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Don't do these 10 things in New Zealand!

Sep 21, 2022
beautiful picture of New Zealand countryside.


10 Things Not to Do in New Zealand

Visiting New Zealand or moving to New Zealand is an exciting opportunity to explore a rich and vibrant culture that is surrounded by stunning natural spaces. As is the case with any kind of travel, it is important to understand that New Zealand is a country that has its own unique collection of customs. When you arrive, you might be surprised by just how many things are different. To have a great experience, you’ll want to avoid doing these 10 things during your stay!

1.   Don’t Compare New Zealand to Australia

It is fairly common for people who are visiting New Zealand to compare it to Australia. You might even notice some similarities—but calling them to attention might just be in poor taste. While these countries are close, they are not one and the same. They have quite a few differences, and chances are that most local kiwis don’t want to hear their country compared to others. Let New Zealand be New Zealand.

2.   Don’t Be Caught Without Tea

All around the world, different cultures offer guests different experiences when they visit. In New Zealand, drinks are a huge area of focus. Any time that you have guests over, you will want to offer them a drink—but the drink itself might come as a surprise for many Americans.


In New Zealand, it is customary and expected to offer tea to guests when they arrive. So, if you plan to have visitors, make sure that you have tea in the house that you are ready to prepare. It can bring a lot to the experience. Some might enjoy the occasional cup of coffee or other drinks too!

3.   Don’t Drive Over the Speed Limit

In the United States, it is fairly common for people to drive 5 to 10 miles over the speed limit. A lot of the time, local police really won’t bother you if you are driving over the speed limit unless it is fairly extreme. That is not the case in New Zealand.


In New Zealand, many people find out the hard way that when New Zealand sets a speed limit, they mean a speed limit. You might drive over the speed limit and think that you got away with it, but you’ll receive a nice ticket in the mail for it later. There are cameras everywhere that monitor you.

4.   Don’t Disrespect Māori Culture

Māori culture is at the center of everything that makes New Zealand what it is, and these people are deeply respected. While other countries are known to wrongly treat their indigenous residents or to treat them with a lot less respect, that is not the case in New Zealand. Māori culture is everywhere, and it absolutely must be shown respect. People speak the language, and this culture is a point of pride for the country as a whole. Always be respectful. These people have made New Zealand what it is today.

5.   Don’t Enter New Zealand with Anything Dirty in Your Luggage 

New Zealand is an absolutely beautiful place, but natural spaces this wonderful don’t happen by accident. One of the New Zealand benefits is how well-maintained local areas are. The preservation of New Zealand’s ecosystem is something that the government in this area takes very seriously.


When you enter the country, you will have to be reviewed by biosecurity, which means that you don’t want to enter the country with any kind of dirt—even on your shoes. They will not allow you to bring in anything that might expose the country to risks, so make sure that everything in your luggage is clean!

6.   Don’t Wait to Shop

All around the world, cultures have stores that are open 24 hours—and most of us grow to count on that convenience. This is one huge difference that you will see in New Zealand. Out here, it is nearly impossible to find a store that is open after 6 o’clock at night. Some places stay open a little later on weekends, and strangely enough, many establishments stay open late on Thursdays. Plan accordingly!

7.   Don’t Miss Restaurant Hours

In New Zealand, local restaurants run on their own time. Most restaurants don’t open until 5:30 in the evening, and most cafes close by 3:00 in the afternoon. For that small gap between those hours, your food choices are going to be severely limited. Fast food options (American restaurants) will be open, but most local places won’t be.

8.   Don’t Expect Chain Restaurants

Chain restaurants outside of fast-food places really are not common when living in New Zealand. This means that every time you visit a new city, you should expect to eat at new restaurants. There will be similar kinds of restaurants in most places, but they will be privately owned and can offer different experiences. It helps to look online to check out reviews before you go, but don’t hesitate to be adventurous. Every meal might not be the best you ever had—but it can still be a part of the experience!

9.   Don’t Try to Tip

In America, there is a huge culture around tipping. That does not carry over into life in New Zealand. Whether you’re visiting a hotel, hairdresser, or restaurant, tipping is not normal or expected. You might notice higher prices—but remember, there’s no tip to add on top.

10.  Don’t Expect Crowds

There are not a lot of people in New Zealand, so there really aren’t any crowds. If you go to a beach and it has a ton of people, you can always just go to another one for a less crowded space. Plenty of beaches will be empty during your visit. You can really enjoy many of these beautiful locations in private.

Final Tip

When you arrive in New Zealand and order a cup of coffee, don’t be surprised to hear someone say, “sweet as, I’ll get that for you.” They really are saying sweet as, not anything inappropriate. It can certainly catch new visitors by surprise!


To learn more about life in New Zealand, explore my content and services at Kiwiamericans, or watch the complete YouTube video on this topic.

Thinking of a move to New Zealand?  This training hub is a must.  You get training on all the details your need to move to New Zealand and set up life here. You also get access to a community of others just like you and LIVE Q and A's with Kiwiamericans!



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