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International students eating fish and chips

Kiwi-isms Every International Student Should Know

A kiwi-ism is something New Zealanders typically do or say or a fun fact that’s unique to New Zealand.

Local slang

We loved learning the local slang when we were in New Zealand! We would receive packing lists for trips with items such as jandals, togs, scrogin, sunnies, and plasters. It took a little while to figure out we would need sandals, bathing suits, trail mix, sunglasses, and Band-Aids!

Taylor Lindsey is a US study abroad student studying at Ecoquest in Kaiaua, near Auckland

Some of the kiwi-isms that I have started using include ‘sweet as’ (aka: great/cool/awesome/okay), and ‘all good’ (aka: that works/cool/anytime).

Stephanie Andraos is a Lebanese student studying for a PhD in Health Sciences at The University of Auckland.

Businesses close at 6pm

Something I found to be an extremely good use of my time in preparation for my departure for New Zealand is looking up some things online about the “Kiwi way of life!”

I found that Kiwis in Wellington were much more relaxed and easy-going than the people I am surrounded with daily in Washington, D.C. Being aware of that beforehand allowed my adjustment to living in Wellington to come much easier.

It was also helpful to know how Māori language is used regularly as a part of the local dialect, and to know the overall general social atmosphere – what is acceptable, what isn’t, what the day to day life in New Zealand is like, etc.!

I think the kiwi-ism that was hardest for me to get used to is the fact that most stores and businesses (except for grocery and food) close promptly at 6pm. I come from a society where businesses are often open until 9 or 10pm so adjusting to the availability of services is necessary so you are not stuck not being able to accomplish something. But on the bright side, having the evening to spend with friends or family, or doing an activity seems to be a really nice custom that I appreciate.

Emily Watkins is a US study abroad student studying political science, government & international relations at Victoria University in Wellington

Ready and willing to help

Not really something you can learn, but a kiwi-ism to know is that kiwis are very, very nice. They are some of the kindest people I have ever met. Kiwis are generally willing to help no matter what.

When my friend (who also came to New Zealand from the same university) and I first arrived we had no beds or food. One of our flatmates, Aden, offered to help us find beds and even bought us enough groceries that lasted us a month or so.

Along with Aden, while out one day with my friend, we stopped at a dairy (corner store) to buy some Kleenex (tissues) because I had a cold, but the dairy wasn’t selling any. Dejected and walking out of the store, one of the staff offered me a whole box of tissues he had sitting behind the counter in his office. He told me to take what I needed without even hesitating!

This is the kiwi-ism that I hope to take back to the US with me – the niceness to just be a kind person.

Samantha Ross is a US study abroad student studying fine arts with a photography major at Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin


Taylor Lindsay

By ENZ Kiwi Ambassadors

Updated 1 year ago

Taylor Lindsey (pictured), Emily Watkins, and Samantha Ross are all study abroad students from the United States. Stephanie Andraos is a PhD student from Lebanon.

Follow our Kiwi Ambassadors on Instagram: @studyinnewzealand

*Views expressed are the blogger's own
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