by Max Barry

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The Empire of
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

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You know you're from Tangatarehua when...

If you're Rehuan...

  • You believe in multiple gods. You find monotheistic religions that claim there's a single all-powerful being controlling the world rather far-fetched and the idea of there being no gods makes no logical sense to you.

  • The gods of Rehuan mythology also happen to be major pop culture figures. The antics of the Imperial family and noble classes are also entertaining enough to be considered pop culture while Maui is the equivalent of Superman (though his portrayal in western media is comical and borderline offensive).

  • You know all there is to know about rugby union and whatever your gender could probably argue intricate points about the rules of the game. You might also be interested in rugby league, cricket or even American football. You have absolutely no interest in soccer (known as 'British Football' in Tangatarehua), nor in baseball and hockey. Boxing, wrestling and martial arts are very popular.

  • You usually get around four or five weeks off each year, with various national holidays and festivals occurring once every season.

  • A cyclone or two is nothing to be surprised about in summer. Neither are earthquakes.

Don't worry, we don't bite... anymore.

  • Although you believe in multiple gods, you don't consider yourself religious as it doesn't really impact your life that much on a day to day basis. Most people who take their religions seriously tend to be foreigners, and you're often a little distrustful of them.

  • You think of McDonald's, KFC, etc as cheap food and a rare example of the west having a positive impact on your country.

  • You probably own a smartphone, a laptop and maybe a TV. Your place is heated in the winter (unless you live in the tropical Ikame nga marama islands), air-conditioned in the summer, and has its own bathroom. You do your laundry in a machine. You don't usually kill your own food, unless you live in a very rural area. You don't have a dirt floor. You eat at a table, sitting on chairs (and sitting on a table or on any surface where food is prepared is strictly prohibited)

  • You don't consider cats, monkeys and guinea pigs to be food although there are a few edible insects that you may be partial to and dog meat sometimes pops up in traditional Rehuan cuisine. The controversial practice of kaitangata (cannibalism) is banned now, so human is off the menu. If you're under 40 you find the idea of cannibalism abhorrent but if you're older you very well may have eaten human flesh at some point. Tohura (whale) is absolutely delicious, you don't care what other countries think of your whaling programme.

  • The bathroom is the room with the bath in it. It's usually separate from the toilet, so referring to the toilet as a bathroom would make no sense to you. Why would you want to clean yourself in the same room where you do your dirty business?

The people of the god of the stars

  • It seems natural to you that the telephone system, power companies, auto manufacturers and airlines are privately run although the recent push for further privatisation of assets such as water and rail may be going a few steps too far. Not that it really makes much difference, if they're not owned by foreigners then they're owned by the nobility so it all adds up to the same result.

  • You expect, as a matter of course, that the phones will work. Getting a new phone is routine.

  • If you live on the islands of Marangawhenua or Moanapapa then the train system is excellent and the pride of Tangatarehua. If you live on the islands of Rangiwhero, Motumakariri or Ikame nga maramara then you're more likely to travel by car or bus (maybe even boat) than train.

  • You find a multi-party parliamentary system natural but despite all the squabbling, politicians still don't have that much real power and Tangatarehua has a long way to go before it's really a democracy. Still, it's nice to feel listened to and you appreciate that you have the freedom now to openly criticise the government if you want to.

  • You don't expect to hear socialism seriously defended anymore, because capitalism has been working so well to improve national living standards. But you're just as likely to support socialism, even communism, as you are to support neoliberalism or conservatism. You'll vote for whoever seems to be doing a good job on the day.

  • You don't usually think in terms of race. People are either Rehuan or pakeha (foreigners). There's no other distinction that matters.

  • You firmly believe that Tangatarehua is "unique" and agree with the concept of Rehuan exceptionalism, though if you had to expand on why you believe that you probably wouldn't be able to.

  • You probably learned a little bit of English or Japanese in school and know just enough to talk to the many tourists and foreigners who travel to Tangatarehua, as well as ensure your own survival when sightseeing abroad. It's possible you know a few words of other Polynesian languages such as Samoan or Hawaiian too. You probably don't know much in terms of other languages and would respect someone who was fluent in a language other than English, Maori or Japanese.

  • You take a strong court system for granted, even if you don't use it. You know that if you went into business and had problems with a customer, partner, or supplier, you could take them to court.

  • You think a tax level of 33% is pretty reasonable. Anything higher would be taking it too far.

  • You think most problems could be solved if only people would put aside their prejudices and work together.

  • Privatisation of the health service is unthinkable. You generally count on excellent medical treatment in an emergency, but for anything non-urgent you're probably better off paying for private healthcare. You know you're not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases. You expect very strong measures to be taken to save very ill babies or people in their eighties. You think dying at 65 would be a tragedy.

  • Theoretically school is free, including university however most schools charge 'compulsory donations' in lieu of fees (especially the better ones) and competition to get into university can be fierce so tertiary study is far from guaranteed.

Wait, so who's actually in charge of running this country!?

  • Mustard comes in plastic tubes, shaving cream comes in cans and milk in plastic bottles (occasionally cardboard cartons).

  • The date comes first: 7/12/1979 (and you know what happened on that date).

  • You don't know the Empress's name. She is only ever referred to as "Te Kuia o Whenua" ("Mother of the Nation") and the media never refers to her by her name - which is just as well as the official names for Empresses tend to be long and convoluted. The Empress is always a woman - the Imperial throne cannot be inherited by a male, ever.

  • You also probably don't know the Rangatira's name, but this is more due to apathy than tradition. You know it'll probably be someone from the Te Rata dynasty though. You're fairly respectful toward the Rangatira, though unlike the Empress it is acceptable to criticise him and your biggest criticism is that he stands in the way of Tangatarehua becoming a full democracy.

  • You do know the name of the Mangai o Tangata ["Representative of the People", sometimes translated as "Speaker" or "Prime Minister"], because if something goes wrong in your life it's important to know the name of the person to blame. Even though the Speaker has little power beyond controlling the budget, it's a national past time to throw mud (sometimes literally) at whoever is in office.

  • The decimal point is a dot and a billion is a thousand times a million.

  • Marriage is a completely foreign concept that makes little sense to you. Why would you need a ceremony and a binding legal commitment to someone if they really love you? Isn't that just a type of slavery? Plus plenty of people are polyamorous so what happens to them? Sounds like another example of the west trying to impose its colonial values onto Tangatarehua.

  • If a man has sex with another man, he's homosexual. It's not illegal, but you're still better off keeping it to yourself just to be safe.

  • Unless they have an official title, it's generally acceptable to address people by their first name. Besides, the use of family names is a relatively recent phenomenon and a result of the westernisation of Tangatarehua - traditionally most people only ever had one name.

  • If you're a woman you have no problem going to the beach topless, or anywhere really. You find the west's obsession with sexualising breasts rather confusing - you feel more self conscious about showing your feet than showing your breasts.

  • Foreign films are sometimes dubbed but subtitles are more common.

  • You expect to be able to transact business, or deal with the government, without paying bribes.

  • If a politician has been cheating on his wife, who cares? Polygamy is perfectly legal and acceptable in Tangatarehua.

  • Any store in the cities will take a credit card (especially the international brands) but smaller markets in rural areas obviously won't.

  • A company can fire whoever it likes, but only the foreign corporations tend to do this. As such working for a multinational company is seen as a gamble - the pay is usually better, but there's a lot less job stability.

  • You prefer your bacon on the softer side.

  • There is no labour day.

Don't mention the war!

  • You went over Rehuan history in school and learned some basic world history (particularly China, Europe and America) but not a whole lot.

  • You have a rather complicated attitude toward the previous wars your country was involved in. Your country's attempt to conquer and create a pan-Polynesian empire in the 1950s was pretty despicable and you're glad it was defeated. The flirtation with fascism is a pretty shameful mark on the nation's history.

  • You are however bitter over the war of the 1970s, which you saw as a self-defensive war against a coalition of western powers. While it's true that the army committed some atrocities, these were no worse than the atrocities that were committed against our people and it was completely unfair to blame Tangatarehua for the war and force the nation to take sole responsibility for a conflict it did not start.

  • Officially the country no longer has a military. This was the price we paid to prevent the loss of Motumakariri and save the Imperial family from execution. The country still maintains a well-funded and well-equipped self defence force, just in case. You wish we could live in a world where a military is no longer needed, but you know it's only a matter of time before someone tries to invade again.

  • Parts of Tangatarehua were briefly colonised by Europeans in the 19th century, until we rose up, drove them out and forced the west to treat us with respect (perhaps the nation's proudest moment). We were also occupied by a coalition of western powers from 1979 - 1982, after the war (you might even remember the occupation if you're old enough).

  • You have mixed feelings regarding foreigners. For the most part, you'll welcome tourists from anywhere and show them the best hospitality you can. However you suspect that some of them might be planning to take over.

  • You don't mean to sound racist, but you really don't trust Christians. Not after all the sacred sites they desecrated in the 19th and early 20th centuries. You don't want to publicly say you supported ejecting them from the country from 1921-1953, but in the privacy of your own head...

  • Conversely you have no problem with Muslims, who despite their weird religion have treated you and the nation with nothing but respect. The country's second largest city, Wharekorana, was actually founded by Muslim missionaries in the 18th century.

Real women have curves

  • The people who appear on talk shows are... well, it seems pretty much anyone. Sports stars, musicians, artists, writers, politicians, random plumbers, construction workers, people off the street and at some stage probably you.

  • The media loves gossiping about the Imperial family and the Rangatira. An imperial princess will be hounded to within an inch of her life by the media but once she takes the throne she's suddenly Tapu (sacred) and the media become totally reverent to the same person they were slandering only a few months previously.

  • Cartoons and animation are everywhere, in fact they're one of the biggest modern art forms in Tangatarehua and slowly gaining international prestige.

  • As the economy continues to grow, you're becoming overwhelmed by the number of choices there are for everything you buy. If you're over 40 you can remember when things were very different.

  • You measure things using the metric system, like all sane countries do - though to be fair there are a handful of nutters who oppose the metric system in favour of confusing traditional measurement systems.

  • You're probably not a farmer.

  • You drive on the left side of the road. You stop at red lights even if nobody's around. If you're a pedestrian and cars are stopped at a red light, you will fearlessly cross the street in front of them.

  • You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be a small to medium sized car.

  • The police are not armed, except in extreme circumstances.

  • If a woman is plumper than average, it will usually improve her looks as long as she doesn't go overboard. You certainly don't find western 'stick insects' attractive, a woman should have curves.

  • The biggest meal of the day is in the evening.

  • You don't tend to joke about specific nationalities, though joking about foreigners in general is perfectly acceptable.

  • There's parts of the city you will avoid at night.

Progress and tradition

  • Unless you're a noble, you know for a fact that your kind of people aren't being listened to in Tamaki.

  • You no longer expect unemployment to be high (say, over 10%) but inflation has become a growing problem especially in the big cities.

  • You like to think of yourself as modern, open-minded and that you don't care what family someone is from. But you'd be aghast if one of your children decided to date someone from a lower caste such as a Taurekareka [Untouchable] or worse - a foreigner!

  • The normal thing, when a couple dies, is for their estate to be divided equally between their children.

  • Opera and ballet are weird western traditions that you have absolutely zero interest in.

  • Christmas is in the summer, not that you've ever heard of it. However it does happen to coincide with Hakari o te Raumati [the summer solstice festival] which spans the last week of December and first few days of January.

  • There is a state religion (Tikanga Wairua) but it's not a very demanding religion and doesn't have a big impact on your day to day life so you don't really mind. It's just a bunch of fun mythology at the end of the day.

  • You'd be hard-pressed to name the leaders or capital cities of other nations in Greater Dienstad.

  • You've left a message at the beep.

  • Taxi drivers are almost always foreigners who do not know their way around the city. You'd be much better off using mass transit if you can.

  • You accept that welfare and unemployment payments are a necessary part of being a civilised country - especially in this economic climate. However even if you lost your job you'd be reluctant to accept a handout from the government as doing so would result in a loss of mana (pride/authority).

  • If you want to be a doctor you'll need to go to medical school.

  • You know lawyers exist, but you've never seen one.

Space and time

  • If you have an appointment, you'll mutter an excuse if you're five minutes late, and apologise profusely if it's ten minutes. An hour late is almost inexcusable.

  • If you're talking to someone you get uncomfortable if they come closer than one metre, unless they're someone you know very well.

  • The only things you usually expect to bargain or haggle with are houses or cars, but sometimes this happens in open-air markets too.

  • The only time it's acceptable to show up to someone's house without prior arrangement is if there's been an emergency of some sort.

  • When you negotiate you are exceedingly polite but like to be straight to the point and expect the same in return. You don't 'play hardball' but neither will you take part in any games or time-wasting nonsense.

  • If you have a business appointment or interview with someone, you expect to have that person to yourself, and the business shouldn't take more than an hour or so.

The Empire of Tangatarehua