Dip your toes into the beautiful New Zealand culture.

When it comes to the beauty of the world, you can literally go anywhere and find something to be fascinated with. This is especially true when it comes to the many different cultures of the world. One of the coolest cultures that the eastern side of the globe has to offer is the New Zealand culture. New Zealand is not only known for their beautiful landscapes, but for their beautiful people as well. (Both inside and out that is.) From their charming speech to the delicious New Zealand food, the people of New Zealand have certainly made a mark first themselves in the world of travel. 

Whether you are looking to move to New Zealand or just travel there, we have got a handy guide for you. Today, we are going to go over some of the top distinctions of New Zealand culture and what makes it so unique. Let's get started!

Before you travel to New Zealand, you should prepare yourself for a bit of a culture shock. (Don't worry, it is not too much of a culture shock). No matter where are you are traveling from, you are sure to experience some differences in the New Zealand culture. In fact, these differences might have you raising an eyebrow or two. While these cultural differences might seem a little bit strange at first, don't fret. They will become rather fascinating once you get to know a little bit more about them. In today's article, we are going to help sort out some of these differences. We are going to go over some of the top New Zealand cultural traits that you should keep an eye out for. 

1. Who are the People of New Zeland? 

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If you don't have much familiarity with the people of Polynesia, them the word Maori might be unfamiliar to you. Not only that, but  the word "Kiwi" will most likely conjure up thoughts of the tasty green fruit. However, when it comes to New Zeland culture, this words takes on a whole new meaning. 

The people who inhabit New Zealand, are typically referred to as the Maori people. The cool thing about the Maori is the fact that they have a unique culture that is so distinct. It is this unique New Zeland culture that has encouraged travelers to flock to this beautiful country every travel season. Everything from their food to their dances, the Maori stand out. 

When it comes to the Maori people specifically, the informal name that is used to refer to them is "Kiwi". If you hear this word being passed around, don't expect any fruit coming around. Know that this is essentially another name for someone who hails from New Zealand. 

Unlike many alternative names, the word "Kiwi" does not carry with it any derogatory undertones. In fact, the opposite is true. This calling of the people of New Zeland is one that comes with a sense of pride and love for the identity. Not only that, but the word itself means "flightless bird" in the Maori language. This is a distinction that the people of New Zealand are proud of. 

Finally, one of the distinguishing characteristics of the people of New Zealand is the Haka dance. The Haka dance is arguably one of the most beautiful yet breathtaking and powerful dances that any tribe on the face of this earth has performed. 

In a general definition, the Haka is a traditional Maori war dance. This war dance was typically used on the battlefield. Interestingly enough, the Maori people also perform this powerful dance when they were coming together in a peaceful manner. Today, many Maori people who are celebrating weddings. To get a glimpse at a traditional Haha in a wedding ceremony, click here. 

 If there are any other life changing events, then the Maori people will perform the Haka dance as well. Lastly, it is also common to perform the Haka if a guest of honor makes an appearance in a celebration or event. In fact, some have argued that this Haha at a national sporting event was one of the best. If you get the opportunity to witness a Haka, you will agree that it is truly something moving. However, you might want to prepare yourself a little bit beforehand. For those who do not know, a Haka can be a very confusing and alarming dance. Especially if you do not have any context behind it. 

One of the distinguishing factors of the Haka dance is the fact that it is choreographed with riveting movements. For some, these movements may be interpreted as violent. However, these movements are anything but. Rather, the choreography in a traditional Haka dance is one of the ways that the Maori people show their pride, unity, and strength. This display of character is what makes the Haka dance such a unique performance. For those who perform a Haka, it is a truly a spiritual and an empowering experience. For those who witness one, you are sure never to forget what you just saw.

It is not only the jarring movements of the Haka that will leave a mark on you. The sound of one will too. You will typically find that there is a sort of chant or melody free song that accompanies  a Haka. For the most part, the words that are spoken during the Haka dance are ones that commemorate and pay tribute to lost ancestors. The people of New Zealand also use the Haka as a time to sing about the pivotal moments that helped shape a tribe's history. 

2. Saying Hello 

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Credit: ​Marines

When it comes to traditional Kiwi greetings, many might be put off by the way Maori people say hello to one another. Yes, there is the common handshake, but it is not out of the ordinary to witness someone performing a hongi. The hongi is a unique way in with one Kiwi greets another. They simply bring their heads together so that their forehead and noses are touching. While you should not be expected to great another Maori in this manner every time, it is something that happens on occasion with certain Maori.

The meaning behind this type of greeting is rather beautiful. In a sense, when you greet someone this way, you acknowledge that you are greeting them with a shared bond of "the breath of life". This appreciation for a fellow human being is what makes the New Zeland culture such a beautiful

3. The Food Scene

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Like most any nation, food plays a big role in New Zealand culture. In fact, many Kiwi's will tell you that one of the big driving forces in New Zealand culture is food. When it comes to typical dishes that you can find here the hangi is a typical and traditional as it gets.  If you have been to Hawaii or are familiar with Hawaiian culture, then you may already know a thing or two about what hangi is. Essentially, when you indulge in a hangi, your food will have undergone the meticulous process of having been cooked underground in the Earth. Typically, hangi’s are reserved for special gatherings such as large social get togethers and celebrations. Whether it's a family barbecue, or get together on the beach, hangi’s are rather popular.  

For a more relaxed meal, a sausage sizzle might be your go to food. Essentially, a sausage sizzle is exactly what you might think it would be. With three simple ingredients, you have a meal that super tasty and well loved. With a slab of bread, flavorful sausage, and the topping of caramelized onions, sausage sizzles are a favorite all over New Zealand. In fact, if you ask any Kiwi it as much of a staple in New Zealand culture as fries are in America.

Lastly, when it comes to dessert, you have to try some Hokey Pokey ice cream. Hokey Pokey ice cream is the much sought after honeycomb toffee that is served in fresh vanilla ice cream. This unique blend of flavors creates a dessert that has become a staple of New Zealand culture.

Not only is the food a staple of New Zealand culture, but it weaves its way into every aspect of New Zealand life. One of these ways is the role of food in many social gatherings. In fact, if you do get invited to come over a Kiwi's house for dinner, it is often expected that you bring a dish along with you. This is an absolute must if you are invited over to an event that is a potluck of sorts.

Finally, sharing your food is a staple of New Zealand culture. Don't be surprised if you find that the people surrounding you generously offer up bites of their dishes to those who are dining with them. This whole deal of sharing reflects how caring and thoughtful the people of New Zealand are.

4. Hospitality 

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Hospitality is a big driving force in New Zealand culture. Wherever you go, you can expect to be met with kind hospitality that you can't find in many other parts of the world. This hospitality is due to the fact that the New Zealand people are always so friendly and inviting. Not only that, but you can expect to find that many Maori people have always got a kind smile etched on their face.

No matter where you are, whether you are out in public, out at work, or out at a social gathering, this kind of hospitality is really everywhere you look. That is one of the highlights of New Zealand culture. When you come in contact with this hospitality, do not be weirded out if it seems too upfront. The Maori people are really a great bunch of people who appreciate life and interaction with other people.

5. Work Life

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When it comes to the work culture In New Zealand, for the most part, it offers a rather attractive portrait. New Zealand is a country that values every of life. From enjoying life to enjoying your surroundings, Kiwis believe that if you are going to do something, do it for the benefit of improving your life and the lives of those around you. This philosophy translates into the work culture as well.

The work culture in New Zealand is satisfying in the fact that your quality is life is never lost to a job. Although the people of New Zealand work hard in whatever profession they pursue, they still maintain a rather healthy work life balance. One of the main reasons that this is possible is the fact that many jobs here do offer living wages. Kiwis do not have to burden themselves with earning an income just to satisfy their basic life needs.

Along with that, it is not uncommon to see the people of New Zealand go through several career switches. For many, this is due to the fact that personal growth is reflected in multiple career choices. The people of New Zealand value having a growth mindset that allows them to go through life in a productive manner rather than a repetitive one.

 For the most part, you are sure to find the people of New Zealand choosing to commit to a family centered and enriched lifestyle. Not many Kiwis will not neglect their lifestyle for a job or career. In many countries across Europe, This is a norm. However, this tends to be a stark contrast to the way the work life culture is in America. Unlike western countries, the natives of New Zealand tend not to focus all their energy, effort, and time on a job. If fact, many people who have moved are planning on moving to New Zealand have done so because of the work life balance. 

6. No Shoes, No Problem 

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The New Zealand culture is known for getting in touch with the Earth, and they really mean it. One of the distinguishing factors of New Zealand culture is the fact that Kiwis do not mind strolling around barefoot.

The custom of walking around barefoot is one that is spread throughout New Zealand. In fact, if you go out even in major cities, do not be surprised if you see someone without shoes. This desire to ditch the shoes it something that is super popular during the summer time. With all the beautiful beaches that are around New Zealand, it does make a bit of sense. Not only that, but the well known reputation of new Zealanders being somewhat like "hobbits", does kind of ring a bit true in terms of this cultural choice of Footwear. 

7. Language

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One of the unique features that you may have experienced about the people of New Zealand is their distinct speech. For some, the speech of your typical Kiwi has been described as one where annunciating is not really a priority. Because of this, Kiwis tend to speak in a way that might be a little difficult to understand. Even for native English speakers.

When you hear a person from New Zealand speak, you will be able to pick up on the fact that it is a little different from how an Australian might speak. For example, an Australian's speech has a bit of a more nasal tone then a Kiwi's speech does.

Along with this interesting fact in the way their speech sounds, it will do you good to know that Kiwis love to use slang. While this might be difficult to understand at first, you do eventually start to pick up on it. To make it a little easier for you, you can begin by expecting to hear a lot of "oie, mate" when you are speaking to a Kiwi. This unique distinction in language is part of the reason New Zealand culture is so cool to experience.

8. Positivity is Key 

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It is no secret that New Zealand is such a great place to visit. For starters, there is an impeccable amount of beauty because there is natural wonder surrounding you in every corner. Part of this appealing beauty is the fact that wherever you go in New Zealand, positivity will surround you.

Positivity is a character trait that many New Zealand people hold. With that, the optimistic nature of the people of New Zealand is something that is pretty cool to experience. When you are traveling through the country, you will be met with people who always have a positive outlook on life. If things go wrong, you are sure to find that your fellow Kiwi will give you some wise words of encouragement. These words can often include phrases such as "no worries" and "you will be all right". Without a doubt, the positivity that is found in New Zealand cultures makes it an attractive destination to go to.

Final Thoughts

From the people to the culture, New Zealand has so many wonderful things to offer the world. One of the best ways to get to know this beautiful country is by experiencing New Zealand culture firsthand. If you plan on traveling here soon, then you must make it a point to get to know the Beautiful People of this country. Without a doubt, we are sure you will walk away with an enriching experience that is humbling yet heartwarming. After all, what is traveling without dipping your toes first hand in a new culture?

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Nadia El-Yaouti is a mother, English language arts middle school teacher, writer, and photographer. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and two little girls. Although she considers herself a workaholic, Nadia’s greatest pride is being a mom. When she’s not juggling work, you can be sure to find her traveling the world with her little family.

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