Currie said that both New Zealanders and West Virginians are "resilient and resourceful." Several of the tourists were actually descended from American settlers.
Glenys Currie, for example, can trace her ancestors to the Mayflower. They emigrated from the United States around 1850 -- only about a dozen years before West Virginia became a state, she noted.
She also planned to visit Plymouth to see where her ancestors landed.
West Virginian scenery also occasionally resembles New Zealand.
Brian Currie mistook some West Virginian "bush" for New Zealand. He noted that New Zealand, like West Virginia, has coal mines sprinkled throughout the countryside.
These similarities prompted many of the travelers to reconsider widespread opinions on American culture.
According to Brian Currie, New Zealanders often develop unfavorable ideas about Americans based on criticism from world news.
But the trip has prompted these tourists to develop a more sympathetic image of America.
"You're friendly, loveable people," he said.
The New Zealanders agreed that they have only encountered sociable and welcoming Americans -- particularly the members of Charleston Friendship Force who hosted them.
Founded in 1979, the Charleston chapter of Friendship Force has 37 members. It was among the first chapters chartered nationwide.
Since 1977, the organization has honed a network of 300 clubs spread over more than 50 countries.
Charleston members have traveled to many of those countries. In fact, they arranged trips to New Zealand in 2009 and 2011. They've maintained friendships with Friendship Force members from New Zealand since then.
Those friendships are a central goal of the Friendship Force.
Wayne Smith, a Charleston native and founder of Friendship Force, created the organization because he hoped participants would form friendships overseas, Brian Currie said.
The organization now encourages members to act as ambassadors and spread mutual understanding among cultures.
"A world of friends is a world of peace," Geange said.Reach Laura Reston at laura.res...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5112.