New Zealand Culture


  • People are rarely criticised for failing to observe formal etiquette (such as forgetting to dress smartly), so commenting on someone’s poor manners could be seen as pretentious or stuck up.
  • When out to eat or for a drink, split bills equally by having people pay only for what they ordered.
  • It is a common practice to buy ‘rounds’ of drinks while out with a group. If it is your round (also called ‘your shout’), you are expected to buy drinks for everyone you are with. Each individual who receives a drink will be expected to pay for at least one round.
  • Being reluctant to share cash, food or drink is seen as ‘’ if others have paid their share. Furthermore, asking friends to pay for you on more than one occasion creates a bad reputation.
  • It is often considered impolite to ask a question about someone’s salary, wealth, weight or age.
  • Spitting in public is considered rude.
  • Calling someone over by yelling “Oi” can be interpreted as rude or even antagonising.
  • To call over a waiter or person of service, do not wave or yell. Instead, keep an eye out for them until they make eye contact, and then nod or raise your hand. You can also gently say “excuse me” as they pass by.
  • Though you may hear New Zealanders swearing often, it is safest only to do so in private with family and/or friends.
  • Punctuality is expected, so being more than 5 to 10 minutes late without giving someone forewarning is seen as disrespectful.

  • Arrange a visit before going to a New Zealander’s house. Do not arrive unannounced or bring friends and family along unless you’ve asked them beforehand.
  • Ask the host ahead of time whether or not they would like you to bring a contribution (i.e. food or drink). For parties and large gatherings, the host will tell guests whether they will supply the alcohol or if guests should bring their own drinks (BYO).
  • If a host asks you to "bring a plate", this is a request to bring a platter of food to share with other guests.
  • It is usually okay to be 10 to 15 minutes late to a small gathering of people. However, if you are meeting at a restaurant, it is important to be punctual as people will wait for you to order their food.
  • Being late is more acceptable when attending parties and large social gatherings.
  • Unless told otherwise, shoes should be removed before entering a wharenui, a traditional Māori tribal meeting place.
  • To indicate that you have finished your meal, lay your knife and fork down on the plate together. 
  • You may leave a small amount of food on your plate or eat everything on it. Neither choice should offend your host.
  • If someone asks whether you would like more food, it is okay to decline or accept depending on how hungry you are. Neither is considered rude.
  • Offer to help clean up the meal with your host.

  • Gifts are typically only given on special occasions (e.g. birthdays, Christmas).
  • People tend to open gifts in front of the giver, either upon receiving them or later along with other presents.
  • Recipients do not usually expect to receive gifts of a high monetary value, but rather expect that the gift will reflect their interests.
  • Token gifts may be given when visiting someone (e.g. wine, chocolate).

Māori Etiquette
  • Do not sit on countertops or any other surfaces that are used for food preparation.
  • Similarly, do not sit on a pillow on which a person will rest their head during sleep.
  • Sites or objects that Māori regard as tapu (sacred) are not to be tampered with or touched.
  • Always seek permission before entering a place that is a marae, a traditional Māori meeting ground.
  • Do not eat inside a traditional Māori meeting house (wharenui).
  • The plural of Māori is still ‘Māori’, not ‘Māoris’.

Visiting a Marae (Traditional Māori Meeting Ground)
  • When visiting a marae, Māori hosts may perform a pōwhiri welcoming ceremony, which involves a traditional challenge to test whether guests are friends or foes. It is usually followed by a call to welcome, speeches and songs, and it is respectful to join in singing where you can.
  • After a pōwhiri, visitors are usually seated to eat at long tables. Seating is mixed up so that guests and hosts can mingle and talk with one another more.
  • Do not begin to eat until the food has been blessed or a speech of acknowledgment has been made.
  • Younger people often serve the guests while older people cook,  and all who are working in this way have usually done so voluntarily. Thus, towards the end of the meal, it is appreciated that the guest gives a speech that praises the food provided and thanks all who served in any way for their time and hospitality.
  • You may be asked to sing, in which case it is considered respectful to sing a song from your home country.

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