Kiwi are a fascinating species in New Zealand and one many have attempted to adapt to, but their behaviour is so obscure that many find it hard to fit in… And by Kiwi, we don’t mean the flightless bird…
In all seriousness, backpacking in New Zealand is about integrating in a new culture and way of life. Try to do that without your raging tourist side coming out. You know what we mean, we all have it. The urge to take a selfie with everything, wear totally impractical clothes for hikes, be a bit ignorant… The word “tourist” has adopted bad connotations over the years but being a “backpacker” hasn’t quite got there yet. Our biggest advice to you is just relax and go with the flow. But you can also pay attention to all these suggestions below if it pleases you.
1. Leave your selfie stick at home
There’s no better way to look like a modern-day tourist than roaming around a hiking track or city and shoving your selfie stick up in the air every 5 minutes. Yes you’ve been there, yes #yolo, yes, yes, yes… In New Zealand, people are always more than happy if you ask them to take the picture of you. It’s called human interaction and it’s not that bad.
2. Throw on the jandals
Ok, so first, Kiwis don’t use the world “flip-flop”. They call them “jandals” (for Japanese and sandals). Secondly, nobody, and we say NOBODY, wears the strap sandals here. You will find that jandals are an institution in New Zealand so get yourself a pair and blend in! Also, forget the socks too.
3. Don’t complain
Kiwis are the most carefree people you will ever meet. If something goes wrong, the usual attitude around here is: “It’s all right, bro, we’ll fix it.” Nothing is too big of a problem and nothing is really worth complaining about. If you have a problem, try to bring it up casually instead of complaining.
4. Know a few local words
We talked about the word “jandals” above, but there are a few other words that you might want to know so you can avoid the sitting-there-with-a-blank-look-on-your-face situation. For example, if a local sends you to the “dairy”, they mean the local convenience store. Check out more Kiwi slang here.
5. Don’t over accessorise
Backpacking is not a fashion show. Leave that fancy scarf at home. New Zealanders dress casual – very casual. You can forget about that belt over your cardigan and that pocket square. Not too many people are going to appreciate your “fashion-forwardness” here.
6. Talk to people
Saying that people here are open-minded is an understatement. It is very easy to talk to people that you’ve never met before and we quite often see tourists acting odd around strangers talking to them by either ignoring them or being dismissive. Just go with it. They probably have one or two funny stories to tell and you might end up in an awesome fishing trip with them.
7. Relax and embrace
New Zealand is the country where people come to unwind (as well as getting really, really excited about the Lord of the Rings stuff). We invite you to seriously relax and leave the intensity of your life back home. Embrace the amazing landscape and relaxing way of life.
8. Put on some sunscreen
What is the number one cliche about a tourist in New Zealand?! He is burnt red! The New Zealand sun is not forgiving. In fact, exposure to the sun for only 7 minutes can get you sunburnt. Everything you know about your summer vacation is nothing compared to the sun here. So cake yourself in the high factor stuff, just like any self-respecting Kiwi would.
9. Ditch your flag
We are talking to you Canadians! We all know that it is extremely important to you to show people that you are not from the USA, but having a flag on your bag is the best way to be “flagged” as a tourist. See what we did there?
10. Prepare your hikes
Every single year people get lost, injured and rescued during hikes because: “Oh well, I’ll be fine in my sneakers, it’s not much snow” or “Yeah, that bottle will be enough water for the day”or “It’s fine to start climbing the mountain at 4pm…” Read what is recommended to pack, how it is recommended to be dressed, and follow the instructions. The New Zealand wilderness is wild!