the outside, glasses arrayed to the upper right (the north east as Uncle Tom describes it!) with proper glasses for red wine, white wine and water. Side plate to the left (with the knife on the plate if there is no other entree course). Talking of glasses ... Please do not forget that times and mores have changed and many guests will prefer that you have accommodated their preference not to drink (especially if they are driving) by the sensitive (and imaginative) choice of a non-alcoholic alternative.

Table mats, we feel, are not essential. They often add to the table setting's appearance, but many wooden tables are beautiful in their own right and deserve to be exposed (especially properly treated kauri or rimu tables). ON the hostess's head be it!

Perhaps too, my dear you should not necessarily trust everything you see in magazines totally! Sometimes photographs DO lie!

May I suggest that (within the bounds of decency) your guests should conform to YOUR standards. New Zealanders are becoming quite cosmopolitan and sometimes dining in the manner of one's host's traditions can be very interesting. Be yourself, be welcoming and be humble.

Have a marvellous series of dinner parties!

Back to the top

Back to the top

Impression at job interview

Dear Aunt Agatha, I am going for a job interview next week. I want to make a good impression. Would it help if I wore a good perfume?
                                                     Pat, Hamilton

Dear Pat, deportment, presentation and a good knowledge about the company you are seeking to work for are the most important attributes for any job interview (as well as your qualifications for the job of course). You would be surprised how many people turn up for interviews knowing NOTHING about the organisation they aspire to work for! However, to answer your question, a paper presented at a recent Psychology conference in Germany suggested that a 'sharp tangy perfume' may help both men and women in job interviews. Talking about top management positions, the paper is entitled 'You smell so competent you can have the job'. Prepare well, dress well, use a non-flowery perfume in moderation ... and slay them!  Good Luck.


Back to the top

Birthday Gift Ideas

Dear Aunt Agatha,

A good friend of mine is turning 60 soon. She is not badly off and seems to have everything she needs. What can I give her?
                                                     PH, Paihia         

Dear PH, the best thing you can give her is your friendship and love. You will know what sort of house she keeps and whether she is a 'knick-knack ornamenty' sort of person who would appreciate a specially chosen little gift. You could try taking her out for a special dinner or perhaps away for a day or two. Try the search engine at ACCESSNZ to find them. One of the WEB4U Associates offers special balloon gifts which are a bit novel and always very well received. Have a look at their page - BALLOONS TO GO and another offers specially crafted gifts in wood ( which are available by mail order.  Whatever you give her she will treasure if it has been specially chosen. Happy hunting!


Back to the top

Feng Shui

Dear Aunt Agatha, Do you know anything about FengShui?  Does it work?
                                         Skeptical, Blenheim

Dear Skeptical, I am a little uncertain why you are asking the question!  I do not believe it myself, but you only have to look at some of the houses being built in new suburbs around Auckland these days and you will see the influence. A search on Feng Shui turned up an astonishing number of entries so some people must believe it!  Some Feng Shui advocates suggest that it is due to the 'qi life' energy which accumulates near schools that people become irritable, unsettled and tired. I suggest that this may in fact be due to the children themselves and the parents as they pick up and drop off their treasures - i.e. the busy-ness the school generates. You can usually build up a case for anything. I can't make a decision for you. You will have to research and make your mind up for yourself.

Dear Agatha,

I am hoping you can help. Living in NZ and being southern hemisphere the Ba Gua or Pa Kau has become an issue. I have always believed that the southern hemisphere mirrors the northern hemisphere so that the "career" position on the octagonal grid is placed in the north direction. Recently I have seen references from Feng Shui practitioners indicating that for the southern hemisphere "fame" should be placed in the north, "career" in the south.

Is there a compass alteration for the southern hemisphere? which way is correct for NZ.

Kind regards


Dear J,

I haven't got a clue what you are talking about!  

Perhaps (as my little grandaughter is wont to do) you are trying to 'wind me up' ?  

However, ever helpful I have done some research and you may like to have a look at the following site and see if this helps:   

I found this gem there:   "For Black Sect Buddhists and other New Age types, their Bagua (or Ba Gua, Pa Kua) is a so-called "mystical octagon of symbolic correlations," This cafeteria-style approach to borrowed ideas was whipped into a lovely froth from Western cultural icons and concepts. The new bagua supposedly represents "eight fundamental life conditions" that correlate to "a different aspect of ourselves." Yet it was created within the last twenty years and marketed entirely to New Agers ignorant of Asian culture.

According to Ho Lynn's article in the execrable Feng Shui Anthology (published and edited by Jami Lin), this new Bagua was created by self-proclaimed "wandering impostor" Thomas Lin Yun, founder and spiritual leader of an American minority church called Black Sect Tibetan Buddhism. The new bagua is marketed as a "revolutionary" and "innovative" step in Chinese philosophy. In fact, it is so "revolutionary" that Asians laugh it off and the few sinologists aware of it snort derisively at its mention. As one Korean-American practitioner of martial and healing arts said, "This is the sort of thing that Asians would use to make money off non-Asians." The theories are labeled "Mutationist" for good reason."  

Does this help??


Back to the top

Difficult Children

Dear Aunt Agatha, I am almost at my wits end. My three-year old is so 'naughty' and just does not seem to respond to discipline. Where can I get some advice?
                                                Frazzled, Auckland

Dear Frazzled,
Parenthood can be so very trying in so many ways, yet there are such joys too. Seize upon the good things in desperate moments! The edited portion of your letter mentions smacking and says that this is not effective. The Children Young Persons and their Families Agency (find your nearest office in the government pages at the front of the phone book) used to have a pamphlet called "There are no superparents" or there are many books in the library. 

Consider 'time-out' as a non-violent alternative to smacking. The pamphlet contains advice on time-out such as explaining it to the child, sending him/her to a boring area from which hazards have been removed, not locking the child in and specifying the duration. (They say that 1 to 3 minutes is usually enough.) You may also like to try a 'Parenting with Confidence' course. Many churches run them. Take a Deep breath and hang in there!

Back to the top

Dear Aunt Agatha,

Please give this urgent attention.
Would you be able to give all information regarding Peacock feathers. What negative influences do they have if any? A fan of peacock feathers was found under a piece of furniture on which a devastating event took place. It was a gift given several hours prior to the event.

Dear K,
Frankly I do not accept that any inanimate object can possess any special power and it is tempting to dismiss your letter. However, I will take the question with the same seriousness you have displayed.

References on superstitions suggest that a peacock feather has an evil eye at the end. (Argus, the Greek legend, says a hundred eyed monster was turned into a peacock with all its eyes in its tail). Other sources just suggest that it is unlucky to have peacock feathers around the house without giving any reason for the superstition.

I don't accept it, but if the feathers trouble you, get rid of them whether a gift or not. I would, though, look for another possible reason for the incident you describe.
With Love
Aunt Agatha

Back to the top

Dear Aunt Agatha,
My husband and I have been invited to a dinner at the home of the New Zealand Ambassador here.  I would like to bring a hostess gift but am unsure of New Zealand customs (if any) regarding bringing gifts to the home of a New Zealander.  I would appreciate any advice.  My husband and I have lived all over the world and know that some countries have stricter guidelines on this subject than others.
Thank you.

Dear D

I have to tell you that I do not know what the correct answer is to your enquiry as unfortunately I do not move in such august circles as you! The 'rules' may be (probably are) different in diplomatic circles, though you do not say whether this is an official dinner or whether is is a less formal (if ambassadors host such!) occasion.

You might like to contact The Ambassadors Personal Assistant and ask her/him for their advice on what would be acceptable as a hostess gift, and what is the convention in the NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs in such circumstances ('I thought I might take ...... would that be acceptable?').  Enquire about personal 'dislikes'. 

Generally, New Zealanders are 'very laid back' and there are no strict guidelines in society in general. A gift which has been chosen with care, is not too extravagant and which is presented with grace will usually be well received but the absence of such a gift is unlikely to cause offence.

If I were going to dinner at the home of someone that Uncle Tom knew in business or socially we would probably take a bottle of wine (the man usually carries it) or a small box of after dinner mint chocloates if alcohol is not approprriate. Often we'll take some flowers (I carry these!) for the hostess.  I'm not sure the first gifts are quite the thing for an official dinner (at whatever level) but perhaps a small but nicely presented bunch of flowers for the hostess would be acceptabIe. Check with the PA for her name if you do not know it so that you can add a little 'Dear xxx, thank you for your hospitality' card.

I suggest that you: (a) be guided by your own country's convention (b) take a modest but personal (to you) gift that will not put the hostess in a difficult situation per the embassy rules. (The Embassy will probably have rules about accepting gifts (possibly below a certain monetary value; usually gifts which clearly show the donor company's logo are acceptable as these are clearly 'promotional gifts' (ie pens, monogrammed glasssware etc))

I hope you have a lovely evening, dear. Do please let me know how you get on and what you discovered about the protocols!


Aunt Agatha

Copyright(c)2001-2009 Web4U                          Contact Aunt Agatha (but please see note below)

'Aunt Agatha' provides the comment and advice in this column to entertain, to help and as a public service.   However, while the information and opinions are provided in good faith no responsibility can be taken by Web4U, site sponsors or any others connected with the site, for any injury, hurt or consequence, physical or mental, which may be attributed to this advice. Though Aunt Agatha does not have the resources to enter into a continuing dialogue and a response cannot be guaranteed, if it will help you to work things out by writing them down and sending them to someone please feel free to do so. All emails are read by someone who cares and our correspondents are known only to AA. Whilst we ask for an email address as a sign of good faith, names and other personal details are never divulged to other parties. The maintenance of this site is made possible by the sites at Web4U but the responsibility for the content is Web4U and Aunt Agatha's alone.