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New Zealand Culture

  • Sailing in Auckland
  • Maori Chief perform Haka dance
  • The TSS Earnslaw
  • BBQ on Lake Rotoiti
  • Moeraki boulders near Dunedin
  • Montessori Mt. Victoria in Wellington

Social Conventions

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 and therefore many public places accept casual 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 claim to be native Maori speakers. It is interesting to note that New Zealand became the first country in the world to list New Zealand Sign Language as an official language in 2006.



While New Zealand does not have a state religion, in a 2006 census, just over half of the population identified with Christianity. Those who listed other religions tended to be from immigrant backgrounds except for traditional Maori religion and Judaism.


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 some time between 800-1000 AD during one of the last in a long series of deliberate voyages of colonization across the Pacific, originating from S.E. 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 food plants, 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 where 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 is still a very important part of Maori life today.

Today about 12 percent of New Zealanders now claim Maori descent. Most Maoris live in the North Island, and seven out of every ten live in the Islands northern half. It is a young population, and although the birth rate is now diminishing, three-quarters of Maori people are under the age of 30.

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 lack of work in rural areas. As a result, the proportion of the young Maori population found in the larger towns is high and, as with all such population influxes, social adjustments to the new situation are still necessary.

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 exist and 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 preservation of ancestral land and traditional arts, including wood-carving and oratory. Songs, dances and oratory are widely practiced 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, along with '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 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 vacationsTahiti vacation packages or stay at one of our Fiji resorts or perhaps take a Cook Island vacation. This can be done 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.

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