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10 Surprising facts about New Zealand

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Here are the top 10 things that surprised us while travelling and living in New Zealand for the past seven months. And you, what are yours ?

1. The word “Kiwi” has three meanings 

First of all, this is the name of a national icon of New Zealand, a native bird which cannot fly and has loose, hair-like feathers. There are about 68,000 kiwi left in all New Zealand and the species is threatened. It is not so easy to see some and we never saw any. However, it can be possible to see kiwis and here is a site which lists all places you can observe some:

Kiwi is also the way New Zealanders call themselves. It has become their nickname due to some Australian soldiers in the First World War.

Kiwi or kiwifruit is also very important in New Zealand. Indeed, the is the second largest kiwifruit producing country. Consequently, you can always find kiwifruit in supermarkets and we actually recommend you to taste the Golden kiwifruit which is sweeter than the green one.

2. Maori culture and influence

Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand, those who discovered first the island more than 1000 years ago, before the arrival of European settlers. They now represent 14% of the population of New Zealand and the Maori culture is central to New Zealand’s identity. Many cities and streets names are in Maori language and on most touristic areas, you can notice that descriptions are written both in English and Maori. The Maori art is also clearly visible whether with sculpture or the unavoidale tattoo art. This is always beautiful and impressive to meet some Maori persons with facial tattoos! Ta Moko, as is called the art of Maori tattoo reflects the individual’s whakapapa (ancestry) and personal history.

3. Walk barefoot in the city

It is not rare to meet people walking barefoot in the city. Whether in Auckland, Wellington or Rotorua, you will probably meet some people not bothering about wearing shoes. This is so common that no one even pays attention to it. Pierre was actually very happy with it and probably spent more time barefoot than with shoes on!

4. Summer does not really exist

In New Zealand, the four seasons do exist. However, you should be ready to face them all in one day time to time. This is usual to start a day with cold temperature, then burning under the sun the whole afternoon, before showering under the rain and freezing at night! It does not sound so appealing, but I assure you that you finally get used to it. Ok, we have to admit that we cannot deal with it during summertime. We really felt like it was the worse fraud ever to think about spending a summer in New Zealand, as you never know how to dress up, and you can never enjoy a chill night with warm temperatures. Anyways, some parts of the countries are definitely warmer than the others, like the Northland or cities like Napier, Hastings, Gisborne or Blenheim.

5. More sheep than unhabitants

Out of the big cities like Wellington, Auckland, Queenstown or even Rotorua, do not expect to see much unhabitants. When driving around the country, you will most probably meet sheep rather than unhabitants. The country is home to 3 million people VS 60 million sheep.

6. New Zealand is a place where two tectonic plates collide

New Zealand lies at the edge of both the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, where steady deformation is occurring all the time. The deformation is actually an important cause of the volcanic eruption and earthquakes like the big one we felt in Wellington. There are earthquakes everyday in New Zealand, but most of the times, the intensity is so weak that you will not feel it. However, you can feel one anytime, as earthquakes never warn you before coming.

7. Keep left while driving and eat early

This is not such an interesting discovery, but yeah if you are used to keeping right while driving, know that you’ll have to change your habits here. And as less interesting as the former topic, you should not that people usually eat around 6pm. This is not a big deal, but well when you’re not used to these kind of things, it always disturbs you, right?

8. Pull your socks up

If we had to describe Kiwi’s fashion in one word: casual. Everybody is laid-back and you can basically walk in the streets with any kind of outfit without feeling any social pressure. In Wellington, we noticed that women love wearing leggings and sportswear clothes, while young men love skateboarding. What you can’t miss about men, is their interest for socks. Most men pull their socks up, even though – or should I say especially – they are wearing shorts.

9. The country of Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit

Should you be a fan of Peter Jackson, you obvisouly know that he comes from New Zealand and that those two huge blockbusters were shot in that same country. Consequently, many activities for tourists are related to those movies. You can do treks on famous mountains that appear in the movies, like the Tongariro Alpine Crossing that we did aka Mount Doom in Lord of The Rings. The most famous attraction being the visit of Hobbiton aka The Shire. And if you want to know the secrets of visual effects, we would recommend you to visit Weta Studios in Wellington!

10. Clean public toilets everywhere

This is something that we loved about New Zealand! Public toilets are regularly maintained, mostly free to use and tidy. You never wonder if you should go inside or not, you know it is going to be clean. This is so useful and pleasant to be able to go to toilets anywhere. We just felt ashamed everytime we thought about how disgusting public toilets look in France compared to New Zealand. Thumbs up New Zealand!

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