International Studies Abroad ®est. 1987

Culture Corner

New Zealand Culture

New Zealand culture is a meld of European, Pacific, and Maori influences. All these influences come together to form the particular New Zealand quality of their music, foods, and attitude. While New Zealanders enjoy many international foods, there are a few dishes particular to the country, including the pavlova, a meringue-based dessert, and grilled sausages served on buns or slices of white break with Wattie's tomato sauce, similar to ketchup. Seafood, roast lamb, and fish and chips are also particular favorites. The people of New Zealand, often referred to as 'Kiwis,' are known for their independent spirit, love of sports, and their laid back lifestyle.

The Maori
The Maori were the first settlers in New Zealand, arriving several hundred years before the European explorers. The Maori settlers referred to the new land as Aotearoa, which means 'land of the long white cloud.' Despite conflict between the Maori peoples and the European colonists, Maori culture is still a significant part of New Zealand's national identity. Maori is one of the official national languages, along with English, and signage is usually in both English and Maori. A number of Maori villages are located across both islands, and various locations offer visitors the chance to experience Maori culture, learn Maori stories, and enjoy a traditional meal called a hangi.

The term 'Kiwi' is used in a few different ways in New Zealand, and it's best not to confuse them. A 'Kiwi' is either a person from New Zealand or a small, nocturnal, flightless bird native to the country, the national bird of New Zealand. When referring to the small, brown fruit with green flesh, the Kiwis use the term 'Kiwifruit.' The kiwifruit is not actually native to New Zealand, though it is grown in various parts of the country. Be sure to refer to the fruit as kiwifruit, as eating kiwi birds or people is generally frowned upon.

Monuments And Must-Sees

Air Force Museum of New Zealand
Located in Wigram, a Christchurch suburb, this museum reveals the military aviation history of the country.

Kate Sheppard Memorial
Christchurch's only National Memorial, this monument depicts several figures from the New Zealand women's suffrage movement and commemorates the fact that New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the right to vote.

Christchurch Botanic Gardens
This is definitely a must-visit location in the Garden City. Located in Hagley Park, the Botanic Gardens is home to exotic and native plants and flowers.

International Antarctic Centre
Stop by the International Antarctic Centre to learn about the icy continent, see exhibits showcasing various Antarctic explorers, enjoy interactive experiences, and see a few Little Blue Penguins.

Orana Wildlife Park
New Zealand's only open range zoo, this park offers unique wildlife encounters and up-close interactions with animals from around the world.

Along with being a historical icon in itself, the Christchurch Tram is also a way to travel across the city and enjoy its many scenic streets and parks. The tram runs along a route from near the intersection of Armagh Street and New Regent Street to the Botanic Gardens, making seven stops along the route and taking approximately 35 minutes to complete the route. The tram website includes a map, ticket information, and an overview of the tram's history.

For a more leisurely look at the city, take a ride in a punt down the Avon River, propelled by a punter who stands on a platform at the back of the flat, slender boat.

For a unique view, take a ride on a cable car over the city in the Christchurch Gondola. Travel from the base station to the summit station, enjoying scenic views of the harbor, mountains, and plains, as well as the city itself.

Cultural Activity Suggestions

Christchurch offers numerous activities that allow visitors to interact with New Zealand culture. Below are just a few of these cultural activities. You can do many of these activities on your own or with friends, or they may be sponsored by ISA. Upon arrival in Christchurch, different sponsored cultural activities will be announced and will take place throughout your program abroad.

Canterbury Museum
Located in the center of Christchurch, this museum includes exhibits on Maori culture, Antarctic exploration, and the city's Victorian heritage.

Head over to Christchurch Stadium in Addington to cheer on the city's home rugby team, the Crusaders.

Maori Culture
The Ko Tane Living Maori Village at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch gives visitors a chance to interact with Maori traditions and history, as well as take part in a Maori hangi dinner, a meal that involves cooking in an earth oven.

Sausage Sizzle

In New Zealand, a cookout or barbeque is called a sausage sizzle and usually involves just that--sizzling sausages on a grill. Enjoy your sausage with a little iconic Wattie's tomato sauce (ketchup) on the beach with friends.

Cultural Immersion

Volunteering Opportunities
While there is no structured volunteer program offered, any student truly interested in volunteering while in Christchurch can work with the ISA Christchurch staff to find different opportunities. Students simply present different organizations or areas that interest them and the Christchurch staff can help you figure out how to get involved.

ISA Student Blogs
Stay connected while you're abroad and share your experience with your peers back home on the ISA Student Blog, one of WordPress' top 23 recommended travel blogs! Each summer and semester the ISA Student Blog features current ISA students as bloggers, photo bloggers, and video bloggers who document their time abroad to share with their friends, family, prospective students, advisers, and more. If sharing your study abroad experience through writing, photos, videos and other media while receiving professional guidance and feedback appeals to you, consider applying to be an ISA Featured Blogger, Photo Blogger, or Video Blogger. The Site Specialist for your program will email all accepted students to notify you when ISA is accepting applications for all ISA Featured Blogger programs. Please contact the ISA Blog Team at if you have any questions.

Language Resources

Helpful Phrases
: Maori name for New Zealand, meaning 'Land of the Long White Cloud,' often said before 'New Zealand' when referring to the country.
Kia ora: Hello or Welcome in Maori
Choice: good, cool, I agree, I understand, a generally positive term
Hangi: a traditional Maori meal cooked all day in an earth oven
Heaps: lots
Tiki tour: a roundabout way to get somewhere, taking the scenic route
Bach: small holiday home or beach house
Sweet As: really great. Often, Kiwis will express that something is particularly good or impressive by adding 'as' to the end of the phrase. For example, 'That building is big as.'
She'll come right: It will work out.