13 weird things about New Zealand only a new immigrant would notice


We’ve been living in Auckland, NZ for a little over 2 months now. I found a job in my second week but didn’t start working until early January (owing to the long Holiday break here). So far, we’re loving life here. It doesn’t mean that the move hasn’t been difficult. It has, especially with a three-year-old. But, we did notice some cool/weird things about New Zealand and its culture that visitors wouldn’t otherwise notice.

Here’s our list of 13 odd things about NZ that only new immigrants would notice. Enjoy!

  1. The sun does not set until 8:30pm in summer. And summer is in December. The was the most difficult thing to adjust to. I couldn’t sleep and I really missed the cold Christmas mornings.
  2. The opposite-side-of-the-road driving is extremely confusing if you’re used to left-hand side. The same rules seem to apply to pedestrians. You walk on the left side of the sidewalk headed north…it’s weird to explain, you just know you’re doing it the wrong way because a throng of people will be headed your direction.
  3. Only major streets allow diagonal crossing. You’ll know it if there’s a small diagonal line at the corner of the street and both stoplights turn red at the same time.
  4. They have a 13th floor in their buildings.
  5. Ground Floor and 1st floor are different floors here. So in an elevator, you will see both G and 1.
  6. Kiwi is a term used to refer to the person and the bird. When you are talking about the fruit, here it is always called kiwi fruit. BTW, the fruit is not native to New Zealand. It is actually from China.
  7. Kids from 3 years old to 5 study for free via the 20 ECE program. The government pays for 20 hours of early childhood education.
  8. They feed kids in school. And they do it several times a day. They have breakfast available if your child wants it. Then there’s morning tea and lunch for those studying for half a day only.
  9. It’s important to know what they call the different stores here so as not to get confused. They have a convenience store that’s a little bigger than the usual 7-11, that’s called a suprette. The smaller version of that (which is similar to a liquor store in the US) is called the dairy. They call the pharmacy or the drugstore a chemist.
  10. The lights of the Sky Tower change depending on the season. It was red and green for Christmas. It is now red and yellow (I’m guessing for Chinese New Year). I know this because I see it from my window everyday and live about a block from it.
  11. People go around barefoot. And it’s considered normal. You see them doing it at the mall, in the grocery store and even out on the streets.
  12. Most stores close by 5pm, except on late nights which are Thursdays and Fridays. They close by 8pm then. It’s unimaginable for someone from the Philippines where most stores are open until 10pm.
  13. They have a peculiar accent — somewhere between Australian and British but not quiet. For street names, those that start with “wh” are pronounced as “f”. I was told that this is influenced by the Maori language. As such “Whiterea and Whitaker” are actually pronounced “Fiterea and Fitaker”…but not in your GPS. Words ending in /er/ sound like they end in /a/, so when they say “better together”. It sounds like “betta togetha”. Even more peculiar is how they pronounce anything with an /e/. Pen sounds like pin, ten is tin and deck is…you get my drift?
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