Discover the basics of Kiwi life & popular New Zealand culture – gumboots, kiwi slang, marmite, hokey pokey ice cream, kiwifruit & kiwi

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Kiwiana: “Any of the many 'collectable', items redolent of New Zealand life and culture." Oxford N.Z. Dictionary

Otorohanga: A small rural King Country town, the official "Kiwiana Town” of New Zealand and hotspot for all things ‘kiwi’. Here we celebrate our national identity with Kiwiana displays of our NZ icons, heroes and traditions.


BBQ: Summer-loving Kiwis uncover their BBQs, scrape off last year’s grime and throw the sausages and meat onto the grill. Men are often found standing around the BBQ (for some this is the only time they cook!) with a beer in hand.

Black Singlet and Gumboots: Once upon a time, wearing a black woolen singlet and a pair of gumboots was an institution among more fashion-conscious kiwi farming males. You could even see them wearing their trusty gumboots and black singlet for an outing to town. The black singlet is warm, covers up the sweat from hard, manual labour and is sleeveless for freer movement. Gumboots are loved by all who encounter mud on the farm or puddles on the footpath.

Butterfly: In the 1950's and 60's cut-out painted butterflies were often seen as decorative elements on the road-facing side of traditional, weatherboard, painted houses. If you look hard you can still see some on Kiwi homes today.

Buzzy Bee: A popular children’s toy and the inspired creation of Auckland brothers, Hector and John Ramsey. From turning out wooden cores for toilet rolls and wooden doorknobs, Hec Ramsey ventured into toys in the mid 1940s with "Buzzy Bee" and Mary Lou dolls.

With wings that turn and make a clicking noise, Buzzy Bee is a hit with children everywhere and a definite candidate for the Kiwiana Hall of Fame! Over the years Buzzy Bee has endeared itself to millions of New Zealand kids, as well as some more famous infants, including Prince William.

Edmonds Cook Book: In just about any kitchen in NZ you're bound to find a wonderfully worn, well thumbed, much floured copy of the ‘Edmonds Sure to Rise Cookbook’. Many a Mum handed her son/daughter one as they walked out the door to venture into flatting life.

Fish ‘n' Chips: You can’t get more Kiwi than Fish ‘n’ Chips from the corner Fish ‘n’ Chip shop. Deep-fried fish coated in batter with fried chips as thick as your finger, hurriedly wrapped up steaming in last week's newspaper. It all cost next to nothing and was found in every New Zealand town. Every Friday night - "6 fish and 5 shillings chips" was enough to feed the whole family and half the neighbour’s kids as well, spread out on the lounge floor or, as the sun went down, on a sandy beach - nothing tasted better. This was especially so when the tasty morsels were layered between thick slices of white, buttered bread with great dollops of our favourite, Watties Tomato Sauce!

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Hokey Pokey Ice Cream: Vanilla ice cream with hokey pokey bits in it and a perennial Kiwi favourite. New Zealanders started munching this flavour back in the 1940s. Small pieces of toffee are added to vanilla-flavoured ice cream to create this popular treat. Best enjoyed melting down the sides of a waffle cone on a hot summer's day!

Jandals: - The word ‘jandal’ comes from ‘Japanese sandal’ and became part of Kiwiana in the 1950's. Other countries call these ‘thongs or flip-flops’. Favoured summertime footwear for most New Zealanders, an important part of any Kiwi wardrobe and available in a range of colours, jandals can be worn just about anywhere – from the beach to the pub – they were always a fashion statement on their own. As far as size went, as long as it was bigger than your foot, it was a good fit. Made entirely from rubber, they lasted for years and only when the thong between the toes broke, was it time to invest in a new pair.

‘Kia Ora’: Probably the most common Maori greeting, a general expression wishing good fortune and all other good things on the recipient.

Kiwi: the most unlikely of birds. As well as being flightless and nocturnal, it has a shaggy plumage more like hair than feathers. It is also the only bird to have nostrils at the end of its beak. Despite, or perhaps because of all its oddities, the kiwi has been enthusiastically adopted by New Zealanders and has become a national icon, beating several other talented birds to the title. If you want to see the real thing then you must visit the nocturnal display at the Otorohanga Kiwi House. (Kiwi are seldom seen in the wild; they are very shy and only come out at night.)

New Zealanders became known as "Kiwis" during the First World War. The nickname was inspired by Kiwi Boot Polish, an Australian product used by New Zealand soldiers in Europe. (The manufacturer's wife was a New Zealander, so he named it "Kiwi"). The name has stuck ever since.

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Kiwi Slang – Commonly used words in New Zealand:



jack up

to arrange something
across the ditch Australia kai food (from the Maori word for eating)
biscuit cookie Kiwi New Zealander
bloke man kiwi NZ flightless native bird
brassed off disappointed, annoyed kiwi/kiwifruit chinese gooseberry
chippie potato chip “ladies, a plate” please bring a dish of food to share
chocka full long drop outdoor toilet built over a hole in ground
cocky, cow-cocky dairy farmer mate buddy, close friend
chook chicken metal road a gravel road surface
college high school milo hot chocolate drink
corker! great! motorway freeway
crib small holiday home in Southland Nana grandmother
crook sick, poorly nappy diaper
dairy mini supermarket / convenience store OE [acronym] Overseas Experience
dole unemployment benefit Oz Australia
dreaded lurgy cold or flu pakeha non-Maori person
ding minor accident, car damage pav pavlova, NZ iconic dessert
gander take a look pudding dessert
Godzone New Zealand pushing up daisies dead/buried
flat stick, flat tack as fast as possible rough as guts unpolished
flog steal shark and taties fish and chips
fortnight two consecutive weeks she'll be right everything will be ok
half pie half heartedly, poorly performed smoko break, rest period
hangi traditional Maori earth oven suss figure something out
hard case joker, comedian, witty person ute utility vehicle, small pickup truck
hard yakka hard work whinge complain
heaps a lot wobbly throw a tantrum
hooray goodbye wop wops isolated area of land
hottie hot water bottle    

> Click here to find more Kiwi slang

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Kiwifruit: A fruit that has its origins in China, but is now known as the kiwifruit or ‘Kiwi’ throughout the world. Developed as a modern, less hairy product than its ancestor, larger with distinctive bright green flesh, this "Kiwi" now has a cousin with gold-coloured flesh – known, of course, as "Kiwi Gold".

L&P: Short for ‘Lemon and Paeroa’. L&P is New Zealand’s iconic soft drink, invented in 1904 after its maker tasted some mineral water near the town of Paeroa and mixed it with lemon to make a particularly refreshing drink. It’s loved by Kiwis everywhere and is still NZ’s most famous soft drink. Be sure to visit the giant L&P bottle in Paeroa!

Marmite: A yeast spread that looks like road tar, doesn't smell that great, but tastes good. Try it thinly spread on toast fingers topped with grated cheese and grilled till the cheese melts – the result: ‘Mouse Traps’ – loved by babies and folk of all ages from there on up!

New Zealand Flag: In the 1830's when New Zealand-built ships first began to cross the Tasman to trade with Australia, they did so without the benefit of a national register. Because Customs regulations required trading vessels to have a national ensign some urgency was given to the design of a New Zealand flag. The first design attempt was rejected because it was lacking in red, the colour signifying rank to the Maori people.

On 20 March 1834, 30 Maori chiefs gathered and made their choice, a design involving two red crosses on a white background accompanied by four, eight-pointed stars. Known as the Flag of the Independent Tribes," this flag flew in New Zealand until 1840, when it was supplanted by the Union Jack. The four stars are the four brightest stars of the Southern Cross. The flag was regularly flown until 1902, when it was officially adopted as the national flag.

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New Zealand's National Anthem:

God Defend New Zealand

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific's triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our free land
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our State.
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our free land
Lord of battles, in Thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.

Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our free land.
From dishonour and from shame,
Guard our country's spotless name,
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

May our mountains ever be
Freedoms ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our free land.
Guide her in the nation's van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.

The National Anthem in Maori

E Ihoa Atua,
O nga Iwi matoura
Ata whaka rongona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau to atawhai;
Manaakitia mai

Ona mano tangata
Kiri Whero, kiri ma,
Iwi Maori Pakeha,
Repeke katoa,
Nei ka tono ko nga he
Mau e whakaahu ke,
Kia ora marire

Tona mana kia tu
Tona kaha kia u;
Tona rongo hei paku
Ki te ao katoa
Aua rawa nga whawhai
Nga tutu a tata mai;
Kia tupu nui ai

Waiha tona takiwa
Ko te ao marama;
Kia whiti tona ra
Taiawhio noa.
Ko te hae me te ngangau
Meinga kia kore kau;
Waiho i te rongo mau

Tona pai me toitu
Tika rawa, ponu pu;
Tona noho, tana tu;
Iwi no Ihoa.
Kaua mona whakama;
Kia hau te ingoa;
Kia tu hei tauira;

Pavlova: The Aussies think they invented it, but this is incorrect! Just as the kiwi is New Zealand's national bird, the pavlova is the national dessert. Famous Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova, visited New Zealand in 1926 during an Australasian tour. According to her biographer, whilst Pavlova was in Wellington a hotel chef invented a dish inspired by her tutu, draped in green silk cabbage roses.

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Pohutukawa: The Pohutukawa tree (Metrosideros excelsa) is found all over New Zealand, but has a natural growing range north of an invisible line stretching between New Plymouth and Gisborne. Commonly referred to as “New Zealand’s Christmas Tree”, it flowers around that time of year – its bright red flowers a symbol of summer days ahead.

Rugby: New Zealand’s national sport, and for many almost a religion! If you’re not familiar with the game, then a group of beefy guys chasing an oval-shaped ball around a field might seem rather strange, but nevertheless entertaining. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the game, you will no doubt be familiar with the All Blacks, NZ’s hugely successful national team.

Sheep: Yes! There are more sheep then people in New Zealand. During the early days of New Zealand's European settlement, sheep were imported to provide meat and wool for clothing. The early pioneers lived "off the sheep's back". As farming developed, wool became one of New Zealand's first export earners. After the introduction of refrigeration in 1886 mutton and lamb were also exported. New Zealanders are proud of their sheep, now down to 39 million from 70 million in the 1980s.

Silver Fern: A predominant feature of the New Zealand bush are the ferns; indeed an early colloquial name for the country was ‘Fernland’. The tallest of these is the tree fern (or ponga) and it is the leaf of this species that is one of our best known national symbols. From the very beginnings of European settlement the fern leaf found its way onto newspaper mastheads and into advertising. Later it was incorporated into military and sports badges. The Silver Fern leaf first appeared on the badge of the New Zealand Native Rugby Team that toured Britain in 1888. A silver or white fern design on a black back ground has been used ever since as New Zealand’s sporting emblem.

Watties Tomato Sauce: The great Kiwi BBQ just wouldn't be complete without Watties Tomato Sauce. Tomato sauce isn't limited to the BBQ though - Kiwis love it with their fish & chips (and meat pies and sausages and spaghetti and...). " Ahh Watties... where would we be without you”...

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