New Zealanders

PRONUNCIATION: new ZEE-lun-duhrs

ALTERNATE NAMES: Kiwi (nickname)

LOCATION: New Zealand

POPULATION: 3.4 million

LANGUAGE: English; Maori

RELIGION: Christianity (Church of England, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Methodist); New Zealand Christian sects (Ratana and Ringatu); Hinduism; Judaism


New Zealand is an island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It is separated from Australia by the Tasman Sea. New Zealand was a British colony until 1907 and did not achieve full independence from Great Britain until 1947.

New Zealand's original inhabitants, the Maori, migrated from Polynesian islands in three separate waves between AD 950 and 1350. The first European to discover New Zealand was Abel Tasman, a navigator for the Dutch East India Company, in 1642. In the 1790s, the islands began to attract whalers from Europe who established the first settlements on the coast. In 1814, the first missionary station was set up in the Bay of Islands.

Europeans and Australians began arriving in New Zealand in large numbers in the 1830s. In 1840, the Maori chieftains entered into a compact with them, the Treaty of Waitangi. Under this agreement the Maori granted sovereignty (authority) over their land to Britain's Queen Victoria while retaining territorial rights, and New Zealand became a British colony. More settlers arrived after gold was discovered in 1861. After the Maori Wars (1860–70), resulting largely from disputes over land rights and sovereignty, New Zealand rapidly increased in wealth and population. With the introduction of refrigerated shipping in 1882, New Zealand became one of the world's great exporters of dairy, produce, and meat. In 1907, New Zealand was made a Dominion (territory) of Great Britain. In 1947, the New Zealand government formally claimed complete independence while remaining a member of the British Commonwealth.

Since 1984 New Zealand has actively pursued an antinuclear policy. It refused to admit a U.S. warship to one of its ports because of the possibility that there were nuclear arms on board. In 1986 the United States responded by canceling its military obligations to New Zealand under a 1951 agreement. The United States also banned high-level contacts with the New Zealand government, a ban that was removed (annulled) in 1990.

In December 1989, New Zealand established a Cabinet-level committee to create a government policy for extensive Maori land claims.


New Zealand is situated in the southwest Pacific Ocean. It is about the size of the state of Colorado. New Zealand consists of two main islands—North Island and South Island—and several dozen minor ones. Most of its large cities, including the capital city of Wellington, are located on North Island. North Island is also known for its two active volcanoes. South Island is the larger of the two islands and the location of the scenic Southern Alps.

Over 85 percent of New Zealand's population is of European (mostly British) descent. The Maori, New Zealand's first inhabitants, are the country's most significant minority group. They represent close to 10 percent of the population. People of non-Maori Polynesian descent, as well as those with Chinese, Indian, and southeast Asian ancestry, account for the remainder of New Zealand's population.


English is the universal language of New Zealand. However, Maori, a Polynesian language, is still spoken by the Maoris and taught in Maori schools. New Zealand English resembles British English in a number of ways. In addition, New Zealanders have many unique words and expressions of their own. Both males and females are addressed informally as "mate." The word "she" is used for "it" in a very general sense, as in "she'll be right," which means "everything will be all right."


New Zealand American English
bach or crib cottage or vacation house
fizzy soda pop
mob herd of sheep or cattle
rousterer professional sheep shearer
panel beater auto body shop
hogget year-old lamb
gumboots rubber rain boots
hotel public bar
mozzies mosquitoes
peckish slightly hungry
prang car or bicycle accident
sandshoes sneakers


Maori English
Aotearoa land of the long white cloud
(Maori name for New
aroha love and understanding for
Maoritanga the Maori tradition and way
of life
marae a Maori meeting house or
the area surrounding it
pakeha a white, or non-Maori, New


Guy Fawkes Day, an institution with English roots, is celebrated by burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes. In 1605 Fawkes was discovered lurking in the cellar of the Parliament building in London with barrels of gunpowder, waiting to blow up Parliament as it opened in the morning. In parts of New Zealand, children recite Guy Fawkes rhymes in a type of competition. Adults throw pennies to the children who recite the loudest or the best. Sometimes, certain adults heat pennies on a shovel held over a fire before throwing them. The anxious children pick up the hot pennies, regardless of the burns they receive. Some children carry painful reminders of Guy Fawkes Day for weeks.

The Maori have a rich folklore tradition that is reflected in their native art, song, and dance. Some of their legends involving journeys contain highly detailed and accurate descriptions of New Zealand's terrain and of the surrounding waters.


The majority of New Zealanders are Christian. Most of the population belongs to one of four main churches: the Church of England, the Presbyterian Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Methodist Church. There are many other Protestant groups, two Christian sects native to New Zealand (Ratana and Ringatu), and small communities of Hindus and Jews. About one-fourth of New Zealanders do not belong to any religious denomination.


Nationwide legal holidays in New Zealand include Christmas and Boxing Day (December 25 and 26), Easter, New Year's Day (January 1), and Labor Day (the fourth Monday in October). The official birthday of Britain's current queen, Elizabeth, is celebrated on the first Monday in June. A holiday unique to New Zealand is Anzac Day (April 25). On that day, New Zealanders and Australians who died in both world wars are honored at dawn services throughout the country. Another date with national significance is Waitangi Day (February 6), commemorating the signing of the Treat of Waitangi between the Maori and Great Britain in 1840.


Rituals marking major life events such as birth, marriage, and death are generally observed within the Christian religious tradition.


New Zealanders like to refer to themselves as "kiwis." The name is derived from the kiwi, a rare flightless bird unique to their country. (The kiwi fruit, originally known as the Chinese gooseberry, was renamed to reflect its connection with New Zealand. However, the popularity of the name kiwi comes from the bird, not the fruit.) People from New Zealand also refer to themselves as "En Zedders," a name based on the abbreviation "NZ" ("Z" is pronounced "zed" in New Zealand, as it is in Britain). The Maori word pakeha is used for New Zealanders of European descent.

A common greeting among New Zealanders is "good day," pronounced so that it sounds like "geday." New Zealanders often address each other informally as "mate," reflecting the British ancestry of many of the country's inhabitants. The Maoris have a traditional greeting, called hongi , in which they touch faces so that their noses are pressed together. It is believed that their spirits mingle through this gesture.


Most people in New Zealand live in single houses with large yards and flower or vegetable gardens. The average home has three bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, laundry, bathroom, and garage. Most are built of wood and have sheet-iron or tiled roofs. Besides the garden, a common sight outside a New Zealand house is a clothes-drying rack covered with laundry spinning in the wind. Most families own their own homes. However, high-rise apartment buildings can be found in the major cities. More than half of the total housing stock has been constructed since 1957.


Most families in New Zealand have two or three children and enjoy a high standard of living. Many own a home with three or four bedrooms and an attached garage.

Maori families are larger than those of the pakeha, or white, population. Maori households may include relatives besides the nuclear family, such as grandparents, uncles, and aunts.


New Zealanders wear modern Western-style clothing. They prefer to dress casually. Men in white-collar jobs sometimes even wear shorts, knee socks, white shirts, and ties to work.

Maoris generally dress like other New Zealanders, but still wear their traditional costumes for special occasions. The most distinctive feature of these costumes is the striped, fringed skirt woven from flax that is worn by both men and women. Women wear them over brightly colored dresses. Over their dresses the women may also wear long white capes decorated with black fringes.

12 • FOOD

New Zealanders eat three main meals a day. Breakfast consists of eggs, sausage, and bacon. Lunch is typically a meat pie, hamburger, or sandwich. Dinner is a full meal generally featuring some type of meat dish, often lamb. The most popular traditional dinner entree is roast lamb with mint sauce, typically served with roasted potatoes, roast kumara (New Zealand's sweet potato), and roast pumpkin. In addition, it is common to have a midmorning snack called "morning tea" and a bedtime snack called "supper." British-style afternoon tea is still popular, complete with scones, cakes, and other pastries, especially when entertaining guests.

The most famous Maori culinary tradition is the hangi. The hangi is a feast that may only be prepared in the regions of the country where there are hot springs. A pit is dug in the ground and filled with rocks, and meat and vegetables are placed into it. The food is left to steam for several hours. The hangi is offered by resort hotels in the northern part of the North Island, where the traditional meal is enjoyed by tourists.


New Zealanders are a well-educated people. The adult literacy rate (ability to read and write) is 99 percent. Education is free and required for children between the ages of six and fifteen. Most state schools are coeducational, but some private schools are not. For children in isolated areas, a public correspondence school enables them to send their homework assignments by mail.

In some regions there are special state schools for Maori children, but most Maori children attend public schools.

Young people may leave school at age fifteen to work. However, most stay in school through the eleventh grade (called the "fifth form"), earning a school certificate. Students planning to attend college continue their secondary education until the age of seventeen or eighteen, when they take university qualifying exams. New Zealand has six universities.


New Zealand enjoys the rich cultural heritage provided by both its Maori and European traditions. In recent years, Maori weaving and woodcarving have enjoyed a revival. Many galleries and museums display Maori art. The Maori also preserve their traditional songs and dances.

Since World War II (1939–45), a lively art scene has grown up in New Zealand. Leading artists include Frances Hodgkins, Colin McCahon, and Sir Toss Woollaston. Well-known authors include acclaimed short story writer Katherine Mansfield, as well as Frank Sargeson, Janet Frame, and Sylvia Ashton-Warner. Native New Zealander Kiri Te Kanawa is an internationally acclaimed opera singer. New Zealand's motion picture industry, assisted and promoted by the New Zealand Film Commission, has produced a number of internationally known movies. Notable films of the 1990s include The Piano , Once Were Warriors, and Heavenly Creatures.


In 1992, New Zealand had a civilian work force of 1.5 million people. Roughly 28 percent were employed in community or personal services, 20 percent in wholesale or retail trade, 16 percent in manufacturing, and 10 percent in agriculture. Unemployment grew in the early 1990s due to slow economic growth. In 1992, there were 160 registered trade unions. Since 1977 employers have been required to pay men and women the same minimum wage.


New Zealanders enjoy many kinds of sports. Rugby, a game similar to football in the United States, is the national game. The national team, called the All Blacks (a name that refers to their uniform), plays teams from Australia, France, Britain, and other countries, and is known throughout the world. Cricket is also very popular, as are a variety of water sports including sailing, surfing, kayaking, canoeing, and rafting. Bruce Kendall, a New Zealander, won an Olympic gold medal in yacht racing in 1988. In 1995, New Zealand won the coveted America's Cup yachting trophy. In the winter, skiing is a favorite pastime in New Zealand, where the ski season runs from June to late October.


Almost every household in New Zealand has a television set. New Zealanders enjoy watching both local programming and popular shows from Britain and the United States. Camping is a universal summertime activity among New Zealanders. Beach houses (called "bachs" or "cribs") are also popular vacation spots. Most family trips are taken during summer vacations from school, which run from late December to early February.


The Maoris are known for their weaving and their intricate woodcarving, a skill that is passed from one generation to the next. Other New Zealand crafts include stained glass, glass blowing, and pottery.


Free market reform policies instituted by New Zealand's government since the mid-1980s have lowered inflation and increased economic growth. However, they have also resulted in high unemployment and led to cutbacks in educational spending and social services. New Zealand, a country proud of its traditionally egalitarian ways, has seen a growing division between rich and poor. There have also been rising tensions between the Maori and pakeha (white) populations, and an increase in violent crime.


Fox, Mary Virginia. New Zealand. Chicago: Children's Press, 1991.

Hawke, G. R. The Making of New Zealand. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Keyworth, Valerie. New Zealand: Land of the Long White Cloud. Minneapolis, Minn.: Dillon Press, 1990.

King, Jane. New Zealand Handbook. Chico, Calif.: Moon Publications, 1990.

Lealand, Geoffrey. A Foreign Egg in Our Nest?: American Popular Culture in New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press, 1988.

McLauchlan, Gordon, ed. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand: D. Bateman, 1992.

The Oxford Illustrated History of New Zealand. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.


Embassy of New Zealand, Washington, D.C. [Online]Available , 1998.

World Travel Guide. New Zealand. [Online] Available , 1998.

Also read article about New Zealanders from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Marinomoana Ward
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Jul 6, 2006 @ 7:19 pm
This was great to read. Hangi's are perpared all over NZ, not just where there are hot springs.

Ka Kite
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May 8, 2007 @ 5:17 pm
it was great use and it would also be better if you had the products prodced on there
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Jul 27, 2009 @ 4:04 am
Small comment. Most NZers (Never in my life have I seen the words "En Zedders.") don't eat bacon and eggs for breakfast. Only very occasionally. Our everyday breakfast is more likely to be toast with a spread, cereal, or maybe porridge.
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Jul 30, 2010 @ 3:03 am
this artical makes me proud to be a kiwi.
big ups to the writer.
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Oct 4, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
this is a good overview of nz culture
we also are a country of 165 nationalities in which all are kiwis,
a warm friendily bunch ,please drop on in.
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Mar 26, 2013 @ 11:23 pm
this was really helpful with my sose assignment, Thank-you
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Apr 3, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
thanks for making this!
This will really help my team and I with our World Cutures Day project!
almost none of the websites I went to said anything about the traditional clothing.

6th grade
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Apr 26, 2015 @ 7:19 pm
thanks this was a big help for me to learn about this country. I'm interested to visit because it good for people to get out more.
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Aug 7, 2015 @ 5:17 pm
Good and interesting read. I want to come to New Zealand on a scholarship to study for a PhD in History.

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