New Zealand Quirks

Posted: April 14, 2018 in 2018, Musings, New Zealand, Uncategorized

Kia ora from Kaikoura! That actually doesn’t rhyme quite as well as you probably read it to, but I had to write it nonetheless. That Maori welcome is pronounced something like “kee-ora,” if you’re wondering. And hey, check out this cool toilet at my current hostel! 


Anyway, throughout my journey, I’ve discovered some fun New Zealand quirks, so I’m taking a quick break from my daily posts to share a few with you:


For those of you in the states, imagine your average MegaBus, BoltBus, or Greyhound journey from one city to another. You get on the bus, maybe you get a quick safety overview, and then you don’t hear from the driver until you reach your destination. Typical for a multi-hour bus journey, right? Not in the New Zealand.

Here in New Zealand, I’ve been traveling from town to town through the popular public bus line, InterCity. When you get on the bus, the driver asks where you’re going and, depending on how full the bus is, might be able to drop you off close to a particular spot in the destination city. Then, as you’re riding the bus, the driver gives a bit of a tour, showering you with fun facts about the history of the area, what it’s known for, etc. as you travel. I learned most of my fun facts about the Otago Gold Rush from riding on InterCity, for instance. After the last fun facts, the drivers tend to let you know that they will now be silent and will check in again closer to the destination. So quirky, so cool!


On those buses, you also get to have a brief rest stop at some sort of town with public toilets, and these toilets are a riot. When you go inside, it’s kind of like walking into a low-budget TV spaceship, with lit-up buttons to press at particular times. Need toilet paper? Just wave your hand across the glowing blue light with the toilet paper icon and it will appear. Want to flush the toilet? Wave your hand below the sink to wash your hands, and the toilet will flush simultaneously. Sometimes the toilets even talk to you, telling you when you have locked or unlocked the door, etc. Very impressive in another quirky way.



Totally acceptable form of transportation. Don’t have a bus ticket or a car and need to get somewhere? Just stand on the road and stick out your thumb. Everybody does it!


New Zealand has a ton of sheep, and this crazy country loves to laugh at itself for how many sheep it has. Thus far, my favorite example of this was in Dunedin, where the entire city seemed to be attending the Ed Sheeran concerts over Easter weekend (seriously…all the moms chaperoning the kindy (pre-k) visit to Quarantine Island were talking about when they were going, I heard people talking about the shows at multiple cafes and on the buses, and at the Settlers Museum I even heard a very elderly man talking about how much he enjoyed the show. These people just love Ed Sheeran.

Anyway, the best part about the Ed Sheeran craze were the advertisements I saw everywhere for the show, promoting not Ed Sheeran but…get ready for it…Ed Shearing…featuring an Ed-like sheep playing the guitar. Oh New Zealand, you are so sheepish.

Ed Shearing


Kiwis (people who are from New Zealand) have a very laid-back sense of time; you never know when a kiwi will show up (of course, this doesn’t apply to all New Zealanders, but it is a quirky stereotype, hence earning a spot in this post). On Quarantine for instance, I spent an entire afternoon mowing the grass with a push mower. Then, just as the Keeper, Dries – who is Belgian, not a kiwi – was about to leave the island to pick up his kids from school, some locals rode over in their boat to deliver a sit-on mower that wasn’t scheduled to arrive for another two or three days, because they figured they had time to bring it over that day without notice and could give a 15-20 demonstration on how it worked. “I can’t stand kiwi time,” Dries grumbled 30 minutes later as he ran off to get his kids.

Bente from the Flying Kiwi company, who is originally from Germany (and who you will hear about when I get to that part of my trip) said this laid-back attitude about time was at first hard for her to get used to, but now she loves it. When she meets up with her friends back in Germany – who she says always arrive early or right on time – she is now the late one because she has adapted to New Zealand’s casual attitude about time. 


Kiwis love to squish together and/or shorten words whenever possible (I’ve been told it’s a waste of air to draw something out with all its syllables, as, according to the kiwis, the Australians tend to do). For instance, a chicken becomes a “chook,” a “cuppa” is a cup of tea or coffee, things are “wee” rather than little or small, and if you go camping on a platform or some other not-completely-wilderness setting you are experiencing glamorous camping, aka “glamping.” Even their own country’s name gets squished together a bit, becoming more like “N’Zealand.” One common phrase is “Sweet as!” meaning something like “awesome!” and there are various terms for a holiday home, called a “crib” on the South Island and a “bach” (pronounced “batch”) up north. For whatever reason, flip-flops are “jandals,” hiking is tramping, and perhaps most mysterious of all, dinner is tea, breakfast can be tea, and tea is tea. Is it time for tea? Ask a kiwi why “tea” is synonymous for dinner however, and they’ll probably tell you they have no idea, it just is (I’ve asked many kiwis, with similar shrugs from all). Tea, tea, and more tea. So, in N’Zealand, you can go glamping and tramping, hang out at your bach, wear your jandals, have tea followed by a cuppa, and watch your wee chook run around. Sweet as! 

Respect for Indigenous Culture

This isn’t really a quirk, but I love how Maori culture is so present here. As one of my couchsurfing hosts explained, people are people. Everyone here sees the Kiwis and the Maoris as New Zealanders, so they treat them all the same (to a point…there is still some segregation, disrespect, and resistance to/ignorance of Maori culture, but nothing like we see with Native American culture in the United States; in comparison the Maori people are treated incredibly well). I wish this wasn’t on my list of quirks, but I don’t know of a place in the world where indigenous culture is recognized quite as thoroughly as it is here in New Zealand. Good on you, NZ.


Similarly, NZ seems to put more of an effort into preserving and protecting native flora and fauna than any other country. When you arrive by plane, you need to make sure you have no seeds or anything else on your shoes that you might bring into the country. The Department of Conservation here is making huge efforts to get rid of invasive plants and animals, with a country-wide goal of becoming predator-free by 2050. It’s an ambitious goal, but most of the locals seem to be on board and are doing their part to support it. Very cool.


That’s just a taste of the character of New Zealand. Stay tuned for a return to regularly scheduled posts sometime in the next few days. Long story short I’m heading back to Christchurch tomorrow afternoon (eventually looping back down to Dunedin) and will have lots of time to update this blog from Carl and Renee’s house in Christchurch over the next four days (catching up on student grading for my course takes priority when I have internet, hence the slow progress catching up here).  Hey and if anyone wants to video chat, the next four days are good for that too, just let me know! Sweet as! 🙂

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