People talk a lot about the clean, green beauty of New Zealand, but when it comes to immigrating to a new country, it’s the small things that make the biggest impact. 

Moving to New Zealand can be a lifestyle and culture change, so we thought we would provide some insights into the quirks of living and working with kiwis (the people not the fruit). When I ask around about what the people are like here, I hear a lot about how New Zealanders balance recognition vs humility, our sarcastic sense of humour and social norms and rituals. 

Recognition vs humility

I have to say we do like to shine on the global stage whether it be in music, arts and film or sport – we do well for a small island nation! However…our ‘earned success’ code kicks in sometimes. To us, ‘real’ success is earned through hard work and we believe individuals and businesses should put in the effort so we can be proud of them too. There are only two degrees of separation in tiny NZ and we tend to prefer to be ‘one of the team’ and we are better at recognising collective success over an individual’s (don’t take it personally!). We are a humble bunch so things like self-promotion and boasting is a bit weird to us, it’s not something we do or encourage in others. When we see someone showing off or talking about how amazing they are, we oddly see that as a negative whereas when someone does something outstanding but doesn’t draw attention, they are seen in a good light. 


Socialising and fitting-in can seem daunting but if you come bearing food, you’re instantly loved! Kiwis love to eat and sharing food is a common way to socialise. If you are invited somewhere and the host asks you not to bring anything with you, it’s common and polite to bring something small anyway such as a bottle of wine or some chocolate. 

Speaking of being invited to someone’s home, we have a real coffee culture here and coffee/tea are an important part of our social fabric and cuisine. English Breakfast tea is even sometimes called ‘Gumboot Tea’ which is a reference to our rural farmers. Being offered tea or coffee and a biscuit when visiting someone’s home is very much the kiwi way and “Going out for coffee” is a regular event and is a common activity here too. 


Although we are a very easy-going and friendly bunch, Kiwi’s can be private people and tend not to get into personal conversations in social settings. When meeting new people we tend to steer clear of personal topics like; people’s wealth, their sexual orientation (although we are very accepting), why they do not have any children or perhaps are not married, their weight or appearance – anything personal like that. You may need to wait until you know someone well before they will start sharing their personal information. Of course, some people are more open than others and we don’t mind others oversharing.


On the topic of being rather private; religion, gender, sexuality and how you run your household or bring up your kids is your business. Kiwis believe you can do it how you like, just don’t make a big deal of it and most definitely don’t force your ways onto others. We’re not huge fans of puffery or feeling ‘pushed’ into something. For example, you might be a vegan for cultural reasons, we’re totally cool with that and will happily accept and accommodate. Just don’t make us feel bad for choosing to eat meat. With that in mind, we are open-minded and lots of discussion is welcomed where everyone’s points of view are equal and accepted.


Sometimes we are too polite, and we don’t like saying ‘no’. You will find we will get around this by saying other things which can be very confusing. You might hear us say “not sure” or “not really”. We may even say “yeah nah”, which means “probably not”. “Yeah right”, especially when it is said in a sarcastic way, means “definitely not”! If someone seems interested but isn’t committing to something, they are most likely too polite to say no, which is funny because it can come across as rude which is definitely not what they intend to do. We also have a bad habit of RSVP’ing and not showing up or cancelling at the last minute. Annoying I know, but don’t be offended. 

Personal space is important to us. We live in a country that isn’t particularly crowded, so it makes some of us a little uncomfortable when people get too close. Don’t be offended if someone you are talking to steps away slightly, it’s just our way of readjusting and getting comfortable. 


This all sounds very serious, but we like to think we are a funny bunch and often make fun of ourselves. Our humour speaks to our non-confrontational nature and it’s often used to diffuse conflict and make light of tough situations. We poke fun at ourselves and we love you to laugh with us but not so much at us – just like anyone else I suppose. Here at Zag we even have the ‘Gaz Awards’ (Zag backwards) which celebrates people being silly or making funny mistakes. 

All cultures are different, there is no right or wrong and everyone brings something different to the table. We like to be open about how we are as a country, we know we aren’t perfect and are not afraid to own our flaws. All in all, we might be a little different to what you are used to at home, but we will happily welcome you with open arms and help you settle in to your new normal.  


 If you’re interested in relocating or want to know more about living here, click here to read more on working in New Zealand