Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

Learning the Social Customs of New Zealand


In New Zealand, approximately three-quarters of the country’s population is New Zealand European, and about one-tenth is Maori, the native society. There are also some sects of other Europeans, Pacific Islanders and Asians, among others.

There are three official languages: English, Maori and New Zealand sign language. English is used in most areas of business and government. Both English and Maori are used in the media, and both languages have influenced one another. Some towns in New Zealand have both an English name and a Maori name that are used interchangeably.

The New Zealanders of European descent are often called “Kiwis.” Kiwis are generally known to be polite, hospitable, friendly and somewhat reserved. They tend to be nice to people they do not know personally, and will say hello to strangers. Most people dress casually but not sloppily.

Maori people are also known to be friendly, reserved and hospitable. They are musical people who will sometimes start singing songs and expect others they know to join.

Both the Maori and the Kiwis have a strong pride in their country’s environment and maintaining in its beauty. There are tight restrictions at the borders of New Zealand on importing foreign species.

Kiwis are known to value equality rather than hierarchy, and mostly do not care for wealth, status or anything pretentious. The society has a welfare state that takes care of people who cannot afford food or housing. Maori people do follow a hierarchy that can come out in certain situations.

Greetings in New Zealand are very casual, and people take value in a friendly smile. Though you will probably be invited to use first names quickly, it is wise to address people by their proper names at first just to be polite.

If you are invited to a Kiwi’s home, it is customary to bring a small gift that is not too expensive. Simple flowers or chocolates always go well. At the dinner table, manners are generally casual, just wait to be told where to sit. Meals are usually served family-style.

If you are invited to a Maori’s home for dinner, you will probably be taken to a separate dining room building. Before everyone begins eating, the food must be blessed by the elders. The younger people in the family will often serve the food while the older people are working in the kitchen. You may be expected to sing a song from your home country or your culture, so have one prepared to share beforehand.


2 thoughts on “Learning the Social Customs of New Zealand

  1. In the article, I believe you got Maori mixed up with Polynesian, when it comes to singing songs etc. Also, there are no such thing as Maoris or Maori’s. They are simply Maori. It’s not customary to bring a small gift into somebody’s home.

    You generalize a LOT about greetings etc. We’re no different from Americans/British/Aussies/Safas etc.

  2. I disagree with you Daniel.
    It is very customary to bring a gift to someone’s house. Especially of people older than the age of 30ish, when people start to settle down in their lives.
    Maori are very similar to Polynesian’s and Maori do sing songs. Many are musical and at dinner, it is a very casual environment where entertainment takes place.
    It is however unusual to see this written up about my home country. What it says is very odd, but not untrue.

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