What you should know before you visit New Zealand
So, you’re thinking of coming to Nuw Zulund? Choice. We’ll be heaps stoked to see ya.
If that makes no sense, this article is for you. We’ve covered as much as we can about our big-little country to give you a heads up (before you visit New Zealand) on what you’re about to get yourself into .
You may know we’re a small country in the pacific, and we get the occasional mention from John Oliver. But there’s probably lots of things you don’t know about us. We’re often forgotten about on world maps, so we don’t really blame you.
If you have spotted us on a map, you’ll know we consist of two (and a half) islands.
Contrary to belief, we are not part of Australia. Nor can you walk there on a low tide.
We have a population of 4.794 million people, spread somewhat unevenly across 268,021 km2. Population is particularly dense around the city of Auckland.
The climate is good, as is the coffee, and we kinda do all know each other. We have a pretty relaxed attitude to most things (except rugby). Our speed limits are slow, but our sunburn comes on fast (not sure who put that hole in the ozone layer but it’s a bit inconvenient). And we don’t tip at restaurants.
So, what else do you need to know before you visit New Zealand? Read on.
What do Kiwis eat? The typical New Zealand diet isn’t just hokey pokey ice cream and pāua fritters (ok, maybe in summer). We’re also famous for Pineapple Lumps, lamingtons, feijoas, kūmara, pavlova, mānuka honey, and the highly regarded kina (although it’s a bit of an acquired taste … and texture). Make sure you try some of these specialties while you’re here.
Thanks to our rich soils, nationwide close proximity to the ocean, and good climate, we are also spoilt with high-quality grass-fed meats, seafood, dairy products, and flavourful fruit and vegetables.
You’ll be able to find a weekly farmers market near most towns. These will give you a chance to experience all of the above as well as artisan products – bread, olive oils, honey, and so on.
When dining out, you’ll generally find most types of cuisine. New Zealand food is generally a mixture of various international influences, predominantly western – with a kiwi twist, of course. There isn’t a huge fine-dining presence, but you will find cuisine of every nationality and dietary requirement. If you are a carnivore, you must try a hot mince pie, which can be found almost anywhere that sells food (or petrol).
Hāngi is a traditional Māori method of cooking food in an “umu”, or earth oven. Layered trays of meat and vegetables are placed inside the umu atop some very hot rocks, then covered with wet cloth and soil before being left to steam for around 4 hours. A hāngi is as much an experience as it is a “mean feed”. There’s usually lots of people of all ages, and everyone has a part to play. If you get a chance to go to a hāngi on your visit to New Zealand, we definitely recommend it.
Language We have three official languages in New Zealand: English, Te Reo (or Māori language), and sign language. English (pronounced “Inglush”) is the most widely used.
Accent Apparently New Zealanders have the world’s sexiest accent. Don’t worry – we’re as confused as you are. As Damien Barr has previously advised: “Anyone attempting to speak Kiwi [needs to] simply swap ‘e’ with ‘i’”. So ‘eggs’ become ‘iggs’, and so on. This can often get us in a bit of strife – say, if one was to say “there was six on the deck”, or “he may be dead”, as shown by Flight of the Conchords.
Nature New Zealand is known for its beautiful natural resources, which we love. We’re a small country, so most places have access to several different natural environments. The furthest place inland (from the beach) is only 120 km away, and even that has a river. We’ve got some great bushy reserves, too.
We also love our native animals. The ocean has an abundance of beautiful creatures – whales, dolphins, penguins, etc. And don’t get us started on our birds. We have heaps of choice birds.
If you visit New Zealand, it’s imperative our natural resources are respected. Don’t touch the wildlife, take only photos, leave only footprints, and be aware of any places deemed “tapu” (or sacred) by Māori.
Dress New Zealanders are a casual bunch. Of course, we dress up for special occasions, such as meeting the Prime Minister – provided you haven’t just bumped into her at the shops. Business men and women dress quite corporate, and a very fancy event may require a tuxedo, but don’t be alarmed if you see someone wearing pyjamas to the supermarket (not everyone condones this). Also, bare feet are usually an acceptable form of footwear (this does not mean we are hobbits).
Speaking of Hobbits, Middle Earth is not just west of Wellington. We are not hobbits (some of us are quite tall), and if you go to Milford Sound, you shall pass (if you wish). But if you’re looking for your LOTR fix, you can visit the Hobbiton movie set in Matamata and the land of Mordor in Tongariro National Park.
Politics Jacinda Ardern. Need we say more?
LOTR, Jacinda Ardern, and our sexy accent is not all we’re famous for. OK, no need to bring up the sheep thing – we’re past that. We were first to allow women to vote, split the atom, climb Mount Everest, walk on Antarctica, and bungy jump. We invented the aeroplane, jogging, and the jet unit. We created lamingtons, pavlova, and beef Wellington. We’re also the homeland of Bruce McLaren, Sam Neill, Lorde, Stephen Adams, Sandro Kopp, Jean Batten, Taika Waititi, Rachel Hunter, Burt Munro, and more …. the list is long!
And finally …
Rugby Which we don’t need to really explain; you’ll hear all about it when you get here.
So if you’re ready to dip your bare-footed toes into the Pacific waters of New Zealand, explore the land lurking under the long white cloud or try to decipher the yarns of Aotearoa-eans, we welcome you, with wide-open sunburnt arms. The kettle’s on already.
And if you get here and fall in love with the place (or just our sexy accent) then pop on down to the NZIL office and we’ll jog you through the journey. Kai Pai.