Your Essential Guide to New Zealand Culture

Guide to Culture in New Zealand - Mount Taranaki / Mount Egmont, Taranaki, New Zealand

Whilst many of those who first settled in New Zealand were Europeans, New Zealand now has quite a diverse culture that has influences from the Maori and Polynesian people as well as from the Pacific Islands and Asia and so whilst much of the culture is still borrowed from the UK and Europe, there will be parts of New Zealand life that will be unfamiliar to the newcomer.

The Kiwi hospitality and Māori traditions come together in a fascinating way to form the culture of New Zealand. Together, we can explore the intriguing stories and unique gems that this culture offers.

Table of contents


Officially there are 3 languages in New Zealand; English, the Maori language (Te Reo Maori) and Sign Language.

New Zealand English has a few variations, mostly in the accent which may sound to our ears like an Australian accent but is as distinct from Australian as a Birmingham accent is from a Mancunian accent. Therefore it would be wise not to compare the two!

Te Reo Maori is spoken by over 150,000 people in New Zealand who have a dedicated Maori television channel and an official Maori language week. Attempts to increase this native language have largely been successful and the number of people who speak Te Reo Maori is growing.

The New Zealand Sign Language is comparable to British Sign Language but also includes Maori words and has an American influence.

Maori Culture

The Maori culture in New Zealand is an integral part of the country’s history and identity. The Maoris were skilled navigators, who traveled from Polynesia to New Zealand over 2,000 years ago. Upon arrival, they established a community-based culture that was deeply rooted in spiritual beliefs and traditions. They believed in the concept of Mana, which is the power and authority that comes from one’s ancestors.

This belief is still prevalent today, and many Maoris hold on to their cultural practices and customs as a way to connect with their ancestors and maintain their sense of identity. The Maori language, Te Reo, is also an essential part of their cultural heritage. It is a unique language that has its own pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. However, for many years, the language was on the verge of extinction due to the influence of colonialism.

Today, there is a renewed effort to preserve and promote Te Reo as an official language of New Zealand. One of the most recognizable symbols of Maori culture is the Haka, a traditional dance that is performed during important events such as weddings, funerals, and sports matches. The Haka is a powerful display of strength and unity that has gained worldwide recognition through the All Blacks rugby team.

The All Blacks perform their pre-match tradition – the haka, at the final of Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand

Another aspect of Maori culture that has grown in popularity in recent years is traditional Maori tattooing or Ta Moko. These tattoos are more than just body art; they tell a story about the wearer’s identity and ancestry. Each design is unique and represents a specific aspect of the person’s life.

Overall, the Maori culture has played a significant role in shaping New Zealand’s history and identity. It continues to be celebrated and preserved by both Maoris and non-Maoris alike, making it an essential part of the country’s diverse cultural landscape.

Many tourist operators specialise in offering visits to marae where you can listen to such stories and eat traditional Maori food. Don’t forget to greet your hosts by touching their nose with yours.

Religion in New Zealand

New Zealand is a multicultural country with a diversity of religions. The majority of the population, around 40%, follows Christianity which is divided into various denominations such as Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist.

Religion in New Zealand - New Zealand Culture Guide

Hinduism is the second most popular religion in New Zealand with about 2% of the population adhering to it. Buddhism and Islam are other significant religions in the country with around 1% of the population following each.

Interestingly, New Zealand is also home to various non-theistic and spiritual belief systems like atheism, agnosticism and pantheism.

Apart from these religions, the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand have their own unique religion called Polytheism. It is a belief system that recognizes multiple gods and goddesses, each representing different elements of nature such as land, sea and sky. The Maori people believe that these deities can influence their daily lives and interactions with the natural world around them. Although Christianity has had a significant impact on Maori culture over the years, many Maori people still practice their traditional beliefs and customs alongside their Christian faith.

In recent years, there has been an increase in religious diversity in New Zealand due to immigration from countries with different religious backgrounds. As a result, there has been a growing interest in interfaith dialogue and understanding among different religious communities in the country.

The government also recognizes the importance of religious freedom and promotes tolerance and respect for all religions through policies and initiatives aimed at promoting social harmony and inclusion.

Typical New Zealand Traits

New Zealanders, or Kiwis, have a range of typical traits that are often associated with their culture and way of life. Here are some common characteristics:

Friendliness: Kiwis are known for their friendly and welcoming nature. They are generally open to meeting new people, engaging in conversation, and offering assistance if needed. Don’t be surprised if strangers strike up a conversation with you or offer help without hesitation.

Relaxed Attitude: New Zealanders tend to have a laid-back and relaxed approach to life. They value work-life balance and prioritize leisure time, outdoor activities, and spending time with family and friends. This attitude contributes to the overall sense of tranquility and enjoyment of life in New Zealand.

Humility: Kiwis are often modest and down-to-earth, displaying humility in their interactions. Bragging or excessive self-promotion is generally frowned upon. Instead, New Zealanders appreciate modesty, sincerity, and a willingness to work collaboratively.

Love for the Outdoors: With its stunning landscapes and natural beauty, New Zealand offers abundant opportunities for outdoor activities. Kiwis have a deep connection with nature and tend to have a strong affinity for outdoor adventures such as hiking, camping, surfing, skiing, and sailing. Exploring the outdoors and appreciating the environment is an integral part of the Kiwi way of life.

Resilience and Ingenuity: New Zealanders are known for their resilience and resourcefulness. The country’s remote location and diverse geography have fostered a culture of self-sufficiency and problem-solving. Kiwis often display innovation and adaptability in overcoming challenges, whether it’s in business, sports, or everyday life.

Environmental Consciousness: New Zealand has a strong commitment to environmental conservation and sustainability. Many Kiwis actively participate in conservation efforts, and there is a collective sense of responsibility towards protecting the country’s unique flora, fauna, and ecosystems. You’ll find a widespread emphasis on recycling, renewable energy, and eco-friendly practices.

Multiculturalism and Inclusivity: New Zealand is a multicultural society that embraces diversity. Kiwis generally value inclusivity, tolerance, and respect for different cultures and backgrounds. They appreciate learning about other cultures and often celebrate diversity through various festivals, events, and community initiatives.

Love for Sports: Sports, particularly rugby union, holds a special place in New Zealand’s culture. Kiwis are passionate about rugby and proudly support their national team, the All Blacks. Cricket, netball, rugby league, and football (soccer) are also popular sports in New Zealand. Participating in sports and supporting local teams is a common way for Kiwis to connect and bond.

Kiwi Slang: A newcomers guide to common slang used by New Zealanders

If you’re planning to visit New Zealand, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the local slang as it can be quite different from what you’re used to. Kiwi slang is a unique blend of Maori, British and Australian English, and includes words and phrases that may be confusing for newcomers

Sweet as“: This phrase is commonly used to mean “all good” or “no problem.” For example, if someone asks if you need help, you can respond with “Nah, I’m sweet as.”

Chur“: This is a versatile slang term that can be used to express agreement, thanks, or appreciation. It’s similar to saying “cheers” or “thanks.” For example, if someone offers you a drink, you can respond with “Chur, mate!”

Eh?“: This is a tag question used to seek agreement or confirmation. It’s similar to “right?” or “isn’t it?” For example, if you’re telling a story and want to check if the listener is following, you might say, “So, I went to the beach, eh?”

Bach“: Pronounced like “batch,” this term refers to a holiday home or beach house. Kiwis often escape to their baches during weekends or holidays.

Jandals“: This term is used to refer to flip-flops or sandals. Instead of saying “flip-flops,” you’ll commonly hear Kiwis say, “I’m just going to slip on my jandals and head to the beach.”

She’ll be right“: This phrase is used to convey a sense of optimism or reassurance that things will work out fine. It’s often used in a laid-back and relaxed manner. For example, if someone is worried about a situation, you might say, “Don’t worry, mate. She’ll be right.”

Dairy“: In New Zealand, a “dairy” is a convenience store or a small shop where you can buy everyday items like milk, snacks, and newspapers.

Togs“: This term is used to refer to swimwear or bathing suits. When someone asks if you’re going swimming, they might say, “Do you have your togs?”

Scroggin“: Also known as Trail Mix. Perfect for outdoor adventures! Remember to pack this in when you book your rafting Rotorua trip with us.

Beaut“: Great, excellent.

Munted“: When something is really broken or someone is highly intoxicated. As in “That fulla is munted!”

Stoked“: Pretty happy and chuffed about something.

Chook“: Chicken. Funnily it can also be an endearment!

New Zealand Cuisine: A Gastronomic Adventure in the Land of Flavors

New Zealand’s cuisine is a delectable fusion of fresh and diverse ingredients, drawing inspiration from its bountiful land and coastal treasures. With a rich culinary heritage rooted in indigenous Māori traditions and influenced by its multicultural population, New Zealand offers a gastronomic adventure that tantalizes the taste buds and celebrates the country’s unique flavors.

New Zealand is famous for its flourishing agricultural industry, which is reflected in its cuisine. The country’s focus on using fresh, locally sourced, and high-quality ingredients is evident in its farm-to-table delicacies. You can enjoy mouth-watering grass-fed beef and lamb, free-range poultry, and farm-fresh fruits and vegetables. The farmlands’ pristine condition contributes to the pure and natural flavors of the food. Savor the succulent cuts of meat and relish the vibrant seasonal produce that characterizes New Zealand’s cuisine.

Seafood Galore

Seafood - Mussels - New Zealand Culture Guide

With its extensive coastline and thriving marine ecosystems, it comes as no surprise that New Zealand boasts an impressive array of seafood delicacies. From succulent green-lipped mussels, tender Bluff oysters, to delicate white fish and rich crayfish (lobster), the ocean provides a cornucopia of flavors. Sample the freshest seafood offerings, whether in elegant fine dining establishments or at bustling coastal fish and chip shops, for an authentic taste of New Zealand’s maritime bounty.

Māori Kai

Māori Kai - Traditional New Zealand food - New Zealand Culture Guide

The Māori culture holds a significant place in New Zealand’s culinary landscape. Māori cuisine, known as “kai,” celebrates traditional cooking methods and indigenous ingredients. Immerse yourself in a Māori feast called a hangi, where food is cooked in an underground oven using heated stones. Savor the flavors of succulent meats, root vegetables, and aromatic herbs, all cooked to perfection. Experience the unique taste of kūmara (sweet potato), rewena bread, and earthy flavors that pay homage to the Māori ancestral traditions.

Pacific Island Influences

The Pacific Island communities have contributed their vibrant culinary traditions to the New Zealand food scene. Explore the flavors of Polynesia, Tonga, Samoa, and the Cook Islands through dishes such as umu-cooked (earth oven) meals, delicious coconut-based curries, and tropical fruits like taro and pawpaw. Indulge in the Pacific Island hospitality and savor the diverse flavors that reflect the cultural diversity of New Zealand.

Fusion Cuisine

Dimsum - New Zealand Fusion Cuisine - New Zealand Culture Guide

New Zealand’s multicultural society has given rise to innovative fusion cuisine, blending traditional elements with international influences. From Asian-inspired dumplings and sushi to European-inspired artisanal cheeses and wines, the fusion of flavors creates a dynamic culinary landscape. Explore the vibrant food markets, trendy cafes, and award-winning restaurants, where talented chefs experiment with diverse ingredients to craft unique and memorable dining experiences.

Sweet Treats and Baking Traditions

Pavlova - New Zealand Cuisine - New Zealand Culture Guide

No culinary journey in New Zealand would be complete without indulging in the country’s sweet treats and baking traditions. Sample the iconic pavlova—a light and crispy meringue dessert topped with fresh fruits—savor the buttery delight of Anzac biscuits, and relish the irresistible flavors of hokey pokey ice cream with its signature caramelized honeycomb. The Kiwi baking culture is steeped in tradition, offering an array of cakes, slices, and pies that warm the heart and satisfy the sweet tooth.

New Zealand cuisine is a culinary adventure that celebrates the country’s natural abundance, cultural diversity, and culinary heritage. From the freshest farm-to-table ingredients to mouthwatering seafood, Māori kai to Pacific Island flavors, and innovative fusion creations, New Zealand’s

Forging New Pathways: New Zealand’s Free Trade Agreement with the United Kingdom

In a historic move that signifies a new era of economic cooperation, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have recently signed a free trade agreement. Building on a long-standing relationship and shared values, this landmark agreement opens up exciting opportunities for trade, investment, and collaboration between the two nations. As the door to a prosperous future swings wide open, let’s explore the significance and potential of the New Zealand-UK free trade agreement.

New Zealand’s free trade agreement with the United Kingdom will enter into force on 31 May 2023.

The NZ-UK FTA is one of the highest quality and most comprehensive free trade agreements that New Zealand has ever concluded.

The bond between New Zealand and the UK is one-of-a-kind. The Agreement solidifies this relationship even more by building stronger trade and investment connections between the two nations.

New Zealand has managed to secure an excellent market access package in a trade deal, granting them preferential access to the UK’s enormous consumer market of NZ$3 trillion. This is the first time New Zealand has had this kind of access since the UK became a member of the EU five decades ago.

New Zealand’s Trade relationship with the United Kingdom is quite significant as they are one of our top trading partners. In fact, New Zealand does about NZ$5.3 billion worth of business together. The UK has promised to abolish all tariffs on our exports gradually which is great news for us. Almost all of our exports to the UK will now be duty-free.

NZ exporters will immediately save approximately $37 million per year on elimination of tariffs alone.

New Zealand prioritized safeguarding and endorsing the interests of their indigenous population, the Māori, in the latest trade agreement. They accomplished this by adding a chapter on Māori Trade and Economic Cooperation that will serve as a platform for addressing issues that are significant to the Māori community.

The FTA also reflects Māori interests in key areas across the agreement, such as in the intellectual property and trade and environment chapters. It also includes New Zealand’s Treaty of Waitangi exception, which enables the New Zealand Government to take measures it deems necessary to accord more favourable treatment to Māori regarding matters covered under the Agreement, including in fulfilment of its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

New Zealand’s Trade for All agenda is reflected throughout the FTA, including in dedicated chapters on Trade and Gender supporting women’s economic empowerment, Trade and Development, Consumer Protection, and Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises; and advanced provisions on Environment (including climate change), Trade and Labour, and Anti-Corruption.

Preparations for a NZ-UK FTA began in 2017, but negotiations began only once the UK exited the European Union.Negotiations were formally launched in June 2020.

On 20 October 2021 New Zealand and the UK reached Agreement in Principle (AIP) which confirmed the parameters of the deal and set out the terms on which the text was concluded over subsequent months.

The Agreement was signed on 28 February 2022 (1 March NZT).

Read the media statement: NZ-UK FTA to enter into force early by end of the month.

Find more information including key outcomes, the National Interest Analysis, the full text of the FTA, and next steps here.

In conclusion, New Zealand’s culture is a harmonious blend of tradition, warm hospitality, love for the outdoors, and multiculturalism. It’s a place where ancient customs meet modern aspirations, and where the beauty of nature is cherished and protected. Embracing the unique aspects of New Zealand culture is an invitation to embark on a journey of discovery, connection, and unforgettable experiences.

Moving to New Zealand?

If you are thinking of making that move to New Zealand and need to safely and reliable ship your personal belongings and furniture overseas, 1st Move International offers fast and safe international removals to New Zealand. Simply get a quote here or contact us to find out more.

About 1st Move International

1st Move International are a specialist international moving and shipping company offering packing, shipping and insurance for shipping household goods and personal effects overseas. We have a global reach covering over 80 countries and 6500 worldwide destinations. You can get an international removals quote here or find more information on our international removals UK to New Zealand service here.

Avatar for Mike Harvey
As the Managing Director of 1st Move International, Mike Harvey brings more than two decades of logistics expertise and three years of specialised experience in international relocations to his role. His comprehensive knowledge spans the intricacies of overseas shipping, secondary yet crucial areas such as visa application processes and immigration requirements, and the wider topic of moving abroad including topics such as comparative analyses of cost of living, healthcare and educational systems worldwide. This expertise allows 1st Move International to equip people with the information they need to not just move overseas, but to make informed decisions about whether, and where, to relocate.