8 awesome things about New Zealand culture

New Zealand is one of the most popular countries for adventurous holidays. But it’s so much more than breathtaking scenery and Lord of the Rings locations (although they are mind-blowing).

I came to New Zealand for the first time in 2014 as a student. I immediately felt a connection to the country and the people – mainly owing to the relaxed Kiwi lifestyle, the food and a new-found love for one particular Kiwi.

Four years later, I came back to live here again and still think New Zealand culture is awesome.

Here is why:

Hobbiton New Zealand movie culture

1. Movies

The first movies that come to your mind when thinking about New Zealand is probably The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Peter Jackson’s fantasy epic are actually my favourite movies of all time.

But besides the international blockbuster, there are a lot of independent New Zealand films that are worth a watch.

One of them is Once Were Warriors – a movie about a Māori family in Auckland in the 1990s. It is a New Zealand classic that every Kiwi has seen at least once. Once Were Warriors is quite violent and dark but it will give you an idea of the struggles Māori people are facing in modern times.

More recent films about Māori culture that are probably a bit more timely are The Dark Horse with Cliff Curtis and Taika Waititi’s Boy. Both great films!

Maori culture New Zealand

2. Māori culture

Another thing I love about New Zealand culture is how European and Māori influences mix. The traditional Māori haka (war dance) before a rugby match, a sport that was invented by the British, is one example.

There is a vibrant kapa haka (Maori performing arts) scene with festivals being held in every major city in New Zealand. If you get the chance, don’t miss going to one of them!

Here are some common phrases in Te Reo Māori (Māori language) that you will undoubtedly come across when you are in New Zealand:

Kia ora” – Hello

Whānau” – Family/extended family

Mahi” – Work

Kai” – Food

Waka” – Boat/canoe

Mana” – Spiritual power

It is quite common for some of the above Māori words to be mixed in with English when Kiwis write and talk.

Kiwi statue Queenstown

3. The slang

I love the Kiwi slang because it sounds so smooth and still clear. One distinct feature about it is the pronunciation of the “ea” as “e” – as in “head” sounds like “hed”. That takes a while to get used to.

Some words that you will find useful travelling through New Zealand are:

  • “How’s it going?” – Used as general greeting like “Hi” and does not necessarily require a “Good, thank you.”
  • “Cheers, mate.” – Thank you.
  • “Wee” – means “little” (they stole that from the Scottish)
  • “Bach” – holiday house, can be rather basic (without electricity or running water) or quite…
  • “flash” – luxurious
  • “Yeah, nah” – something you’re not sure about
  • “Good as gold” – very good
  • “Jandals” – Flip Flops (worn any place, any time in New Zealand)
  • “She’ll be right” – “It’s going to be fine” (more on that mentality later on)
Rugby culture New Zealand

4. Rugby

Rugby is the national sport of New Zealand – there is no doubt about that.

And even if you’re not into sports – you can’t avoid getting a little bit rugby mad when you are in New Zealand and the World Cup or Super Rugby (league of regional teams from New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Japan) is on.

The national team – the All Blacks – are huge role models for young people in New Zealand.

Surfing New Zealand culture

5. The “She’ll be right”

As mentioned before, “she’ll be right” is a Kiwi way of saying “it’s going to be fine”/”don’t worry about it”. Setting aside the question of who “she” is (took me a while to figure that one out), this phrase is quite a fitting way of describing the New Zealand lifestyle in one sentence.

It really is true what everyone says. Kiwis are laid back – in every aspect of life. There are hardly any hierarchical structures in the business world or anywhere else. They even call their Prime Minister “Jacinda”, rather than “Mrs Ardern” or “Prime Minister”.

Kiwis tend not to care so much about what their house or their car looks like or even how they themselves look like (I mean that as a complement).

Lake Tekapo New Zealand

6. The outdoors

New Zealand is the outdoor capital of the world. There are so many places in this country where you will think “this CANNOT be real”.

Most New Zealanders I’ve met are fully aware that they live in the most beautiful country in the world. But for them, the outdoors is more than just nice to look at – it is where they spend a big chunk of their free time.

Even people from cities regularly go out into the country to hunt, fish, take their boat out on a lake or go trekking.

New Zealand weather

7. The weather forecast

Since Kiwis spend so much time outdoors, the weather forecast is a “must-watch”. You can be sure that, at 7pm, nearly every New Zealand family sits in front of the TV.

The New Zealand weather forecast is the most detailed I’ve ever seen. It zooms into every major city in the country and tells you exactly how the weather will be (in the morning, noon and afternoon) at each of those places for the next three days.

The weather woman or man also tells you how the weather has been this very day. Like we haven’t seen that with our own eyes…

Kiwis often speak about the wind. There are two types of winds that you should know when talking to someone from New Zealand – the “Southerly” and the “Nor-wester” (“North-westerly”).

While a “Southerly” brings cold air from the Antarctica, a “Nor-wester” brings warm air from tropical Australia and Asia.

New Zealand farm life

8. Farm life

Agriculture and forestry are New Zealand’s most important industries. The country’s main export products are dairy and meat.

Currently there are six times as many sheep as people in New Zealand. Which you will notice when driving around the country. In New Zealand, you can drive for hours and not see one single person, but you’ll always see some sheep. And recently, more and more dairy cows as well.

Farming in New Zealand is a special kind of lifestyle. It’s a hard business and not an easy job. Some farms are hours away from the next little village or town, located in very remote areas.

It is absolutely fascinating watching a shepherd moving hundreds of sheep with a pack of dogs. He will whistle or shout a command and the dogs will do exactly what they are supposed to – bring the sheep towards him for example. It’s science to me.

Want some more?

I hope you enjoyed reading my first blog post as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Check out my ultimate New Zealand culture guide for travellers if you want to read more!

2 responses to “8 awesome things about New Zealand culture”

  1. […] cultures of different countries and much more. If you liked this article, check out my post about New Zealand culture. Also, you can join me on Instagram […]


  2. […] travel tips, different cultures and much more. If you liked this article, check out my post about New Zealand culture. Also, you can join me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. I would love to have you in my […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.