Hundreds of miles from the nearest country, it’s no wonder New Zealand’s culture has danced to its own tune. While the island bears signs of its Australian neighbours and British past, they’re only small parts of what makes Kiwis the incredible people they are.
Cool, confident and with a wicked sense of humour, the people are as much of a reason to visit as the incredible scenery. So rather than stick to hotels and tours with international groups, it’s one place you’ll want to spend some time in and mingle with the locals.
If you’re planning on visiting, here are a few pointers the Flexicover team think are worth knowing to help you avoid any social faux-pas.
A wonderful quirk of the country is that not everyone wears shoes – many are happy to go barefoot without the worry of foot-coffins. To be clear, we’re not just talking about going shoe-free in a hotel or for a walk in the park. Shoes are optional in bars, restaurants and shops, especially in the summer months when temperatures mean there’s less reason to keep those tootsies covered. Once you feel confident about the cleanliness of New Zealand’s paths, feel free to ditch the shoes and act like a true local.
With an incredible country to enjoy, it’s no wonder that Kiwis work to live, rather than live to work. That means they don’t define themselves by their job. In conversation, asking what someone does is a way to find out more about them, but don’t make value judgements because of it. People’s priorities vary and generally speaking their ambition lies with a job that allows them to live a balanced life. This point also extends to what you should expect from people in the service industry: they have a relaxed attitude and don’t appreciate undue pressure from customers – though their friendliness means they won’t let this show.
Every nation has its dictionary differences and New Zealand is no different. That said the stark difference in their lingo is a surprise. As in the States, courgettes are zucchinis and as in Australia, swimming shorts are togs. Then it gets strange: cling film is glad wrap, a cool box is known as a chilli bin, a dairy is a shop, flip flops are jandals (derived from Japanese Sandals) and sweets are lollies. Plus if you want to stay in a small holiday home you’ll have to ask for a bach – which is pronounced ‘batch’, for added confusion.
New Zealand’s independent nature means that it’s often a driving force when it comes to new ideas in arts and culture. So one way to mainline into their culture is by brushing up on their greatest contributions, which extend to far more than Peter Jackson and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Haka is a wonder to watch ahead of rugby matches or even better performed by a Maori dance group, so much so that it inspired Iceland’s Viking chant at Euro 2016. For music, young singer Lorde is a good starting point, followed by electronic-indie group The Naked & Famous. And when it comes to comedy, the masters are the ultra-dry Flight of the Conchords, who have a two-series sitcom.
It's always helpful to be in the know with specific aspects before you head to a country and one such point is knowing when to pay gratuities. Tipping in hotels is customary, around $2 per bag carried and $1-$5 for room/maid service and if the concierge provides you with excellent service, tipping $10-$15 is more than acceptable. In restaurants it is not compulsory, but much like here in the UK if the service is excellent, leaving a 10% gratuity is certainly appreciated. One situation where it is not a common practice is when taking a taxi, whilst rounding up can make the paying process easier; don't be surprised if they refuse the tip.
It's good to be prepared before you choose to travel to a country, but unexpected mishaps can occur anywhere, at Flexicover Travel Insurance we want our customers to travel with peace of mind. Get covered today!