New Zealand may be a small country. However, as the dictum goes, never judge a book by its cover. This relatively small country attracts millions of tourists every year because of a plethora of reasons; one of them being its impressively diverse cultures. Some of these cultures are found exclusively in New Zealand. The kiwi-culture, as it fondly referred to as, is so enthralling and unique to the point of leaving a mark in pop culture. If you’re planning on making the move to New Zealand then it makes sense to get a better understanding of the local culture.
One such influence is the Maori; a culture which has been long incorporated into the European culture. It’s also important to note that the New Zealand folk also love to party. A single visit to this great country, and you’ll quickly understand the true meaning of unwinding and living in the moment. Below are a few cultures you are bound to encounter and even get to appreciate whenever you get the pleasure of visiting the remarkably diverse kiwi country:
The drinking culture
Just like its the case with most countries of the world, New Zealand is, without a doubt a nation that loves to drink. But unlike most countries in the world, drinking in New Zealand is mostly viewed as an act of bonding act. Alcohol has been responsible for forging kiwi friendships that have lasted for a lifetime.
Almost every adult in New Zealand drinks at least once or twice a week; a fact for everyone planning on visiting, especially if they are nondrinkers. However, the latter shouldn’t worry any teetotaler visitors, especially since the Kiwis are as friendly as they are a respectful lot. Nobody is going to give you a hard time for not partaking. As long as you’re having a good time, they too will have a good time.
The fact that the Kiwis can drink without passing judgment is precisely what makes their drinking culture so attractive and unique. They do understand that different people have different journeys and they always leave it at that. However, if you happen to be a bona fide drinker, then you should be ready to make a whole lot of new friends whenever you visit any social place.
Whether it’s a barbecue, a party, a nightclub, you’ll always encounter happy Kiwi souls ready to have the time of their lives. Also, if you’re lucky enough to be invited out for a few drinks, don’t forget to carry some extra cash. Returning a round or two after a Kiwi throws one your way is a show of mutual love and respect.
In as much as the Kiwis love their drink, they also aren’t selfish with it because they want you to feel as good as they do when they take alcohol. That said, it wouldn’t hurt gifting a kiwi friend a bottle of wine or whiskey as a gift for whatever occasion. Do that they’ll love you for eternity.
Besides their meticulous drinking culture, the Kiwis are also famous for their uniquely traditional recipes and cooking methods. One such cooking method is none other than the Hangi. The Hangi is pretty much a large pit that’s filled with red hot stones the Kiwis use to roast their delicacies. The Hangi is a common sighting, especially on most of New Zealand’s beautiful, unpolluted coastlines.
The red hot stones filling up the pits are typically heated by a massive fire which is allowed to burn until it goes off on its own, leaving the rocks red hot and ready for use. Once the fire has completely died down, the cooking officially begins. The Kiwis will place the meat, root vegetables such as kumera, and fish over the stones to cook for hours.
The skilled traditional cooks would wrap the meat or vegetable roots either in flax mats, punga leaves or hessian sacks before cooking. Doing so allows the roasted delicacies to cook evenly without burning due to the excessive heat coming from the red hot stones. The final step of the Hangi involves covering the pit with soil. The food is then left to cook for not less than three hours and not more than seven hours.
The incredible thing about the Hangi experience is the spontaneous oneness shown during the entire cooking process. Everyone, from the men, women to the children take part in it. It all begins in the morning when the strong men and women dig the pits while the children collect the stones. Once the food is prepared and completely covered with soil, the Kiwis engage in bonding activities as they wait for the food to get ready.
Some of these bonding activities may include drinking (which is obvious), chatting, storytelling, playing cricket, or all the above! The Kiwi will have no problem inviting outsiders to the Hangi. So the next time you are in New Zealand, be sure to ask around for the Hangi. You’ll most certainly find one Kiwi who invites you over to the next one. Also, when you find one, care to bring a bottle of wine or whiskey for reasons, I assume you already know.
The Kiwis are a very polite lot
Another reason why New Zealand is a beautiful country to visit is because of the politeness and respect you’ll be shown daily. Unlike most tourist destinations in the world, the Kiwis are famous for embracing everyone despite their ethnic or racial differences. That’s why you ought to look forward to the Hangi because anyone present is treated like family.
You can always count on the same kindness to always be reciprocated anywhere, including the drinking den you visit. For instance, if you offer to buy a Kiwi a drink after they’ve had enough, you’ll hear them say something close to “yes and no” or “yeah but nah.” Whenever you hear this, know your offer is being turned down with utmost respect. They will also be telling you that they feel bad doing so.
So the next time you offer a kiwi a drink and they say “Yeah, nah, mate,” you’ll get the message. However, a Kiwi will never, and I repeat, NEVER turn down a free drink, especially if they are in the mood. Whenever you buy a Kiwi a drink, he or she will see it as a debt that has to be repaid either immediately or later that evening. In short, repaying kindness with more kindness is how things work in New Zealand.
Coming to terms with the fact that Kiwis don’t particularly like shoes that much It would be in your best interest. Maybe this way, you won’t be too shocked when you finally visit and get to see them walking around barefoot like it’s a normal thing. Well to them, it is more of a regular occurrence. Of course, there are times, especially in the cold season, when they have no other choice but to wear shoes.
However, for most of the year, the Kiwis prefer leaving their footprints all over the place like it’s their birthright. Therefore, don’t be stunned whenever you come across a bunch of them without shoes going about their business in a major city such as Wellington. Instead, it would be nice to take off your shoes and join them for the stroll. Trust me; the experience will be worth your while!
Kiwis are mostly extroverted. It’s common for them to share any general information with you and do so gladly. However, when it comes to their personal lives, Kiwis always choose to remain tightlipped. Therefore, it would be in your best interest, as well as that of your Kiwi companion, to always keep the conversation light and about general topics.
Avoid asking personal questions at all costs, especially if they have anything to do with their wages, expenditure, family, marital status. Asking such questions will only make the interaction awkward as well as dampen your companion’s spirits.
Every major town has a bakery
If you’ve done your homework, then you must already know that sandwiches and pastries are more of a staple delicacy in New Zealand. Many Kiwis prefer eating sandwiches and cakes in between their work breaks, explaining why baking is such an essential industry in the country. No one knows why the Kiwis love baked food so much despite having many other alternative delicacies — the latter sounds like one of those mysteries that will never be solved.
Moreover, no one cares about unraveling it as long as the pastries continue tasting as good as they usually do. So, the next time you find yourself in any major city in New Zealand, stop by the first bakery, you see and have a taste of one of their delicious pastries. Then you’ll understand why the Kiwis love them so much. Thankfully, food in New Zealand is very affordable, meaning you can eat as many pastries as your appetite allows you without feeling the pinch in your wallet.
Rugby is embedded in their DNA
The All Blacks National Rugby Team has, for well over a century, put New Zealand on the world map courtesy of their enthralling performances. Therefore, paying homage to their home team might have a few cold beers coming your way in no time. Besides, the All Blacks are one of the most formidable rugby teams ever to walk the earth. So dishing out a compliment or two wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
What the latter means is, if you are a true rugby fanatic, then chances are that your new Kiwi friends will develop an immediate liking for you very quickly. So needless to say, good things come to those who are liked by the Kiwi. You have nothing to worry about if you know anything about the sport. All you need is a quick getting up to speed on the internet, and you’ll be good to go.
The Kiwi culture of always seeing the light at the end of every tunnel (even when there is no light) is one of the many reasons they are a beautiful lot. Whether you are sick, lost, or are just having a bad day; the moment you let your Kiwi companion in on it, they will always have something positive to say. Phrases such as “you’ll be all right” or “things will get better” or sometimes just a “no worries” are some of the most overused in the country. However, no one is complaining at all!
Even if a Kiwi doesn’t know how to help you, he or she will always be quick to assure you, then figure out a way to help you out. Some believe it is because of such optimism that the All Blacks have been able to perform spectacularly over the decades, especially in the face of adversity. That positive, can-do attitude is something we call all borrow from the Kiwi culture and make it our own.
There are many lovely things about the Kiwi culture that need to not only be cherished but respect as well. As the dictum states, “When you go to Rome, do what Romans do.” An excellent example of living by the latter dictum is; whenever you see the Kiwis walking bare feet, take off your shoes and join them, no questions asked.
Besides, the best way to understand and enjoy a different culture is by experiencing it, not by asking questions the natives won’t know how to answer. Besides the attraction which is the ever-intriguing Kiwi-culture, there are many other amazing allures found in New Zealand. There are many old museums from which you can learn all about the Kiwi heritage and general history dating back centuries.
If you’re more of a nature person, you’ll be pleased to know that New Zealand is home to some of the most amazing gardens the world has to offer. While you are at it, you can also enjoy some fishing, tramping, guided walks, zoos, aquariums, and glacier viewing. You’ll also be treated to rejuvenating activities such as swimming, surfing, stand up paddle boarding, as well as many other water sports.