This post was contributed by Rebekah Baird.
New Zealand. The enchanted land on the other side of the world, often missed out of maps and continuously associated with Australia. This mysterious country was my home for the first 19 years of my life, before packing everything up and moving to Paris. However, the fact that I left my country doesn’t diminish the amount of love and pride I have for it. In fact, I think I’ve become even more patriotic after moving away. Despite slowly losing my beloved and unique New Zealand accent, I’ll always call myself a Kiwi (a nickname for New Zealanders), and I’m forever encouraging people to brave the 35-hour flight and visit my home country.
As much as New Zealanders are probably the most chill and open people you’ll ever meet, there are still a few things that you probably wouldn’t want to do while over there. After all, it’s always important to respect the land and culture of every new country we visit, right? So sit back, relax and here are seven things you should NOT do when visiting New Zealand.
1) Don’t Disrespect the Maori Culture.
Okay, I’m listing the most important thing at the start, because believe me when I say that this one is a BIGGIE!! To give you some background info, the Maori people are New Zealand natives, and their culture is present and widely respected by most Kiwis. I’m not going to say that New Zealand is a perfect country; racism, unfortunately, does exist, and colonization definitely did plenty of damage in the past. However, this gives absolutely NO excuse for anyone to mock or disrespect the Maori culture. Certain tourists who may be bewildered by the differences, tend to laugh and sometimes ridicule the Maori people because they feel uncomfortable or don’t know how to react. This is 100% NOT okay! Even if you’re not used to or may not understand a certain culture, it costs you nothing to be respectful and open-minded.
2) Don’t Forget your Sunblock.
A little known fact about New Zealand is that we absolutely FRY down here! And no, we don’t have a crazy hot climate like in Australia, but we do, however, have a crazy big hole in the ozone layer. So thanks to humankind destroying the earth, we can’t spend more than five minutes outside in summer without getting (sometimes seriously) sunburnt. And don’t even think about giving me the “I don’t burn” crap. Oh HONEY, in New Zealand you do – NO ONE is safe! So don’t forget your sunblock, because oh BOY is it expensive there! Even the fact that New Zealand has the second-highest rate of skin cancer in the WORLD doesn’t lower them insane prices.
3) Don’t drive on the right.
Yes, we are the minority of the world that drives on the left-hand side of the road, the steering wheel is on the right and to make matters worse our roads are pretty terrible… We get it – we’re weird. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you be extra careful not to drive on the right while you’re over there… like the LIFE-SAVING kind of important. You may think I’m stating the obvious here, but each year there are hundreds of road accidents as a result of tourists who couldn’t get used to driving in New Zealand. So PLEASE! Be careful!
Even if you’re not used to or may not understand a certain culture, it costs you nothing to be respectful and open-minded.
4) For the love of God, DON’T call us Australians.
If I had a dollar for every time someone called me an Australian, I’d be a millionaire. Let’s lay out the facts here…
Despite our flags being similar and us being neighbours, we are VERY different countries with different landscapes, cultures, and accents (YES, they are different!). New Zealand has always been hiding in Australia’s shadow up until very recently, so the hurt and betrayal are still VERY real when we’re mistaken for our neigbours across the ditch. People also seem to think that Australia and New Zealand are so much closer than they actually are; in reality, the shortest flight between these two countries is still four hours – that’s the same time as a flight from France to Egypt!
5) Don’t expect to understand our accent and slang.
So since New Zealand is an English-speaking country, you’re expecting to understand everything right? WRONG! Okay, maybe I’m being a little dramatic here, but let me warn you, our slang is just downright WEIRD!
“Far out bro, you algood? Need a hand, tramping in the wop wops?”
“Yeah Nah, chur cuz, she’ll be right.”
“Aw sweet as mate!”
How much of that conversation did you understand? That was some solid kiwi slang right there, yet it’s also a very typical every-day conversation. And trust me, that is only a sliver of the amount of slang there is.
Now don’t even get me started on the New Zealand accent. There is literally no way I can explain it, except for an awkward mix between the Australian, English and South African accents… so it’s a big fat mess. But HEY, it was somehow voted the world’s sexiest accent earlier this year, so we must be doing something right! However, there have been a few definite awkward moments in my life when the word DECK comes up in conversations. You see, us New Zealanders pronounce the word DECK like the rest of the English-speaking world pronounces D!CK. You can imagine the shocked expressions and stunned silences when I invite people I’ve just met to sit on my DECKchair.
6) Don’t rely on public transport.
When it comes to public transport, we definitely ain’t up to European standards. If you think that you can just waltz up to any big city in New Zealand and expect to take a metro or even a tram to your destination, then think again! In the bigger cities, the only form of public transport to exist are buses, and no, don’t think that these buses will ever be actually on time. Plus, if you miss the bus, you’re out of luck because the next one will only arrive after a 40-minute agonizing wait. The solution? Just never take public transport and hire a car instead… but make sure you go back and reread point number three of this article before you do!
7) Don’t just stick to the big cities.
Let’s end this article on a positive note. Being a fairly modern country we, unfortunately, aren’t blessed with stunning architecture like in Europe, so don’t just stay in New Zealand’s big cities, because to be quite frank with you, they’re ugly. Instead, make the most of the incredibly diverse and beautiful nature that New Zealand has to offer. Hire a car and road-trip around one of the islands while taking in the stunning scenery and hey, why not go camping along the way?! The landscape is so diverse that you can easily surf at a beach, hike in a forest and even ski down a mountain all in one day. You are lucky enough to be visiting one of the most beautiful untouched countries in the world, so make the most of it!
At the end of the day, with each thing that you shouldn’t do while in New Zealand, there are a hundred more things that you SHOULD do. Like I mentioned at the start, Kiwis are the most hospitable and open people there are, and unlike many other cities and countries, we ACTUALLY like tourists. So as the patriotic kiwi expat living in Paris, take my word when I say that New Zealand is a truly amazing country and you’re gonna have the BEST time over there… just good luck for the 35+ hour flight over, nothing could ever prepare you for that.
Meet Rebekah: Rebekah is a New Zealander who is far from home, working as an Au Pair and tour guide in Paris. From taking spontaneous weekend trips around Europe to quietly reading in a Parisian café, she is truly living her best life. Keep up with her on IG.