Travel Etiquette 101: New Zealand

After taking us all over the world in his Travel Etiquette Series, this week Adam Barralet takes us to New Zealand to talk about the culture and people. From initial greetings to proper table manners, Adam shares with us his travel etiquette tips when visiting this beautiful gem of the South Pacific:

2.5min read
Published 25 September 2011


This week I welcome you to New Zealand, the country famous for the All Black Rugby team, it’s anti-nuclear policy, providing the backdrop for the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and having a population of four million with 80 million sheep.  The acceptable greeting in New Zealand is a firm handshake with eye contact. They will move to a first name basis quite quickly and the use of title is then shunned.

The native population of New Zealand are called Maoris who are descendents of Polynesian explorers who settled on the Pacific Ocean more than 1000 years ago. They have a different greeting; women are kissed on the cheek and men push their noses together, close their eyes and make an “mm-mm” sound (however I wouldn’t recommend trying this on a first meeting). Also be wary of holding eye contact too long with Maoris as this is considered confrontational. Overall in New Zealand personal space is large so keep at least an arms length away.

New Zealand

In Maori tradition certain spaces are considered sacred. If you are asked to stay away, please respect the request.  A foreigner is only able to visit these spaces if invited by a Maori.

In conversation you will find new Zealanders open and friendly. However be wary of bragging or boasting too much. Just as their Australian neighbours don’t like the “tall poppy syndrome”, New Zealanders call it the Kiwi clobbering machine.  Don’t get yourself in an uncomfortable position by confusing Kiwis (slang name for New Zealanders) with Australians. It’s a sin much like confusing Canadians and Americans.

If you plan to visit a New Zealanders home, never arrive unannounced; it should always be prearranged. If invited to a barbeque there is no need to stand around once the food is served waiting for anyone (you’ll be expected to look after yourself). If asked to bring a plate, it doesn’t mean the household is running low on crockery, it means bring a dish of food. Salad or a simple dessert is a good idea but feel free to ask the host what they’d like you to bring. Tipping isn’t used in New Zealand, but feel free to add ten percent for excellent service if you feel appropriate.

A popular way to see New Zealand is to drive around the country. Remember New Zealand is two islands and some rental car companies do not allow you to take a car from one island to the other, plus taking a car on the interisland ferry isn’t cost effective.


Kiwis drive on the left hand side of the road and to give you further challenges they often have bridges that are only one car wide. Therefore when approaching a bridge, slow down and await your turn. If someone on the other side flashes their headlights at you, they are inviting you to cross. A friendly nod and wave as you pass them on the other side is customary. Remember this plus your other New Zealand etiquette, and you won’t drive anyone crazy while in New Zealand.

For more information about New Zealand check out our travel guide or feel free to call one of our travel agents at 1-866-502-4605. To read more from Adam check out his Etiquette Series or follow him on Twitter.




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