10 things to know about NEW ZEALAND before you visit

New Zealand-streettrotter

We are NOT Australia. New Zealand is NOT an island off the coast of Australia. In fact, we are an island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Unlike Australia, New Zealand is not stinking hot, and we don’t have any animals that can kill you, which is a bonus! New Zealand is 100% independent from Australia, and like any country we have our own customs, culture and history.

You are best to get around by car (or campervan)!

New Zealand-streettrotterNew Zealand has buses and trains, yes, but if you really want to explore the country in depth, the best way is really to hire a campervan or a car. There is so much to see and do in New Zealand that there is really no reason to stick to touristic sights.

The population is very low

New Zealand has one of the lowest population densities in the world, and it is definitely noticeable. In New Zealand, you can drive for ages without seeing a single other car. You can find pristine, beautiful beaches that are completely isolated. Some people get a bit freaked out by the quiet, others love the peacefulness. Either way, just be prepared.

New Zealand-streettrotter

New Zealanders are relaxed

Don’t be alarmed if you see people walking around the streets barefoot, dogs running around with no leash, or valuable possessions lying around. Truth is, we live a very ‘lax lifestyle and don’t worry too much about anything. Our catch phrase is ‘she’ll be right!’

Yes, we speak English, but we have our own slang

A few phrases you should know to understand New Zealand talk:

  • ‘JAFA’ is a term you won’t hear too much in Auckland but it is a word the rest of the country use to describe Aucklanders. It’s an acronym for ‘Just Another F**king Aucklander’. This stems from the fact that Auckland is the country’s largest city and around ¼ of the New Zealand population resides in Auckland.
  • A ‘kiwi’ is a word we use to refer to ourselves as New Zealanders, and is also the name of our native bird.
  • ‘Togs’ is our word for swimsuit or bathing suit.
  • ‘Jandals’ is our word for flip flops.

Maori is the other official language

Some Maori words are also used on a daily basis alongside the English. To get you started, ‘kia ora’ means hello, ‘whanau’ (pronounced fano) means family, and ‘kai’ means food!

Our economy is driven mostly by the dairy industry

Outside of cities, the whole country is full of dairy farms which means endless rolling green hills and valleys almost anywhere you go. But that doesn’t mean you are going to find meat and dairy products for cheap.New Zealand-streettrotter

Things are expensive

New Zealand is pretty far away from most countries in the world, so things that make their way here are generally and pretty inflated prices. In terms of eating out, buying retail and also, buying flights to and from the country, be prepared to pay top dollar. But I would argue that it is worth it.

Maori culture and history is prominent

The Maoris are the original indigenous group that inhabited New Zealand. Long story short, the Europeans made an agreement with the Maoris called the Treaty of Waitangi, and now we live together in peace! There is a lot of land that is still sacred Maori land that they have the rights to, so make sure you are respectful if you are enjoying a Maori-owned land. There are plenty of places in New Zealand where you can learn all about their language, history and culture.

New Zealand is made up of 3 main islands

The three major islands are known as North Island, South Island and Stewart Island. The majority of the population resides in the North.The North Island is better to explore in Summer as it can get nice and warm.New Zealand-streettrotter

The South island where you are more likely to find those totally isolated parts. It is bigger in land mass and has 1/3 of the people. The South Island and Stuart Island are also a lot cooler, and better to visit in Winter.

New Zealand-streettrotter

About the Author: Suzie is a passionate traveller with particular interest in learning languages and using different languages to communicate around the globe. She started her blog – thewanderinglinguist to cater to other budding language learners and inspire people to expand their bubble when they travel.

Want to know more fun facts about different countries around world? Read the links below! 



StreetTrotter is a Travel, Culture & Lifestyle blog, inspiring people everyday with real stories to look good and travel even better. Founded in 2012 by Shraddha Gupta, Founder & COO, this space is all about experiencing new things in life, be it a daring mountain trek, a frugal backpacking trip, a runway look made local, or simply anything that scares you enough to live a little more deeper.

  1. Katie says:

    Great post! I travelled around NZ a couple years ago, and having your own vehicle is definitely the way to go. Really loved the South Island, hope to go back!

  2. suvarna says:

    We have met a few kiwis along the way and loved getting acquainted with the different descriptions. New Zealand sounds like a nice place to get away from the madding crowds!
    Now that I know there is a lot of dairy farming going on there… i understand why I come across NZ butter almost everywhere!

  3. My first husband was a Kiwi. I still go to the dunny or wee house. I put on my jandals and I brought my chillybins along for lunch. Good times. Ed has been to New Zealand but it’s still on my bucket list.

  4. Love your pics, NZ is definitely on my bucket list. I always dreamed of driving a camper van around exploring all the great outdoor adventures.
    So with the Maori stuff, do you guys have to study the language in primary school? I ask because in the US we don’t have much of that but when I was talking to my irish friends, they said they had to learn gaelic for 2-3 years in school and take a major test for it. I think that is an unbelievable way to preserve the culture and history

  5. Drew says:

    A destination that is very high on my bucket list for sure! Great point about the lack of dangerous critters. I joke that it seems like Australia is always trying to kill you with all of their poisonous animals. I love the low population density too, especially living here in China. It would be a nice break from the hoards of people!

  6. Megan Jerrard says:

    As an Australian I thought I knew most things about New Zealand, though I had always thought there were only 2 main islands – had no idea that Stewart was a third!

    We visited Auckland briefly last year on the way home from South America, and really fell in love, you’re right, there’s so many incredible landscapes vs not a huge population. The expense definitely took us a bit by surprise, but it was well worth it for the opportunity to experience such an incredible country 🙂 Hope to get back soon!

  7. Lydia Smith says:

    Thanks for the informative lecture on New Zealand. I had always thought New Zealand was a small part in Australia?. But now I know. I’ll be using a lot of ‘Kai’ when I visit but sad kinda since the cost of feeding would be quite expensive, nevertheless, I’d still explore the food in New Zealand.

  8. sa says:

    New Zealand is a land I associate with incredible natural beauty. Also always related to it as a country that relies on the Dairy industry. These things to know are really very important points that will stand in good stead when we visit this lovely country some day.

  9. Let me say this…New Zealand is a spectacular place. The unending landscapes simply stun the senses. We loved the fact that it is low on population and has kept alive its Maori culture and traditions. I would love to go back for a second visit.

  10. Rhonda Albom says:

    We live not far north of Auckland, and we often have to deal with travel friends confusing us for Australia. Once, I received an email saying that a friend was visiting my side of the world and asking which port I was nearest to – Sydney, Brisbane, or Melbourne.

  11. Paige W says:

    These are really interesting facts! I actually had no idea that their was a third island! It’s good to know that the best way to get around is just to take a car or camper van! Campervanning NZ is a dream of mine!

  12. Amelie says:

    Gosh, New Zealand looks and sound like heaven! I’ve done a bit of bicycle touring and I’d love to tour in New Zealand. I don’t know about the logistics though, like how long you have to go before you find food and water in some cases. Definitely high on the list anyway!

  13. Guy Crotty says:

    As an Australian I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I got the giggles at your first paragraph. As an Australian I’m also embarrassed to admit that I’ve never even been to New Zealand. It looks so freaking amazing and everyone I’ve ever known to have visited has had a seriously good time. Whenever we do move home we definitely need to pay a visit to your awesome country!

  14. Suruchi says:

    Great post. New Zealand is beautiful and we know it because of the serene landscapes, lakes, Kiwi and dairy products. The place is really high on our list too. Loved the info you gave us in your post. Thanks for sharing

  15. Ami Bhat says:

    I like the post for its simplicity and clarity. I like the way you have clarified certain facts while sharing the travel tips on it. I enjoyed the part on the language.

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