New Zealand


English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language are the official languages of New Zealand. English is universal and is officially written with Commonwealth British spelling - although as in Australia Microsoft's US English spell checkers have made considerable inroads!

New Zealand English is one of the major varieties of English and is different enough from other forms to justify the publication of the Oxford New Zealand English dictionary.

Word usage may also differ occasionally, in potentially embarrassing ways for the traveller. Several words that Americans may consider offensive, or have euphemisms for, are considered acceptable usage. For example: A New Zealand bathroom refers to a room containing a bath while the other facilities containing a WC that an American might refer to as a bathroom or washroom are known as a toilet or "loo". The American habit of "bleeping" swear words from broadcasts is considered quaint and rarely done in local programming. The New Zealand broadcasting media are unusually tolerant of swear words when used in context.

The New Zealand accent is somewhat nasalised with flattened vowel sounds and vowel shifting. New Zealanders consider their accent to be markedly different from the Australian one and are often mildly offended when mistaken for or confused with Australians. New Zealand terminology and slang are also different from Australian usage. Americans find New Zealand accents easy to understand, so do Australians and Brits. Some European languages find it slightly harder and Asians may find it rather hard to understand; New Zealanders are quite happy, however, to repeat what they just said if necessary.

Māori is actively spoken by a minority of both Māori and language learners. Māori is available as a language to study in, instead of English, at many educational institutes. The Māori language is spoken by some, but by no means all, Māori plus a few non-Māori, especially in the far north and east of the North Island. Many place names are in Māori and for the traveller some knowledge of Māori pronunciation is very useful.

New Zealand Sign Language NZSL was given status in 2005 as an official language of the country. It has its roots in British Sign Language BSL, and is also closely related to Auslan Australian Sign Language. Users of BSL or Auslan may find NZSL intelligible, as they share a large portion of vocabulary, plus the same two-handed manual alphabet. On the other hand, users of languages in the French Sign Language family, which also includes American and Irish Sign Languages, will not be able to understand NZSL. The vocabulary is quite different, and languages in that family use a one-handed manual alphabet.

See also: Māori phrasebook

The emergency telephone number in New Zealand is 111.

Ambulance, Fire, Police, Coastguard and Marine and Mountain Rescue can all be rapidly contacted via this one, FREE, emergencies only number.

This number or 112 or 911 also works from mobiles - even when there is no credit available and even if no SIM card is present at all!*555 can also be called for non-emergency traffic incidents from mobiles.

Full instructions are on the inside front cover of every telephone book.

Deaf emergency fax connects to police
Deaf emergency textphone/TTY connects to police
Poisons and hazardous chemicals emergency
medical advice "Healthline", run by the Ministry of Health
railway emergencies KiwiRail Network
māori culture

Māori and non- Māori New Zealanders are generally on good terms, but from time to time there have been frayed relationships between the two.

Māori cultural experiences are popular tourist attractions, and are enjoyed by many people. However, as with any two cultures encountering one another, there is room for misunderstanding. Some tourists have found themselves more confronted than they expected by ceremonial challenges and welcomes. These are serious occasions. Avoid chatter and laughter until it is clear that you are welcome to do so. There is plenty of time to relax later in the proceedings, for example when the hangi food is lifted from the ground.

Remember also, that New Zealand is still a very young nation by many standards and its identity is still being formulated. Commenting that New Zealand is subservient to the United Kingdom is sometimes admired and other times despised. Although New Zealand coinage is adorned with British royal figures, New Zealand is an independent member of the Commonwealth. To suggest that New Zealand is merely an extension of the British Empire can be offensive to some.


Internet access is expensive and metered because of the single cable connection to the rest of the world. It's available in cyber cafes and there are many of these in the major cities but avoid cyber cafes without using a trusted and reliable Anti-virus application.Hourly rates are usually in the range of $4-8, with cheaper rates of around $2-4 at cyber cafes within the main city centres.

Many public libraries have public Internet access. There may be a charge - although that is changing. The Auckland City Public Library 1gb a day at no charge. Some providers, such as the Christchurch City Library network, offer free access only to some sites such as Google, the BBC and Al Jazeera and those in the ".nz" top level domain. Nelson Library (http://www.nelsonpublicli...) has unlimited free Wi-Fi and 23 free terminals.

The Aotearoa People's Network APN has been working to bring Internet access both wired and Wi-Fi to all libraries and these connected libraries are good places to check your e-mail and do some research.

Vouchers for Wi-Fi access can be bought from many Starbucks cafes, and many McDonalds have free Wifi for paying customers. It is becoming more common for Wi-Fi to be provided at hotels and motels using vouchers, but it is seldom free as part of your room rate. Wireless Hotspots are located in many cities and towns all over New Zealand ( from dedicated Wireless providers from whom you can buy connect time. Many camping holiday parks also have such services available.

Both the airport and CBD in Wellington have free Wi-Fi but the airports at Christchurch and Auckland both charge a fee for wireless service in their terminals.

relationship with australia

While Australia and New Zealand have close foreign policy ties, considerable intermigration and overlapping cultures, assuming New Zealanders are basically Australians will not gain you any New Zealander or indeed Australian friends. Although Australians and New Zealanders may seem similar, they do not consider themselves the same. They enjoy a similar relationship as with Canadians and Americans or with Irish and British.

Some Australians may joke about New Zealand being another "state" of Australia. However, this has never been the case. In many ways, Australia and New Zealand have a similar outlook towards the other.

Despite sporting rivalry, many Australians have a genuine affection for New Zealanders. This can be traced back to ANZAC Australia and New Zealand Army Corps, participation in two world wars, particularly the Gallipoli campaign, North African Campaign, Korea, Vietnam, the Malayan Crisis, Solomon Islands, etc.

Like many neighbouring countries Australia and New Zealand enjoy slagging off one other. Perhaps the wittiest observation, came from Sir Robert Muldoon, former NZ Prime Minister, who was asked what he thought of the constant migration from NZ to Australia. His reply was: "I think it is a good thing, as it raises the average IQ of both countries".

New Zealand has a very high level of ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer, around 40% more intense than you will find in the Mediterranean during the summer. Sunglasses and sunscreen are highly recommended, especially if you are of Celtic descent.

Visiting the doctor will cost about $60 and may vary between practices and localities. The New Zealand public hospital system is free of charge to Australian, British and New Zealand citizens but will charge other nationals for treatment received. An exception to this is in the case of any accident when the Accident Compensation Commission ACC will pick up the tab. Travel insurance is highly recommended.

New Zealand has high and equitable standards of professional health care comparable with Sweden or Australia. Tap water is drinkable but precautions should be taken against Giardia when tramping.

common expressions

Generally, New Zealand English expressions follows British English. However, New Zealand English has also borrowed much from Māori and there are a number of other phrases that are not commonly encountered elsewhere or may confuse the visitor.

pronounced "batch" - Holiday home; often by the beach and comprised of fairly basic accommodation. In the South Island often called a crib.
Pot Luck
see also; "Ladies a plate" means each attendant of the event should bring a plate of food to share with the other guests.
Bring Your Own. An addition to the name of a restaurant that may not have a liquor licence means that it is okay to bring your own wine to enjoy with your food, but they often charge a small corkage fee.
rarely used Describing something as a Clayton's means that the item lacks full functionality or is a poor imitation of the real thing. From the name of the unsuccessful non-alcoholic whisky that was briefly marketed during the late 1970s/early 1980s under the catch phrase The drink you're having when you are not having a drink.
Convenience store; corner shop, one few outsiders understand though heavily used by locals and find problems when travelling overseas and are surprised when asking where the dairy is.
Entry by gold (or silver) coin (donation)
The admission charge to an event, exhibit, gallery or museum is by making a payment of a coin in the appropriate metal, often in the donation box at the door. The gold coins in NZ are the $1 and $2 coins, while silver are the 20c and 50c coins, and the 10c coin is copper. See also "Koha" below.
Half Pie
rarely used Usually a job or task not performed to satisfaction cf Māori Pai = good
Flip-flops to most of the world.
Almost universally used for a "New Zealander"; named after an endangered flightless bird that lays the largest egg relative to body size and is one of the national emblems. This is not a derogatory term with most New Zealanders happily referring to themselves as Kiwis.
Flexible working hours, often worked by public servants. Under this system, workers can start and finish work at hours of their choosing between 07:00 and 18:00, although they must work the core hours of 09.30-12:00 and 14:00-15.30 and average 40 hours per week. Also the name of a comedy play about such workers. Flexitime is the term more often used.
slang expressions

If you don't understand, just ask and then most "Kiwis" will explain...

Short for barbecue
pronounced more like "bru" - Short for brother but used by males to address other males.
Forest. Usually meaning a native forest as opposed to a plantation forest.
Cool, great.
Thanks or Choice. Sometimes used as Chur Chur, which can also mean Christchurch.
sometimes used at the end of a statement to change it to a question, similar to Canadian usage.
Wellington Boots or Rain Boots
in tip top condition.
hey. Can be meant as a warning or jokingly, derives from punk usage.
french kiss.
Sweet as!
Cool, good thing, No problem. Often abbreviated to just 'sweet'.
social behaviour

New Zealanders are courteous in general, although relatively distant, thus are not easily offended. However, if you get the chance to get to know some of them better, a whole new set of complicated social rules comes into play. In general they are a very warm, sociable and forgiving people. However, many New Zealanders especially those who have not lived in foreign countries for an extended period of time are unaware of the peculiarities of their culture. Keep these generalisations in mind:

Be polite. Always say please and thank you. For example, at a cafe, if you wanted a second fork, it would be considered perfectly ordinary to say to a staff member, "Excuse me, sorry, could I please have another fork? Thank you."

It is polite to offer to help out, for example with washing the dishes after a meal. Your initial offer will likely be be denied, at which point you should immediately ask "Are you sure?". Offering once and then failing to ask "Are you sure?" is considered cheeky at best, rude at worst.

The reverse is true: if something is offered to you, the person offering does not necessarily want you to take it.

If staying for more than a few days at someone's house, if they are younger than 30-35 it is considered polite to leave a token amount of money, say $20, to 'cover the power bill', especially if you are the guest at a shared flat/apartment/house.

Many New Zealanders habitually swear. They may even use profanity when describing you. It generally is not meant to be offensive, it's just their vocabulary.

Speech is often understated. "It's all right" often means it is the best thing ever, depending on the tone of voice. "It was average" generally means it was poor. "He was a bit rude" often means he was extremely rude.

New Zealand society is understood by New Zealanders to be classless and egalitarian; this is mostly true, and largely functions by avoiding having discussions about money or by showing wealth. New Zealanders, even wealthy New Zealanders, tend to behave in a somewhat frugal manner. Don't talk about or show off your money, property, rent or income.

Same-sex marriage became permitted by law on 19 Aug 2013.

natural hazards

Severe weather is by far the most common natural hazard encountered in New Zealand. Although New Zealand is not subject to the direct hit of tropical cyclones, stormy weather systems, from both the tropics and the polar regions, can sweep across New Zealand at various times of the year. There is generally a seven to ten day cycle of a few days of wet or stormy weather followed by calmer and drier days as weather systems move across the country. The phrase four seasons in one day is a good description of New Zealand weather, which has a reputation for both changeability and unpredictability. The phrase is also a popular Kiwi song.

Weather forecasts are generally reliable for overall trends and severe weather warnings should be heeded when broadcast. However both the timing and intensity of any weather events should be assessed from your own location.

You should always seek advice from the Department of Conservation when trekking in alpine areas. There are annual fatalities of both foreign nationals and New Zealanders caught unaware by the weather.

There are other natural hazards you may encounter, though far more rarely:

Strong earthquakes
New Zealand, being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, sits astride a tectonic plate boundary and experiences large numbers about 14,000/year of small earthquakes every year, a few about 200/year are noticeable and the occasional one causes damage and sometimes loss of life. The last big one causing serious loss of life was on 22 February 2011 10 km south east of Christchurch. It was a 6.3 magnitude with the depth a only 5 km, the death toll was 185. The latest quake news is reported by GeoNet (
Volcanic eruptions
New Zealand has a number of volcanoes that are classified as active or dormant. Only Mount Ruapehu and White Island have been active recently. Volcanic activity is monitored by GeoNet.

There are almost no poisonous or substantially dangerous animals. The katipo and redback are the only two venomous spiders and bites from both species are extremely rare. Serious reactions are uncommon and unlikely to develop in less than three hours, though you should always seek help at your nearest hospital, medical centre, or doctor. The white-tailed spider can also deliver painful bites but is not considered dangerous to humans. (http://www.healthed.govt....) No large mammalian predators are present and no large predatory reptiles. Certain species of Weta an insect, that looks a bit like a huge grasshopper or cricket can deliver a painful but harmless bite.

crime and security

While difficult to make international comparisons, the level of crime in New Zealand is similar to other western countries. Dishonesty offences, such as theft, are by far the most frequent type of crime. Travellers should take simple, sensible precautions such as putting valuables away out of sight or in a secure place and locking doors of vehicles, even in remote locations, as much of this crime is opportunistic in nature.

Violent crime in public places is generally associated with alcohol or illicit drug consumption. Rowdy bars or drunken crowds in city centres, or groups of youths in the suburbs, are best avoided, especially late at night and in the early morning. New Zealanders can be somewhat lacking in a sense of humour when their country or their sporting teams are mocked by loud or drinking tourists.

New Zealand has one of the lowest recorded rates of gun crime in the world, averaging about ten recorded firearm murders each year. To put this in perspective, there are more than thirty thousand gun deaths each year in South Africa, where a lot of recent immigrants have come from.

There are occasional disturbing high profile media reports of tourists being targeted in random violent robberies and/or sexual crimes. These crimes tend to happen in more isolated places, where the chances of the offender being observed by other people are low. The chance of falling victim to such misfortune is still low. Although crime statistics reflect an increase in violent crime, the increase is entirely explained by increased detection of family violence, a key focus area for Police. Tourists are unlikely to be affected, as such crimes usually take place in the privacy of New Zealanders' own homes.

The New Zealand Police, a national force, are generally polite and helpful. Police regularly conduct drink-drive blitzes, often setting up screening checkpoints all around an area, including all lanes of motorways. Being caught drinking and driving will result in being invited to accompany the officer to a police station, or a roadside Booze Bus for an evidential breath test, blood test, or both. Being found with excess breath alcohol, or refusal to undertake testing will result in an arrest, appearance in Court, with a possibility of time in prison, as well as a hefty fine and disqualification from driving.

Fixed and mobile speed cameras as well as hand held and car speed detectors are used frequently. Police have no official discretion for speeding offences and will write tickets for all vehicles caught exceeding the speed limit by more than 10km/h. In some locations, such as near schools, even exceeding the speed limit by only 5km/h will result in a ticket. Police have recently upgraded their pursuit training, following a number of deaths of both offenders and innocent third parties during vehicle pursuits.

In New Zealand, armed police are highly unusual and usually rate a mention in the media. Although all police officers are trained to handle firearms, these are normally openly carried only when the situation requires such weapons, such as an armed offender. Traditionally, New Zealand police carry only batons and offender control pepper spray. From August 2015 a new policy will allow all front line police officers, including road police to carry tasers while on duty. However, first response patrols will generally have recourse to firearms locked in their vehicle.



All analogue TV has now stopped broadcasting.

Free-to-air digital television has been rolled out to cover most towns with a population of more than 40,000 and three of the channels are available in HD. Cable television is not well developed, but direct broadcast satellite technology is available across the nation, with both free-to-air Freeview Satellite and pay-through-the-nose television through the Sky network.

One reason often advanced for the continued health, vigour and sheer variety of hobbyist clubs and sport throughout NZ is the mind-numbing banality of most of the Freeview programming. Visitors from Australia and Britain are perplexed by the almost complete lack of documentaries and current affairs programmes and locally produced drama. Even the All Blacks games are not available as they are being played without a seriously expensive Sky subscription.

Visitors from the US will feel right at home since much of the programming is bought from Hollywood since it tends to be cheaper than quality programmes from Australia or Europe.

Two exceptions to the low-brow line-up are

the Al Jazeera English channel broadcasting news and documentaries and available 24h and

Māori Television which often shows non-US films with subtitles at weekends

All hotels and motels will have either Freeview or some Sky channels.

Teletext no longer provides an information service, but page 801 provides a caption text service for some TV programs which allows hearing impaired people to read subtitles.


New Zealand has a large number of radio stations, on both AM and FM, with at least one local station and a number of nationwide network stations broadcast in each major city or town.

National Radio

Is a government funded, non-commercial, spoken features style national network with some music. it broadcasts news and detailed weather forecasts, generally hourly, with detailed mountain and marine forecasts a couple of times a day on both am and fm around 101mhz fm. operated by radio new zealand.


Is a government funded, non-commercial, classical music national network.


There are a number of FM visitor information stations around the country.

Postal mail

postal mail

The national post office is New Zealand Post ( If you are staying in one place for a while, you can rent a PO Box from them. NZ Post also offer overnight and same day courier services across New Zealand. (

postal mail
New Zealand Post
Is available at Post offices across the country

This is an inexpensive service for receiving letters and parcels while you are visiting New Zealand from overseas.

postal mail
New Zealand Post
Is available nationally at local PostShop and some PostCentre outlets

Use the Counter delivery service if you need a short term mailing address of up to three months.

postal mail

Postcards cost 50c to send within New Zealand 2-3 days and $1.90 to send internationally 3-10 days. Letters up to DL size 130mm×235mm cost the same as postcards within New Zealand and to Australia and the South Pacific, with letters to other destinations costing $1.90 for economy service 10-25 days, and $2.30 for standard service 6-10 days.

Māori words and expressions

māori words and expressions

A traditional Māori meeting or gathering place. Also a community centre.

māori words and expressions
Kia Ora

Hello, welcome, literally good health. Often used as an utterance of agreement, especially during speaking at a hui.

māori words and expressions

A meeting or gathering to discuss and debate issues in traditional Māori fashion.

māori words and expressions

A Māori tribe or people, sometimes known as a Waka canoe, as some iwi are named after the ocean going canoes that brought their ancestors to New Zealand.

māori words and expressions

A Māori term for gifts or donations. Often an exchange of gifts takes place. Sometimes the admission signs say, "Entry Koha", meaning gold coin or what you feel like donating.

māori words and expressions

Food. Common with both Māori and non-Māori.

māori words and expressions
Haere Mai

A greeting to a person arriving, while Haere Ra is a salutation to one leaving.

māori words and expressions

The Māori word for New Zealanders of non-Māori descent, generally thought to have arisen from a Māori story about spirit creatures called 'pakepakeha'. Many New Zealanders do not refer to themselves as Pākehā with some finding it offensive, others however see the name as part of their unique identity.

māori words and expressions

A Māori ceremonial welcome. Especially to a marae, but now also may take place at the start of a conference or similar large meeting in New Zealand.

māori words and expressions

A Māori extended family. Kinfolk. Used often in advertising to alliterate with friends such as 'friends and whanau'.

māori words and expressions

literally big house, is the meeting house on a marae.

māori words and expressions

literally food house, is the dining room and/or kitchen on a marae.

māori words and expressions

literally Small house - Toilet



New Zealand has a well developed and ubiquitous telephone system. The country's main phone company, Spark previously Telecom, claims as of 2009 to have about 4000 payphones in NZ which can be easily identified by their yellow and blue colours. All of them accept major credit cards and a variety of phonecards available from retailers. You may have to look hard for a payphone that accepts coins. Free Wi-Fi also.


The country code is 64. New Zealand telephone numbers can be looked up online.


The emergency telephone number from all telephones is 111you may need to use a prefix, usually 1, to get an outside line from business systems. An emergency services call is normally answered with a voice request to choose Police, Fire or Ambulance; respond as appropriate and you will then be switched to the requested service. Other common international emergency numbers like 112, 911 and 999 may also work, but don't rely on it.


Mobile telephone coverage is effectively only national near urban areas. The mountainous terrain means that, outside these urban areas, and especially away from the main highway system, coverage has huge dead patches.

Do not rely on mobile phones in hilly or mountainous terrain - especially in the South Island.

Mobile telephone users can call *555 only to report Non-emergency traffic safety incidents, such as a breakdown, road hazard or non-injury car crash, to the Police.


There are currently three major mobile carriers in New Zealand, with some sub-brands.

Spark operates a 4G and 3G UMTS network, nationwide on 850MHz with supplementary 2100MHz in metropolitan areas the same frequencies as Telstra in Australia and AT&T in the US.

Vodafone NZ operates a 4G LTE network on 700MHz, 1800MHZ and 2600MHz frequencies with wide coverage in 54 centres, a nationwide 3G UMTS network on 900MHz with supplementary 2100MHz coverage, and a GSM network on 900MHz/2100MHz.

2degrees operates a 4G LTE 1800MHz and 700MHz in cetral Auckland and UMTS 3G network 2100MHz in most towns with a population of over 1000, with supplementary GSM coverage provided elsewhere by Vodafone.

Airports and shopping malls will have stores from Spark and Vodafone available for purchasing access and getting information about their networks. Prepay SIM card packs from Spark, Vodafone or 2degrees cost between $5-30, some come with pre-loaded credit.