New Zealand, this distant and mysterious land, stole our hearts. After spending a month in Aotearoa (Maori name for New Zealand), we learned and noticed some interesting things that are worth sharing. Don't be surprised if after reading about this beautiful spot, you will find yourself looking for flights across the globe! Enjoy!
- Kia Ora is a greeting in Maori language. It's sort of like Aloha in Hawaii.
- People in New Zealand call themselves Kiwis. The name comes from a rare flightless, nocturnal bird that only lives in New Zealand, not from the kiwi fruit.
Kiwi birdKiwi bird
- Maori are the indigenous Polynesian people of the New Zealand with a very interesting culture. About 16% of New Zealand population are Maori, although it is worth noting that there are no longer 100% pure Maori left.
- Maori are known for intricate body and face tattoos called ta moko. The ink used to be CARVED into the skin (often face) leaving raised marks. Sounds painful to me!
Maori TattoosMaori Tattoos
- Maori are also known for a war dance called the Haka which nowadays is used mainly for sporting events (The All Blacks NZ national rugby union team does it best. Click here to see it. And yes, the facial expressions are part of it. )
- Kiwis love their national sport of rugby.
- There are two kinds or rugby: Rugby League and Rugby Union. They differ by many rules, field size and number of players.
- All Blacks is the famous Rugby Union national team and ranked number 1 in the world. They wear black uniforms adorn with a silver fern leaf across the heart. They perform a mean Haka.
All Blacks poster in DunedinAll Blacks poster in Dunedin
- New Zealand's national anthem is sang in Maori first, followed by English. It really is a beautiful tune. Vlad's been learning how to sing it in both languages.
- In 1943, New Zealand invited 733 Polish WWII orphans and their 105 caregivers and later gave them permanent residency. They are known as the Polish Orphans of Pahiatua.
Polish Orphans of Pahiatua, New Zealand Polish Orphans of Pahiatua, New Zealand
- Currently this small country welcomes 750 refugees per year (now mostly from Africa) and actively helps them assimilate to their new surroundings
- The silver fern is one of the symbols of New Zealand and it adorns the All Blacks uniforms. Legend has it, Maori hunters and warriors used the silver underside of the fern leaves to mark their trails and find their way home at night. The silver color would reflect the moonshine and show them the path.
Silver fernSilver fern
- The kiwi bird is another symbol of New Zealand. Both the silver fern and the kiwi are used in marketing materials and on souvenirs.
- The national colors of New Zealand are Maori's black, white, and red. Black is especially prominent and reflected in uniforms of sports teams, marketing materials and souvenirs. Air New Zealand recently painted some of their planes black and they look super slick.
- If you are wondering about the symbol on the tail of the plane, that's Koru which represents unfurling silver fern frond.
- Australians have Vegemite while Kiwis have Marmite.
- Tourism plays a significant part in NZ's economy.
- Many tourist chose to rent a campervan and explore the country without worrying about accommodations. There are special designated areas with toilets and showers where campervans can stay overnight.
Campervans in New Zealand - JucyCampervans in New Zealand - Jucy
- If you are planning to rent a campervan or a car, you better be ready to drive on the left side of the road.
- NZ wine is a growing industry. We saw lots of wineries and grape vines in the north part of the South Island.
NZ winery - South IslandNZ winery - South Island
- Grocery stores carry large selections of local wines at reasonable prices.
Grocery stores in New Zealand carry wineGrocery stores in New Zealand carry wine
- The director of LOTR is Kiwi born Peter Jackson.
- There are lots of sheep in New Zealand. About 31 million to be precise. That's about 8 sheep per each Kiwi person.
There is about 31 million sheep in New ZealandThere is about 31 million sheep in New Zealand
- Sheep graze the fields 24/7. Their wool is warm enough for them to stay out even in winters. There are no predators that would hunt sheep so they are safe.
- Sheep wool is one of New Zealand's main exports.
- Souvenir shops carry lots of merino wool products which are quite pricey. A T-Shirt can set you back $100 while a sweater about $300.
- Cows also graze NZ fields freely. New Zealand beef is some of the best in the world.
New Zealand cowsNew Zealand cows
- Aside from sheep and cows we have also seen paddocks full of deer. At first we thought our eyes were playing tricks on us but we later learned that deer is farmed for venison (deer meat served in restaurants).
Deer farm in New ZealandDeer farm in New Zealand
- Paddocks mean fields.
- Alpacas were also seen but in small numbers. They are often grown as pets.
Alpacas in New ZealandAlpacas in New Zealand
- In comparison to Australia, there are no deadly animals in New Zealand so you can freely roll in the grass and swim in the sea.
- The only thing that comes close are annoying sand flies which are similar to mosquitos.
- There's lots of free public bathrooms in New Zealand (learn from it Europe). They are usually very clean.
- Second hand shops are very popular in New Zealand. You can buy pretty much everything there: clothes, dishes, books, and furniture.
Second hand shops are very popular in New ZealandSecond hand shops are very popular in New Zealand
- There are many chain stores and restaurants that you'd find in North America. While the familiar may be welcomed and comforting to some travelers, I really disliked it.
- New Zealand's money is made of plastic. Banknotes bear birds and New Zealand's scenery on one side and some notable Kiwis on the other.
New Zealand money - bills and coinsNew Zealand money - bills and coins
- The New Zealand accent is different from Australian of British. The easiest way to tell a Kiwi is by the way they pronounce 'e' in some of their words. 'Yes' sounds like 'Yees", 'November' sounds like 'Noveembah'.
- They also pronounce the word 'no' a bit differently. It's as if there was an 'r' at the end of it. It's sounds like "Noer'. We started talking like that by the end of our trip. Just for fun.
- "Sweet As" is popular Kiwi saying which pretty much means "cool".
- There is a rivalry between the North and the South Island.
- North Island is home to two largest cities: Auckland and Wellington.
- The biggest city in the South Island is Christchurch which was devastated by a series of earthquakes between 2010 and 2012.
- The South Island is more rugged and its people pride themselves in being tough and adventurous.
- Queenstown in the South Island is an adventure capital of the world. This is where Bungy Jumping was invented by AJ Hackett. Vlad really loved it.
Queenstown in the South Island is an adventure capital of the world. Queenstown in the South Island is an adventure capital of the world.
- Many older houses are not properly insulated therefore they are really cold inside (almost all of the ones we stayed at). To compensate for that Kiwis use wall and portable heaters as well as electric blankets in their beds. Sometimes it's colder inside of the house than it is outside. The below illustrates how we felt pretty much the whole time while in New Zealand.
- Similar to Australia, Kiwis have the same tiny light switches and power outlets with an on/off switch.
- We came across many sinks with separate faucets for cold and hot water. When washing your face you have to chose every day: frost bite or third degree burns?
- New Zealand's national starch is kumara which is similar to a yam or a sweet potato. When baked, it's super tasty.
New Zealand's national starch is kumara which is similar to a yam or a sweet potatoNew Zealand's national starch is kumara which is similar to a yam or a sweet potato
- As opposed to North America, eggs in stores are not sold in fridges but rather on shelves. They are also clearly labeled as free ranging or not.
Eggs sold in New Zealand on shelvesEggs sold in New Zealand on shelves
So what do you think about New Zealand? Would you want to visit this distant yet beautiful country?