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Kiwi Culture: New Zealand’s Capital Gets Hip

Metro • March 29, 2006

Wellington, New Zealand–Say New Zealand and three things come to mind: Hobbits, sheep and mountains. Soon you’ll be adding a fourth: Hipsters. After a flurry of government investment in local creative industries—everything from film to fashion to popular music—young trendsetters are choosing to roost at home and they’re bringing the silkscreened T-shirts. The result? A transformation of Wellington, once known as a drab government hub, in to a vibrant arts and culture center, and the nightlife that comes with it. Here’s the best of what hip Wellington has to offer:

Eat At: Fidel’s

Set in Wellington’s art district, this café bustles from dawn to dark, serving up fair-trade coffees, locally brewed organic beer and the city’s best eggs benedict to skinny boys in Western shirts and girls in oversized sunglasses. Bedford Avenue, look out.

Dress At: Aotearoa House

Taking its name from the Maori name for New Zealand, this purveyor of urban wear with a distinctly Kiwi twist offers up a must-buy: Silk-screened T-shirts with New Zealand icons like fern fronds, Maori insignias and wetas (massive insects native to NZ).

Stare At: Real Hot Bitches

Comprised ot twenty-something women in neon spandex performing choreographed dances to 1980s hair metal and top 40, RHB were one of the most popular acts at this year’s Wellington Fringe Fest. Since the crew is technically amateur, your best bet of catching a show is to ask the staff at hip venues—someone’s friend or girlfriend is probably a member of the troupe.

Drink At: Havana

Affiliated with a fair-trade coffee importer by the same name, this sleek nightclub boasts delectable cocktails (locals will urge you to try vodka infused with feijoa, a NZ fruit) and regular afrobeat parties that can last until dawn. Settle in amid sleek, modern furniture, work by local artists and soft lighting primed for the business of seduction.

Dance at: San Francisco Bathhouse

This is indie rock’s Wellington headquarters. The second-floor music venue hosted San Francisco-based Deerhoof, a darling of the circuit, in February and has been known to host electroclash parties.

Go See: Fat Freddy’s Drop

In 2002, New Zealand imposed a voluntary quote for local content on broadcast radio to encourage native talent—and the big success story is this Wellington-based dub and soul act. Their independent debut, “Based on a True Story,” was named Worldwide Album of the Year at the Radio 1 Gilles Paterson Worldwide Music Awards 2005.

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