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11 Things No One Told You About Living In New Zealand

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So, you’re thinking about making the move to New Zealand. Maybe you want to reccy things out first with a little expedition to our beautiful little country. Before you get here though, there are a few things to need to know about living in New Zealand. Some good…some not quite as good!

On the whole, we reckon New Zealand deserves its place in the list of best places in the world to live and that’s why we always love to help people to make the move, whether it’s an overseas experience trip or making the permanent move down under.

Here are 11 things you need to know about living in New Zealand…just so you’re nice and prepared!

1.      Shoes are optional

Going barefoot in New Zealand is very common

Photo by Erik Odiin on Unsplash

That’s right. For many overseas visitors, this can take a bit of getting used to. People will literally go barefoot everywhere. Bars, restaurants…the supermarket! It looks a bit weird the first few times you see it and it definitely feels weird the first time you try it, especially in the supermarket. You do get used to it though and eventually, you come to embrace it.

Freedom to the feet!

2.      We have the world’s best coffee

Alright so this is a pretty bold claim but we’ve done some research (we Googled it) and it seems to stack up! Whilst we are bound to blow our own trumpets about the quality of our coffee, it seems that our many international visitors feel the same way about our coffee. We’re not sure what it is about it. It just tastes so flipping amazing. It’s such a great way to start your day. Knowing you can pretty much go into any café in New Zealand and guarantee yourself an awesome coffee.

All hail New Zealand coffee!

3.      Card is king

Don’t ever ask a Kiwi if you can borrow some cash. It’s not that we’re tight. Far from it. It’s just that none of us carries cash. Ever. Unless you have to catch a bus (and even then you can usually use some sort of card) we use our cash cards wherever we go. Paying by card is usually referred to as ‘Eftpos’ here in New Zealand and quite frankly, it’s pretty awesome. No need to carry all that loose change around…just whack it on the card.

Card is definitely king.

4.      No tips necessary

New Zealand literally has no tipping culture. We have a really good minimum wage that means no matter where you work, you get paid a fair price for the work you do. That’s not to say that tips are not welcomed – who doesn’t love being told they are doing a good job. However, you never need to feel bad about not leaving a tip as we totally don’t expect one. It’s a really nice thing not having to worry about a tip as it can cause a bit of anxiety. We’ve even been known to chase after people who leave a tip as we think they have dropped some cash!

5.      We have a whole different vocabulary to the rest of the world

Jandals on a beach - Kiwi Slang

Like most countries, we have a lot of colloquialisms and our slang seems to confuse many of our international visitors. Some of the most confusing include:

  • Lollies – a general term for all sweets
  • Hot chips – the ‘hot’ park is very much needed as we refer to ‘crisps’ as chips so if you want some proper chips with your burger, make sure you remember the ‘hot’ part
  • Dairy – no this is not the place where the milk is produced but the common name for the corner shop
  • Jandals – whether you call them flip flops or thongs (weird Aussies!), we call those summer beach footwear jandals in NZ
  • Togs – a term used to describe both male and female swimming gear

To find out more about Kiwi slang terms, check out our 30 Kiwi Slang Terms you need to know before you visit post

6.      Place names are hard to pronounce

OK maybe not all place names are hard to pronounce but there are a lot that are. Whilst it can be pretty amusing to hear foreigners pronounce some of our place names, it’s true that there is a pretty big percentage of Kiwis who also struggle with some of them! The biggest area of confusion is around place names that begin with ‘Wh’. In the main, the ‘Wh’ is pronounced as an ‘F’ which dramatically changes the way you say the name. A favourite example is ‘Whakapapa’…we can hear the clogs ticking and then it dawns on everyone “Ah…’Fuckapapa’” – whoops!

7.      We have some of the clearest night skies in the world

Stargazing at the Aoraki McKenzie Dark Sky Reserve

Stargazing at the Aoraki McKenzie Dark Sky Reserve

Whether you’re into stargazing or not, when you move to New Zealand or if you spend a lot of time here, you never fail to get blown away by the night skies. Unless you spend your whole time in the centre of Auckland, the night sky in New Zealand is super clear thanks to the lack of light pollution. We even have one of the world’s first Dark Sky Reserves down in the Mt Cook region which is classified as one of the best places in the world to stargaze. The next time you’re here, take a look up into the night sky and be blown away by the number of stars you can see.

8.      We’re the first country in the world to see the sun

This one is a little bit contentious but we’re sticking to our guns on this one. New Zealand was, for a long time, recognised as the first place in the world to welcome in the new day. That was until Samoa decided to move their position on the International Date Line.  Their  day now aligns with Australia and New Zealand where they do most of their business. Now, there is some sort of weird earthly phenomenon that means that whilst Samoa is the first place in the world to welcome each new day, New Zealand is still the first place to see the sun rise thanks to the curvature of the earth. We’re not scientists but that’s our claim and we’re sticking to it! You can read more here.

9.      We have pretty terrible internet…but it’s getting better

Underwater Internet Cable Map

See full Map here

For a lot of overseas visitors, they can’t believe how slow our internet is (you should have tried visiting 5 years ago when dial-up was still in operation!). We are making giant leaps and bounds with our internet speeds and a lot of places do now have access to Fibre, however, in many rural parts of New Zealand, the internet access can indeed still be dog slow. The reason for this is that we fall right at the furthest end of the underwater internet pipe thingy which means we are at the end of the line when it comes to fast internet.

Oh well, it’s a good job everything outdoors is so amazing so you won’t really be needing much time on the internet anyway.

Source: https://visual.ly/community/infographic/technology/internets-undersea-world

10. We do have quite a few earthquakes

You see, not all the things you need to know were good and this is one of the downsides of living in New Zealand. We literally have thousands of earthquakes every single year (most of which are tiny and no one ever notices) and it can be a bit of a shock when you first experience one. They do say that New Zealand is in danger from a potentially huge earthquake at some point in the not too distant future but we are pretty good at taking safety precautions and if you live in the more dangerous areas, there is tons of information available.

It’s always good to know about these things though!

11. Our wildlife is pretty incredible no matter where you are

Oamaru Blue Penguins

So the final thing on our list is our wildlife. Whilst you might have heard about our amazing wildlife, nothing quite prepares you for it. Tht’s especially true when you move here or spend a lot of time here. You never really take things for granted. It never gets boring seeing amazing dolphins, hearing the beautiful birds in the morning or perhaps even seeing something new and unusual like a weta. Our native wildlife is pretty varied and best of all, it’s not dangerous (unlike our neighbours across the ditch!). Take a stroll pretty much anywhere in New Zealand and you will come across something pretty cool either down in the ground or up in the sky.

Some of our cool wildlife includes the Kiwi Bird, Hector’s Dolphin, Kea, Little Blue Penguins, Tuatara, Tui and the Morepork Owl.

So there you have it. Some of the things you can expect when you get here. Just ditch the jandals, forget the cash and be prepared for some early starts and late nights to see our amazing skies!

If you are planning on moving to New Zealand (as a result of the above or otherwise) we recommend that you take a look at the awesome blog, How to move to New Zealand, which offers some great tips covering all you need to know about making the big move! And of course, if you need to rent a car when you’re here, you know where to find us!

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4 thoughts on “11 Things No One Told You About Living In New Zealand

  1. I remember climbing onto my car, leaning back. I swear I thought the universe was right in my face. A lifelong memory!

  2. Hi Margaret – thanks so much for sharing that memory – there really is nothing better than exploring and enjoying the outdoors here in New Zealand and it’s amazing how many of these activities are free!

  3. Be careful with the Weta. It looks like an interesting big grasshopper, but those jaws can nip! Best to pick it up in your handkerchief and put it outside. If one gets on you, give it a twig or leaf to climb on, don’t try to brush it off. Don’t kill it.

  4. Hey Phillippa – thanks for your message and that’s certainly a great tip for the weta – they are very cool to look at but don’t get too close! Thanks for reading the post and thanks for your comment

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