Ten fun facts about New Zealand for Americans

Kia ora!

It’s hard to believe I have only a week left in New Zealand out of the month allotted. I’ve had a GREAT time so far. It’s a gorgeous land, and everyone has been super friendly and hospitable—save the woman who runs Noah’s Ark Backpackers in Greymouth, who was rude and didn’t seem to like Americans.

I’d recommend a visit to New Zealand highly, and it has special interest for biologists because of its plethora of weird plants and animals that evolved largely in isolation, though, like the government and residents, I worry about the disappearance of flora and fauna because of introduced species. I worry, too, that the country will get too popular, for part of the charm of this land is its large expanse of forest and uninhabited land. The population of the entire country is just 4.5 million—half that of New York City alone.

New Zealand wants and deserves more tourism, but I hope it doesn’t get overrun. Even the “tourist towns” aren’t that touristy, and have the special New Zealand aura of America’s Wild West, with their small shops and shopfronts overhanging the sidewalks.

Anyway, at my instigation, Heather Hastie helped me compile a list of “Ten Fun Facts about New Zealand”.  If you think they’re erroneous, take them up with her (#1 is mine)!

1).  New Zealand restrooms (always called “toilets” here), whether they be in a public park or a bar, are spotlessly clean. This is a great pleasure to an American, particularly one who’s spent a lot of time in India. New Zealand is a very clean country!

2). A popular phrase here, which I’ve heard a few times, is “sweet as“, which is the Kiwi equivalent of “She’ll be right” [“Everything’s great”] used in Australia.

3). I’ve seen this in Taumaranui, but Heather tells me that it’s common in small towns in New Zealand and even in the outskirts of larger towns: people will go out shopping barefoot.  Heather adds that if you go out in the morning you’ll sometimes see people wearing their pajamas while shopping.

4). During the spring and summer in the Southern Hemisphere, New Zealand is first country to see the Sun on a given date: it’s the land closest to the west of the International Date Line line. The first town to see the sun is Gisborne, where Heather was brought up. During the fall and winter here, though, Samoa (and its town Apia) is the first to see sunrise. (Samoa moved across the International Dateline in 2011.)

5). In 1893, New Zealand became the world’s first country to give women the right to vote. In that same year, Elizabeth Yates also became the first woman to be mayor of any city in the British Commonwealth: Onehunga.

6). From 1999-2016, New Zealand had prime ministers who were atheists: Labour PM Helen Clark and National Party PM John Key. One thing an American notices immediately about New Zealand is its refreshing lack of the religiosity that permeates our country.

7).  New Zealand is the only country in world to have had a transgender member of parliament, Georgina Beyer. Born George Bertrand, Beyer was a teenage prostitute in Wellington, and then, after transitioning, became the world’s first openly transgender mayor—of the town of Carterton.

8).  Although the Australian and New Zealand accents sound similar to me, Heather says they’re not. A diagnostic word is that for the numeral “6”, which, she says, is pronounced (to my ear) like “sex” (or “secks”) in Australia and a cross between “sucks” and “six” in New Zealand.

Also, I’m told Aussies put “y”s on the ends of words while Kiwis do not. An Aussie may, for instance, say “I’m putting on a cardy [cardigan] to take the doggy for a walky,” while a Kiwi would say, “I’m putting on a cardigan to take the dog for a walk.”

Both Aussies and Kiwis say “mate,” but Aussies also use the word “matey,” which is much rarer in New Zealand.

In social settings, Aussies will often abbreviate your name automatically, even if you don’t like it. “Jerry,” for instance, would become “Jer” (sometimes “Jezzer”!) in Australia, and “Judith”—the name of Heather’s mom—would become “Joo.” Kiwis don’t do that except for very close friends and family members. In Australia, Lawrence Krauss would become “Larry,” a usage he doesn’t like at all.

9). The world’s steepest residential street is Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand, with a 35% grade at the top. Wikipedia says this:

The 161.2 metres (529 ft) long top section climbs 47.2 metres (155 ft) vertically, an average gradient of 1:3.41. At its maximum, about 70 metres (230 ft) below the top, the slope of Baldwin Street is about 1:2.86 (19° or 35%). That is, for every 2.86 metres travelled horizontally, the elevation changes by 1 metre.

Some photos:

And a tilted picture to show the gradient:

10).  I asked Heather what the Kiwi stereotype of Americans is. After some prodding, she reluctantly divulged that it is this: “Fat, loud, and thinking they’re more important than other people because they are Americans.” But of course that’s a stereotype, and I haven’t found any anti-American sentiment in this country (except for the woman in Greymouth). That also happens to be the stereotype of Americans in European countries like France.

BuzzFeed has its own 69 fun facts about New Zealand, but I didn’t look at it before I wrote this.

Come visit! And if you’re a Kiwi, add your own fun fact.

Kea Ora


  1. John
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Great post, and that street….holy ceiling cat!

    • MarkMyWords
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

      Pittsburghers would dispute that. Canton Avenue in Pittsburgh, while shorter, has areas where the grade is 37%.


      • Posted April 9, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        Wikipedia has a section on disputes over this street, listing several contenders.

    • darrelle
      Posted April 10, 2017 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      They should have an annual downhill skateboarding competition on that street.

      • gormenghastly
        Posted April 10, 2017 at 8:24 am | Permalink

        In 2001 a girl was killed when she tried coasting down the street in a wheelie bin (large plastic rubbish bin with wheels, just large enough to accommodate a human).
        Think of it as a skateboard with a plastic case. Not recommended.

      • phoffman56
        Posted April 10, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

        With decent pavement, an uphill rollerski (nordic/X-country ski trainers, in case they’re novel to you) race or time-trial would be fun, even if nausea generating.

  2. Joseph Carrion
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jerry

    LOL, The reason the woman who runs Noah’s Ark Backpackers in Greymouth, was rude is because she may have known you’re an atheist.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, it says on the website that it used to be a monastery – I’m surprised you even gained admittance!

      Nobody was mayor of a British Commonwealth city in 1893 – that would have been THE EMPIRE (The sun never sets and all that! Cue the star wars music. Commonwealth was formed in 1949)

      That is a hell of an angle for a street, I’d hate to see what an ice storm would do to traffic

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 9, 2017 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

        Re the monastery, current use does not necessarily reflect previous use. (Though I guess you’re joking).

        I once stayed in Addington Jail in Christchurch

        – because it was closest to the railway station. I was highly apprehensive that it’d be depressing and I’d get claustrophobia but it was actually very pleasant. Probably because *I* had the key to the cell door in my pocket.


    • Posted April 9, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      She didn’t have the slightest idea who I was!

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

        Waht? you don’t wear your “Censor of the Year” billboard when travelling?

  3. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Great fun. I especially related to #3 since I will go to our local supermarket in my jammies plus fuzzy slippers.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      Yes to #3, I do it all the time. (Though I do wear sandals if I’m going to catch a bus or a train – in case some apparatchik squawks about ‘safety’).

      Sadly, it seems to me, modern yoofs can’t go anywhere without their trendy big-brand-named saturation-advertised hyper-expensive made-by-slave-labour-in-Thailand sports shoes.


      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 9, 2017 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        When I was in Vegas last month, I had to buy Sketchers because my Keens didn’t have enough metatarsal support and I had huge blisters and pain in my foot bones even though I was wearing orthotics. 😦

        I have a theory that I was cloned and my genetics are 20 years older than my age.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 9, 2017 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

        Bare feet I mean, not fuzzy slippers. Gotta draw the line somewhere 😉


    • darrelle
      Posted April 10, 2017 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      My kids would fit right in with the barefoot thing. It’s very difficult to get them to put on shoes for anything. It has happened more than once that we’ve gone out to eat only to arrive and find out that one of the kids forgot to bring shoes.

  4. Posted April 9, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Oh my, Dr. Coyne. My husband and I laughed at that. We have a daughter in Australia – married to an Aussie – and have visited many times. It’s just as you say! Hubby says they must be the abbreviation capital of the world!
    Of course, we’ve always wanted to visit New Zealand; now we REALLY want to go. Enjoying your posts from there. So glad you got to meet Heather. 🙂

    • Gordon
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      Aussies also like adding “o”s to shortened words
      “Ambo” for ambulance staff
      ‘Avo’ for avocado
      “Servo” for service station etc.

      That steepest street also has an annual Jaffa race (round orange sweet about the size of a marble) ,https://cadbury.co.nz/event/cadbury-jaffa-race-worlds-steepest-street/. – which might become defunct as Cadbury are leaving NZ

      • Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        The funniest one we heard while there was when someone was describing how drunk someone else got – he said, “She was PARA!” (paralyzed) 🙂

        • Veroxitatis
          Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

          More likely to be derived from the British expression paralytic.

  5. AdamK
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    7 is wrong. Poland also had a transgender member of parliament: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Grodzka

  6. Posted April 9, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I have this enormously positive image of New Zealand in my mind–a country of beautiful scenery, fascinating flora and fauna, and fine people who produce quiet modest heroes like Sir Edmund Hillary. I am afraid to visit in case I’m disillusioned, but it sounds from PCC’s trip that I won’t be.

    • Posted April 9, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      You will NOT be disillusioned. I had that same image, and it’s only been reinforced.

  7. Veroxitatis
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Re 3 – I thought that happened only in Wal-Mart. Perhaps I have listened too often to Onision!

  8. Posted April 9, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    That also happens to be the stereotype of Americans in European countries like France.

    One has to admit that the election of Donald Trump hasn’t exactly helped the stereotypical image of Americans among Europeans, since Trump could be regarded as embodying an exaggerated version of all of the stereotypical American’s worst faults.

    • Claudia Baker
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I have thought that too. He personifies all of the most disagreeable stereotypical views of Americans. We (in Canada) have laughed about that stereotype for years, and joke that American backpackers should always sew a Canadian flag onto their backpacks.

      We’re not laughing anymore.

      • Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        That’s not a joke – when our son backpacked across Europe, he stayed with young Americans in hostels who did just that; sewed Canadian flags on their backpacks.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

          If Canadians catch Americans doing that there are fist fights!

          • Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

            Ha, ha – well, he enjoyed the Americans he met on his trip; he mostly hung out with them everywhere he went as they all seemed to travel to the same spots.

            • Posted April 11, 2017 at 1:05 am | Permalink

              We didn’t sew Canadian flags on our gear, but my husband and I wore Tilly hats when we traveled out of the country. Two oldsters in Tillys were usually treated well.

              • Posted April 11, 2017 at 7:35 am | Permalink

                They probably thought figured you were loaded – Tilley hats (made in Canada, eh)are expensive! 🙂

        • Veroxitatis
          Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

          One is treated far better in Continental Europe as a Scot than would be the case were one English. It definitely pays to display an Ecosse or Alba sticker on one’s car.

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:01 am | Permalink

            Or wear a kilt if hitch-hiking.

          • Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:43 am | Permalink

            Agreed. I live in France and am Scottish born. I always play the Scots Card which I call the Jocker.

        • Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

          Americans did that during the Vietnam war, too, but if I hitchhiked here (I planned to, but didn’t) I would say I’m a Yank on my sign. New Zealanders are friendly and really do like Americans.

          • Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

            When I’m in Australia, most people assume I’m American; our daughter says it happens to her routinely. (although my husband thinks she’s acquired an Aussie accent in the last nine years) I haven’t found that anyone is unfriendly. In fact, that’s one of the things I love about the country – the hospitable nature of the people. Oh, and most of them say, “You should go to New Zealand – you’d love it!”

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted April 9, 2017 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

              Most likely your daughter will sound American to Australians but Australian to others. My mother has lived in Canada for almost 50 years now and Canadians think she sounds foreign but don’t know from where, Kiwis think she sounds “American” and I’ve never noticed a different accent from her at all. To me, she sounds like everyone else but I hear accents that differ from my own on everyone else so well that I can hear if they’ve lived in Canada for an extended period of time. I’d love to know what blinds me to her voice but not others.

              • Michael Waterhouse
                Posted April 9, 2017 at 8:38 pm | Permalink

                I’m an Aussie and my farther was from Yorkshire, where there is a strong accent.
                I never noticed any accent at all either.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 9, 2017 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

            They usually don’t believe Canadians aren’t Americans. If you convince them they ask you “how do you get along with them yanks?”

          • gormenghastly
            Posted April 10, 2017 at 3:30 am | Permalink

            I’d say New Zealanders like the kind of Americans who come to New Zealand. We don’t like the sort who stay in the US and don’t care about anything beyond the borders.

    • David Duncan
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      The French just don’t like Americans, and I understand why, to a point. Enough of them are loud, pushy and don’t try to learn the language. They are very friendly to visitors who, ah, accomodate them. Even just learning a few words helps.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

        Yeah but the French don’t really like any English speakers. 😉

        • David Duncan
          Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

          I hear they even snigger at the way Québécois pronounce French… Very hard to please.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 9, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

            Sometimes though often they really can understand québécois French. A friend from France can’t at all understand the Québécois but he’s not really got an head for language.

        • Posted April 9, 2017 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

          When I visited France I did not find this to be so. People were friendly, even in the face of my terrible French. But, I didn’t go to Paris, and I hear things may be different there. I was mostly in rural areas of the west and south.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted April 9, 2017 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

            I was making a joke about the rivalry between England and France.

          • Posted April 9, 2017 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

            Achrachno: Yes, that was my experience the two times I was in France. Even in Paris, if I went to “off tourist” areas, people were friendly and helpful, and would switch to English as soon as I tried the little French I know. The only time I saw the alleged snobbery was one weekend when many restaurants were closed and I was forced to go to one in the tourist section of Paris.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted April 9, 2017 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

              Moi aussi.

              Though everybody* in the accommodation / retail trade speaks English, as does anybody in information kiosks etc.
              *to a first approximation

              Since their English was almost invariably better than my French, I hardly ever got to try French.

              I find it a little deflating (though convenient) that English is so widespread.


            • gormenghastly
              Posted April 10, 2017 at 3:34 am | Permalink

              My repeated experience there (several visits over 20 years) was that if I opened a conversation with my fairly pathetic French, they would smile and reply in English. But if I started with English they would reply in French and give me the brushoff.

    • Posted April 10, 2017 at 6:39 am | Permalink

      I think that in this respect, some European voters should look at themselves first.

    • Posted April 10, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

      Yup, Trump, to most of the world, is a very archetypal American from what I can guess. I think the only exception is that he’s not a religious fundamentalist.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        When he sees advantage, the Bible will get well and truly thumped.

        • Posted April 12, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

          Any sufficiently advanced psychopathic “playing along” will become the real thing? Yes, I guess so.

  9. David Duncan
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    “Although the Australian and New Zealand accents sound similar to me, Heather says they’re not.”

    If you want Fish and Chips in NZ be sure to ask for “Fush and Chups”.

    IMHO most of point 8 is incorrect.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:05 am | Permalink

      “Fush and Chups” would work in Glasgow.

      • Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:46 am | Permalink

        Normally called a ‘fush supper’ regardless of the time of day.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

          An “[anything] supper” is an [anything] with a serving of chips. Regardless of the time of day or night. Otherwise, if you ask for an [anything], you’re likely to get just that, any time of day.

  10. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    For #1 I notice there are a lot of public restrooms. The amallest of towns will have a map of the town and restrooms. In Canada, we have to find a Tim Hortons and then, if you feel bad about it, buy something which can cause a vicious cycle of you keep buying coffee. I suspect some of this lack of restrooms is from it being too cold and expensive with keeping plumbing from freezing then servicing the restrooms when it gets cold.

    Note also that I wanted to write “washroom” above and have to remind myself when travelling f in the US to say “restroom” lest I betray my Canadianness. In NZ i say “toilets” which sounds rude to Canadians and Americans.

    I noticed the barefoot thing all over NZ. People even grocery shop barefoot and kids go to school that way. People are barefoot even in winter and I used to be like this (except in winter in Canada) but my feet are so messed I’m in pain without orthotics even at home so I’m jealous of people who can pull this off.

    The stereotype of Americans is the same in Canada with the added lament that Canadians share a similar culture but Americans know nothing about Canadians so whenever Canadians are mentioned on American media positively, we get super excited. There are lots of comedy written on Canadian TV about this. We also figure America will one day invade and subjugate us for our natural resources, especially fresh water and there are dramas written about that.

    I’ve seen a few jokes about Australian and NZ accents. One is from the American show “Modern Family” where a joke is made about someone standing on his deck. Another on Flight of the Concords where they end up in a “race war” because a guy who runs a fruit stand thinks they are Australian.

    Canadian and NZ share a lot around identity issues because they are overshadowed by Australia and confused with Australians while the same happens to Canada with America.

    Apologies for any typos. I have nerve pain in my face right now and typed this in bed on my iPhone

    • Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Australians are quite baffled by the fact that New Zealanders exist at all. It should only be us down there, not these other blokes who suddenly appear out of nowhere.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted April 9, 2017 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        And beat you at rugby!!! 😀

        • George
          Posted April 9, 2017 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

          Jerry was wrong about the “refreshing lack of the religiosity” in New Zealand. Rugby is the national religion of NZ. And they all worship at the altar of the All Blacks.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 9, 2017 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

            ‘cept me. I’m not only an atheist but an iconoclast in that respect. 🙂


            • Stuartg
              Posted April 10, 2017 at 2:07 am | Permalink

              Agree with you!

              I’ve heard that rugby is a game played by men with odd shaped balls.

              For some reason a lot of kiwis seem to worship those odd shaped balls.

              • allanstr
                Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

                Go the Highlanders!

        • phil
          Posted April 10, 2017 at 1:24 am | Permalink

          Sometimes. Which nation was the first to win the Webb Ellis Cup twice?

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted April 10, 2017 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

            🙂 And which was the first to win it three times, and win it twice in a row? And which has beaten the other country the most often?

            And Pavlova is ours too! 🙂

        • Posted April 10, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

          Exactly.And generally inhabit a moral high ground that we Australians can never attain to. I admit it. We all would.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

            But would an Australian bother with all the effort of ascending to the moral high ground when there’s a barbie to be shrimped?

    • Derek Freyberg
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I think the AU/NZ and US/CA rivalries are quite similar.
      The joke I heard as a child was of the migration from NZ to Australia in the late 1800s, raising the average IQ of both countries. Of course the Australians tell it the other way around.
      NZ English has more British (or distinctively NZ) and fewer American word usages than Australian English, though that’s fading. I don’t know enough about Australian accents to say whether there is only one; while there is a NZ accent, there are some regional variations, especially in the south of the South Island.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted April 9, 2017 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

        NZ PM Rob Muldoon used to tell that joke in speeches: A NZer who emigrates to Aus increases the average IQ of both countries.

        And yeah, I think the US/Can and NZ/Aus thing are quite similar too.

        • phoffman56
          Posted April 9, 2017 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

          Also a Norway/Sweden joke, my friends say.

        • phil
          Posted April 10, 2017 at 1:25 am | Permalink

          Funny, on this side of the ditch it goes the other way around.

        • David Harper
          Posted April 10, 2017 at 1:53 am | Permalink

          Apropos the “average IQ” joke, I first heard it in the “Scotsman who moves to England” variant. From a Scotsman, naturally.

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:08 am | Permalink


          • Posted April 10, 2017 at 6:47 am | Permalink

            I should adapt the joke to my country and tell it as often as I can. Because we have afflicted ourselves with an emigration culture which praises leaving the country as an indicator of intelligence and success.

      • Gordon
        Posted April 9, 2017 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

        NZ English also has one of the highest (if not the highest) levels of indigenous vocabulary incorporated into it. Gerry, hope you got some kai (food) after the hui (meeting) with the host’s whanau (extended family).

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 10, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

          And didn’t get a big puku after all the kai.

    • David Duncan
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      “Note also that I wanted to write “washroom” above and have to remind myself when travelling f in the US to say “restroom” lest I betray my Canadianness. In NZ i say “toilets” which sounds rude to Canadians and Americans.”

      Just say “loo”.

      • phoffman56
        Posted April 9, 2017 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

        The Parisian puzzled by the enquiring North American tourist has been overheard to enquire: “Why do you seek one—Do you need to lie down?” If rather a more northerly tourist from our neck of the woods, the last half puzzled-French-person-question would have been “…—What’s dirty?”

        And my north-east of England friend would seek a “Shitter”, not a “Loo”, IIRC! He is however atypical in many ways, and I wouldn’t want to saddle Geordies with habitual impoliteness.

        Actually the old British “Public Convenience” had a more polite odour of candour, as is the Parisian’s “Pissoir”, again IIRC.

        It is the age of plain-speaking after all.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 9, 2017 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

        Except in Otorohanga, where they are multilingual –


        • Mark Sturtevant
          Posted April 9, 2017 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

          Marvelous!! 😄

        • gormenghastly
          Posted April 10, 2017 at 3:37 am | Permalink

          No “rest room” though – obviously this town doesn’t like Americans :-p

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 10, 2017 at 3:42 am | Permalink

            Well it’s not an exhaustive list… 😉


        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

          I notice, with a frisson of pleasure, that there is a Little House on the Privy. As there always should have been.

      • Lurker111
        Posted April 10, 2017 at 7:04 am | Permalink

        ‘In NZ i say “toilets” which sounds rude to Canadians and Americans.’

        In my high school days (1965-70) we used the French pronunciation: twa-lay. As in, “I’m going to the twa-lay.” 🙂

        Much more elegant.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:14 am | Permalink

      Your mention of Canadian TV comedy reminded me of Due South, one of the funniest programmes I’ve ever watched, playing as it did on the stereotypical differences between Canadians and USians.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 10, 2017 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Canadians often mock the stereotypes of Americans and how Americans see Canadians. There is a whole bit on a comedy show here called “This Hour has 22 Minutes” where a pretend Canadian journalist talks to an American who makes fun of Canada the whole time calling us lots of names and saying how crap we are compared to the US.

    • Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:49 am | Permalink

      Re: toilets = restrooms, be sure to visit Kawakawa and see (and use) the bog designed by Friederich Hundertwasser.

    • Posted April 10, 2017 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Buy a *donut* in the TH, not the coffee, which contains a diuretic. 🙂 (To use the washroom, I mean.)

  11. Derek Freyberg
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    1) If you haven’t yet been to Kawakawa and have the chance, take a look at the Hundertwasser Toilets on the main street: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundertwasser_Toilets

    2) “She’ll be right” was common when I was growing up in NZ. There was even a song with the chorus starting “She’ll be right mate, she’ll be right; don’t worry mate, she’ll be right”. And I remember a poster with a cartoon of a gormless looking guy labelled “Sheel B. Wright – chief accident causer”, as a warning not to be careless. “Sweet as” is much more recent.

    6) As a Kiwi resident in the US, I’d say not only is there much less religiosity in NZ but there is also much less jingoism. Kiwis describe (or at least used to describe) the country among themselves as “Godzone” (“God’s own” country), but wrapping-oneself-in-the-flag “patriotism” – have you ever seen a US politician without a flag pin in his lapel? – doesn’t occur.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      I think NZ is one of the most atheist countries according to something I read and can’t remember, which now sounds like something Trump said. Funny that all my religious relies live there and if I visit it i bring the atheism 🙂

      • Derek Freyberg
        Posted April 9, 2017 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think the “Godzone” had any real reference to God, any more than “bless you” (originally, of course “God bless you”) – it was just a reflection on the typical Kiwi’s view of NZ as the best country in the world in which to live.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Here is a variant in this cemmercial with the “you’ll be right”. The Aussie dig is cute.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted April 9, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        “DIY – it’s in our DNA” ?

        Sadly, it isn’t any more. How many people still fix their own cars if they break down? The number-8-wire* culture is now mostly a folk myth, at least for townies. In my young days (did I just say that??) guys would spend the weekend rebuilding the gearbox in their cars. Now their modern counterparts are reduced to painting the ‘deck’ or playing with power tools.

        *with which one could fix anything


        • phoffman56
          Posted April 9, 2017 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

          ” *with which one could fix anything ”

          Surely that magical substance is known as duct tape!

          But maybe that is peculiarly Canuck, or at least from TV comedian Red Green, whose DIY efforts could be quite bizarre and entertaining.

          I thought mine was a pretty good joke last June in Red Green country (in this case Kenora, Ontario) when I asked the lady behind the counter at Canadian Tire where I’d find the duct tape, since my car had broken down and I needed to drive to Toronto (well over 1000 km away). She thought so too.

          Actually a loosening corner of the roofrack had started making an awful whine in the wind.

          • phil
            Posted April 10, 2017 at 2:08 am | Permalink

            Ah, “the handyman’s secret weapon”!

            Whatever happened in The Winter of Our Discount Tent?

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 10, 2017 at 2:34 am | Permalink

            Yes, that is more a Canadian thing (or at least not a New Zealand thing). No. 8 wire was the canonical Kiwi fix-it material.


        • Stuartg
          Posted April 11, 2017 at 2:18 am | Permalink

          There’s a tale, which I suspect is apocryphal, of the broken wing spar of a Tiger Moth being wired together with number 8 wire.

          Supposedly it was then flown out from the farm where it had crashed to an airfield where more permanent repairs could be effected.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 11, 2017 at 2:51 am | Permalink

            I don’t know, that seems to me to be quite credible (not that that means it’s automatically true).

            Given that biplanes were indeed wire-braced, but more importantly, that due to the wings forming a very large box structure, the stresses on the individual members were relatively low, and the effects of a small dimensional disparity (e.g. caused by wiring-together a snapped wing spar) on the overall geometry would be relatively modest. In other words, you could get away with things on an old biplane that would never have worked on a monoplane.

            (I just remembered the famous passage in the Antonov An-2 Pilot’s Notes:
            “If the engine quits in instrument conditions or at night, the pilot should pull the control column full aft and keep the wings level. The leading-edge slats will snap out at about 64 km/h (40 mph) and when the airplane slows to a forward speed of about 40 km/h (25 mph), the airplane will sink at about a parachute descent rate until the aircraft hits the ground.”)


  12. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Here ar some more:

    Do people sill say “flash” as in “look at all those flash houses!” In Canada we’d say “flashy”.

    The “as” was initially hard to get used to as in “sweet as” because I was waiting for the comparison.

    There is also “choice” as in “oh sweet as! Choice!” I’ve heard that in Canada too sometimes but usually qualified like “choice burgers”.

    “Nah yeah” also and I think there is a variant in Canada or I’ve imagined it it’s just me.

    Bench is what Americans and Canadians would call a counter in a kitchen (I didn’t learn the Canadian word until I was 6 and at a friend’s house).

    Togs are bathing suits.

    Oh and “ice creams” not “ice cream” to suggest more than one.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      Yep. We still say flash, choice, and it’s usually “Yeah, nah”.

      That ad of God visiting NZ that you’ve posted before is a good one to put up here, but I’ll leave it for you to put up and get the deserved credit.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 9, 2017 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        Haha here it is. I just watched it again Friday and sent it to my dad so he could hear how to say Aotearoa.

        I like how the kid imitates god when he says “yep” and demands he prove it.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted April 9, 2017 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, I like that bit too. 🙂

        • Posted April 10, 2017 at 8:25 am | Permalink


  13. Kiwi Dave
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    ‘She’ll be right’ has been a standard NZ expression for at least six decades, ie, as far back as I can remember; ‘sweet as’ as a popular usage is much more recent.

    Barefoot, summer and winter, was standard for children at play and school in my childhood. A short story, Cowpats, by Frank Sargeson is about school kids warming their feet on frosty mornings by standing in freshly deposited bovine excrement. In suburban supermarkets, bare feet are rare, but jandals (thongs if you are an Aussie) are often seen.

    Though I can often distinguish Kiwi and Aussie accents, within each country there is a range of accents, and many Kiwis live or have lived for long periods in Australia. The six/sex/sux distinction/confusion is a bit of an artificial stereotype, but seems to now be popular wisdom, giving rise to this (probably apocryphal) graffiti reflecting NZ’s and Oz’s sporting relationship. When ‘Oz sucks’ appeared as graffiti on an Australian city wall, ‘ – NZ nil’ was quickly added.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      Another parallel to ‘she’ll be right’ is ‘no worries’. Where an English person would say ‘Don’t mention it’.

      “Thanks for pulling me out of the ditch”
      “No worries, mate”.


    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      Pretty standard Australian too.
      Probably my favourite response.

      What do you say if the boss says “stop saying no worries”?

      “No worries”

  14. rickflick
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    I found the NZ accent a little difficult at times. My wife and I rented a plane to fly around the South Island out of Canterbury Aero Club, Christchurch. On one leg of our trip I was returning to Christchurch with the instructor beside me. He told me to follow the ‘pylons’ toward the airport. I could not see anything that looked like pylons from 2000 feet. After a few minutes of confusion I finally figured out he was saying ‘power lines’.

    Here are some good examples of Kiwi talk:


    The world’s steepest residential street reminds me of a very steep street(steeper?) in Grand Haven, Michigan, right near the shore which goes strait up a Lake Michigan dune – houses on both sides. I decided it would be fun to drive my VW Beetle up it. The sense of vertigo was alarming, especially when I turned around to go back down. Unfortunately, I had nightmares about it in which the road became completely vertical and I’d begin to tip over backward. The nightmare recurred occasionally for the next several decades.

    • KevinP
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think this is an accent thing at all, your instructor probably WAS saying pylons. In the British-English world what you might call a transmission tower is called a pylon.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 9, 2017 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

        Surprise! I guess it could have been. He was a lovely fellow and we enjoyed his guidance around the country. His “accint” was wonderful, if a little hard to grasp at times.

      • Stuartg
        Posted April 10, 2017 at 2:18 am | Permalink


        Power lines are carried by pylons in NZ.

  15. Posted April 9, 2017 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Did you notice that we tend to turn statements into questions?

    There’s that weird linguistic trait of Kiwis where we turn up the end of sentences like we are asking a question.

    Also, “Yeah, nah” is a confusing and common thing we say.

    Meaning, “Yes, I understand what you are asking, but No, It’s not going to happen.”

    Baldwin Street is also the location for the annual Jaffa run. (orange coloured hard candy shell over chocolate – think M&Ms but larger and spherical) they roll them down in their thousands at the annual event.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      Yes that statements-into-questions niggles me a bit. It’s as though the speaker doesn’t have the courage to make a flat statement, you know? Like they’re expecting contradiction?


  16. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Carterton took me by surprise. It’s a small rural town, you’d expect them to be deeply conservative, the last place on earth you’d expect to actually elect a transgender mayor.

    Invercargill also surprises me the same way – a small city in the deep rural south at the other end of New Zealand. Its long-standing mayor is Tim Shadbolt, ex student activist in the Progressive Youth Movement in Auckland, famous for being charged with offensive behaviour for saying ‘bullshit’ at a protest meeting in the 60’s, a bit of a clown at times – the last person one would expect Invercargill to elect (and keep re-electing).


  17. Posted April 9, 2017 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    An error in the BuzzFeed article:

    “4. In the scene of Star Trek: First Contact, where we see Earth from space, Australia and Papua New Guinea are clearly visible but New Zealand is missing.”

    The story goes that a New Zealander on the production team put NZ on one of the planets in the NextGen opening credits (0:25 Season 3 version) as a prank and they got him back by leaving it out of First Contact. So, not a movie mistake in the normal sense.

  18. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Re religion in New Zealand, Wikipedia reports
    (paragraph breaks added)

    “over 53,000 people listed themselves as Jedi in New Zealand’s 2001 census (over 1.5% of responses). If the Jedi response had been accepted as valid it would have been the largest non-Christian religion in New Zealand, and second-largest religion overall.

    However, Statistics New Zealand treated Jedi responses as “Answer understood, but will not be counted”.[13] The city of Dunedin (a university town) had the highest population of reported Jedi per capita[citation needed].

    In the 2006 census only 20,000 people gave Jedi as their religion”

    (As in Australia, Canada, and the United States, Roman Catholics outnumber Anglicans.)

  19. Steve Kern
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Great coverage of your trip…including great pictures. Beautiful country. And apparently reasonable and thoughtful people as well.
    Thanks so much.

  20. Steve Gerrard
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    An Aussie may, for instance, say “I’m putting on a cardy [cardigan] to take the doggy for a walky,” while a Kiwi would say, “I’m putting on a cardigan to take the dog for a walk.”

    That cracked me up. Perfect dead pan delivery.

    • phil
      Posted April 10, 2017 at 1:52 am | Permalink

      Let’s get a few things straight. Strayans would never WEAR a cardy, if they ever referred to a “doggy” it would be spelt “doggie”, and we wouldn’t take one on a “walky”.

      NZers are always trying the blacken our fine reputation as upstanding citizens of the world (just don’t mention boat people) out of their sense of inferiority.

      • gormenghastly
        Posted April 10, 2017 at 3:43 am | Permalink


      • Posted April 10, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

        I must concur. I never put on a cardy when I was growing up in Australia, nor did I take any doggy for a walky. Not even once.

        However, I did play footy, did live in Brizzie for a while, and god knows what else I did with that kind of inflection, especially if I was blotto.

  21. nwalsh
    Posted April 9, 2017 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure most would find the lack of religiosity in Canada as refreshing as NZ.

  22. Posted April 9, 2017 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    BREAKING One of New Zealand’s most beloved and iconic comedians, John Clarke, has died.

    I accidentally ran into him as a child in the 1970’s…

    Literally “ran into him”. I hope it didn’t hurt him as much as it hurt me.


    • grasshopper
      Posted April 9, 2017 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      Murray Ball, and now John. Two great NZ comics.

    • ratabago
      Posted April 10, 2017 at 1:45 am | Permalink

      Well… File System Check…

      That gutted me. He is also much beloved in Australia, and will be greatly missed.

  23. phil
    Posted April 10, 2017 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    I don’t think 5). is entirely correct. In 1893 NZ was still a British colony. NZ was originally administered as part of New South Wales, which was also the genesis of Australia.

    “The first independent country to hold national elections where women were given the vote nationwide, was Australia in that country’s second federal election”


    The colony of South Australia gave women the vote in 1861, and Sweden gave women the vote in 1718.

    What makes NZ unique is that it was the “first self-governing colony in the world in which ALL women are given the right to vote in parliamentary elections”.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 10, 2017 at 3:06 am | Permalink

      BUT – check this out (from the Wikipedia link phil gave):

      1861 South Australia – women got the vote subject to property qualifications (I’m not sure from the context whether men were subject to the same qualifications)
      1893 NZ – women allowed to vote BUT NOT TO STAND FOR PARLIAMENT
      1894 South Australia – all women got the vote
      1895 South Australia – women allowed to stand for parliament
      (zillions of others)
      1919 NZ – women allowed to stand. FINALLY

      Regardless of hairsplitting about what constituted a country / colony /dependency, it would seem that the Kiwi women’s vote legend is cherry-picked out of a very mixed field of facts.


      • Posted April 10, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        Oftentimes these figures require careful interpretation. For example, Canada to this day under one interpretation does not have universal adult suffrage – one loses the right to vote if one is a Supreme Court Justice!

        This (admittedly) silly example aside: it is actually the case that (many) Inuit did not get enfranchised until 1960, since before that they were sort of legal children. I seem to remember that a display on women’s suffrage at the Canadian Museum of History a few years ago mentioned this, which is (until recently) rare.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted April 10, 2017 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

          Yes, it’s not a single-factor situation, which is why claims of ‘first’ can be positively misleading.

          For example, when did ‘Russia’ give women full voting equality? 1906, when Finland (then part of Russia) let women vote *and* stand? Or 1938 when the last region (Uzbek SSR) finally did?

          USA – was it 1776 (New Jersey, but they rescinded it in 1807) or 1920 when a Constitutional amendment extended it to all remaining states?

          Or Australia, which though often well in the lead re women, left aboriginal women (and men) out till 1962?


          • Posted April 11, 2017 at 1:28 am | Permalink

            USA: Or, Wyoming in 1917?

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted April 11, 2017 at 2:24 am | Permalink

              Errm, according to the Wikipedia ‘Timeline of Womens Suffrage’ Wyoming was 1869. Interestingly, it may be that that bill was intended partly as a ‘spoiler’ to reflect on the absurdity of efforts to extend the vote to blacks, rather in the spirit of the current Texas ‘every sperm is scared’ bill.
              But it’s complicated –
              (Linked off the Wikipedia page)

              Which is really the point I was making – that just quoting dates from the timeline can be quite misleading because it’s rarely that simple.


  24. Posted April 10, 2017 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Thank you for the beautiful virtual tour of New Zealand.

  25. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted April 10, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Having not been to NZ, and not knowing much about it, my favourite thing about the country is Hunt For The Wilderpeople. I watched it at Christmas with the rest of my family and they haven’t shut up about it since.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 10, 2017 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

      Directed by the very funny Taika Waititi who is also directing the new Thor movie and who did the monument sry about vampires called “What We Do in the Shadoews” along with the equally funny Jemaine Clement who voices this commercial for L&P which I just can’t get enough of because of the lines “frighteningly 1 size too small” and “and his puku and his bum!”

  26. Anne
    Posted April 10, 2017 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    We just got back from a trip to NZ (a driving tour on both islands) and it was marvelous. Didn’t note as many of the language items that you noted. I did see barefoot shoppers in many places (city centers as well as more rural areas), and noted the date of women being given the right to vote. As a native Pittsburgher, though, many of the cities’ configurations around the hills reminded me a LOT of my hometown. Didn’t get to see the street in Dunedin, but it just means we’ll have to go back.

  27. Posted April 10, 2017 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    The difference in Australian vs. New Zealander accents (that I heard anyway – I imagine Australia at least has regionalisms, given the size) was pretty clear to me at the IChO in 1997. I have a poor memory for sounds, so I cannot think of how to describe it now, though. (And it *has* been almost 20 years.)

  28. Posted April 10, 2017 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    My other 3 Fun Facts to add:

    1) Arthur Clarke modeled the democracy run by a computer in The Songs of Distant Earth on New Zealand democratic style!
    2) They have http://www.puzzlingworld.co.nz/, created by New Zealand’s skeptic! With yet a contest not answered by psychics: http://www.psychicchallenge.co.nz/
    3) First country I visited, that when recognized as an Argentinean they do not mention “Messi!!!” or “Maradona!!!”, and instead they shook my hands with respect and said “Pumas: great rugby team, our respect to that team”(actually I’m Brazilian, but the story got complicated, so I simplify to not confuse anybody with my accent…)

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted April 10, 2017 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      Re #3 I’d just say “Fangio!” 😉


  29. Posted April 11, 2017 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    Silverton, Oregon had a transgender mayor, Stu Rasmussen, from 2008 to 2015.

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