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Center for International Studies
Member, Texas Tech University System The Princeton Review - 373 Best Colleges, 2011 Edition

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New Zealand

Kiwi Society and Culture

Social Values

New Zealanders are open and welcoming and are happy to give everyone a chance. They will judge you on your actions rather than your background. In many respects their social values are similar to other western nations. They appreciate good manners, don’t like queue bargers and like it when you hold a door open for others. Kiwis are loved for their relaxed, laid back attitude and this is reflected in everyday life. They will gladly judge you on your achievements and merits rather than your history and breeding. Kiwis do not warm to those who feel the need to boast or glorify their achievements. They prefer to uphold the values of modesty and understatement instead. These characteristics can also be found in abundance in the work environment. Kiwis are very flexible in the way they carry out their jobs and job descriptions may seem less restrictive or defined. Kiwis don’t like to stand on ceremony and you will find that people very rarely use people’s titles and nearly always refer to colleagues and clients by their first names.

Etiquette and Customs

Meeting and Greeting

  • Greeting are casual and can encompass a handshake and a smile. The smile generally indicates pleasure at meetings.
  • Initially people are addressed by their honorific title and this eventually develops into a first-name basis.
  • Say “How do you do?” when first meeting someone. Once you get to know a person then “Hello” becomes acceptable.

Gift-Giving Etiquette

  • If invited to a Kiwi’s house, bring a small gift such as flowers, chocolates, alcohol or a book about your home country.
  • Gifts are opened upon receiving them.

Dining Etiquette

  • Dinners are usually casual.
  • Keep hands above the table and elbows off the table.
  • Do not be loud or obnoxious while drinking.
  • Put your fork and knife parallel on the plate with the handles facing to the right when you are done eating.

Quick Facts

Climate: Mild and temperate maritime climate. The West Coast is extremely wet and the southern parts of the country are cooler.

Population: 4,393,500 (December 2010 estimate).

Ethnic Make-up: New Zealand European 74.5%, Maori 9.7%, other European 4.6%, Pacific Islander 3.8%, Asian or other 7.4%.

Religions: Christian (Anglican 24%, Presbyterian 18%, Roman Catholic 15%, Methodist 5%, Baptist 2%, other Protestant 3%); unspecified or none 33% (1986).

Government: Parliamentary democracy and Constitutional monarchy.

Languages: The three official languages of New Zealand are English, Maori and NZ Sign Language. English is the language of day-to-day business within New Zealand, a remnant of ties to the British Commonwealth. Maori is a Polynesian language similar to the languages of other Pacific Island cultures, such as Hawaiian, Tongan, and Somoan. Over 157,000 people in New Zealand speak Maori (2006 Census).