People and Culture
You’re moving to New Zealand. Here’s what to expect.
New Zealand is made up of two main islands – the North Island and South Island. The majority (more than 90 per cent) of New Zealand’s population lives on the North Island, which is also home to the nation’s capital city, Wellington.
As a country in the Pacific Ocean with no land borders, New Zealand’s landscape is extraordinarily beautiful. It features towering mountains, long and winding rivers, open plains, amazing coastlines and endless stretches of farmland. This is the perfect backdrop for a lifestyle of leisure activities.
Population and cities
New Zealand is home to almost 4.7 million people, predominately made up of two cultural groups – the Māori, who are the descendants of Polynesian settlers, and the descendants of European settlers. More than 53 per cent of the population live in the four largest cities – Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton (North Island) and Christchurch (South Island).
The country’s history has been strongly influenced by Māori, European, Pacific Island and Asian cultures – resulting in a multicultural environment.
New Zealand is located in the Southern Hemisphere, which means the seasons are opposite to those of the Northern Hemisphere.
The weather seasons in New Zealand are:
Summer (December to February)
Autumn (March to May)
Winter (June to August)
Spring (September to November)
While the country’s climate is generally mild, New Zealand has a moderately high rainfall but also many hours of sunshine. It is influenced by two main geographical features: the mountains and the oceans.
In the warmer months, you’ll experience average daytime temperatures of around 16 – 25˚C, whilst in the cooler months the average daytime temperature is between 12 – 21˚C. An important feature to remember is that the average temperature decreases as you travel south. The inland alpine areas of the South Island experience temperatures as cold as -10˚C in the winter months.
Remember, it’s always a good idea to wear a coat or a warm sweater as the weather can very quickly and dramatically change.
Politics and government
New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government whilst remaining part of the British Commonwealth. The head of state is the British sovereign and the Governor General represents the Queen in New Zealand.
New Zealand operates under a system of ‘responsible government’ - a system where government Ministers are first elected as members of the House of Representatives. The government can only remain in power whist it has a majority of members in the House of Representatives.
Every three years, New Zealand holds a general election where the public votes.
Ethnicity and religion
New Zealand is a multicultural country with the five largest ethnic groups being: New Zealand European, Māori, Chinese, Samoan and Indian. in a multicultural society such as this, the people are very welcoming and friendly towards visitors from other ethnicities,. This makes it very easy to make friends, build relationships and assimilate into society.
The country is home to many different religions. Although Christianity is the predominant religion, many also follow Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, as well as Ringatū and Rātana.
The Māori people were the first inhabitants of New Zealand and as such their culture is at the core of the nation’s identity. The Māori people –known as ‘Tangata whenua’ (people of the land) have a strong connection and traditional relationship with the land and are recognised as such in New Zealand law.
Since the 1850s, the Māori population has experienced strong growth and their presence, history and culture has become increasingly recognisable in the day-to-day life in New Zealand.
Language and accents
As a former British colony, English is an official language and is spoken by 98 per cent of the population. Māori, is also an official language spoken by the indigenous Māori people.
New Zealanders, or ‘kiwis’ as they are known, have a unique form of slang language such as words like ‘brekkie’ (breakfast), ‘cheers’ (thanks) and ‘g’day’ (hello), which you’ll soon become familiar with.