One of the fun things about travel is comparing all of the differences between your home country and your destination of travel. When recently spending 3 months in NZ, we compiled a list of some of some of the New Zealand idiosyncrasies that stood out to our American family. Enjoy!

1. New Zealanders shorten names for everything

With names like the above (officially the longest place name), who can blame them? While it’s no wonder they shorten this one to Taumata, another one took us by surprise as locals called one of our destinations”Para-param” instead of its given name: “Paraparaumu”.

2. Holiday Parks are all the rage!

No good-sized NZ town is complete without its own “Holiday Park” that boasts individual cabins/homes with the essentials–a bed to sleep in, and an optional kitchen, bathroom, and maybe even a bedroom or two! They also feature public laundry facilities, campsites, and a playground for children. I wish America would adopt these!!

3. You may have to Google translate their English

I need what? Can you please translate??  Jandals=Flip-flops, Togs=Swimsuits, Stone fruit=fruit with pits (apricots, peaches, etc), Jutter Bar=Speed Bump

4. Every hike has a Swing Bridge

What NZ hike would be complete without its accompanying swing bridge?

5. Cyclists wear construction reflector jackets

Do not let the construction cones confuse you. These typical cyclists just happen to be riding their bikes through a construction zone. It is clearly the common apparel for bikers, and I found myself constantly thinking that construction workers must all bike to work.

6. Their outlets have switches

Turn the outlet on and off—a power-saving method that I support! However, it can be a pain if you plug in your device to charge and FORGET to turn the switch to turn ON the outlet. Especially when hours later you realize your time has been wasted!

7. Stainless steel counters

2020 or 1980? I can’t decide. These countertops are a pretty common site in many NZ homes and/or holiday homes!

8. They have a love affair with Kumara

Thought you didn’t like sweet potatoes? Think again…this NZ variety is different, and had our kids begging to eat more and more and more (I still can’t get them to touch a sweet potato in the US).

9. Entertaining Signage

New Zealanders have a healthy sense of humor!

10. Cheese is not dyed, and flavors are limited

Which cheese would you choose? We decided “tasty” sounded the tastiest…

11. Camper vans are almost as common as most road vehicles

Tourism is one of the biggest industries in New Zealand and thankfully they are very accommodating to camper vans!

12. Grocery Shopping Carts are family-friendly

A random perk that we ended up using a lot!

13. Official “Rubbish” bags  

Most cities have official trash bags, and if you want your trash picked up, you better purchase the correct bag and leave it on the curb on the correct day!

14. Driving on the left side (and steering on the right)

Left-sided driving was left to my husband to conquer, as I found it hard enough to simply remember to open the door to the correct left-side passenger seat!

15. Fried foods served on blank newsprint

Order some fried goods, and they will be delivered to you wrapped in blank newsprint (and in huge quantities)!

16. Women’s Hygienic product’s disposal

The tricky part is figuring out how to open the space-age disposal canisters…

17. Bad carpets or plywood floors

We saw plywood floors at many holiday homes, and sometimes if they had carpet–we wished they had plywood instead!

18. A “bach” is a Holiday Home

You can skip and when in NZ. Your best bet for finding a cheap holiday rental home is It makes sense as soon as you realize that “bach” is the New Zealand word for a Holiday Home! And for your music-lovers, don’t be fooled…”bach” is not pronounced like the composer, it is pronounced like batch without the t.

19. Shoeless People

No, they’re not homeless. Shoes just aren’t their “thing”. My husband kept daring our whole family to walk in shoeless to a grocery store like the locals (once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, right?!), but I just couldn’t get over the grossness of it! Meanwhile…it wasn’t uncommon for locals to shed their shoes anywhere and everywhere. Kids were shoeless at parks, and we often saw school children walking home barefoot with their shoes dangling from their fingers.

20. Shark teeth at grocery stores

Don’t even think about trying to go out the same way you came in!

 21. Electric blankets

A heater may not be available–but you are almost guaranteed your bed will be equipped with a mattress pad that is heated! They heat you from beneath!

22. They speak English…but it’s different

How would you pronounce these NZ city names? Would you believe me if I told you that “WH” is pronounced as an “F” ??!!

23. Stainless steel shower floors

An aluminum basin is a common bottom of many shower stalls we used in holiday homes and rentals.

24. Best playground equipment ever!

Seriously…the US can simply not compete when it comes to awesome (and sometimes dangerous) playground equipment like this!

25. Misplaced mirrors and towel racks

It quickly became clear that not a lot of thought goes into design and placement of mirrors and towel racks. Of the many, many homes we stayed in…very few had both right where you would expect them!

26. Windows don’t have screens

Windows simply don’t have screens in most NZ homes. Some say it’s because NZ doesn’t have the buying power to design screens and import them at a reasonable price. However, I think the real problem lies in their basic window design. When you open your window with a lever and push through the open window to open it, it presents a real crisis if you want to try to add a screen!

27. Real fruit ice cream

Small produce and pick-your-own fruit joints are very common in NZ, and they usually feature “Real Fruit Ice cream” which is exactly as delicious as it sounds!

28. Separate hot and cold faucets

You wouldn’t expect this would be an issue…until you simply want to wash your face with water that isn’t scalding and/or freezing cold…

29. Pole Tennis for Kids:

It’s a pretty cool marriage of tetherball and tennis for kids, I tell ‘ya!

30. Checkout is at 10:00am

You tell me…what kind of vacation has a 10am checkout???!!!!!!!!!!!!

31. Honey flavors abound

I used to think I didn’t like the taste of honey, but Huka Honey Hive introduced me to the nuances of flavor offered by honey that is collected from different varieties of plants. NZ features large selections of honey flavors on their grocery shelves! My personal preference–the whiter the honey, the better! Yum!

32. Spring-free trampolines

Supposedly safer, these “spring-free” trampolines are admittedly very cool!

33. “Give way” instead of stop signs

Traffic flows well with many “give way” signs instead of stop signs.

34. Immaculately manicured trails and boardwalks

What’s not to love about their picture-perfect trails with traction wire laid over the boardwalk, and everything?

35. Scenic reserve signs and hiking trails everywhere

You may begin feeling like you’re in a never-ending National Park when you notice these signs indicating walking and hiking trails just about everywhere you go.

36. Slow internet=no streaming

We haven’t walked into a video rental store in the past decade, either. But since internet speeds are so dismal in NZ, old-fashioned video rental stores are the only way to go…

37. One-Lane bridges

I guess they just don’t feel that its worth the money to make bridges a little wider to accommodate two cars at the same time. One-way bridges are simply the way they do it in in NZ!

38. No shoulders on the road

Pray you don’t have to pull over!

39. Tractors pull boats

A humorous quirk of beachside towns is that you can hear when someone is hauling their boat to the beach…because their tractor is chugging down the street with it!

40. Pies are the NZ Fast Food

Traditional Fast-food is hard to locate in NZ, but stop in any convenience store, and you’ll find an assortment of fresh meat pies to satisfy your hunger!

41. Hummus Flavors are to die for

I’m still dreaming of NZ Hummus flavors. I typically think hummus is “alright”…nothing spectacular. But in New Zealand I could eat their hummus with a spoon! Carrot/honey with a dash of ginger is my favorite!

42. No ceiling fans or A/C

How do you take photos of something that isn’t there? They don’t typically have ceiling fans or AC, which means that if you visit during a record-breaking heat summer (like us), you may be astonished at the lack of air flow through a hot, humid room. We picked up a box fan and carted it all through NZ–and didn’t regret the extra baggage for a second!

43. “Sweet As”…as what?!

Not to be confused with the American swear-word, a Kiwi’s use of “Sweet As” simply means “Awesome!” Other great slang includes, “Good on ya”=well done, “Choice”=Awesome, and my favorite: “Yeh-Yeh-Yeh”=the response to nearly anything and everything!

44. Linen Fees at Rentals

It’s very common for rental houses or holiday parks (“baches”) to have a “Linen Fee” for each bed used, so if you don’t bring your own bedding it could cost an extra $125 for linens if you’re requiring a queen and 3 twins for a traveling family. When you start adding up all of the added linen fees for the various legs of your trip,  you could possibly save yourself a ton of money by picking up some used linens at an “Op Shop” (second hand store)!

And some other runner-ups?

Pet food is in the refrigerated section (don’t mistake that for sausage meat!)

“Honest Boxes” are at un-manned roadside stands for honest people to leave money behind for their goods.

Roundabouts have special turn signaling (Yes, there is a Kiwi method for using your lights to indicate your intentions in a roundabout–LEARN IT)

No turning on a red light (Don’t even think about it)

Water pressure (It’s out-of-control! Turn it on, and BLAST OFF!)

Terrible indoor lighting (I thought only houses in the 1970’s expected a single bulb to fill a whole room…but apparently it’s still an ongoing thing in NZ!)



My name is Alisa, and I love traveling the world with my adventurous husband and rambunctious 5 small children. I am passionate about gorgeous scenery, meeting new people, and I’m a certified salad nut. Most of all, I love making memories with my family, and I enjoy sharing our travels with others!

4 Responses to “44 Signs that you’re in New Zealand”

  1. Haha, this is awesome. Thanks for sharing. New Zealand looks like an amazing place, and it’s at the top of my bucketlist!

  2. Omg!!!!! Just finishing or amazing two week stay here and decided to google: why no window screens? So much that i realize I’ve picked up! And a few that i didn’t catch in such a brief stay. Great blog!!!

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