Situated some 1,500 kilometers east of Australia, New Zealand is one of the planet’s most interesting countries. Comprised of two large islands, New Zealand has been in geographic isolation for millions of years and has developed flora and fauna that are unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s a developed constitutional monarchy with an unmatched standard of living and which ranks highly when it comes to education, health, economic freedom, and civil liberties.
If you’ve already decided to move to this country, you’re probably doing some research and trying to get to know more about it. We’ve picked up a couple of essential things that every newcomer should be aware of – check them out:
It Was One Of The Last Places On Earth To Be Discovered By Humans
The Land of the Long White Cloud was among the very last to be discovered by humans. Archeologists claim that humans did not settle the islands until around 1250, when Polynesians, who arrived from Eastern Polynesia, first set foot on it. The Māori people are the descendants of these Polynesians – they have their own distinct culture and are the indigenous people of New Zealand.
The arrival of first Europeans took place in 1642, when the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman (Tasmania is named after him) anchored his ship in Golden Bay, on South Island. New Zealand soon became a British colony, and it remained so until it got its self-governance in the 1850s. Today, Aotearoa is an independent and sovereign country, although the country’s monarch is still the one ruling the United Kingdom, among other realms (such as nearby Australia). The current ruler is Queen Elizabeth II.
It’s a lesser-known fact that the Māori people did not always call themselves so. Most of them belonged to many different tribes, such as Ngāti Porou or Ngāpuhi. However, once the islands were overrun by European settlers, the natives wanted to somehow differentiate themselves from the strange white people. This is how they came up with “Māori,” which, in their language, means “ordinary people.”
Nowadays, Māori takes up around 15% of the country’s entire population, and their language is one of New Zealand’s official languages. They are involved in the country’s politics and many places on the islands have names in Māori language.
Kiwifruit Comes from China
No, kiwifruit did not originate in the Land of the Long White Cloud. The homeland of this tasty fruit is actually China – it was initially called Chinese gooseberry!
The fruit was first brought to the country in 1904, and once the Americans started importing it from New Zealand, they decided that the name Chinese gooseberry just won’t cut it. After renaming it a couple of times, they finally settled for “Kiwi,” naming it after New Zealand’s most famous bird.
It Is Home To Millions Of Sheep
The people of this country are greatly outnumbered by sheep – there are six sheep for every one resident of New Zealand. This is due to the fact that sheep farming is one of the country’s most significant industries, and was the most important one until the late 1980s when it was overtaken by dairy farming. With more than 16,000 sheep farms, the country is the largest exporter of lambs.
The Accent Is Quite Special
To newcomers, the way in which New Zealanders speak English might sound very confusing. In the space of just a couple of words, a Kiwi can sound American, Australian, and South African. Those that are planning to move over there should know that they can forget about what they’ve learned about vowel sounds. For example, “i” sounds a lot more like “ugh”, which means that phrases such as “fish and chips” sound more like “fush and chups”.
Standardized as New Zealand English (NZE), the tongue is one of the country’s three official languages, with the other two being Māori and the New Zealand Sign Language. The NZE is spoken by 96% of the population.
Kiwis Use Unique Slang
To live in Aotearoa (the Māori name for the country), one doesn’t need to learn a whole new language, but knowing a thing or two about Kiwi lingo might come in quite handy.
There are a lot of strange phrases and words used on a daily basis. For example, the cool box is known as “chilli bin,” cling film is called “glad wrap,” flip-flops are “jandals,” shorts are “stubbies” and holiday home is “bach.” Another example is “dairy,” which doesn’t refer to just milk and cheese but is how Kiwis call their local shops.
On top of their fast and harsh-sounding accent, the slang of New Zealanders can be quite hard to understand. However, it doesn’t take too long to get used to the lingo – it’s unavoidable anyway.
It’s Not Very Populated
Those who think that humans aren’t such a great company will undoubtedly find New Zealand to their liking. Although 20,000 square miles larger than the UK, the country is home to less than 5 million people (United Kingdom’s population number reached 66 million in 2017).
Moreover, most New Zealanders live in cities and smaller towns, with the countryside being only sparsely farmed. To some, this might sound like the Land of the Long White Cloud is a very lonely place, but some might consider it wonderfully “people free”.
Many people first saw this country in Sir Peter Jackson’s movie adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings book series. Filming these movies was one of the most ambitious projects ever, as all three films had a budget of $330 million and were shot over the span of eight years. The filming took place in many national parks and conservation areas of New Zealand, which is Sir Peter Jackson’s home country.
As it was met with overwhelming praise, the trilogy is still a major cash cow for the country, and it has pumped $200 million into New Zealand’s economy ever since 2001. Fans come from all over the planet to pay a visit to the filming locations, with the village of Hobbiton being the most visited spot. Other popular films filmed on the islands include The Chronicles of Narnia, Avatar, King Kong, and, of course, the Hobbit trilogy.
Nothing Is More Important Than Rugby
Writing about this country and not mentioning rugby would be a sin. The residents of Aotearoa go crazy over the game – it is the national sport and the country’s national rugby team (called “All Blacks”) have won the Rugby Championship sixteen times as well as three Rugby World Cups. All Blacks are also the only team in the world to have a winning record against every opponent.
One of the most interesting things about the national rugby team is that they begin each of their international games with the performance of “Haka,” a traditional Māori dance. Although criticized as an unsporting effort to intimidate the opponents, the “Haka” is much enjoyed by spectators both in New Zealand and worldwide.
Walking Barefoot Is Normal
We all know how uncomfortable the shoes can sometimes be. Not only can they give you blisters and bad smell, but also cost money and the dilemma of which pair to wear is something nobody likes. Kiwis have found an ideal solution to these problems – they simply don’t wear shoes.
In New Zealand, it is entirely normal for a person to step out of the house barefoot. You’ll see people walking around streets and supermarkets with nothing on their feet, without a care in the world. There’s a Māori belief that walking with naked feet brings one closer to nature, but this probably has more to do with New Zealand lifestyle being pretty laid back when compared to other countries.
The Weather Is Extremely Unpredictable
Although very close to Australia, which is well-known as one of the world’s hottest and sunniest countries, New Zealand has a climate that is entirely different. The temperatures are less extreme than in Australia and there’s always a chance to experience four seasons in the span of just one day.
The primary reason behind all of this is the country’s unique location on the planet, as both of its islands are surrounded by wild, unpredictable seas. Thanks to the Pacific Ocean, a day might begin with hot sun in the sky and end with a miserable blast of rain and cold winds.
The Amazing Landscape Is Everywhere Around
New Zealand would probably win a beauty pageant for countries if one would ever take place. Aotearoa is simply breathtaking – almost one-third of its territory is taken up by national parks. One of the most spectacular protected national parks is undoubtedly Wai-O-Tapu (“Sacred Waters”), situated on the North Island. It’s an area dotted with hot springs, well-known for their colorful appearance.
Another example of New Zealand’s natural beauty is the Milford Sound fjord, located within the Fiordland National Park on the South Island. It’s one of the country’s top travel destinations and home to many dolphins, penguins, seals, and whales. It’s no wonder that it was called “the eighth wonder of the world” by the famous English writer Rudyard Kipling.
It Is Home To The World’s Clearest Lake
According to the country’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, the Blue Lake (situated in Nelson Lakes National Park) is the clearest one on the entire planet. The guys working at NIWA weren’t kidding – the water of Blue Lake is extremely clear and offers visibility up to 80 meters. Most scientists agree that the water clarity inside Blue Lake is caused by an underground passage that acts as a filter and takes care of all particles that would normally make it much dirtier.
To Māori people, the Blue Lake is sacred, and its official name was altered to Rotomairewhenua / Blue Lake in 2014.
Sand Flies Are A Major Problem
Sand flies, or “winged pests” as Kiwis call them, are a significant issue for the country. Even though only three of the 19 species of sand flies are prone to biting humans, these three can be found all over New Zealand, particularly on its West Coast.
Although a sand fly’s bite causes no diseases, the pain is instant and very sharp. Sandflies usually hunt in airborne packs and are very hard to deal with. The only thing that takes proper care of them is cold weather and wind, but that’s something we can’t really control.
Everybody Hates Possums
To some, possums might look harmless, even cute. In New Zealand, however, these animals are treated like they came straight from the ninth circle of hell. They were brought to Aotearoa back in 1837 from Australia when some people decided that these creatures would be good for the fur industry. Today, many Kiwis think that this decision was the worst one in the country’s entire history.
With no natural predators to put a stop to them, possums do whatever they want – they destroy tons and tons of vegetation every night, eat the eggs of kea and kiwi birds, and also give bovine tuberculosis to cows. There are still 30 million of them on both islands and the efforts to lower this number have not shown any significant results.
New Zealand Is A Hotbed Of Tectonic Activity
Have you ever heard of the “Pacific Ring of Fire”? It’s a large area in the Pacific’s basin where most of the Earth’s earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur, and Aotearoa sits right on top of it. In other words, the residents of the Land of the Long White Cloud experience more than 14,000 earthquakes on an annual basis. However, only around 150 of these can actually be felt by humans.
Fortunately, the volcanic eruptions are far less frequent, although they cause significant damage when they happen. One of the world’s biggest volcanic eruptions in the last couple of millenniums took place right in New Zealand. It left behind a colossal crater that is now known as Lake Taupō.