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Kiwi Goes Global

Do's and Don'ts in New Zealand

NEW ZEALAND | Tuesday, 16 August 2011 | Views [16403] | Comments [3]

A view over Wellington, New Zealand's capital city.

A view over Wellington, New Zealand's capital city.

In the spirit of Blog Your Backyard, I'm going to share the dos and don'ts that came to mind when I thought about my beloved homeland: New Zealand/Aotearoa/Godzone. ;p

I have to start with this one, because it's important. DON'T... expect to waltz through customs with natural products in your bags. As the New Zealand Customs Service's website says 'We take our biosecurity very seriously.'  Many an unwary traveller has found out the hard way. For instance, one of my friends was on his way back from Australia, and forgot that there was an orange from 3 days earlier in the bottom of his backpack.  He parted with about NZ$200 because of this, so make sure that you check your luggage thoroughly. Some think we're crazy, but the thing is that we're a small country in the middle of the Pacific, and we'd rather protect our plants and wildlife from any pests or diseases that you could bring in with those prohibited items, thank you very much. Here's a site with some information on what is and is not allowed in.

DO... get a taste of te ao Māori (the Māori world). After all, it's one of the things which makes New Zealand unique. Most people have watched the All Blacks do the haka before a rugby match, but there is a lot more to Maori culture than this! For a start, you can learn 'kia ora' (hello) and 'ka pai' (good): two Māori phrases that you may hear used in New Zealand English. History buffs can visit an ancient pa (fortified village) site to learn about the traditional Maori way of life, and maybe the inter-tribal battles, or the land wars between the colonisers and Māori. You could also witness some of the enduring traditions and enjoy some famous Māori hospitality by taking part in a pōwhiri, a welcome ceremony for visitors on a marae (communal meeting place). The Māori culture also comprises a strong tradition of performing arts (kapa haka), so you could enjoy a concert of action songs and poi dances. If you'd like to get out into nature, and learn more about the Māori world view, there are plenty of options: tours with local guides, who share historic, mythical and other cultural information.

On the other hand, DON'T... expect to find Māori living in grass skirts in the forests. Yes, the Māori were hunters and gatherers who lived off the land. That's why they traditionally introduce themselves by stating things such as their mountain and river, and why disputes over land loss in the early settler days still have repercussions today. However, the Māori people have moved with the times and live much like anyone else. While I'll admit that there is still sometimes friction between Māori and Pākehā (non-Māori), there are also Māori politicians, university lecturers, doctors, lawyers, and more.

Another important thing to remember is that the Māori culture has its own etiquette: DON'T... sit on tables, don't put your hat on a table, and don't eat or drink if you are inside a wharenui (meeting house). The first two are offensive partly because they are unhygenic (you eat off tables), and also because of the Māori notion of tapu (sacred), and the third because the wharenui is an extremely important area in the marae. So, eating there would be somewhat akin to munching away in a church. Besides, near every wharenui, there's a wharekai (kitchen/dining room).

DO... make the most of our diverse country. New Zealand's about 1600 kilometres long, so I guess it's only fair to expect some differences between the countryside up north and down south. For instance, if we work our way down:
The Bay of Islands is the place for people who want a beachy holiday. Lounging on the sand, going on a boat cruise, or visiting the place where the Treaty of Waitangi (between Māori and the British Crown was signed are just a few options.
Should boiling mud, geysers, and thermal hot pools tickle your fancy, Rotorua is the place for you.
If you'd like to spend your holiday sampling wine and whiling away the hours in cafés, head to the Hawke's Bay or Nelson regions.
A 'cooler' option is to head down the rugged West Coast and visit the Southern Alps, with Queenstown and Wanaka being popular destinations for skiers. While in that area, you can check out the Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers

When you're travelling between all those great places, DON'T... expect our highways to be super fast. For a start, our speed limit is 100 km/h. Secondly, our highways are not like those in many other parts of the world. You will be required to slow down to 70 km/h (or even 50 km/h) when passing through small towns. If you're lucky, you may even cross a one-way bridge. And, as for crossing the Rimutakas on State Highway 2? You may be close to Wellington, but you still have to pass through some windy, hilly roads with few passing lanes. Be careful. Sorry, that's just the way our roads are. On the flipside, there are no tolls!

DO... consider coming in summer and checking out a festival. You have lots of choices. There is:
The Big Day Out. Days of music on multiple stages, and a popular event with New Zealand youngsters. You'll only regret not being able to watch everything at once!
Rhythm And Vines, a great lead-up to New Year's Eve, with plenty of music and the opportunity to camp on-site.
Art Déco Weekend.  Travel back to the '30s and enjoy music, trolley derbies, bathing beauties, vintage cars, and more.
The Cuba Street Carvnival.  wotzon.com describes the Cuba St Carnival, due to recommence in 2013, as 'an unforgettable street party that captures the imagination of anybody with a pulse... a vibrant global mix of music, art and dance.'
The World Buskers' Festival, which promises 'laughter and hilarity.'
Not actually in summer, but definitely worth a visit is The Bluff Oyster and Seafood Festival, to sample local delicacies in an atmosphere that is 'unsophisticated, and proud of it!'

DON'T... stop at Bluff Oysters. There's still Hokey Pokey ice-cream, Pavlova (a meringue-style dessert), ANZAC biscuits (with oats and golden syrup), whitebait fritters, Paua (an edible abalone), hangi (food steamed in an Earth oven) and, for the brave, the yeasty goodness of Marmite on toast. Just don't believe anyone who tells you that it tastes like Nutella. You are advised to spread it thinly.

DO... ask locals for help or advice. We're proud of our country, and we want you to love it as much as we do, so we're happy if we can help you to enjoy your stay. Apparently, we have a reputation for being a friendly bunch, too. Just expect to be asked 'so, how do you like New Zealand?' Oh, and be prepared for us to respond to your questions with our New Zealand accent. We may be a former British colony, but we've developed our own special twang. It can't be too bad, though, as, according to a BBC survey quoted in the New Zealand Herald, it was 'rated the most attractive and prestigious form of English outside the UK.' Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped the Aussies from mocking us about how we say 'fush and chups.' 

Last, but not least, DON'T... say anything bad about the All Blacks. That is, if you value your life, or want to make any Kiwi friends while you are in the country. Since rugby is something of a religion here, critcising the All Blacks - or alluding to the fact that some other team could possibly be better than them - is bordering on blasphemy. Especially with the 2011 World Cup approaching, on our turf.

See you there!

Tags: #blogyourbackyard, festivals, food, maori, new zealand, new zealand tourism, rugby, why go to new zealand




Hi libby-k8,

Congratulations! This ‘Blog your Backyard’ submission has been chosen as one of the 20 winners of an Urban Adventures voucher. Please email Alicia@worldnomads.com to find out how to redeem your experience.

Thanks for being part of our ‘Blog your Backyard’ project and sharing your local knowledge with our community!


  travel-competitions Sep 14, 2011 9:48 AM


Hey! Congrats on winning blog your backyard! Both me and my partner won the contest and we are so so excited for the opportunity to get our writing and blog out there more.

We run our own travel website ( www.ouroyster.com ) and on Monday we are going to publish a post announcing the winners of the competition. We would like to link to all the other winners as well. I was wondering, is this your main blog? Or do you also have another website?

Also, do you have a twitter/ facebook fan page that you might also want me to link to?

Let me know :D


  ouroysterjade Sep 17, 2011 7:13 AM


thnx i really needed some good advice :D

  anonymus Oct 11, 2011 10:05 PM

About libby-k8

Moi, up Mont St Clair in Sète, with my wee Kiwi, Kingi.

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