Photo: Francisco Osorio
Ask us to “throw a shrimp on the barbie.”
While we have some similarities with our Australian cousins (as in, we had to kick out the British, though we at least fought them to a standstill), we do, in fact, have our own thing going on–our own set of social, political and cultural issues and vastly different histories. We’re not even that close: you are looking at a good few hours on a plane to get to get across the Tasman sea – or you could be like this crazy from Rotorua and try to kayak the distance.
Either way, I have never heard anyone say anything about a shrimp on a barbie back home unless they were a drunk tourist ready to get thrown out on the street, and we are certainly not joined by the damn Sydney Harbour Bridge (that was a fun one to explain).
I’ll give you this: it is quite easy to confuse our two accents. But if you’re English and call me Aussie, don’t get mad when I assume you’re Scottish. The best way to work out if your potential new friend is from Australia or New Zealand is to wait until they say a word with an “ish” or “in” sound. We just cycle all of our vowels one down the line, so while an Australian will typically pronounce the word fish like it sounds, us kiwis say it with a rounded “u” sound, like fush. Fush and chups, bro.
There is a long-standing Trans-Tasman rivalry, in which Australia has tried to claim things that belong to us, like Split Enz, Crowded House, Pharlap, Keisha Catle-Hughes, Russell Crowe and the flat white. They are also terrible sports when we compete against each other. We tend to think we are a bit more liberal than our Aussie counterparts; New Zealand was the first country in the British empire to give women the vote in 1893, and we were the first country in the Asia-Pacific to legalise gay marriage in 2013 – something which is still not recognised in Australia.
Imply we have inappropriate relations with sheep
Agriculture is one of our main industries so yes we do have a lot of sheep, and a lot of cows. There are about six sheep to every one person. But our population is becoming increasingly urbanised, and at the 2006 census, only 2 per cent of the population lived rurally. The closest many kiwis have ever gotten to a sheep is when they chow down on its ribs from the local Countdown, let alone…Yeah. So just avoid saying anything about kiwis sheep shaggers, You are only embarrassing yourself.
Assume whole country looks like the set of The Lord of the Rings
We’re proud to be the homeland of Peter Jackson’s WETA Studios, and Lord of the Rings has done wonders for our tourism. Just watch the preflight video coming in on Air New Zealand. And yes, we have everything from the rolling volcanic hills of Tongariro to the glacier-carved Milford Sound. But that does not mean the whole country is nothing more than a backwoods village living in the olden days like Rivendell. Hobbiton is a cutesy little tourist trap down by Hamilton that most of us will never be caught dead in. And while our men have some hairy feet, we’re certainly not tiny little hobbits–you know we’re closer to Samoans than Australians, right?
Assume you are talking to a rugby fan
This almost feels blasphemous to write, but not everyone in New Zealand loves the All Blacks so much they have a Richie McCaw tattoo. In fact when the Rugby World Cup was taking place in England last year, which the All Blacks won, by the way, a lot of people were sick of hearing about it, and a lot of people didn’t care at all. So any conversation starter like “oh, you’re from New Zealand, you must love the All Blacks!” without some strong follow up is a bit of a waste of time. No, my blank face isn’t due to myself not hearing you–although, cool Scottish accent, dude–I just couldn’t care less.
Assume we are small and unsure of ourselves
While our prime minister is a dork who likes to pull girl’s ponytails and make us all feel uncomfortable about it, and a government-led initiative to change our flag led to a shaky (and ongoing) national discussion about our identity (and led to this submission from a member of the public going viral), we are not docile, clueless country bumpkins.
Although I am definitely biased, and while we do have plenty of issues back home, kiwis abroad tend to be more vocal on issues like racism, sexism and cultural appropriation. We generally give everyone a fair go and we are known for getting things done, not whinging and using our initiative. We’re the land of the Maori. We’re the only people in the old British Empire that beat them down enough to force them to sign a treaty. We were the home of the single largest eagle ever to exist, until we hunted it to extinction just for looking at us funny. So, kia ora, bro. Tread lightly around us.