New Zealand Culture
Both Maori and Pakeha (the Maori term for New Zealanders of European descent) are known for their friendliness and their hospitality. Outgoing by nature, they are also very casual in their attire. Dress codes are not usually in effect unless specified or for business.
English is the most commonly spoken language in New Zealand. Despite having a population of over 500,000 Maori, only about 70,000 claims to be native Maori speakers. New Zealand also became the first country in the world to list New Zealand Sign Language as an official language in 2006.
New Zealand does not have a state religion. In the 2018 census, just under half of the population claimed No Religion. Around 37% of the population identified with Christianity, while Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, and other religions are also practiced. A small population also continues to practice according to traditional Maori beliefs.
Maori Culture - Then and Now
The first settlers of New Zealand were the ancestors of the Maori - Polynesians - who also settled most of the islands and island groups in the central and eastern Pacific. Archaeological evidence indicates that they discovered New Zealand between 800-1000 AD during one of the last in a long series of deliberate voyages of colonization across the Pacific, originating from Southeast Asia some 5-7000 years ago.
The long and often perilous island-hopping ocean voyages were made on large wooden double-hulled canoes that enabled the voyagers to take their tropical crops, domesticated animals and other supplies with them. When they arrived in New Zealand from East Polynesia, perhaps from the Society or Marquesan Islands, only a few of the introduced plant species would grow, and of the animals, only the dog and the rat survived the trip. Despite these difficulties the population flourished and by the twelfth century, a distinctive Maori culture had developed.
Maori oral tradition tells of an original overseas homeland, or "Hawaiiki," from which the first ancestors came. Although the exact location of this Hawaiiki is not known, other details such as the landing places of the canoes along the New Zealand coastline, are recorded. The mythology and traditions concerned with origins and tribal identity from those original canoes and ancestors are still a very important part of Maori life today.
Today, about 12% of New Zealanders now claim Maori descent. Most Maoris live on the North Island, and seven out of every ten live in the island's northern half. In 1945, only 15% of the Maori population lived in the main urban centres. Today, the estimated number is 57%. The main incentive to move has been a lack of work in rural areas.
Over the last two decades, there has been an increasing movement to retain and re-establish a Maori identity, expressed as Maoritanga. Two key concepts are fundamental to this movement - that Maori identity is important to the Maori people in terms of self-esteem; and that New Zealand is a multi-cultural society in which it is possible for each culture, Maori, European, Pacific Islander and others to live side by side in harmony. Although New Zealand has in the past been proud of its overall race relations record, many problems did and still do require attention.
Some problems are associated with rapid urbanization. Solutions are long-term, but efforts are being made in many areas, including educational aid, legal assistance, trade training programmes and the provision of welfare services by governmental agencies, local jurisdictions and volunteer organizations.
At the personal level, cultural pride embraces the preservation of ancestral land and traditional arts, including wood-carving and oratory. Songs, dances, and oratory are widely practised in schools and clubs.
New Zealand Travel Information
At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy-to-navigate travel information section dedicated to New Zealand.
Learn about the history and culture of New Zealand, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about New Zealand's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, and 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information, will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering New Zealand for yourself. Start exploring...book one of our New Zealand tours today!
Extend Your Stay
Consider an additional stopover to your New Zealand vacation at one of Goway's South Pacific destinations. You can choose from our selection of Australian vacations, Tahiti vacation packages or stay at one of our Fiji resorts or perhaps take a Cook Island vacation. This can be done by stopping over en route to or from New Zealand.
Book your New Zealand tour with Goway!
With more than 150 New Zealand tours and experiences, Goway’s Downunder wizards can offer you many ways to explore and enjoy New Zealand. Choose from a simple city stopover, see the country highlights on one of our classic itineraries, a self-drive holiday, a Holiday of a Lifetime, and more. We want to be your first choice when next you go globetrotting to New Zealand.
Get a Trip Quote Order a Brochure