New Zealand may be a young country, but it’s not devoid of compelling traditions. A culmination of Maori customs and European-based quirks have helped this country carve out its own set of customs. To give you a better idea, here are seven traditions that only Kiwis will be able to understand and relate to.
Taihape is a small town in the centre of the North Island that prides itself on being ‘the gumboot capital of the world‘. Every year since 1985, the community celebrates Gumboot Day — a fun-filled family event that includes the town’s famed gumboot throwing contest. The iconic festival is held on the Tuesday after Easter, and its biggest ambition every year is to break the world record for the longest gumboot throw.
A chocolate carnival on the world’s steepest street
Rugby fans will know this one quite well. The haka, a traditional Maori war dance, has been immortalised by New Zealand’s All Blacks team, though its significance is celebrated in other local customs as well. In the past, the pre-battle war cries and dances were performed to incite fear, and proclaim the strength of Maori warriors. These days, you might see a haka performance if you visit a marae, or if you partake in any special Maori celebrations and rituals.
Not to be confused with a hangi, which is a traditional meal, the hongi is a personal, customary greeting, usually saved up for special occasions. The pressing of noses and foreheads is how this physical greeting is exchanged. This symbolises the passing of the breath of life (‘te ha’ in Maori) from one person to another. A hongi is common practice when welcoming visitors onto Maori grounds, as well as within traditional ceremonies.
Whenever you’re entering a Maori house (whare), meeting place (marae) or tribe (iwi), you will participate in this traditional welcoming ceremony. A powhiri usually begins with three warriors challenging the guests to see if they are coming into their territory in peace, while a kaikaranga (female caller) leads the visitors towards them. Presentations, waiata (traditional songs) and speeches usually follow, and then the powhiri ends with the aforementioned hongi.
Now we get to the customary Maori cooking method. A hangi is prepared underground, using heated rocks that are buried in a pit oven. Food is placed on top of the stones (usually meat is cooked first), and items are covered with flax mats or hessian bags for three hours during the cooking process. This is usually saved for special occasions, though you can have these meals when you partake in various Maori encounters across the country.
All things Kiwiana
While it’s not a ‘tradition’ in the strictest sense, this is something that locals truly understand and cherish. In brief, Kiwiana are cultural relics that helped shape Kiwi identity and the local way of life. This includes the Edmonds Cookbook, which has been teaching New Zealanders to make their favourite dishes for many generations, as well as the classic Buzzy Bee toy, paua shells, Maori carvings, and the ever-contested pavlova.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.