New Zealand, the south island in particular, is really a kind of utopia. It has an enormous range of natural beauty, and all the world of modernity in quality and abundance, but a sparse population, resulting in a much lower stress rate in general, and happier, more relaxed people, and a kind of sanity you don’t find as much of anymore in the states. For example, there are no speed traps on the roads. For example you pump first and then pay. For example, you don’t pester the waiter for the check. Instead, when you’re ready, you go up and pay. For example, if you ever have to wait in line, chances are you’re behind one other person only. For example, at this spectacular beach on Golden Bay there were OK only ten people there, all day altogether, on a warm sunny late spring day. For example, every one you talk to cheerfully tells you of some wonderful place you never heard of before. I do think that population density has a lot to do with it. The pressures of just not having enough space and time for living well do seem to drive people somewhat insane.
The place seems to me now a sort of distilled California, with a fraction of the population and traffic, all the beauty, and no Central Valley.