10 Kiwi Traditions Before You Visit Rotorua
A key tradition because many New Zealanders or as we are more commonly known ‘kiwis’ have a burning and ultimately unrivalled passion for sports, particularly our national sport of Rugby. When you visit Rotorua I can guarantee you’ll probably hear all about it! The All Blacks have become well known around the world for their toughness and because of the Haka that is performed before all international matches as a challenge to their opponents, see the video below to see this challenge for yourself. Kiwis tend to jump on the bandwagon a bit so when we are doing well in sailing, cricket, rowing, netball and many other sports we have excelled at over the years it will be one of the only things being talked about in the country so it might pay to brush up on how we are going with certain sports before you arrive. An easy way to make friends in New Zealand, especially with the males, when you visit Rotorua just ask ‘mate, how awesome are those All Blacks’ and you’ll have made a friend for life!
Many visitors to New Zealand come from the Northern Hemisphere so having summer over the Christmas holiday period can seem very strange. There is no such thing as a white Christmas in New Zealand, quite the opposite! Around Christmas time you will often see us at the beach, or having a BBQ with our friends and family with a cold drink or an ice-cream on the deck (or balcony). The summer BBQ is a very important New Zealand social setting. You may be invited to someone’s house ‘for a barbie’ which means a few sausages in bread, few steaks and a couple of drinks usually in an incredibly laid back setting. Good times.
New Zealand Clothing
Along with the above New Zealand summer traditions you may also see some interesting clothing options for Kiwis if you visit Rotorua in summer. Stubbies, togs and jandals (if you wear anything on your feet at all) are the something you may see kiwis wearing in the summer months. Stubbies are generally worn by males and are shorts that are, quite frankly, far too short, and probably too tight as well. On the flip side they are very comfy and keep you much cooler during the brutal summer heat. Jandals are the sandals of choice in New Zealand, easy to slip on and off. Austrailians will refer to them as thongs but if you do that in New Zealand you will likely be laughed at because a thing to us is a type of ladies underwear, probably not something you’d want to wear on your feet! Togs is our bathing suits, applies to both males and females swimwear, just be careful where you choose to wear your togs as they may look like undies in the wrong setting! See the ad below if you don’t believe me.
You may be offered some interesting options for food during your time in New Zealand. You’d be forgiven for not knowing what Pineapple Lumps, Pavlova, Marmite and L&P are but by the time you leave New Zealand I’m sure you’ll have heard all about them! I mean we do have more foods that are associated to us but these are my favorites and probably the most iconic. Pineapple lumps are a pineapple flavored candy covered in milk chocolate in a small square shape. Enjoyed by the truckload by kids and adults alike. You’ll most likely be trying to find a way to take a bag of these home with you again! Pavlova is a meringue dessert invented right here in New Zealand and DO NOT let the Austrailians try and tell you otherwise!! Usually topped with another iconic New Zealand fruit the Kiwifruit this dessert is often enjoyed around the Christmas period or quite frankly just when we feel like it! Marmite is something that we spread on toast and has become a bit of a kiwi icon. You may have heard of Vegemite which is somewhat similar but different in taste and often creates a hearty debate about whether Vegemite or Marmite is the superior spread (it’s Marmite). Marmite is so popular in New Zealand that we had a fire in the Marmite factory a few years ago and Marmite was off the shelves for several months. The uprising was so powerful that our Prime Minister had to make a public service announcement trying to get everyone to calm down and that Marmite would be back soon. Yes, that happened.
The kiwis like to socialise and if we can do it outside then even better! A few casual drinks on the deck (balcony) with friends and family, a BBQ with a few snarlers or saussies (sausages) and a whole lot of laughs. Because we are also a very social bunch we are all about sharing food! Nothing better in a kiwi summer hanging outside (or inside in winter) and having a good time with friends and family. When you visit Rotorua get ready for excitement but also get ready to chill out and have a good time!
There is an endless amount of Kiwi slang that can be very hard for some people to wrap their heads around, to make the transition to kiwi slang easier I have provided the below guide which should help you out when you visit Rotorua.
Chur – This one could be used in many different contexts. It’s main meaning is ‘thanks’ as in “oh Chur for picking that up for me bro.” Trouble is it can also mean ‘Hi’ among other things so if you hear this work make sure you pay attention to the context as that will be your only clue. Good luck!!
Sweet as – Essentially means ‘all good’ or ‘no worries’ for example if you asked me to drop you off at the Duck Tours I’d say “sweet as mate!”
She’ll be right – To be fair nothing good has ever come from saying this line, it’s pretty much a reflection on the kiwi attitude. If something seems a little suspect or scary and we are gonna go through with it you’ll hear “she’ll be right.” So if you hear somebody use this line, keep watching you may see some drama unfold because sometimes “she won’t be right”
Bro – Any person, males or females can be called bro. Pretty much or standard greeting. “Oh hey bro”
Yeah nah – Might be slightly confusing as its ‘yes’ and ‘no’ at the same sentence but the ‘yeah’ means ‘I’ve heard what you said’ but the ‘nah’ means that odds are we don’t agree or we won’t do it. “Hey bro, you want to go to for a walk” “aw, yeah nah I might just hang out at home ay…..”
Those are the main ones but the other ones you might hear are briefly mentioned below
Wheelie Bin – Rubbish bin on wheels
Chilli Bin – ‘Esky’ or ‘Cooler’
Tradie – A tradesman
Shot – ‘Thanks’ or ‘Well done’
Knackered – Tired
Anything followed by ‘as’ – Sweet as, cool as, heavy as etc. Pretty much just ignore the ‘as!’
There are many Maori traditions that happen here in New Zealand due to our amazing indigenous history. Some of these things may look aggressive or different to you but they are very important parts of the Maori culture.
Pukana – Following on from the Haka, the Pukana is an act of defiance symbolised by the protruding of the tounge. You’ll see some of the All Blacks pukana at the end of the Haka and this simply means ‘bring it on’
Hongi – The Maori greeting, a soft pressing of the noses and foreheads. If someone of Maori decent offers a Hongi this not only represents a welcome but also means that they no longer consider you Mahuhiri (visitor) but now as Tangata Whenua (people of the land) so it offers a deep meaning as well.
Powhiri – A traditional Maori welcome ceremony. If you are lucky enough to experience any of the Maori villages in NZ or here when you visit Rotorua you will likely be welcomed with a powhiri. The purpose of this ceremony is to ensure the vistors to the village come in peace and with good intentions so that they can be welcomed safely into the village. Before the powhiri each village is considered Tapu (sacred to the people of the land) the Tapu is lifted for visitors at the point of the Hongi or handshake.
Haka – The Maori challenge, you will see this before our international sporting events as a challenge to our opponents, can be intimidating to watch! I’ve added a video below about the origins of our main Haka so you can understand it better, but there are many variations based on tribes and backgrounds etc.
A quick guide to some common Maori phrases is below, if you make an effort you’ll be welcomed with open arms!
- Kia ora – Hello
- Kia ora tatou – Hello everyone
- Tena koe – Greetings to you (said to one person)
- Tena koutou – Greeting to you all
- Haere mai – Welcome
- Nau mai – Welcome
- Kei te pehea koe? – How’s it going?
- Kei te pai – Good
- Tino pai – Really good
- Haere ra – Farewell
- Ka kite ano – Until I see you again (Bye)
- Hei konei ra – See you later
‘wh’ is pronounced as an ‘f’
This isn’t really a New Zealand custom but it’s just something that catches a lot of people out when they visit Rotorua as it can often sound like we are being offensive. For example a great tourist attraction here in Rotorua is Whakarewarewa Maori Village which is pronounced ‘far-ka-rei-wa-rei-wa’ which if it’s said fast can sound a little like a swear word. So don’t be alarmed it’s entirely normal
Ok so this one is a given, I mean we invented bungy jumping….. Any nation that decides it’s a great idea to throw yourself off a bridge a big stretchy rope attached to your ankles has to have somewhat of an adrenaline addiction. Bungy jumping, sky diving, canyon swings, jet boats, caving, white water rafing, ziplines – you name it we probably have it. So when you visit Rotorua make sure you explore everything that is on offer. Make sure as well that you take the chance to step outside your comfort zone as you’ll be amazed with what is on offer here!
Hiking and Exploring
If the adrenaline rush isn’t so much what you’re looking for you’ve still come to the right place because Rotorua has it all. The easiest way to cover this is take a look at my guide to the trails around Rotorua as this covers some of my favorites. On top of the walking trails through we have natural hot springs (see my hot springs guide) and so much more. One of my pieces of advice when you visit Rotorua is grab a map and see what you can find!!
New Zealand can be a confusing place but hopefully this guide will help you to fit in. We have a driver from America who is almost more Kiwi than the Kiwis now so it can be done!!
Have a great time in New Zealand and Rotorua.