New Zealand is famous for many things. Stunning landscapes, outdoor lifestyle, low crime rates and even sheep. However, all of these factors are relatively aesthetic. It’s not until you take a closer look at New Zealand culture that you realise it is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. In its own quiet corner of the globe, New Zealand operates under a cultural system that lives to serve two iconic cultural groups: Maori and European. The two have come to operate together both economically and socially, making New Zealand one of the greatest nations in the world. If you are considering a move to New Zealand, understanding and appreciating the beauty of Maori culture will help you to understand the unique nature of the country.
The Maori are indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand who arrived there in 1280. Over the expanse of several hundred years the Maori settled on the islands and developed a distinct culture. Anthropologists believe that all Polynesians are in fact descended from a single south Pacific culture created by Austronesians who had migrated from south-eastern Asia. It is believed that the Polynesians were capable of travelling long distances by sea using only the stars, which is how it is believed that the first settlers reached New Zealand. Maori spoken history and mythology tells of a long voyage from a mythical homeland in ocean-faring canoes.
Europeans began to migrate and settle in New Zealand increasingly from 1855. There were many cultural clashes at the start and settlers destabilised traditional Maori society due to the war and disease that was introduced to the islands. However, in 1840 The Treaty of Waitangi formed the basis of the establishment of British rule over New Zealand and it still continues to govern the relationship between the indigenous Maori and the European settlers. Today, the principles of the Treaty are referred to in several Acts of Parliament and it is a key focus of how New Zealanders work and operate.
If you are considering moving to New Zealand, understanding Maori culture and the symbiotic relationship that is shared between themselves and Pakeha (non-Maori) will be an important part of learning how to live in the country. The impact Maori culture will have on your day-to-day life will depend one where you live in the country and what you do. Most Maori tend to live in the North Island (86%), with almost a quarter living in Auckland. More than 10% of the population in Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Wellington are also Maori, so living or working in these areas will mean experiencing Maori culture more regularly than other parts of the county.
Working in the public sector in New Zealand will usually involve many formal Maori ceremonies and include plenty of Maori protocol. It may also be one of your performance objectives at work to understand and appreciate Maori culture. Nevertheless, just living in New Zealand will provide you with ample opportunity to learn more about Maori culture. If you have set your heart on moving to New Zealand, learning some basic greetings and how to pronounce them will set you in good stead for making friends of both Maori and Kiwi culture.
It will also help to do as much research about the key concepts of Maori culture as possible. This way you will avoid causing offence and begin to understand the beauty of this multi-cultural society. It is essential that you visit a marae (a meeting ground for local Maori communities, inspired architecturally by the up-turned canoes the first Maori settlers used to reach the country) or get invited there in your line of work.
It is also important to understand aspects of Maori customs (Tikanga) such as Manaakitanga and Kaitiakitanga. Manaakitanga is all about hospitality and kind nature, specifically welcoming and looking after guests. Hospitality, generosity and mutual respect is always offered – a concept which has struck a chord with Kiwis and is now recognised by the Government as a core value of New Zealand tourism strategy. Kaitiakitanga is the strong sense of respect and guardianship Maori have for the natural environment. This is a deeply spiritual part of Maori culture, where Maori’s believe they have a connection and responsibility for their natural world. This Maori philosophy extends to the wider community, and you will find that most Kiwi inhabitants care enormously about the environment.
New Zealand is an excellent relocation destination for expatriates due to the wealth of opportunities, the natural landscape and lack of a language barrier. But it is important for potential expatriates to appreciate the cultural diversity of the nation and be prepared to embrace indigenous Maori and native Kiwi traditions, languages and systems. For expatriates who are keen to experience and educate themselves on non-European culture, the open and friendly nature of New Zealand is sure to make for the perfect home.