New Zealand: Some Basic Things You Need To Know

If all you associate New Zealand with is Lord of the Rings and sheep, here are some other things you need to know.

Paihia, Bay of Islands

1. We are not Australia

We may have been attached to Australia way back in Gondwanaland days, but that is ancient history to us now. Do not, and I repeat, do not under any circumstance refer to us ever being Australia or part of Australia because we will probably get angry. Very angry. Our national flags may be similar but that does not mean we’re the same!

New Zealand Flag

We have little brother syndrome when it comes to them – Australia doesn’t really care if they’re grouped with us but we care a lot if we’re put under their shadow. Plus, they still claim Pavlova and Pharlap as theirs! Pfft, Aussies. *Note: bickering about Australia is all in good humour and is not to be taken too seriously.

2. Three Official Languages

Our three official languages are English, Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language. If you have no idea what Māori is, keep reading, my dear friend. If you have no idea what English is, well, I can’t help you there. Regarding our English though, we speak and write in British English – that’s why we spell things like colour, neighbour, harbour with a ‘u’ and organise, appetiser with an ‘s’ instead of with a ‘z’ like you would with American English.

3. Māori Culture

Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand and make up around 15% of the national population. Māori culture is synonymous with New Zealand culture and we are mighty proud of it. Māori place names are everywhere and we even have a Māori channel on television. We used to learn Māori songs and a bit of the Māori language at primary school, along with famous Māori stories and legends. Aotearoa is the Māori word for New Zealand and means ‘land of the long white cloud’. If you want to find out more about Māori culture, click here.

4. Three Main Islands

Our country comprises of three main islands: The North Island or Te Ika-a-Māui (the fish of Māui), The South Island or Te Waipounamu (the waters of greenstone) and Stewart Island (Rakiura). We also have other little islands dotted around the three main ones which are mostly uninhabited. Some are used as wildlife sanctuaries.


5. Three Main Cities

We also have three main cities in our country: Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Wellington is our capital city where the parliament is located. The city is also known for its art culture…and strong winds (‘Windy Wellington!’) Auckland (where I’m living at the moment) is regarded as a super city because it has so many districts and is the most populated city. It’s also known for its harbour with a lot of boats, which lead to the nickname ‘The City of Sails’. Christchurch (my hometown) is the biggest city in the South Island and is known as ‘The Garden City’ because of its many gardens and greenery.

Viaduct Harbour, Auckland

6. Erratic Weather

We are an island nation, which means we get battered by all forms of island weather. It can be fine and sunny one minute and cold and blustery the next. We can quite literally experience four seasons in one day. Using an umbrella is futile because when it rains here, it is also really windy. We probably only get a few days over 30 degrees (Celsius) a year and the rest of the time the temperature goes up and down. The South usually gets snow in Winter, and the North usually doesn’t.

7. Cute National Icon

The Kiwi is our national icon. Kiwis are a flightless bird endemic to NZ. They are nocturnal, shy and really cute…but also very endangered. They live in forests and on islands where their numbers are closely monitored and where they can be protected from introduced animals like stoats, cats and dogs. You can also see them in Kiwihouses at various zoos around NZ. The word Kiwi is also an informal term used to refer to New Zealanders.


8. Plastic Money

We use the New Zealand Dollar here and yes, our notes are made of plastic, not paper. I know that may sound strange if your country still uses paper notes, but I feel like plastic makes much more sense because it doesn’t matter if it gets wet and it can’t rip as easily. The rest of the world should just catch up already.

9. Laid Back Attitude

Us Kiwis are generally known for our laid back attitude, and this gets more noticeable the further you get away from major cities. We have what’s known as a “She’ll be ‘right” outlook on life, which means we just choose to believe that things will be alright, even if it doesn’t look that way at first. It’s a pretty good outlook to have.

10. Sporting Nation

NZ is mad about sports – especially rugby which is our national sport. Other popular sports include netball, cricket, hockey, cycling, rowing, sailing, soccer, tennis, skiing and snowboarding. We’re also famous for our extreme sports like bungee jumping, white water rafting and rock climbing/abseiling. Our national sporting colours are black, white and/or silver.

Our national netball team, The Silver Ferns

Some Famous New Zealanders

Ernest Rutherford – The father of nuclear physics, he was famous for ‘splitting the atom’. He appears on the New Zealand $100 note.

Kate Sheppard – Suffragette who made New Zealand the first country to grant women the right to vote. She appears on the New Zealand $10 note.

Sir Edmund Hillary – Mountaineer/explorer and philanthropist most famous for being one of the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. He appears on the New Zealand $5 note.

To read about other famous New Zealanders, click here!

Recent pop culture icons:

Sir Peter Jackson – Director of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and praised for putting New Zealand on the world map. He is the reason so many tourists flock to NZ.

Lorde – Singer/Songwriter made famous with her single ‘Royals‘ and her album Pure Heroine. Winner of two Grammys, four NZ Music Awards and the APRA Silver Scroll Award.

Popular YouTube Personalities:

Jamie’s World – YouTube vlogger

Shaaanxo – YouTube beauty guru

So, did you learn anything new about my country?

Did anything surprise you? Let me know!