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  • Writer's pictureGerrit van Rooyen

A Bit of Kiwi Culture

Updated: Dec 29, 2019

About to visit New Zealand and wondering what people here will be like? My wife and I are both long-time residents from other countries. She’s been here for 10 years from the US and I’ve been here almost 20, having lived in various places around the world. Here are some things that stuck out to us as being different from where we grew up and what you can expect from the locals (who are not all hobbits or characters from a Lord of the Rings movie I promise you!):

Hobbiton : Photo by Thomas Schweighofer on Unsplash

Being offered a cuppa within the first 10 seconds

If you are going to someone’s house or workplace you can be expected to be offered a hot drink as soon as your foot lands inside the doorway. Of course, you should always accept. This is much to my wife’s dismay as she often visits clients in their homes. She gets a bad reaction to caffeine, which is what is normally on offer.

Also, it’s good to learn the lingo if you plan on ordering coffee at cafes. We have some great coffee here but if you just ask for a coffee with milk you are going to be asked to elaborate. A long black or Americano would be the closest to a normal drip coffee but give a flat white a go. When in Rome…

They don’t carry cash

Card is king here. You are very welcome to use cash. We often do. Just expect a moment of surprise and them having to cancel the transaction they sent to the EFTPOS machine before they gladly take your money.

No shoes, no worries

Not as a big thing here in Wellington but when you get to the smaller towns it’s completely normal to see the locals walking around town, grocery shopping, even in the pub barefoot.

Beer and wine

We love our beer and wine here. Sure, you can get a rum and coke if you like, but you’ll likely be the only one at the table not nursing a brew or vino. Besides, the craft beers and local wines of New Zealand are fantastic so give them a go, you can get that other mixed drink anywhere.

Slang can leave you feeling a bit lost

Heading to the beach with your new mates? Don’t be surprised if they ask you to bring along your togs, jandals and a chilli bin. With a bit of homework, you can avoid embarrassment! Check the link below:

Laidback attitude

"She’ll be alright” is a common saying here. Don’t worry about it, it’ll get done when it gets done. Can be frustrating when you are more type A and trying to organise things, but hey, if you’re on holiday, just go with it.

Iconic Bucket Fountain: Great place to meet some friendly Kiwis

The nicest folks you could hope to meet

Look, even if you turn down a cuppa, only pay in cash, wear shoes, drink only cosmos, constantly have to ask “what’s that” to their slang, and even are a bit uptight, you’ll be pretty well accepted here. Because the people that live here are great. They are happy to chat with the tourists and lend a hand when they can. I urge you to get absorbed in the culture though. Try the way we have coffee, sample or local beer and wines, and even adapt the lingo for a while. Chill out while you are here and maybe even leave your shoes at home. The point of travelling is, after all, to see how the other side of the world lives and give it a go as they do!

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