Does NZ still cut down tall poppies?

  • Breaking
  • 17/03/2013

We're often told that New Zealanders suffer from 'tall poppy syndrome', where we resent people because of their talents or achievements.

So are we still a nation of shrinking violets who back away from the limelight? Or is it a Kiwi stereotype that we've now outgrown?

Nerd. Try-hard. Teacher's pet. Harsh names, but many New Zealand kids will have heard them in school playgrounds throughout the country.

They're designed to put down those who achieve, and University of Canterbury researcher Louise Tapper says we do have an unhealthy tall poppy chopping culture.

"Expectations in New Zealand are that we want people to be the same, rather than excel."

She followed the progress of 11 gifted and talented students over an 18-month period and found they played down their abilities.

"They were very well-rehearsed in the anti-intellectual discourse that we have here, that we need to make sure that you don't stand out," says Ms Tapper.

But Rose Patterson, a research fellow for think tank the New Zealand Initiative, says the tall poppy syndrome is overstated here.

"There's a lot of talk in New Zealand about how we have tall poppy syndrome, but if you go to somewhere like Japan you realise that it's just nothing when compared to other countries."

ASB Bank has predicated its latest ad campaign on the idea we eat too much 'humble pie' here.

"New Zealand is renowned for the tall poppy syndrome," says Anna Curzon, general manager for brand experience, but what we found with our research - which is really fascinating - was that let alone celebrating other people's success, people felt really reticent about celebrating their own success."

So perhaps we are a humble nation, but Ms Patterson says being ethnically diverse is actually helping ease the symptoms of tall poppy syndrome.

"There is a huge amount of rich diversity in this country, and so it's not just about poppies, it's about roses and tulips, and we've got beautiful, better flowers, so sticking out from the group isn't so different now.

"There's lots and lots of different types of people, so I think that's why it's not such an issue anymore."

Ms Tapper's research shows not all Kiwi kids feel that way yet, but if Ms Patterson is right, fewer of them will experience the syndrome first hand.

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source: newshub archive

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