New Zealand Culture

Business Culture

Primary Author
Fi McKay,


  • Arrange the time of your meeting a few days in advance. 
  • Indicate the objective of the meeting beforehand. If you have a written agenda, share this with those who will be attending. 
  • Ensure you arrive on time or slightly early. Lateness reflects poorly in professional settings. If you’re chairing the meeting, it’s more crucial that you begin on time.
  • Introduce yourself by your full name and expect participants to address you thereafter by your first name.
  • Business cards may be exchanged during introductions, although this is not a routine practice and generally occurs without formality. They may also be exchanged with certain people at the end of the meeting, following a topic of discussion.
  • Begin the meeting with a few minutes of social conversation to build rapport before discussing business, or even offering light snacks and refreshments. It’s best to only talk about impersonal topics (such as the weather) to avoid intruding in private matters.
  • The first or initial meeting with a new business associate usually serves the primary purpose of determining trustworthiness. New Zealanders tend to assess this based on a person’s credentials, personality and ‘people skills’ (their ability to communicate effectively with others). Having a friendly demeanour and building rapport around common interests are important for establishing new business relationships. 
  • New Zealanders may use humour throughout business discussions to lighten the setting. This is often a tool to build a comfortable atmosphere for more open, discussions. Reciprocate this where you can.
  • While New Zealanders may have quite casual demeanours in meetings, they tend to be quite and honest about expectations. Do not interpret a person’s jovial discussion as a reflection of their professional approach. Business matters are still taken seriously and should be communicated concisely and directly.
  • Meetings usually follow the agenda provided, but may be more time consuming than planned.
  • Do not wait for someone to ask for your opinion. New Zealanders expect all participants at meetings to speak up without being invited to do so. If you stay silent, it will likely be presumed you do not have an opinion to share.
  • Anyone present at a meeting is generally welcome to give their opinion, regardless of status, age or business position. 
  • Appeal to common sense during negotiations and be clear about your intentions. Support your position with facts and figures, and avoid making claims that you cannot support or demonstrate.
  • New Zealanders do not usually use bargaining tactics in professional meetings. Therefore, it is advised that you present a realistic position or figures from the outset. 
  • Avoid using high-pressure tactics or sales approaches that are confrontational and pushy. Using a position of power as a leverage in negotiations is especially frowned upon.
  • Aiming for a fair deal will create better chances of future business with them, so emphasise win-win scenarios.
  • Decision-making can be a lengthy process as subordinates are often consulted. While negotiations tend to take quite a bit of time, New Zealanders generally keep to the point and stay on track.
  • Do not attempt to bargain with them or change things to your advantage once an agreement has been reached. This is likely to discourage people from doing further business with you.


Hierarchies and Management Styles

New Zealand organisational culture and values are informed by a strong belief in equal opportunity and . A person earns status based on their abilities, rather than their job title. Therefore, while official positions are definitive and respected, most superiors work in a collaborative way with their subordinates. 


Within organisations, are important for efficiency on an operational level. Superiors are often accessible and operate in a collegial manner, unless there is a serious situation (such as a performance issue or an emergency requiring immediate direction). 


It is important for New Zealanders to feel their expertise and input is valued. They often pride themselves on being quick learners and expect to be treated as equals. They may feel insulted or undervalued if they are continually told what to do or are closely checked on by supervisors, viewing this as a lack of trust or respect for their capability. Micromanaging behaviours (closely observing, controlling and/or reminding subordinates) are often strongly disliked. 


It is expected that managers rely on individual employees and teams for their expertise. Information is shared frequently and openly within organisations, allowing staff to speak up and raise issues with managers or recommend improvements. Employees are encouraged to freely share their ideas and contribute to planning, team values, vision, etc. Similarly, decisions should be reached through inclusive avenues that involve and consult both managers and employees. In New Zealand, a good business leader is one that invites staff input and emphasises the achievement of the team over themselves.


Workplace Communication

Communication between superiors and subordinates can often be informal and participative. It is important to use ‘softeners’ when communicating an order or request – both verbally and in writing. Directions and instructions are generally hinted at or framed as polite suggestions to avoid regimentation and formality in the workplace (e.g. “Perhaps we should try…” or “Do you think you could…”). Nonetheless, these suggestions should be interpreted and followed as if they were given as firm orders. For example, “I was wondering if we could do this by lunchtime?” means “Complete this task by midday”. See Requests in Verbal Communication. 


Communicating Criticism

It is important for New Zealanders to feel their expertise and input is valued. For example, a manager may see a staff member's error and know what the solution is. Directly pointing this out and asking the employee to change their approach may result in dissention or a lack of enthusiasm to implement the suggested change. Instead of giving an order, it is best to present the solution in a collaborative way that gives the employee a sense of agency over the decision. For example, the manager may open a dialogue about the issue, ask for the employee’s input about what the best approach is and guide them towards the desired solution. This participative discussion allows them to feel more ownership over the decision, and hence more motivation to implement it.



  • New Zealanders often avoid making overly ambitious promises or unrealistic proposals and may be wary of large claims by others. 
  • If you wish to communicate your competence or the benefits of your products/services, demonstrate this with evidence or action rather than simply telling them.
  • Avoid overselling yourself in a job interview. It is best to show confidence in your abilities and qualifications without bragging. 
  • New Zealanders tend to prefer business environments that feel relaxed. Your general outward demeanour in the workplace should be one of competence, giving the impression that everything is well-managed and under control.
  • Generally, New Zealanders tend to view their employment as a means to enjoy other aspects of life, rather than ascribe their life value solely to their work.
  • Professional communications via email usually starts with a greeting or sentence of small talk (e.g. “I hope you had a relaxing weekend”), before conveying the business-related information.  
  • Reliability is strongly valued in business culture. New Zealanders tend to be very dependable. Similarly, they tend to trust people unless given a reason not to. If promises are not kept or business falls through, it is often strongly remembered.
  • Absenteeism is not tolerated in New Zealand. Both employee and colleague dependability is expected.
  • New Zealanders have a reputation for delivering high-quality goods. Many use the finest modes of production to gain the consumer advantage of having a boutique-like appeal in their products or services. Thus, they tend not to invest in ventures that lack true value or quality.
  • New Zealanders do not usually negotiate the price of goods and services unless negotiating a large contract deal or when buying an item in large quantities that may entitle them to a discount.
  • is not a traditional corporate practice in New Zealand. It may be more common in some private industries where family contacts are critical to building business relationships. However, generally bias towards family members in recruitment processes goes against core egalitarian values and may be looked down upon as unfair. It is expected family members are employed and retained on the basis of their individual merit and competence alone. 
  • Gift giving is not a customary practice in New Zealand business culture. However, gifts given at the agreement of a deal or closure of negotiations are seen as congratulations and are generally appreciated and admired. 
  • It is important that a gift does not appear to be an attempt at bribery. For example, gifts given to a partner while waiting for them to come to a decision would seem improper. 
  • New Zealand is one of the least corrupt countries in the world. The 2021 ranked New Zealand 1st out of 180 countries, receiving a score of 88 on a scale from 0 to 100.1 This index suggests that the country’s public sector is very clean from corruption.


1 Transparency International, 2022

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