Kiwi culture

Traditions, etiquette and history

Kiwi culture

Before moving to a country it is good to know some facts and figures. These are some of the must know things about New Zealand culture.

A multi-cultural society

New Zealanders, also known as Kiwis, are a friendly, outgoing and welcoming people. Out of the 4.4 million people living in New Zealand today, the Maori, New Zealand’s native people, make up around 14.6% of the population. The other 85.4% is a mixture of Europeans, Asians and Pacific Islanders. This unusual blend of cultures is one reasons New Zealand is so unique.

There are two official languages in New Zealand, Maori and English; however English is the main everyday language.  

New Zealand history

New Zealand was one of the last lands to be inhabited by humans. Over eight hundred years ago the Maori people voyaged thousands of miles across the great unknown Pacific Ocean in small canoes and became the first inhabitants of New Zealand. Up to this day, the Maori culture is a core part of the New Zealand national identity.

A few hundred years later a Dutchman named Abel Tasman was the first European to set foot in New Zealand. Nevertheless, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1849 and so New Zealand became part of the British empire.

Becoming one of the locals

The best way to feel at home in a new place is to become one of the locals. Learn the way of the people and you get comfortable in New Zealand.

Make friends
New Zealand culture

It suffices to say that getting to know New Zealand’s relaxed and friendly people will be one of the things you love most about your move.

New Zealanders are very kind-hearted, they like to joke and smile, and welcome opportunities to meet new people. To become a local it is important to meet and get to know New Zealanders.

To make it easier to meet new people try to be relaxed and open. Don’t be worried about making mistakes with your English for example, as New Zealanders will appreciate you making the effort.

When talking to people in New Zealand it is not appropriate to ask about some topics. Asking a woman (especially an older woman) about her age, asking how much people pay for their house, or how much they earn, are questions they will not appreciate.

Food & table manners

The New Zealand cuisine is made up of a mix of different kinds of food influenced by different cultures. This blend of influences has created a mouth-watering range of flavours and food in cafes and restaurants all over New Zealand.

A New Zealanders evening meal often consists of fresh vegetables with either meat or fish. Some examples of typical New Zealand dishes are: lamb, pork and cervena (venison), salmon, crayfish (lobster), bluff oysters, paua (sea snails), mussels, scallops, pipis and tuatua (both are types of New Zealand shellfish), kumara (sweet potato), kiwifruit, tamarillo and pavlova, the national dessert.

When having dinner at a Kiwi’s home and the host asks you if you would like a ‘second helping’, they mean to ask if you would like to have some more food. You can accept if you would like more, but if you have had enough, just say ‘no thank you’. Your hosts will not think you are impolite. After the meal your host will be happy if you offer to help wash or dry the dishes.

If you love delicious food, good company and a relaxed atmosphere you will definitely like the New Zealand barbecues. Barbecues have become a tradition and an important part of the Kiwi culture. Try to attend one of these BBQs at a reserve or beach. It is during such events that you can witness first-hand the friendliness of the locals. 


Tipping is not expected in New Zealand. People sometimes tip the waiter or waitress in an expensive restaurant but tips are not given in cafeterias or fast food restaurants.


In New Zealand people under the age of 18 are not allowed to buy or consume alcohol and there are heavy penalties for people who drink and drive.
When having a drink in a bar or hotel you are expected to pay for your drink directly after receiving it.

The New Zealand custom of “shouting” means buying a round of drinks. When someone has offered to “shout” you a drink, you should offer to buy the next one. 


It might be good to know that in most of the New Zealand cities it is against the law to make loud noises, even in your own home. It is illegal to use your car horn after 10.30pm and before 7.30am.

Further reading

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