New Zealand Culture



  • Communication: New Zealanders are relatively ; they do their best not to create conflict and take careful measures to remain polite throughout discussion.This usually involves making hints that vaguely communicate their message without ‘rocking the boat’. Nevertheless, communication is not so that one has to decipher it. New Zealanders tend to speak openly enough that the intention and meaning of their words are easily apparent.
  • Self-Deprecation: New Zealanders are quite self-deprecating in conversation in an effort to come across as humble, honest and relaxed about themselves. Feel free to join in with the joking by criticising yourself in a similar manner. That being said, avoid finding such jokes too funny or adamantly agreeing to these self-deprecating comments. This can become insulting.
  • Swearing: Swearing is more common in New Zealand than in many other cultures, so it is normal to hear people cuss at some point during a conversation. Television programmes are less censored as well, thus mainstream society is largely desensitised to many words that foreigners may find vulgar.
  • Silence: New Zealanders sometimes grow uncomfortable when social chat is punctuated with long periods of pause or silence and may try to fill the gap with conversation. On the other hand, Māori tend to be quite comfortable with it and feel less of a need to create filler conversation.


  • Eye Contact: Eye contact should be maintained directly and intermittently broken. People often make enough eye contact to show their sincerity, but do not hold it for long a duration as this can seem scrutinising. However, be aware that for some older Pacific Islanders and Māori, eye contact can be considered disrespectful and confrontational. Therefore, if you notice that they are diverting eye contact with you, take it as a signal that you should do the same.
  • Physical Contact: People tend not to touch each other much during communication unless they are close friends. Touching someone on the shoulder or arm in order to emphasise a point is generally acceptable, but can otherwise be seen as a sexual advance. That being said, women tend to be more with one another than men. The traditional Māori greeting, the hongi, involves both persons briefly pressing their noses together.
  • Personal Space: New Zealanders usually keep about an arm’s length distance between one another when talking. Men tend to maintain more space from each other during conversation than do women. People in rural areas tend to stand a little further apart.
  • Head: The head is considered tapu (sacred) in Māori culture and should not be touched. For example, affectionately patting someone’s head can be interpreted as disrespectful.
  • Obscene Gestures: Raising one’s middle finger or making the V-sign with one’s palm facing towards oneself is considered very rude.

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