Learn New Zealand

10 Practical Tips to Fit into the Culture of New Zealand

Culture of New Zealand - Hongi

Image credit: 100% Pure New Zealand

I am still learning to fit into the culture of New Zealand after living here for 5 years. In this post, I will list out 10 things that I wouldn’t know if I have not lived here. If you are visiting this country, maybe you can learn some tips below for an ‘experiential travel’. If you are already living here, hope the post below will bring a smile on your face. 🙂


1. Discuss weather

In my home country Malaysia, we don’t often talk about the weather. I guess this is because the temperature in Malaysia is hot and humid all the time (even when it’s raining), so there is no point of discussing it. In New Zealand, the weather and temperature can change dramatically within a day so it makes a good topic.

So if you don’t know how to start a conversation with a New Zealander, try “how’s the weather today?”, “It’s pretty cold isn’t it?”, “It looks like a beautiful sunny day!”.


2. Rugby makes them proud

Rugby is the most iconic sport in New Zealand, and they are good at playing it. The locals are crazy about All Black (New Zealand national rugby union team). When there is a rugby event such as Super Rugby, you will never find an empty seat in a pub if you do not arrive early. I am not a big fan of rugby but have learned some basics, so I will not embarrass myself when talking to anyone!

Culture of New Zealand - All Blacks

Credit: All Blacks Facebook Page


3. All about coffee

Too stressful? Let’s have a coffee… Having an informal interview? Let’s have a coffee… No reason? Also, go for a coffee.

The New Zealanders like to discuss work matters or socialise with people while drinking a cup of coffee. You will see a lot of cafe on the street and most of them make really good coffee. By the way, the origin of Flat White coffee is New Zealand (some said Australia), so make sure you try it!


4. Use the word of Kiwi (not the food)

New Zealanders call themselves ‘Kiwi’ (the national bird in New Zealand). They like to use Kiwi to describe New Zealand, such as kiwi food, kiwi slang, kiwi culture, kiwi… Since I am working in accounting and finance, I always use the word ‘Kiwi Dollar’ in my presentations, which means New Zealand Dollars.


5. Slow down and relaxed

Although some Kiwis are aggressive and working very hard, most of them are laid back and relaxed. Whether you like it or not is very subjective – some people prefer the peaceful environment while some are competitive. Since I am living in New Zealand, I try to slow down my pace and enjoy it.


6. It takes time for the foreigners to make friends

Despite Kiwis being friendly to strangers, foreigners find it hard to convert interactions with New Zealanders into actual meaningful friendships. Kiwis can come across as clique-y and disinterested in making new friends, and expats often find themselves befriending other expats instead. Most surprising to foreigner is the average Kiwi’s perception of Asian people, which can go from dismissive and stereotyped at best, to downright racist at worst.

Source: stuff.co.nz (see point #6)

I think this is a very common issue in everywhere in the world, though still quite shocking that it is happening in New Zealand. Try to be talkative and sociable with the Kiwis as much as you can (in which I am still learning!). One of the useful tips is to start your conversation by asking “Hi, how are you?” with a sincere smile. 🙂


7. Trust people

In New Zealand, many people that I have met are kind-hearted, honest and innocent (but of course every place has bad people). For example, if anything that you buy is broken and when you take it back to the shop, usually they will replace for you without asking any proof or question (or very few questions) because they trust people.

Trust people


8. Join kiwi social events

For example, quiz night (pub quiz) is a very common social activity in New Zealand, which is most probably influenced by the UK as the pub quiz was originally established in the UK. New Zealand appears to have some similarity with the UK’s culture.


9. Try Kiwi food

What are New Zealand dishes? Fish and chips, pavlova, L&P drink, and much more… But to be honest, I don’t like them so much except the kiwi dip + chips – which is a really delicious snack! It is also easy to make a kiwi dip on your own.


10. The locals love the sunshine and stay out of room

Kiwis are outgoing – they love hiking, playing rugby with their children on the beach and some other outdoor activities. I feel that kids are not so tech-savvy than I have seen in my home country or other countries.


It is fun to learn the culture of New Zealand

The first two years were difficult for me. It appears that the culture of my home country, Malaysia, is very different from New Zealand especially in the workplace (source: New Zealand Now). Over the last 4-5 years, I have been learning to fit into the culture of New Zealand. This is not an easy task for me since I am used to Asian culture. But I know it is important to understand/adapt to the locals’ behaviours and habits. Perhaps this is part of the fun when living abroad. So, keep learning!


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