12 things you’ll only understand if you’ve lived in New Zealand

bare feet nz
bare feet nz

I’ve lived in New Zealand for almost 2 years and here are the most important things I’ve learned.

1. People go barefoot everywhere

There’s someone standing next to you in the supermarket queue barefoot? Normal.  You’re paying your electricity bill and nobody else is wearing shoes? Completely normal.  Ordering dinner at a cafe and your fellow dinners toes are on display? Nothin’ to it.  When summer hits NZ, shoes become an afterthought.  Locals go barefoot anywhere they like, from supermarkets to restaurants.


2. Groceries are expensive

Food is very expensive in New Zealand, which might be the reason nobody can afford to buy shoes. Okay so that was a joke, but paying 40$ for 1kg of limes is waaay beyond my understanding. And it’s not only lime that’s pricey: one pepper costs 3$, cheddar cheese is 10$ a block, etc.  I think we can all agree that in New Zealand it’s harder to eat everything you used to, unless you’re a millionaire.


3. The coffee is the best in the world

New Zealanders invented the Flat White coffee (a type of espresso) which has an amazing taste and texture, and if you are a coffee lover, you will never want to leave the country. Try one and let the Kiwis’ perfected art of coffee making change your coffee-drinking life.


4. You have to go up to the counter and pay 

A strange thing about New Zealand’s sit-down restaurants? At the end of the meal you will sit and wait, and wait, for the waiter to bring your bill.  Heads up: It will Never. Ever. Happen.  Eventually you’ll learn that it’s up to you to go and pay at the register.


5. There’s no such thing as tipping

New Zealand doesn’t have a tipping culture, so there’s no need to leave a 10% service charge or pay your taxi driver that little bit more money over and above the fare. Leaving money is often thought a mistake; if you leave a tip on a table and walk out of a cafe, the waiter might chase after you to return your money! Of course, tipping is hardly frowned upon. Service staff will be grateful, just let them know that it’s definitely theirs.


6. The wildlife is very different

When you see your first penguin or dolphin, you’ll know immediately that you’re not in Kansas anymore.


7. There are earthquakes all the time

NZ has up to 15,000 earthquakes a year, but fortunately most of them are so far underground that they can’t be felt.

In NZ, new buildings are now even designed to endure the impact of earthquakes. So don’t panic, for them this is normal.


8. No one uses cash

Travelers will soon see that in NZ no one uses cash. Everything is paid for by card, which can be inconvenient if you don’t have a local bank account.


9. Kiwis are very friendly

You will be hard pressed to find a rude person in NZ as Kiwis are very friendly to everyone. Visit any cafe or hotel, and you will notice the great kiwi hospitality, on top of excellence customer service.


10. New Zealanders use weird names for everyday items

Though English is New Zealand’s “official” language, they’ve kind of made up their own.

For example, an esky or cooler box is known as a “chilli bin” (have fun saying that with a kiwi accent!), a corner shop or milk bar is known as a “dairy”, flip flops are “jandals”, and sweets are “lollies”. Learn this new vocabulary and you will get by just fine.

flip flops

11. New Zealand is home to the most beautiful town in the world.

Queenstown, on NZ’s South Island, is a stunningly beautiful haven for adventurers. Once you see it, your mind will be blown.


12. Watties is not Heinz

Different people say it in a different way. And actually it is.



  1. So true, out of everywhere in the world, New Zealand has the loveliest scenery and the kindest people you would ever hope to meet. Just check out the South Island, Dunedin in particular.

  2. being a kiwi living in Australia, i can say that kiwis are real nice people.. the land the beautiful, yes food is expensive.. but wow when it comes to promoting a country , they know how to do it and business people are very out there in the promotion and ways to make a business different and great. 🙂

  3. I find that now a days it is the tourists that think it cool to go without shoes not many kiwis do that now, some kids do,

    • I write this in barefoot splendour…it’s not just kids who pad about sans shoes..nut I live near the beach ..maybe city people prefer shoes

  4. The very sore point is the exhorbitant price of food and if theres anything that the next governmetn must do is to set their Commerce Commission (the Anti-Trust governing body in New Zealand) on the job for the sake of Kiwis needing to live in New Zealand. No reason that what is claimed to be the most efficient producer of dairy and meat in the world has such high dairy and meat prices!

    • nope not really, even the younger kids get an eftpos card to save carrying cash…one of the first things we noticed when we moved here

  5. I use cash and lots of Kiwis do, yes food is expensive, but is down to the GST on it, at 17.5% I think, nothing unusual in paying at the counter
    I question Queenstown being the most beautiful town, ????
    But Hey I love living here

    • 17.5% GST compares favourably to Europe where VAT is 20% or greater in many countries.
      The problem is that NZ produce is cheaper in Sainsburys than it is in Countdown and that is criminal.

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