New Zealand, with a population of Māori, European, Pacific Island, and Asian cultures, is truly a melting pot. "Kiwis" are friendly, open and relaxed, with a can-do attitude toward life and a love of visitors. New Zealanders have a passion for the outdoors, sports and the water. They are renowned worldwide for yachting, kayaking, windsurfing and rowing. Hiking, camping, fishing, and bush & beach walks are other favorite outdoor pursuits, while rugby is the most popular spectator sport. Getting to know New Zealand's friendly people will be a highlight of your vacation!
New Zealand has three official languages: English, Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language. English is the main language you'll hear. New Zealand English is closer to British English than American.
The majority of the New Zealanders are Christian, including Māori Christian, with other worldwide religions represented in smaller numbers.
New Zealand's culture is a unique mix of the British settler traditions and those of the indigenous Māori. There is almost always a Māori ceremonial element to official, civic and sporting events, and Māori words and phrases are sprinkled throughout the language. You may be greeted with a cheerful kia ora, "hello" in Māori. The head is sacred to the Māori, and so touching it should be avoided. In the marae, you might experience the hongi or touching of noses, the traditional Māori welcome. In general, greetings are casual, usually just a handshake and a smile. Treat everyone you meet in New Zealand with courtesy and respect, and you will be repaid in kind.
New Zealand's cuisine has been influenced by Europe, Asia and the Pacific islands of Polynesia, a blend that has created a unique range of flavors. Meals feature seafood including Marlborough green-lipped mussels, bluff oysters and whitebait, lamb, venison, tropical and subtropical fruits, vegetables, and a variety of spices. New Zealand is also home to several world-class cheese makers, famous for blue cheese and creamy soft cheeses. And no visit would be complete without having fish and chips, a traditional New Zealand takeaway meal. For those with a sweet tooth, don't skip a dish of Hokey Pokey ice cream - vanilla ice cream strewn with pieces of honeycomb - or a slice of Pavlova, a meringue dessert topped with fresh fruit.
You'll want to attend a Māori hangi during your visit. At a hangi, the food is cooked in the traditional manner in a large hole in the ground. Stones in the hole are heated by fire, then the fire is extinguished so that the stones steam. A sealed basket containing the food is place on the stones, then the hole is filled in and the food left to cook for several hours. A hangi feast typically includes kumara or sweet potatoes, pumpkin, chicken, pork, lamb and seafood. It will also feature exciting Māori entertainment.
New Zealand's wine industry has a reputation for excellent vintages, winning awards at some of the world's best wine shows. You won't want to pass up a glass or two with dinner or while watching the sun set over the ocean.
New Zealand, like America, has undergone a coffee revolution. The popularity of coffee has new cafés and coffee-roasting outlets springing up all over the country. So don't worry if you need your morning (or afternoon) fix!