Local customs guide
Culturally, New Zealand is not markedly different from other English speaking, Western nations – so the same rules of etiquette you learned at home as far as table manners, shaking hands and generally interacting with people will most likely apply. However, there are a few cultural quirks you may want to be aware of.
- Kia Ora (pronounced Keya-O-ra) is a (but not the only) traditional greeting in New Zealand. It is Māori for good day.
- It is traditional to take your shoes off before entering someone’s home. If you aren’t sure, ask.
- Visitors may drop by your house without prior arrangements or invitation.
- When you are invited to dinner at an Aucklander’s home, you make be asked to “bring a plate.” This means a plate of food as opposed to a piece of dinnerware. Be sure to ask what you can bring.
- Parties and BBQs are generally not catered by the host. You should expect to take your own food and drink with you. Contact the host in advance and ask what you should take as they may people to bring different items that can be shared.
- If you host a party or BBQ and you are planning to cater it, make sure you let everyone know otherwise you will find everyone turns up with plates of food.
- Sarcastic, self derogatory, ironic and dry humour are not well received by Aucklanders. People in Auckland can tend to take things very literally, so if you’re being funny, be obvious about it. The very dry UK & South African humour can often offend as Aucklander’s may not realise you are being funny and instead of laughing they will snap at you. This can cause some confusion for new immigrants who are trying to fit in using humour and instead upset people quite unintentionally.
Māori culture is different from European culture. As you are likely to encounter Māori people during your time in New Zealand, it helps to know the following:
- The closest pronunciation of the word Māori in a westernized phonetic format, is “morhrree”, and NOT Mayoree.
- At a Māori gathering, do not place your hat on a table where food is served. This is considered unhygienic.
- Ta moko are traditional Māori facial tattoos that have seen a resurgence since the 1990s for both men and women. True moko is regarded as Tapu (sacred) and use by non-Māori is regarded as offensive.
- The typical Māori greeting is to press noses together briefly – so don’t be alarmed if a new Māori acquaintance moves his face toward yours.
- If you are at a Māori event and you are challenged by someone sticking their tongue out and rolling their eyes at you – do not laugh. Maintain eye contact and do not step back. This is a serious traditional challenge.
- In Māori culture, men are first to enter a room, first to sit and first to be served.
- Some objects and areas in New Zealand are Tapu. Tapu means they are sacred to the Māori and you should be aware of this.