• The Culture Of New Zealand

A traditional Māori carving in New Zealand.

  • New Zealand's culture is a mix of Western and Indigenous influences.
  • The Māori people have lived on the island since the 14th century, and the British colonizers came in the 18th century, forever altering the course of history for the inhabitants of New Zealand.
  • Most of New Zealand's population is either Christian or not religious, and the country also includes different faiths like Islam and Buddhism.
  • The traditional Māori music, dance and art forms are still practiced today, and have significantly influenced New Zealand's artistic expression.
  • Rugby is the most popular sport in New Zealand, but many other sports are practiced as well.

The island of New Zealand is located in the southwestern region of the Pacific Ocean,  southeast of Australia. New Zealand is a diverse nation, with colonial Western culture influenced by Māori customs and traditions. Before the 1800s, the Māori pre-colonial culture was dominant on the island. The Māori culture developed from Polynesian influences of their traditional lands, and when they arrived on the island we now know as New Zealand in about the 14th century, their culture developed under the influence of their new surroundings. 

The migration of the Europeans into New Zealand in the 1800s forever changed the course of history for its inhabitants. These Europeans carried with them traditions and practices of their native lands, most of whom were from Britain. Cultural interactions among the Europeans and the Māori people created a new set of new practices both for the Māori and for the Europeans as they exchanged different aspects of religion, dress, music, and language. These interactions between the Indigenous Māori and the European settlers gave rise to the Pakeha people. Currently, New Zealand is committed to promoting its cultural heritage, especially the Māori culture, which is unique to this country.

Social Beliefs And Customs

essay about new zealand culture

Though the relations between the Indigenous peoples and Western settlers have varied throughout its history and have been strained at times, New Zealand is founded on the principles of equality and classlessness. Although the earlier culture of the Māori displayed social stratification with three different hierarchies of belonging in their society, the classes relatively disappeared with influence and interaction with other cultures. New Zealanders, also called Kiwis, are social people who believe in basic politeness and hospitality to all. They value aspects such as personal distance during communication, greeting, and have defined expectations on showing affection in public. For instance, during communication, too much eye contact and closeness translate to the invasion of personal space. Greetings are also an important part of the social fabric of New Zealand with parties acknowledging each other with a simple “Good day!”

essay about new zealand culture

The cuisine of the Māori people includes sweet potatoes, fern roots, birds, and fish prepared into various meals with earthen ovens, roasting and steaming over natural hot springs and pools. The influences of the European culinary cultures on the Māori led to the adoption of pork and potatoes in the Māori diet. The Pakeha people, a word used to refer to light-skinned Māori or to the Western colonizers, brought their native culinary tradition into New Zealand including their high consumption of red meat and sweet foods. The evolution of the country’s cuisine from influences of local and international cultures has led to the emergence of new cuisines and the recreation of former ones. Food tourism has also grown, with tourists eager to partake in unique cuisines and more restaurants incorporating a variety of local and ethnic foods into their menus. Increased awareness of healthy eating has also played a significant role in the production and preparation of food in the country with most people opting for healthier choices.

essay about new zealand culture

Clothing is an essential part of the identity of New Zealanders. While most of the fashion is from Western culture, subtle influences of other cultures, particularly Māori, can be found in the dress and style of clothing. Both the Māori and the Pakeha borrowed clothing styles and pattern designs from each other. Today, the Māori will often wear their traditional clothing during cultural festivals, and their daily wear is primarily casual and Western in style. Generally, New Zealanders dress in a smart-casual style when out for social events.

Music And Dance

essay about new zealand culture

Music and dance are some of the aspects that are central to any culture. The music and dance in the New Zealandic culture draw its influences from genres such as jazz, pop, hip-hop, or rock and roll. However, the music has a unique New Zealand twist from the incorporation of Māori singing traditions, dances and musical instruments. Traditional Māori music featured monotonal and harmonic signing, usually by a group of singers. Later on, the music developed through the adoption of European styles and instruments leading to the rise of contemporary Māori music. Dance styles of New Zealand descend from influences of the Pacific, Asian, and European cultures. Cultural dances and music are often seen at festivals and cultural events in New Zealand. The most famous dance is the Pacific dance, a part of the Pasifika festival. The traditional Māori dance, the Haka, has also gained prominence in New Zealand. Other dances in New Zealand include the Irish dance, Morris dance, Legong, Chinese lion and dragon dances, and Bharata Natyam.

Literature And Arts

essay about new zealand culture

The traditional Māori storytelling is primarily oral. During the pre-European era, oral traditions were the common method of transmission of their cultural traditions, beliefs, and practices. The major literature developed in New Zealand for a long time showed the dominance of European influence. Very few Māori engaged in literary production, with that trend changing only recently. The Māori flourished in the performing arts such as traditional dances and songs. New Zealand is home to numerous museums and galleries that contain relics of the Māori arts including sculptures, woven items, and carvings made from various materials. Some individuals, organizations and the government provide funds towards the promotion and revival of traditional arts.

Religions And Festivals

essay about new zealand culture

Before the coming of the European, the polytheistic Māori religion was the common practice. With the introduction of Christianity, some of the Māori people converted to Christianity. Other religions sects such as the Ringatu and Ratana have retained some of their traditional religious practices while adopting the Christian faith. Since the 19th century, Christianity has risen to the prominence of being the most popular religion in the country, totaling about 45% of the population. The main Christian groups in New Zealand are Roman Catholics and Anglicans with about 12% each, and Presbyterian at 8.47%. Other religious groups in New Zealand include Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims. About 38% of the population has no religion. Festivals in New Zealand exhibit influences of both traditional and modern cultures. The two most recognized New Zealand native festivals include ANZAC Day, which commemorates New Zealand and Australia’s fallen soldiers and veterans, and Waitangi Day, the anniversary of the signing of the Waitangi Treaty between British representatives and Māori chiefs which acts as the country’s founding document. Religious festivals, as in other Christian countries, include birth, marriage, and death, which include foods, drinks, songs, and dance.

essay about new zealand culture

Sports are important in the culture of New Zealand. Popular sports include rugby, cricket, football, netball, golf, basketball, hockey, tennis, and water sports such as sailing and surfing. New Zealand also uses its winter season for sporting activities such as skiing and snowboarding. New Zealand participates in both local and international competitions and has a prominent national rugby team commonly known as the All Blacks. Athletic activities in New Zealand are also vital, especially track and field events including racing, boxing, and cycling. Most of the sporting activities developed from influences of British and Western cultures and grew from recreation activities to competitive and professional ones. New Zealand also prides itself on the invention of bungee jumping and zorbing, both of which are tourist attractions of New Zealand.

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Essay on New Zealand Culture

Students are often asked to write an essay on New Zealand Culture in their schools and colleges. And if you’re also looking for the same, we have created 100-word, 250-word, and 500-word essays on the topic.

Let’s take a look…

100 Words Essay on New Zealand Culture

Introduction to new zealand culture.

New Zealand culture is a rich blend of native Maori traditions and influences from European settlers. It’s known for its strong connection to nature and a laid-back lifestyle. Sports, arts, and community events play a big part in the lives of New Zealanders, often called Kiwis.

Maori Heritage

The Maori are the first people of New Zealand. Their customs, language, and arts are central to the nation’s identity. The haka, a traditional Maori dance, is famous worldwide. Maori values and history are respected and celebrated across the country.

Outdoor Lifestyle

New Zealand’s beautiful landscapes make outdoor activities popular. Hiking, rugby, and water sports are activities that many people enjoy. This love for the outdoors is a key part of what it means to be a Kiwi.

Food and Festivals

New Zealand’s food is a mix of fresh local ingredients and international flavors. The traditional Maori hangi, a feast cooked underground, is a special treat. Festivals throughout the year showcase music, film, and food, bringing communities together.

Arts and Creativity

Creativity thrives in New Zealand. From local crafts to world-class films, Kiwis are proud of their artistic achievements. Traditional Maori carvings and modern art galleries display the nation’s talent and diversity.

New Zealand culture is unique, with its blend of Maori traditions and modern lifestyle. It’s a culture that cherishes its past while embracing the future, full of adventure, community, and artistic expression.

250 Words Essay on New Zealand Culture

New Zealand, a beautiful country far in the Pacific Ocean, has a rich culture that mixes the traditions of its native Maori people with influences from European settlers and other cultures from around the world. This blend has created a unique way of life for the people of New Zealand, known as Kiwis.

Maori Traditions

The Maori are the first people of New Zealand, and their customs are a big part of the country’s culture. One famous Maori tradition is the ‘haka’, a powerful dance used to welcome guests or to show strength in sports. Maori language, stories, and art are also important and are taught in many schools.

New Zealanders love the outdoors. With lots of beautiful landscapes, from beaches to mountains, it’s common for people to spend time hiking, sailing, or playing sports like rugby, which is very popular. This love for nature is seen in how they care for the environment.

Food in New Zealand includes fresh seafood, lamb, and ‘hangi’, a traditional Maori way of cooking food in the ground. There are also many festivals that celebrate the arts, food, and history, where everyone can enjoy music, dance, and good food together.

New Zealand’s culture is a colorful tapestry woven from its indigenous roots and the various cultures that have come together on its islands. It’s a place where history is respected, nature is cherished, and people from all backgrounds share in the beauty of Kiwi life.

500 Words Essay on New Zealand Culture

New Zealand, a country in the Pacific Ocean, is known for its rich culture that comes from its native people, the Māori, and the mix of other cultures brought by people from around the world. The culture of New Zealand is a colorful tapestry that includes art, language, sports, and celebrations.

The Māori Influence

The Māori are the first people of New Zealand, and their customs, language, and traditions are a big part of the country’s culture. The Māori language, called Te Reo Māori, is one of the official languages of the country. Traditional Māori art, like wood carvings and tattoos called ‘moko,’ are well-known. The haka, a type of war dance, is performed at important events and has become famous worldwide through New Zealand sports teams.

Food in New Zealand is a mix of Māori dishes and food from other places like Europe and Asia. A traditional Māori way of cooking called ‘hangi’ involves steaming food underground. It is a special part of celebrations and gatherings. New Zealand also has many festivals that show off its culture, like Waitangi Day, which celebrates the signing of an important treaty between the Māori and the British.

Sports and Recreation

Sports are a big deal in New Zealand. Rugby is the most popular sport, and the national team, the All Blacks, is known all over the world. People in New Zealand also enjoy cricket, netball, and soccer. Being close to the ocean and having lots of nature, New Zealanders love outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, and bungee jumping.

Art and Literature

New Zealand has a lively art scene. Māori art is still very important, and other artists in New Zealand use paintings, sculptures, and movies to express their ideas. New Zealand literature is rich with stories and poems, some of which are about the country’s beautiful landscapes and unique animals.

Everyday Life and Values

In everyday life, people in New Zealand, also called Kiwis, are known for being friendly and relaxed. They value fairness, honesty, and treating everyone with respect. They also care a lot about the environment and work to protect their natural surroundings.

New Zealand culture is a beautiful blend of old traditions and new ideas. From the Māori people to the different foods, sports, and arts, New Zealand has a unique culture that is both interesting and welcoming. It is a country where history is respected, and the future is made by people from all walks of life coming together.

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Essay On New Zealand in English (1000 Words)

New Zealand is a place that is known for its superb and interesting beauty. This is an awesome spot to learn English, appreciate nature and go mountain-skiing. It’s an obvious fact that “The Lord of The Rings” was shot in New Zealand – the idea of New Zealand so intently takes after the mysterious country!

 Assuming that you are enthusiastic about the dynamic travel industry, you can find every one of the fundamental offices for climbing, mountain-skiing, boating, and numerous different sorts of sports here. 

The nation’s recognizing trademark is the beauty of its temperament. Make your fantasies work out! Swim along with dolphins, respect whales, and go fishing! New Zealand is an island country yet the extents of the islands are not huge, so it is very simple and charming to go about/around (not quite certain of ‘about/around) paying little mind to what method for transport you use – a vehicle, a transport, or even a bike.

New Zealand Culture:

New Zealand culture is very interesting. New Zealanders address a blend of Europeans and the Maoris. They are amicable and neighborly. An outsider will be amazed by being welcomed in the city by complete outsiders. 

The air of unwinding and tranquility wins wherever in New Zealand. The homicide rate is amazingly low contrasted with some other nations of the world and the payoff rate among legislative laborers is the most minimal on the planet (evidently, there is no such thing as pay-offs in New Zealand by any means). Coincidentally, legislative priests don’t have body watches or accompany them. 

Normally, making a meeting with one of them is very simple. At times you can even meet a pastor while remaining in line in a grocery store. Another down-to-earth thing you should be familiar with when you are in New Zealand – you ought not to give tips in inns, eateries, and so on because tips are exceptional here.

The local art and culture started by combining things that can’t regularly be joined, thus their passing likeness to common cultures and arts.

New Zealand Capital:

Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, is arranged in the brilliant harbor on the edge of the “Northern” island. Manuals prescribe giving specific consideration to the accompanying sights. 

These are the advanced structure of the presidential part of the Parliament – Beehive, the old structure of the public authority (probably the greatest structure on the planet made totally from wood), the National Library with an astounding assortment of writing, Catherine Mansfield’s Memorial, and that’s just the beginning. 

There are a couple of intriguing galleries, for example, the Maori Museum called “Te Papa” in Wellington. Yet, the spot that is certainly worth a visit is found not a long way from the capital. It is Mount Victoria. You can see the mountain on the city’s roads. What a great sight!

What is the best and ideal opportunity to go to New Zealand?

Attributable to the ideal area, New Zealand’s environment is genuinely gentle the entire year, so you can visit the nation any season. Nonetheless, they as a rule underline the “primary” season – November through April. 

There are a ton of vacationers showing up during this season, so it is very sensible to save lodging ahead of time. If you like mountain-skiing, the best and ideal opportunity for you to come is winter – June through August. 

By and large, assuming you can come any season, we prompt you to precede or later the primary season. The climate is really warm however there are no hordes of travelers and you can go touring anyplace you need without thinking often about the accessibility of tickets.

Current New Zealand.

The current day government and way of life in New Zealand are similar to that of the U.S. At one time the yearly pay of New Zealanders was far and away superior to the U.S. furthermore Great Britain. Individuals of New Zealand have the opportunity of religion. 

The crucial religion in New Zealand is Christianity, despite the fact that there are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Amish, and some more. The Maori religion is likewise significant. Individuals of New Zealand have a blend of Britain and Australian articulations.

Few Facts about New Zealand.

  • It was named after the Dutch province Zeeland which means land of long white clouds in Maori.
  • It has around 5M population as of 2021.
  • The Capital of New Zealand is Wellington with 415,000 people.
  • English, Maori, and sign languages are their official languages.
  • Their currency is called NZD which means New Zealand Dollar.
  • Almost 48% of people are non-religious here and the rest are Christians.
  • New Zealand has 2 time zones.
  • Their National flag represents a constellation and a southern cross.
  • The altitude of the highest mountain in New Zealand is 12,217ft and is named Mount Cook.
  • The longest and largest glacier in New Zealand is known as the Tasman glacier in the Southern Alps.
  • New Zealand is the world’s first country to get the right to vote for women in the year 1893.
  • New Zealand and Denmark Are the main two nations on the planet that have two National Anthems.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is New Zealand expensive to live in?

New Zealand is found as one of the best countries to live in. The average daily expenses are high when compared to other countries. A family of four can have expenses up to 6k-8k NZD. 

What is considered rude in New Zealand?

Spitting on the road or calling someone with some gestures or unethical words like hey, oi are also considered rude in the country. Instead, you can just wait for them to look at you, make eye contact and nod your head to tell them that you are calling them.

What is the most interesting fact to know about New Zealand?

New Zealand is one of the world’s least populated countries with just 5 million people. Although it is the same size as Japan, it is less populated when compared to Japan.

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  • Countries and Their Cultures
  • Culture of New Zealand

New Zealand

Culture name.

New Zealander

Alternative Name

Orientation.

Identification. Originally discovered by Polynesians between 1200 and 1300 C.E. , the country was settled by Maori ("the people") and areas were named after the iwi (tribes). In 1642, the Dutchman Abel Tasman named the land Staten Island. This was soon changed to Nieuw Zeeland, after Zeeland in Holland. Tasman was attacked and never landed, but in 1769, James Cook claimed sovereignty for George III of England.

Extensive European settlement did not begin until 1840, and New Zealand remained a Maori culture. Whalers from the United States and Britain frequently sailed New Zealand waters, married or had children with Maori women, and introduced trappings of Euro-American culture, especially muskets. Missionaries began their activities around 1814.

In the 1860s, gold was discovered, bringing Chinese miners from Australia as well as China and Hong Kong. The Chinese have remained, though they now are chiefly market gardeners and café owners and professionals. Business and banking were supported by a Jewish population. Other minorities who have retained much of their culture are Polish, Lebanese, Yugoslav, and Dutch.

Regional cultural distinctions tend to be between North Island and South Island, coinciding largely with population composition and size. Half a million Maori plus nearly two million Pakeha (Caucasians of Europeans descent) live in the north, and eight hundred thousand (mostly Pakeha) live in the south, culturally subdivided between English (Canterbury) and Scottish (Otago).

The emerging culture leans increasingly on Maori symbolism in art and literature. Maori culture ( taonga ) is being reinvented, and parts of it are incorporated in ceremonies and other public events. Visiting dignitaries receive a Maori welcome, and the All Black Rugby Team (the national team) performs a haka (challenge) before games.

Location and Geography. New Zealand is in the southwest Pacific Ocean and has three main islands—North, South, and Stewart—separated by the Cook Strait and the Foveaux Strait. Several other islands are under New Zealand's jurisdiction.

The three main islands are 990 miles (1,600 kilometers) long and 280 miles (450 kilometers) wide and contain great topographic and climatic variation. The Southern Alps run the length of the western part of the South Island, with peaks over 9,840 feet (3,000 meters). North Island has three peaks over 6,560 feet (2,000 meters), and there are three active volcanoes. Moving glaciers, deep fjords, and large lakes are characteristic of South Island. The climate varies from subtropical in Northland to continental in Central Otago.

The country was two-thirds deforested by the time of the European settlement, and so the high country is largely tussock (South Island) and secondary bush (North Island) with extensive pine plantations.

New Zealand

Linguistic Affiliation. The official language is English, but all government institutions and some private ones use Maori as well. While 99 percent of Maori speak English, few Pakeha speak Maori. Preschool Maori children attend Kohanga-reo (language nests) to learn Maori. Universities have Maori studies departments. Maori is a Malayo-Polynesian language.

Symbolism. A national flag, coat of arms, and anthem are important symbols. Other symbols tend to be commercial or cultural and are of Maori origin. The national airline has a stylized Koru (fern leaf), all the national sports teams have a fern leaf, the feathered cloak of a Maori chief is used on ceremonial occasions, and haka is performed before international rugby matches. The kiwi, a flightless, nocturnal bird unique to New Zealand, is the symbol for everything from New Zealand.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. Maori have a commemorative and oral history whose major instrument of record is the genealogy ( whakapapa ), which is recorded in the structure of the marae (meeting house) and in the moko (tattoo) worn by many Maori. Maori history features ties with ancestors and with the land.

In 1819, east coast North Island tribes raided the west coast tribes. In 1820, the chief Hongi Hiki visited England, and secured muskets and ammunition. Upon his return, there began the "Musket Wars" on South Island. A state of tribal unrest and migration set in, and the 1820s was distinguished by the appearance of many Maori prophet-military leaders such as Te Rauparaha.

In 1823, Britons were extended protection by New South Wales (Australia), and ten years later, James Busby arrived as the first British resident. However, there were no plans for British settlement until 1839, when the New Zealand Company was ordered to establish British rule. The first settlers arrived in 1840, the year of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The treaty has been a great source of disharmony between Maori and Pakeha. It was drawn up by a European whose Maori was not fluent and read to chiefs who were unfamiliar with instruments of diplomacy. The greatest ambiguities turned on ideas of sovereignty and ownership alien to the Maori. The British understood themselves to be offering protection in return for sovereignty and the right to use or buy land at nominal cost. In 1975, the Waitangi Tribunal was established to hear claims of abuse of the treaty. Many claims have resulted in return of land, cash compensation, restoration of rights to natural resources, and the handing over of businesses to Maori.

In the 1840s, there were fierce battles between Maori and Europeans. Although the British had an advantage in arms, Maori had an advantage in tactics, and their pa (fortresses) of earth and wooden palisades absorbed artillery shells. The British infantry had to get past the palisades and grapple hand to hand with Maori warriors.

In 1854, the first General Assembly opened and the first governor was appointed. In 1856, Henry Sewell became the first prime minister. Wars broke out again in the 1860s on North Island, but they were quickly suppressed. In 1865, the capital was transferred from Auckland to Wellington, which was considered more central.

Outbursts of Maori resistance were led by charismatic prophets—military leaders such as Te Kooti. However, under the second term of Thomas Grey, a division of the country into provinces and districts and the formation of a parliament with four Maori seats created a stable and unified colony. The last British (Australian) troops left in 1870. That year a national university was established. Women were enfranchised in 1893.

Culturally, the ideals of Europe were adhered to. European craftsmen built mansions for newly enriched land holders, bankers, gold dealers, and politicians. The Mechanics Institute and lending libraries were established, and cities, such as Dunedin, were built.

National Identity. The ruling institutions were British in origin and conduct but were open to Maori, and scholar-politicians such as Te Rangi Hiroa (Sir Peter Buck) and Apirana Ngata achieved pre-World War II preeminence internationally. Maori have had their own parliamentary party, are members of parliament, and have sought to introduce elements of Maori culture into debates.

National identity involves icons more than institutions. Sportspersons in general are iconic national identities, with Sir Edmund Hillary at the summit.

A row of typical houses in Dunedin, of the colonial villa verandah style.

Pacific Islanders living in New Zealand include Cook Islanders, Samoans, Tongans, Tokelauans, Fijians, and Nieueans. Basically, they see themselves as being in New Zealand temporarily to earn money to send their children to school, but many remain permanently. Pacific Islanders tend to be concentrated in and around Auckland and Wellington. They are ghettoized and cling to their Christian views and cultural ways—Polynesian but not identical to each other or to Maori. Urban life, poverty, large families, and a large percentage of teenagers have led to ethnically based conflict in the cities. The recent high-profile immigration of Asians, many of them wealthy, has been accompanied by some ethnic tension.

Gang organization is a feature of the culture. The Mongrel Mob, Black Power, and the Nomads are the three prominent Maori gangs. Each gang, however, views each "chapter" as a family, or whanau. The White Knights is a Pakeha gang that tends toward machismo and racism. Leather jackets, patches, and motorcycles are the chief ritual objects.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

Despite the rural image, 86 percent of the people live in the five main urban centers: Auckland (one million people), Wellington (nearly 360,000), Christchurch (332,000), Hamilton (160,000), and Dunedin (112,000).

Vernacular architecture has involved the colonial villa verandah style: single-story, wooden, with a central hallway, but with the principal bedroom often in the front of the house. State housing provided a standardized bungalow-style house often made of brick and rented to low-income families. These houses have been privatized.

The only distinctive style of architecture is the Maori marae . Its elaborately carved timbers represent origin myths and genealogies. There, a communal sleeping area, and a strict etiquette of greeting, precedence, speechmaking, and farewell is preserved.

A woman works at a factory for wool products in Dunedin, New Zealand.

As Europeans have become fifth-generation descendants, it has become increasingly important to them to represent their ancestors. Both Maori and Pakeha households are not complete without pictures of significant ancestors. Contemporary marae architecture derives from the elaborately carved storehouses and chiefs' houses of earlier times.

New Zealanders are inveterate trampers and campers. Countless tracks are maintained by the Department of Conservation or by local enthusiasts. The geometry of the landscape and the sense that it is very different from the city has been the most powerful influence on a unique style of painting.

New Zealanders try to have a hideaway cabin by the lake, the sea, or the stream. In North Island, this is known as a bach; in the South Island, as a crib. There is usually no running water or electricity.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Before 1975, the diet was based on meat, potatoes, temperate climate vegetables in season (cabbage, peas, beans, carrots, spinach, cauliflower, and broccoli), bread, fruits in season, dairy products, and fish. Chicken was a restaurant delicacy, and the favorite fast food was the meat pie. Beverages were tea and beer. Since 1975, the cuisine has opened up to include a range of tropical and subtropical fruits, vegetables, and spices. It has taken advantage of its Mediterranean climate to produce wine. Food items are readily available in supermarkets. There are ubiquitous fast-food restaurants. However, there is no New Zealand cuisine. Christmas features the presentation of the turkey or ham, followed by the Christmas pudding. The Sunday roast is still served in the British tradition.

The Maori cuisine is based on seafood, mutton birds (young petrels), wild pork or fowl, fat lamb, and kumara. The method of cooking is the earth oven ( hangi ) in which stones are heated by fire, the fire is extinguished so that the stones steam, and a large sealed basket containing the food is buried over the stones and left to cook for several hours. When Maori gather for meetings on the marae, men and women jointly help prepare the food; men dig the hole, place the stones, and bury and remove the food.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. In the Burns Clubs, the Ceremony of Piping in the Haggis is observed. Otherwise, there is the availability of hot cross buns at Easter.

Basic Economy. New Zealand is an exporter of dairy, meat, fish, and fruit products, which now include processed foods such as wine, deer velvet, venison, smoked and pickled seafood, cheeses, and yogurt. Multinational food companies are moving their processing plants to Australia so that New Zealand-grown food often finds its way back via that country. Logging of plantation pine forests is a major industry, but relatively little processing is carried out. Thus, the food supply is in surplus, and imports are largely luxury items or processed items from Australia or "fresh" fruits and vegetables out of season. Reforms in the 1980s encouraged a reduction in the farming sector because of the weakening of the European and British markets for primary produce. It was proposed to industrialize New Zealand. Apart from oil and natural gas finds and one aluminum smelter, heavy industry is not viable. Manufacturing, assembly, and processing have been encouraged, but since they rely on imported machinery and services, this has not been successful. Motor car assembly and light engineering (especially electrical and electronic appliances) are the basis of the industrial sector.

The fastest growing sector of the economy is service: trade, hospitality, tourism, finance, consultancy, computer software, advertising and film, business services, and insurance.

Almost every household gardens and produces some fresh food for itself. Gardening is a universal hobby.

Land Tenure and Property. Under a clause in the Treaty of Waitangi, the Crown had the exclusive right to extinguish Maori title in land. Under these terms, the Crown had a monopoly over land purchases while bestowing title to land valid in English common law. The Crown became the largest landowner.

In Maori land tenure, tribal boundaries were defined by the putative area settled and utilized by the ancestors, modified by wars and invasions. An individual may claim the use of and the right to burial in the ancestral lands of either parent. The purchase of Maori land by the government created further fragmentation, and the Waitangi Tribunal has been set up to hear claims for compensation. Since the treaty was signed in 1840 and purchases were made until recently, and since Maori have become urbanized, the legitimacy of land claims is complex. Nevertheless, the sense of belonging to one area, the region of the ancestors, still is strong and is finding echoes among the Pakeha. Having reached a fifth generation of settlement, many families see themselves centered in the areas where they first arrived; as Maori have tribal hui (gatherings), Europeans have family reunions.

Other land can be bought and sold. Inheritance by individuals is entirely discretionary among both Maori and Pakeha, and all ownership follows the pattern of English common law. Crown land is managed by the relevant agencies (departments of conservation, forestry, agriculture, and fisheries); iwi lands are managed by elders ( kaumatua ), increasingly on a commercial basis.

Commercial Activities. New Zealand is a primary producer and exporter of meat, dairy products, wool, hides, fish and aquatic invertebrates, wood, fruit, aluminum, and fuels. Tourism is a growing industry.

Major Industries. Processing goods to a second stage or final stage occurs in the dairy industry. Alumina is processed to ingots for export. Cattle is processed for meat for export or for pet food. Wood converted to wood chips is exported for newsprint. Imported parts are assembled as automobiles and electrical and electronic goods. Chemicals are processed for fertilizers.

Trade. The primary export markets are the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, Australia, Taiwan, and China. Markets are being developed in the Middle East (Saudi Arabia) and Southeastern Asia (Malaysia and Indonesia).

Division of Labor. The formerly powerful trade unions are now toothless. New Zealand is a monetarist economy that is "restructuring" industries and businesses through the increased use of electronic information and communications procedures and American-inspired management techniques. Jobs are increasingly specialized, requiring certification or on-the-job training. An emphasis on strategy in marketing, stock keeping, accounting, and management rather than on-the-floor production has emphasized and rewarded the managerial class. Computer skills are virtually mandatory.

In 1997, unemployment was 6.7 percent, overall; Maori 16.9 percent; Pacific Islander, 15.3 percent; and Pakeha, 4.7 percent.

Social Stratification

A worker removes bird protection nets from wine grapes in a vineyard. New Zealand's Mediterranean climate is conducive to wine producing.

New Zealand has a well-established class society based on income. Cities have developed a "first settler" elite of "old" families claiming prestige and status and occupying the inner ring of the city. Not all are wealthy. Maori maintain a status structure based on mana (inherited or earned) and respect (of older for younger, female for male), though this has largely broken down in the cities.

Symbols of Social Stratification. There are ostentatious houses and expensive cars in some areas. The Maori chiefly class ( rangatira ) and chiefs ( ariki ) wear a feathered cloak (as do honored Pakeha) on special marae occasions. Cultural performances of Maori dances include the traditional kilt (male) and apron (female).

Political Life

Government. New Zealand is a member of the British Commonwealth, and the sovereign is represented by a governor general. Within the Commonwealth, New Zealand is autonomous and is governed by a house of representatives with one hundred twenty elected members of parliament from six political parties. The present government is the first to be elected under a system of proportional representation. A clear majority under this system is unlikely, and the government usually is a coalition.

Leadership and Political Officials. The national government is divided between executive (elected) and administrative officers. It is headed by a prime minister, twenty cabinet ministers, and several ministers outside the cabinet. Below these are regional government bodies divided into cities and districts led by mayors and councillors. Government departments are run on a day-to-day basis by chief executives recommended by the state services commissioner.

Social Problems and Control. The Privy Council in London is the final court of appeal but may deliver only an opinion, not a judgment. The New Zealand Court of Appeal is the highest national appeals court. Its findings must be observed by the High Court. The High Court holds hearings in the main centers. There are district courts (local), employment courts, family courts, youth courts, Maori land courts, and environment courts. There are also over one hundred tribunals dealing with small claims and complaints.

Community law centers, originally set up by law students, give legal advice to those who cannot afford lawyers. There are also victim support groups. The most notable effort at informal social control has been the attempt by Maori to be allowed to exercise whanau (family) authority over accused and accuser in the context of the marae, where the whanau confront each other and elders seek a settlement.

The country is divided into four police region, and there are about 6,500 full-time officers. There are seventeen armed offenders squads that are called out when firearms are involved. There is also a search and rescue service. Other than the armed offenders squad, police do not carry firearms.

Accusations of "racial bias" by police toward Maori and Polynesians have become more frequent, but attitudes toward the police vary with the social and economic circumstances of a person's life. Drug and alcohol abuse seems to be a common ingredient in a large proportion of public and domestic violence and crime.

Military Activity. The armed forces are small and participate in peacekeeping exercises under United Nations or other multinational auspices or independently, including regional training search and rescue operations, fisheries protection, Antarctic support, hydrographic survey, and disaster relief.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

New Zealand has a noncontributory income support scheme for the unemployed, disabled, and sick, for domestic purposes (low income/sole parent), and for retired persons. Numerous social services are government-funded but also rely on volunteers. The numerous services (school, church, club, victim support, etc.), are coordinated as the New Zealand Council of Social Services, which lobbies for changes in government welfare programs and agencies. It stresses biculturalism. There is a no-fault Accident Compensation Corporation funded by employer and employee levies.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Numerous charitable trusts supported by individual donations or corporate profits fund community activities from bagpiping to creche care. There are neighborhood watch organizations. School boards serve voluntarily. There are chapters of worldwide associations such as the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Saint Vincent de Paul, Returned Services Association (veterans), and numerous charitable societies for the blind, the deaf, and the disabled.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. The stereotype of women in the home and men in the workplace is slowly disappearing. There has been an increase in the number of de facto partnerships and a resulting lack of commitment of men financially and emotionally to children and domestic responsibility.

The Ministry of Women's Affairs seeks to enforce equal opportunity legislation. Shearing gangs are traditionally mixed (male shearers/female sorters), and trades and occupations are becoming less gender-based. There is one female bishop (Anglican), though congregations are overwhelmingly female. In 1996 there were forty women members of parliament, and in 1997 the first woman prime minister took office.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. New Zealand was shocked by the power of gender difference among Maori as shown in the movie Once Were Warriors . Many would argue that although those portrayed were Maori, the degree of domestic sexual abuse and violence is a feature of New Zealand society. Under law there is no gender discriminations. Though almost as many women as men graduate with doctorates, in 1997 there were 402 male professors and 46 female ones. All seven university vice-chancellors were male. Women have been most successful in business at the upper middle range of the executive level or as national magazine editors or heading their own niche companies. Some sports teams are mixed.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Except in Muslim, Hindu and a few Chinese groups, marriages are entered into by mutual choice. Marriage may be conducted by a celebrant, a Church priest, or a vicar. Parental consent is required if a partner is under 20 years of age. De facto relationships are officially recognized for inheritance and benefit purposes. In 1996, 43 percent of males and 41 percent of females over 15 years were married. The only ground for divorce is irreconcilable breakdown, signaled by the two parties living separately for two years. Traditional weddings are still in evidence, but more people plan their own, and minorities hew to their traditional forms.

A view of Queen Street, the main thoroughfare of Auckland, the largest city, with a population approaching one million.

Inheritance. If there is a legally drawn up will, property is bequeathed by the estate holder. Maori inherit rights to ancestral land, tattoos, and burial places.

Kin Groups. Maori have revived their traditional social organization into whanau (extended family), hapu (lineage), and iwi (tribe) in an effort to reclaim their identity and negotiate under the Treaty of Waitangi. Quasi-tribes descended from a known ancestor as well as iwi celebrate periodic gatherings ( hui ). That pattern is also followed by Pakeha with family reunions based on genealogical research.

Socialization

Infant Care. Pakeha use playpens and place an infant in a separate crib, often in a separate room. Maori, especially in low-income and rural areas, have all children sleep together. Children, including infants, may spend as much time at an "aunty's" house as at the house of the natural mother. An "aunty" is any close female relative or friend who may provide full- or part-time infant and child care. Babies are usually put into prams, though commercial baby carriers also are used. Calming and stimulating are matters of individual philosophy.

Child Rearing and Education. New Zealand has a fully comprehensive education system. The Maori "renaissance" has resulted in special Maori education from preschools to middle schools. The Maori language is increasingly an option at all levels, and one aim is for a total education in Maori. Alternative schooling such as Montessori, Rudolph Steiner, home schooling, and state-run correspondence school is available and government-approved. Primary, intermediate, and high school are based on a British model, with uniforms from the intermediate level on and a prefect system with a head boy responsible for discipline. There are co-ed and single-sex schools. Obedience and being able to "take it" are still prized male values.

Higher Education. There are seven universities with 214,228 students and twenty-five polytechnics.

The sacred feature of the Maori is the head and so touching it is avoided. In the marae, the hongi (touching of noses) is the accepted greeting. Otherwise the handshake, the hug, and the cheek kiss are used, depending on the degree of intimacy. Verbal greetings includes "Hello," "How are you?" "Gidday," and, especially, in North Island, Kia Ora ("Good health," "Are you well?"). Men enjoy "mateship," which involves close contact, but otherwise contact distance is arm's length. Behavior in public places is orderly, and good humor is expected. Depending on how recently they have arrived in the country, immigrants and refugees maintain their own customs but gradually adapt, especially in school.

Religious Beliefs. Sixteen religious sects are represented—with the Anglican Church (18.4 percent) the largest, followed by Catholic (13.8 percent) and Presbyterian (13.4 percent). Twenty-six percent of the people have no religious affiliation. The Pentecostal, Buddhist, and Muslim religions have had the greatest degree of increase.

Religious Practitioners. Archbishops, bishops, priests, presbyters, rabbis, imams, mullahs, elders, and pastors are office holders in New Zealand branches of worldwide churches. There is one Maori church (Ratana), and Maoridom makes wide use of the sacred-secular healing and counseling powers of the tohunga , a specialist in medicine and spirit belief.

Rituals and Holy Places. Rites of the Christian calendar are observed. Cathedrals are present in every major city, and many rural areas maintain small wooden parish churches. Cemeteries are controlled by local bodies, except for Maori burial grounds. Statues of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Pakeha public figures and war memorials are universal. Their disfigurement has become a sign of Maori protest. Waitangi has become a national memorial, as has One Tree Hill in Auckland, both marking significant events in the evolution of early Maori–European relations. Birthdays, anniversaries, and deaths may be privately or publicly commemorated.

A boy and a wooden Maori sculpture. Maori tribes were among New Zealand's first settlers.

Medicine and Health Care

The former welfare state established a wide network of hospitals, clinics, visiting professionals, free medicine, and free treatment funded from taxes. Political reform led to a mixed system of care based on subsidization, along with legislation allowing for medical insurance and private hospitals. These reforms have generated considerable political debate.

Traditional medicine practiced by tohungas has always been resorted to by Maori, while some Pakeha utilize alternative medical system. All forms of medical practice emphasize a close interaction between the physical and the nonphysical. "Natural" medicines are widely available in health shops, and pharmaceutical medicines are available in licensed pharmacies.

Secular Celebrations

New Year's Day, Waitangi Day, a special assembly at Waitangi of public dignitaries, the queen's birthday, and the anniversary of a province are celebrated.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Profits from the state-run lottery are used by Creative New Zealand to provide funds for the arts. Individual and corporate trusts also support both arts and sport.

Literature. The art of oratory is highly prized among the Maori, who speak extemporaneously but use traditional formulas and references. The Montana Book Awards are a national competition for all categories of writing. Many authors have international reputations and have been winners of overseas competitions. There is a large collection in the national and city libraries of rare European manuscripts as well as private collections. Early missionary influence was the most influential force for Maori and Pakeha literacy.

Graphic Arts. Cities such as Dunedin have state-of-the-art public art galleries. All forms of graphic arts are practiced, and a national style has emerged, blending Maori and European elements. Training in traditional Maori carving has been widely taken up.

Performance Arts. There is a National Symphony Orchestra and at least two first-class city symphony orchestras. The National Youth Orchestra meets once a year. The Royal New Zealand Ballet tours the country. Other national arts organizations are the New Zealand Drama School, Chamber Music New Zealand, New Zealand Choral Foundation, and the New Zealand Film Commission. Local operatic, choral, drama, and orchestral groups are numerous, and New Zealanders perform in a large number of bands. European opera and classical music are the staple fare at one end, with New Zealand composers receiving regular performances, while pop music is locally generated. European drama and ballet prevail, but New Zealand producers and choreographers produce their own versions, and there are many dramatists. Traditional Maori dancing and singing ( waiata ) are presented widely. Most television programming is imported, but New Zealand produces a soap opera and nature documentaries.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

All universities have state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, as do the larger research hospitals. There are also Crown Research Institutes and private research institutes. There is a Ministry of Science and Technology. Much government-funded research is linked to agriculture and geology. Medical research is prominent. New Zealand has proved adept at computer software innovation, small electronic devices, and sporting innovations. Polytechnics train mechanics and tradespeople.

All universities and some polytechnics teach the social sciences. Social scientists are increasingly employed by government and private agencies and firms dealing with or employing multicultural districts and workforces. Private consultants carry out "social impact" studies of new industrial, agricultural, and developmental projects. Economists have a direct input into economic policy.

Bibliography

Belich, James. Making Peoples: A History of New Zealanders from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the Nineteenth Century, 1996.

Duff, Alan. Once Were Warriors, 1993.

Kawharu, Hugh. Maori Land Tenure: Studies of a Changing Institution, 1977.

New Zealand Official Year Book 1998, 1998.

Salmond, Anne. Between Worlds: Early Exchanges between Maori and Europeans 1773–1815, 1997.

—P ETER J. W ILSON

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The Māori Culture of New Zealand Essay

Maori is the name of the people who historically inhabited New Zealand and are of Polynesian origin; they arrived there about a thousand years ago. Their culture is rich and comprises whakairo (carving), raranga (plaiting), kapa haka (performing), whaikōrero (oratory), and tā moko (tattooing). These arts record Māori beliefs and whakapapa, that is, genealogy. The Māori language is called Te Reo Māori, abbreviated to Te Reo. Many Māori are making efforts to preserve their traditional culture, and in recent years, Māori language teaching has been introduced in some schools.

The word Māori stands for ordinary or natural, which is how Māori mythology refers to mortal human beings as opposed to deities and spirits. There is a Māori legend about how they came to New Zealand in seven canoes from their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki. Modern research shows that the then-uninhabited New Zealand was settled by Polynesians around 1280 AD (Kleiner, 2016). By that time, all present-day human settlements were already inhabited. The ancestral home of the Māori and all Polynesians is the island of Taiwan near mainland China. People came to New Zealand directly from the islands of East Polynesia. Today Māori are actively involved in contemporary life and contribute significantly to the cultural development of New Zealand. Among them, one can find not only simple toilers but also talented engineers, designers, inventors, athletes, and politicians.

One of the critical ideas of Māori philosophy is the unity of man and nature. Māori explain it this way — every creation has a particle of life force (mauri). Due to Mauri, everything that exists in the world is interconnected. Since every part depends on everything else, neglecting to care for the world would be detrimental to the individual. Māori culture and religion in its classic form require the observance of many rituals designed to minimize the potential harm that can be done to all of nature in general and to humans in particular (Kleiner, 2016). The Māori explanation of why it is necessary not to harm wildlife is fascinating. They think that for every action, whether hunting an animal or cutting down a tree, a good reason is needed, and it is necessary to ask the gods’ permission by special ritual.

Visual Māori art objects have one characteristic feature, which is the unity of form and function. That is to say, the items created were of not only aesthetic but also practical value. In the creation of objects were used mainly natural materials such as wood, linen, and stone. However, European colonization changed the nature of art and its functions. Through their art, the Māori began to protest against change. This culminated in the 1984 Te Māori exhibition, which was shown to the New York City public at the Museum of Art (Kleiner, 2016). It helped to make many people aware of the talent of Māori artists.

Myths of the indigenous peoples of Oceania often become the subjects of murals, which is an example of cultural renewal. A school of New Zealand artists inspired by Māori heritage, for example, is developing. Wood carving is a traditional craft that Aboriginal people have practiced for many years (Kleiner, 2016). One of the most famous murals depicts events from the Māori creation myth. The artist Cliff Whiting depicts the god of the winds struggling to control the children of the four winds (Figure 1). The winds are represented in the form of blue spiral shapes. In the fresco the gods of Māori culture can be seen — Ra, Marama, Ranginui and Papatuanuku (Figure 1). The mural’s author supports the idea that Māori culture must be saved and sustained. He believed that not only continuity in the arts is necessary, but also the education of young people in the spirit of indigenous peoples of Oceania values.

God of the Winds

The Māori people have many beautiful legends, some of which can still be heard today as told by Māori oral storytellers. One of the main themes of the myths has to do with the sea and fishing. It was one of the main occupations of the Māori, who many years ago learned to sail on the open sea in special canoes called Waka (New Zealand Tourism Guide, 2022). One legend tells how the god Maui went fishing on the North Island (New Zealand Tourism Guide, 2022). This story describes the creation of three islands, North Island, Waipounamu, and Kaikōura.

However, according to another myth, the universe began as nothingness from which darkness arose. Rangi and Papa are two primordial figures who emerged from this darkness. The six sons of Rangi and Papa later populated the world with all kinds of creatures and became gods (Grainger, 2022). Cliff Whiting decided to capture this story in one of his sculptures (Figure 2). It depicts these six gods trying to divide Rangi and Papa, as the legend implies. (Figure 2). Cliff Whiting’s attention to mythological subjects stems from his desire to remind the Māori people of their origins and their unity. In order to keep the audience interested in the work, the artist chose to use modern aesthetic techniques.

The Separation of Rangi and Papa

Māori poetry was sung or chanted, and its key difference from prose was that it was based on musical rhythms. In this kind of poetry, rhyme does not play a significant role. It is characterized by the repetition of keywords and the use of synonyms. It is accompanied by the presence of atypical grammatical constructions, which are not usually found in prose (Cowan, 1930). Contemporary poets of this trend include Hone Tūwhare, Jacquie Sturm, and Robert Sullivan. Māori poetry has many references to religious and mythological subjects. It is interesting to note that even Old-World poets found inspiration in the works of primitive people. They were struck by the way the Mari authors described the beauty of wildlife (Cowan, 1930). This is not surprising since the Aborigines have always lived in union with nature, and therefore, they learned how to skillfully tell stories about its greatness.

Hone Tuwhare was the first indigenous New Zealand poet to be translated into English. He was the recipient of several prestigious literary awards and was a strong advocate for the recognition of Māori culture. Hone Tuwhare and Ralph Hotere were two creators who were united by friendship and the struggle for human rights. Ralph Hotere used Tuware’s poems in several of his paintings. He also designed the covers for several volumes of the poet’s poems (Figure 3). Hotere is the title of a poem in which Hone Tuwhare reflected on the importance of art and the role of the artist. It is worth noting, however, that a close interaction between individual poets and sculptors or people engaged in woodcarving was uncommon.

Drawings from Hone Tuwhare’s Sap-wood and Milk

In general, traditional Māori art is very much in harmony with modern realities. On the streets of New Zealand cities, one can see quite a few New Zealanders and tourists wearing traditional jewelry. The Māori tā moko motifs are becoming increasingly popular among people who want to get a tattoo. This tattoo culture is spreading to places where little is known about other aspects of Māori. Their traditions inspire fashion designers, and even such giants of the fashion industry as Jean Paul Gaultier use Māori style elements in his collections. Among contemporary Māori artists, it is worth noting Warren Pohatu. His drawings are, in a sense, a modern interpretation of traditional, although very close to real, authentic Māori art. This artist illustrated several books of Māori myths and legends — that is why his drawings often feature folkloric characters and well-known plots of traditional Maori myths.

Cowan, J. (1930). The Maori: Yesterday and today . Whitcombe and Tombs Limited.

Grainger, A. (2022). Polynesian creation myths: Ever wondered how Hawai’i was created? The Collector. Web.

Hotere, R. (1972). Drawings for Hone Tuwhare’s sapwood and milk [Painting]. Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zeeland.

Kleiner, F. S. (2016). Gardner’s art through the ages: A global history (15 th ed.). Cengage.

New Zealand Tourism Guide. (2022). Māori stories and legends: The story of He Ika A Mau .

Whiting, C. (1984). Tawhiri-Matea (God of the Winds) [Mural]. Meteorological Service of New Zealand, Wellington, New Zeeland.

Whiting, C. (1969-1976). The separation of Rangi and Papa [Sculpture]. National Library of New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand.

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IvyPanda. (2023, June 5). The Māori Culture of New Zealand. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-mori-culture-of-new-zealand/

"The Māori Culture of New Zealand." IvyPanda , 5 June 2023, ivypanda.com/essays/the-mori-culture-of-new-zealand/.

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IvyPanda . 2023. "The Māori Culture of New Zealand." June 5, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-mori-culture-of-new-zealand/.

1. IvyPanda . "The Māori Culture of New Zealand." June 5, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-mori-culture-of-new-zealand/.

Bibliography

IvyPanda . "The Māori Culture of New Zealand." June 5, 2023. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-mori-culture-of-new-zealand/.

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Hey Explorer

10 Interesting Facts About New Zealand Culture

New Zealand’s culture boasts of a dynamic vibrancy that is all-embracing and goes beyond the Lord of the Rings. Culturally, it is known for its strong Maori heritage, Rugby culture and an innovative food and drink scene.

new zealand nature

While culture is a very subjective term, most experts agree that culture is a melting pot of influences that range from ancient founding history, native people, newer pop influences, and perhaps a little bit of this and a little bit of that. 

Here are a few interesting facts about the New Zealand culture that you probably didn’t know.   

Table of Contents

1. Maori culture is integral to New Zealand

You can’t talk about New Zealand’s culture without mentioning the original inhabitants of the ‘Land of The Long White Cloud’. 

The Maori people are responsible for many of New Zealand’s culture and traditions, including the internationally famous Haka, a war dance that is now performed before every rugby game that features the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national rugby team. 

haka dance

The Maori language, Te Reo, is one of New Zealand’s official languages.

The Maori have also named or influenced most of New Zealand’s current location names. For example, Taupo in the North Island is the shorter version of the Maori name for the town. The full name, ‘Taupō-nui-a-Tia’ translates to ‘The great cloak of Tia’, Tia being the one who discovered Taupo lake. 

Maori legends and traditions are fascinating to hear. One of the endearing stories is that the heartbeat of a huge monster, Matau, who lies sleeping at the bottom of the lake causes the ‘tide’ in Lake Wakatipu.

The ancient Maori people also took part in cannibalism post the wars they fought and won. This was done to enemies to send a strong warning message. 

2. New Zealand’s rugby culture is prominent

One of the most significant binding and divisive factors in modern-day NZ is a game of Rugby!

We all love the All Blacks as one nation. But when it comes to domestic Rugby, there can be sworn rivalry between two regions that will almost cause blows in a pub while a match is telecast.  

new zealand rugby

A Southland versus Otago match can be as closely watched, with the same intensity as a World Cup final in any sport!

3. Hangi and indigenous cultural foods are delicious

One of the most common food experiences every tourist in New Zealand wants to do is the Hangi. Most commonly done in an underground pit called an umu, this Maori practice of cooking food is a complete cultural tradition on its own.

Hangi is delicious because of its simplicity in allowing fresh, local ingredients to shine through. The meat and fish cooked through the Hangi method take on a subtle smoky flavor while remaining moist and tender.      

hangi cook

Today’s New Zealand food scene is increasingly aware of the exotic ingredients present in the country’s natural surroundings. For example, herbs like Kawakawa and Horopito are only found in New Zealand and can easily replace peppers and chilies that aren’t native to the country. 

4. New Zealand is famous for its dairies

I haven’t seen the equivalent of New Zealand’s dairies in any of my international travels. 

new zealand dairy

Perhaps best described as little mom-and-pop businesses you’ll find on every other street corner, dairies are lifesavers for us, Kiwis. They sell anything from freshly made milkshakes to handmade sausage rolls and delicious savory pies. You’ll also find local candy, lollies, and ice cream.

Going on a road trip through New Zealand, stop at a dairy and load up at the beginning of your journey. Yes, you’re welcome. 

5. Kiwis use a lot of slang words

Why some of you may argue that slang has nothing to do with culture and is in fact, pretty uncultured, I’d have to disagree.

If you genuinely want to learn the language and culture of a place, learn its slang. It is the easiest way to truly immerse yourself in the country and sound like a native. 

Well, now that you agree, here’s my list of New Zealand slang words:

  • Chur, Bro : Chur is Kiwi for Thank You and bro, well, that’s the kiwi equivalent of “dude”.
  • Bob’s your Uncle : Roughly translate to “Well, there you go”. This phrase is also used in Britain and Ireland, all part of the Commonwealth. 
  • Chocka : This one is simple and pretty common. It means “full” and is the shortened version of the phrase “chock-a-block”.
  • Eh : This one is probably the most used slang in New Zealand. Pronounced “Ay” instead of “Ehh”, it is a standard filler used at the end of a sentence. For example, “You know you’ve gotta do this, eh”.
  • Hard Out : To agree with a lot of enthusiasm. 
  • Sweet As : You might scratch your head and ask “but, sweet as what?”. I know I did when I first moved to New Zealand. “Sweet As” generally means the person agrees with you, but in a more chilled out way than “hard out”. It can also mean “not a problem”. For example, if you ask someone to do something for you, they might answer “Sweet as, cuz”. 
  • Cuz/Cuzzie : This means cousin, but not literally. To be fair, I’m not sure if this is originally Kiwi, but its sure used a lot in New Zealand. 
  • Yeah, Nah : The easiest way to remember this is to look out for the last word. If it’s nah, this means “no”. If they say “Nah, yeah”, it means “yes”.

This concludes today’s lesson in Kiwi slang!

6. New Zealanders take their coffee seriously

Over the last few decades, New Zealanders have begun to take their coffee very seriously. Hell, we even came up with Flat White, a type of coffee that is less frothy and more textured. 

While New Zealand does not grow its beans, it is up there in terms of innovation. In fact, David Strang of Invercargill was one of the first pioneers of instant coffee. 

Coffee is a massive part of the tradition of morning and afternoon tea, a tradition borrowed from the British. Every day, at about 10 am and 3 pm, everyone takes a break from work and catches up over a hot beverage and a light bite.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your outlook, drip coffee is rare in New Zealand. 

modern cafe

Cafes are easily found at almost every corner, and even if you don’t see a café nearby, most establishments ranging from supermarkets to dairies to fuel stations will have a proper coffee machine with an experienced barista behind it.  

7. Yes, New Zealand has a wizard

Here’s a fun fact for you- did you know New Zealand has its own wizard? 

While originally born in England, Ian Brackenbury Channell moved to New Zealand and soon became a popular figure, especially in the city of Christchurch.

wizard of new zealand

He is an activist, comedian, and politician and is known as The Wizard of New Zealand or simply as The Wizard.  He was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Service Medal in recognition of his community service. 

8. The Kiwis have a laid-back attitude

New Zealanders are characterized by their laid-back attitude. They are easy-going people who are very warm and friendly and yet also reserved and private. The culture in this country is very relaxed and informal. 

queen street auckland

DIY is a huge thing here with most Kiwis preferring to do most stuff themselves rather than calling in a professional. The favorite “she’ll be right” is an easy way, to sum up, the Kiwi attitude to most things. 

9. New Zealand is an inclusive country

New Zealand prides itself on its extraordinarily inclusive and progressive culture.

The country was the first in the world to give all women the right to vote. We also pay attention to the differently-abled and including Sign language as an official language in New Zealand is just one of the many ways to help promote inclusivity.

For Kiwis, having female leaders is standard with leaders such as Jenny Shipley, Helen Clark, Judith Collins, and Jacinda Arden.   

jacinda ardern

In 2006, all the major political and legal posts in the country were held by women, including the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Chief Justice. 

10. New Zealanders love the Great Outdoors

New Zealand is often called one giant national park because of its extensive natural surroundings. No matter where you are in New Zealand, the sea is never more than 79 miles from the sea.  

sheep grazing

With only 5% of the country’s population being human, there is a vast space for flora and fauna to thrive in. New Zealand has more penguin species than anywhere else in the world. The native fauna varies immensely.

While there are gentle lambs frolicking on the rolling hills of the countryside, there are also birds like the Kea that will rip the windshield wipers of cars and eat them!

kea bird

Kiwis take huge advantage of the outdoors by going tramping or taking long hikes. We also love a little taste of adventure and have adventure sports like bungee jumping, rappelling, and skydiving in the most scenic locations imaginable.

New Zealand culture is an amalgamation of European and Maori influences and is a nation characterized by warm hospitality and friendly people. To learn more about this gorgeous country, read this guide to New Zealand and get busy planning your holiday here!  

Fun facts about New Zealand – Pin it!

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1 thought on “10 Interesting Facts About New Zealand Culture”

Love your post, and agree wholeheartedly. I would also add that kiwis- (the humans… but maybe the birds too, if they could talk) are a low key bunch, generally unimpressed with extravagance and “showing off” so it pays to know that the wealthiest New Zealanders wander round in swannies and stubbies, (woolen farm coats and rugby shorts.!) They generally rate fairness and ” doing the right thing” quite highly but in saying that, they are also an independent, self reliant bunch who will find their own solutions to life’s problems,… and consider the legalities later. Kiwis are cool!

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New Zealand's Identity, Culture and the Media: What's changed in 30 years?

Nz on air has released new research that spotlights how nzers view ourselves, our perceptions of our culture and identity, and our relationship with local media.

The research, conducted by Research NZ, coincides with NZ On Air’s 30th birthday, and repeats key elements of research carried out in 1989/1990 for the newly formed funding agency. That research aimed to establish what mattered to New Zealanders, our identity and culture, and informed the agency’s foundation strategy.

30 years on much has changed. The demographic, technological and media change in New Zealand has been profound. With the aim to “connect and reflect” Aotearoa, NZ On Air was interested to know if local media content is reflecting the more diverse New Zealand, and what local content New Zealanders are connecting with, amidst a tidal wave of international services and content.

The key findings show:

  • While big demographic changes have prompted greater acceptance of cultural diversity, New Zealanders acknowledge Māori culture is integral to national identity
  • We’re troubled by some important environmental and social issues – the ¼ acre paradise dream is over
  • We think our national sports teams shape and reflect our national identity more so than other cultural elements
  • One in four New Zealanders watch local content because it reflects and informs their view of our national identity, but even those who don’t watch local content believe it’s important to have it
  • More New Zealanders would watch more New Zealand-made content – but they want it on the services they watch, ad free, and they want it specific to their age/interests
  • New Zealanders want news media that’s independent and informative.

Full 2019 research documents available below:

New Zealand's Identity, Culture and the Media: What's changed in 30 years? PDF 1.9 MB Research NZ’s summary report

Identity, Culture and Media 2019 - Literature Review PDF 355.8 KB A literature review looking at the past 30 years of change

Identity, Culture & Media - Factsheet - YoungerPeople.pdf PDF 337.7 KB A fact sheet delving into the focus area of younger people

Identity, Culture & Media - Facsheet - OlderPeople.pdf PDF 212.7 KB A fact sheet delving into the focus area of older people

Identity, Culture & Media - Facsheet - MaoriPasifika.pdf PDF 264.7 KB A fact sheet looking at commonalities and differences in Maori & Pasifika people vs all NZers

Identity, Culture & Media - Factsheet - Auckland.pdf PDF 236.6 KB A fact sheet looking at what's different about Aucklanders vs the rest of NZ

Identity, Culture & Media - Facsheet -NZAffinity.pdf PDF 168.2 KB A fact sheet delving into the focus area of affinity for NZ and other countries

Identity, Culture and Media Discussion Document PDF 2.0 MB A discussion document from NZ On Air

Original research available here:

1. NZ Cultural Identity 1990 Qualitative research stage PDF 2.3 MB

2. NZ Cultural Identity 1990 Quantitative research stage PDF 4.8 MB

3. NZ Cultural Identity 1990 Tabulations & survey questionnaire PDF 1.3 MB

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Essay Sample about New Zealand

The beautiful island country of New Zealand is home to more sheep than Kiwi’s. What is a Kiwi you ask? A Kiwi is what New Zealanders call themselves since their national food and bird is the Kiwi. New Zealand is a part of the continent Australia, but is surrounded by the Pacific OCean. Though they are ranked 126 in the world population, New Zealand is still home to 4,894,327 people. Millions of people in New Zealand speak a variety of languages, such as English, Te Reo Maori, and New Zealand Sign Language. 

New Zealand has many different interesting physical features. For example, subtropical forests, beaches, and lakes. Such as the Blue Lake which has the clearest water in the world. Most Kiwi’s live on the Northern half of the island, which is the Auckland Urban Area. The climate on the far north side of the island has subtropical weather during the summer, however the Inland Alpine Area gets very cold. The rest of the country amazingly stays at a mild temperature throughout the year though. 

New Zealand is a part of a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. All of this means that the head of state is sovereign, like a supreme ruler. The current leader of the fantastical island of New Zealand is Jacinda Ardern. The economy of this interesting country is the most free-market based economy. New Zealand has a fertile soul and amazing growing conditions. The country has advanced forming methods and agricultural technology. New Zealand leads in both global security and peacekeeping. It’s also a part of key international organizations. The country is a lifetime partner for the World Bank to end poverty. New Zealand leads many exports in 2021 but some of the major ones are dairy, eggs, honey, meat, and wood. 

A normal New Zealand family is a nuclear family where their extended family does not live with them. Lots of families are Christans which is the largest religion in New Zealand, being almost half the population. However, the other half of the population is mostly non-religious. A normal child in the great country of New Zealand goes to school for a decent amount of 13 levels. Their primary schools range between 1st to 8th grade. Then from 9th to 13th they go to secondary education. Although New Zealanders are the first to see the sunrise each day, their school day doesn’t begin until 9 a.m. There are also 4 terms in a school year that have 2 week breaks and a 6-week summer break at the end of the school year.

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