Blog Pile

New Zealand: Believe It or Not!

For the benefit of my fellow American travelers, I am sharing some key learnings that may save them embarrassment, shame, or international ridicule when visiting this beautiful place. Note- this is very much not to be taken seriously! I am writing this on the plane back before it all starts to fade away to the memory banks.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT Kiwis are many different things A “kiwi” may refer to the flightless nearly extinct bird that is in severe endangerment from introduced mammals. Or it may mean the fruit, and sometimes that might be a yellow fruit, not the green ones we are used to in American grocery stories. Or, most likely, a kiwi is a New Zealander, and it is said with great pride.

One most important transportation factor, is that kiwis actually drive on the LEFT side of the roads (the will say we drive on the “wrong” side). BELIEVE IT OR NOT– their cars actually have steering wheels on the RIGHT side of their cars. This cause much confusion when a kiwi gives you a ride in their car, as invariably you will aim to get in what feels like the passenger side. Expect a quizzical look and a query of, “Thinking of driving, mate?”

And, my fellow Americans, BELIEVE IT OR NOT the majority of cars here are compact and fuel efficient– where are all the Escalades and Hummers?

Worse, you will nearly always find yourself looking the wrong way when crossing intersections. BELIEVE IT OR NOT kiwi drivers will actually stop and marvel at your confusion as they let you stumble across the street.

And on the roads, you will find few intersections with four way stop signs, but many circular “roundabouts”, which BELIEVE IT OR NOT make the transitions at intersections very fluid moving as drivers obey the “Give Way” signs. It helps that most kiwis are polite drivers.

All street sign distances and speed limit signs are in kilometers and kilometers per hours. BELIEVE IT OR NOT the USA is about the only country in the world that is not metric. Besides you get more kilometers per dollar… er per mile. You are more than welcome to go 100 on the “motorway”.

Should you be involved in a car accident, your dented car may be taken to a “panelbeater” for body repair. BELIEVE IT OR NOT this name does not describe their methods of body work.

At home, many kiwis own electric clothes dryers but BELIEVE IT OR NOT they seem to be sworn an oath to never use them. Apparently, hanging clothes on the line is a grand tradition or perhaps a few days of rinse in the rain and dry again make their clothes hold up longer/

You will find kiwi paper money much more pretty than our greenbacks, and you will get a whole lot more of them than the dollars you turn in. BELIEVE IT OR NOT, there are no dollar bills, but one dollar and two dollar coins. Moreover, with too many of these dollars and 50 cent pieces, each which ways about 5 pounds (and you better learn how to convert those to kilos), you will soon find your pants dragging on the ground. This is not fashionable.

Be prepared for a lot of tea. BELIEVE IT OR NOT kiwis take mid morning and mid afternoon breaks for tea. And on top of that, when they say it is “tea” time it may also mean it is meal time. I never sorted that one out properly.And speaking of beverages, BELIEVE IT OR NOT there is no such thing as a coffee- you have to specify a “long black”, “short black:”, or “flat white”… Beer is plentiful. And good.

Sports are big here. BELIEVE IT OR NOT someone has not stolen all of the backboards here, it is an all different sport from basketball called “Netball” where the ball is only passed, and gently launched into a basket. Another popular game is cricket, which is a very simple game BELIEVE IT OR NOT (I have no idea how it is played, so definitely NOT). And then there is “rugby”… which only has passing similarity to American Football in that it is played in large stadiums filled with rabid fans fueled by beer. Beyond that, everything is different. BELIEVE IT OR NOT rugby is a religion, and beyond that, like coffee, there is no “plain” rugby, there is rugby league and rugby union (never mix and match) and even touch rugby. BELIEVE IT OR NOT before the Kiwi team takes the field, there is a ritual chant called a “haka”- that was rather cool to watch.

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, kiwis do not watch or even receive all of the American television shows- no fanaticism of “Friends” or so called “reality” shows. They have their own flavor of soap operas and sitcoms. Our news stories tended to always be part of their major radio and tv news broadcasts, though we could hardly return the favor.

Kiwis have great confusion over our political system. There is no BELIEVE IT OR NOT there.

Finally, as my brain cells are turning to kumura, I have to say, completely that kiwis are some of the best gracious, fun loving, genuine people any where. For this one just BELIEVE IT.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I loved this! Kiwis love to hear about people’s impressions of NZ.

    I would have to dispute a few things … “Or it may mean the fruit” – we wouldn’t use the word Kiwi to refer to the fruit, it’s always “Kiwi Fruit” (Kiwi by itself refers only to the person or the bird).

    “kiwis do not watch or even receive all of the American television shows” … we do have a few of our own programmes, but American programmes are very popular (maybe more so with younger people) – especially sitcoms and crime/forensic dramas.

    Everything else was scarily accurate.

    You should now be ready to try the Kiwiness Quiz:

  2. Thanks Raewyn for setting the record straight! You know it would not be something written by Alan if it did not need a correction! Now I am off to practice my quiz….

  3. Pingback: CogDog(kiwi)Blog

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