Understanding The Kiwis

Understanding The Kiwis
To those emigrating from the UK, the 'British' base of the culture of New Zealand and its peoples may seem reassuringly similar at first, if a little old-fashioned, but the remoteness of the country, its native Maori traditions and its large number of Asian migrants have coloured its culture over the years. Do's and don'ts include many familiar strictures, but many more are the result of the 20th century catching up with New Zealand in a big way.

Most New Zealanders are genuinely friendly and helpful to new arrivals, a comparatively rare characteristic in most other first-world world countries, and those arriving in the big cities will find it easy to settle in. Tolerance is another positive aspect here, with New Zealand the first country to appoint an openly trans-sexual mayor who later became an MP.

However, multiracial immigration over the last 30 years or so has resulted in the highly individualistic Kiwis becoming suspicious of intrusion, much as happened in the UK after WWII, and based on New Zealand's former bi-cultural isolation due to its remoteness. As is normal in times of change, right-wing political nationalism occasionally rears its ugly head.

With most early immigrants arriving from class-ridden Britain, it's no surprise that social class plays a part in New Zealand society, although from the late 19th century the so-called working class has enjoyed a prosperous lifestyle all but impossible in their countries of origin. However, inter-class mobility was limited and led to a peculiarly Kiwi form of egalitarianism which denigrated ambition, known as 'Tall Poppy Syndrome' and still visible in the valuing of modesty as against self-congratulation.

As in most other first-world countries, the gap between the wealthy and the rest has increased considerably in recent years, although in general this hasn't resulted in an increase in class-related discord. Most Kiwis don't care about peoples' positions in the social hierarchy, preferring to respect those who work hard above those whose wealth is inherited or made through investments. Younger people here are now acceptant of inequality as a modern-day social reality.

Corruption is rare in New Zealand, although most Kiwis have a healthy distrust of politicians as well as, conversely, faith in the country's democratic processes resulting in political involvement and high turnout at election times. Unfortunately for female migrants, the stereotypical Kiwi man has broad similarities to the Australian bushman and the American pioneer. Nowadays, when most Kiwis live in cites, the ability to sustain a remote rural lifestyle is much admired, especially in the pub!