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20 “Normal” New Zealand Things that Shock Americans Living in New Zealand

Sep 28, 2022
sheep in a pasture in the New zealand countryside.  Talking about 20 normal new zealand things that may surprise you!


Whether you are travelling to New Zealand for a trip or to make the decision to move here, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are a few changes that you should expect. Some of the changes that come with New Zealand living can be downright shocking to Americans when they first hop off the plane. In this article, we are going to discuss a few of the things you might see while living in New Zealand that might surprise you.

1.   Beans on Toast for Breakfast (or spaghetti)

Every country has its own food preferences, but this standard New Zealand breakfast might just come as a surprise. Baked beans on toast made using white bread is incredibly common—and it is a good way to get some early morning nutrients. If your Airbnb stay comes with breakfast included, don’t be surprised when this hits your table.

2.   Fruit Stands

The level of trust that New Zealand locals have can be a significant change from American culture. One area where you will see this is in their fruit stands. It is very common to see stands all around New Zealand selling anything from fruit and eggs to spices—and even manure! Most of these stands are left completely unattended and just have the prices and a box to put your money. Free stuff is not one of the local New Zealand benefits, so make sure you put your money in the box.

3.   People Leave Work on Time

Kiwis take their work hours very seriously, and when they say that work ends at four, they mean it! It is completely common for people to stop working right in the middle of a task—even if it will only take them a few minutes to complete it. The end of a work shift is something that everyone honors, which can be a large contrast to America’s hustle culture.

4.   People Walk Barefoot

In the United States, walking around barefoot is likely to get you a few stares from the people around you. In New Zealand, this is considered completely normal. Don’t be caught off guard when you see people walking in the streets—or even in stores—without any shoes or socks. Living in New Zealand can be a lot more relaxed, even when it comes to dress code.

5.   No One Asks What You Do for a Living

Culturally, New Zealand residents are very humble, and this shows in everyday conversation. Americans are used to asking what someone does for a living right when they meet them, but you won’t find that here. In New Zealand, people care more about the quality of a person than they do what they do for a living, so they avoid bragging about jobs in most cases. It’s not even considered normal to ask what someone does initially.

6.   Fish and Chips on the Beach

You might have tried a picnic or two at the beach, but the popular U.S. sentiment is that sand and food do not mix. Well, in New Zealand—they do. It is very common for fish and chips to be sold and eaten at the beach. It even comes wrapped in papers that protect it from the nearby sand. New Zealand life certainly has a way of getting people out of their comfort zones!

7.   Pedestrian Crossings

Pedestrian crossings or crosswalks are a very normal feature in New Zealand like they are in most places. What might surprise you is how people treat them. Locals in New Zealand fully trust that they have the right of way when they use crosswalks—and many of them don’t even look before crossing the road. Life in New Zealand gets a lot more stressful when you fail to look for pedestrians. It is important to be prepared for this to keep everyone safe.

8.   White Bread as a Base

White bread is a popular feature for meals in this country. You will see a lot of things served on white bread—like sausage with tomato sauce or ketchup or a cheese toastie. This is a cost-effective and delicious food option, but it can be a bit shocking the first few times.


If you need to buy something after you arrive, you are going to hear the cashier say, is that EFTPOS? It means electronic funds transfer point of sale—this basically means a debit charge. Be prepared so you aren’t caught surprised by this question.

10.   Bank Transfer

In America, you never give your bank details out, but this is a standard practice in New Zealand—even when shopping online. You will find that giving out your bank details is a quick and easy way to pay out here. Living in New Zealand comes with some really simple upgrades.

11.    Coffees Are Stronger Here

In the United States, coffees come with one shot of espresso as a standard. In New Zealand, the standard is two shots (unless you go to Starbucks). This means that the coffee can be very strong if you are not used to it.

12.    Camps, Retreats, and DIY Fun

New Zealand lacks the liability concerns and the suing potential that you are probably used to in America. This means that when you visit camps or retreats, you will see a lot of New Zealand ingenuity at work. They will build slip-and-slides, climbing walls, and other fun activities for people to play on because they aren’t as heavily regulated—and this isn’t a bad thing. The New Zealand lifestyle is a fun one.

13.   Eating Out of Café Glass Cabinets

For Americans, food that is seen behind glass is often just a display. However, in New Zealand, it is common for you to eat the food sitting behind the glass. This food will be pulled from the glass display, heated or prepared with a side, and handed right to you.

14.   Hanging Clothes Outside is Normal

The standard practice for drying laundry in New Zealand is to hang it outside (or inside during poor weather). It is not considered common to have a dryer—and some might even judge you for it.

15.   The Eggs Are Beautiful

The eggs in New Zealand are really something else. They exclusively sell brown eggs, and the yolks of the eggs are orange and picturesque. They are absolutely delicious and certainly look good enough to eat!

16.  Toilets Have Two Buttons

New Zealand toilets bring a whole new look for Americans. They have low water levels to save on water and are usually fitted with two buttons on top. One is for a softer flush, and one is for a more powerful flush when needed.

17.  The Outlets Have Switches

New Zealand is all about being eco-friendly, and this shows in their outlets in the home. Outlets in this country all have switches on them, so you can turn them on and off. It is completely normal to have these turned off when they are not in use.

18.  Mufti Day

Some schools in New Zealand hold Mufti Day, which is a day where kids are allowed to pay to wear their own clothes instead of their school uniforms. This is used as a fundraiser for schools and can be a fun opportunity for kids.

19.   Worm Wee

Stores, fundraisers, and craft fairs alike tend to sell worm wee, which is a type of fertilizer for the garden. It might sound like worm urine, but it isn’t. It can really help your garden to thrive though!

20.  They Don’t Sell Eggnog

Around Christmastime, most Americans look forward to the annual sale of eggnog, but that is not a standard offering in New Zealand. In the long list of New Zealand pros and cons, this is one of the few cons. You won’t be able to find eggnog during the holiday season unless you put in the effort to make it yourself at home. However, you can enjoy some local New Zealand treats, like Christmas crackers and mince pies! 


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

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