Just like every country, New Zealand has its own unique culture. Although it is an island country that is seemingly isolated, it is vibrant with scenic landscapes and rich culture and tradition; notably the Maori people. Knowing how to act may get confusing, but this guide will make it easier for you to blend in with the Kiwis!
1. Visit a Marae. A Marae is a sacred place in the Maori society where they gather for social and religious reasons. When visiting, make sure you follow the proper protocols.
2. Open your gift upon receipt. If someone gives you a gift, it is polite to open it in their presence, so there is no need for suspense!
3. Use first names. Kiwis are generally very casual people and using first names is normal, even if it’s the first time you have met.
4. Eat after everyone has settled down. It is customary to wait until everyone is ready to eat before digging in.
5. Pay attention to the weather as it can get intense in New Zealand. Landslides are common occurrences in winter along with heavy rain. So be sure to travel with caution.
6. Give ‘koha’ when visiting the Maori. The concept of ‘koha’ is a donation given in order to be granted entry to a Maori person’s land.
7. Follow cultural traditions when visiting places such as Tamaki Cultural Village, you will be given a fern as a welcoming tradition. When a fern is gifted, it is highly offensive to turn one’s back. Instead, walk backwards while keeping eye contact with the person who gifted you the fern.
8. Accept a ‘hongi’ with grace. A ‘hongi’ is where two people press their noses together as way of greeting each other. When a chieftain greets you this way, don’t be surprised; he is not leaning in for a smooch!
9. Keep your face expressionless when someone is performing Haka in front of you.
10. Keep eye contact when speaking with one another; it might make you feel uncomfortable but it is considered polite if you maintain eye contact whilst chatting.
1. Don’t make the V-sign with your hand. While in other countries, the V sign may mean victory (i.e. North America), in New Zealand, it is rude if the palm of the hand faces the signer.
2. Don’t haggle in open markets. It shows bad manners to try to haggle for prices in open markets; especially farmer’s markets.
3. Don’t pull over anywhere just to take pictures. While taking a road trip, you might be tempted to pull over and take photos of the scenic background. But even if there is less traffic in New Zealand, there are still rules that need to be followed!
4. Do not trespass ‘tapu’ lands. ‘Tapu’, meaning sacred, are areas that the Maori people consider as land where spirits dwell. There is restriction to access as a form of respect to Maori tradition.
5. Don’t put your hat on a table. In Maori tradition, the table is important because it is where you eat. So avoid putting your hat on a table in the presence of Maori people.
6. Don’t eat or drink inside a ‘wharenui’ (meeting place). Wharenui is a sacred place, and eating there is akin to eating in a church. So avoid doing it.
7. Don’t say anything bad about the All Blacks. In New Zealand, rugby is very popular, and you will seek their enmity if you say anything bad about their team, on their turf!
8. Do not sit on a table. Tables must be hygienic at all times, so avoid sitting on a dining table.
9. Don’t eat your meal before it has been blessed by a Maori person. If you are visiting the Maori people, wait until the host has given their blessings before eating.
10. Don’t smoke. In New Zealand, smoking is prohibited in public spaces, bars and restaurants. Even in an open space, it is polite to ask everyone in that area if they mind you smoking.