Culture clash: UK v New Zealand


One of the most popular destinations for UK expats, New Zealand offers a rich multi-culture, low tax rates, slow pace of life, affordable food and fuel, and of course a sub-tropical climate and all the fantastic outdoor views and activities that come with it!

Convinced? Well, as with any new country, settling into New Zealand is contingent on understanding and embracing a different culture. So what are the main differences between UK and New Zealand, and how can expats avoid culture clash?

Outdoor lifestyle
If your idea of a social event is a group Netflix marathon, prepare to be taken out of your comfort zone. Make friends in New Zealand and you may find yourself fishing, sailing, rowing, skiing, surfing, playing rugby, hiking (known locally as ‘tramping’), mountain biking… to name a few possible activities!

How to counter culture clash: Always be open to trying new things, and recognise such activities as the best way to bond with the locals.

Low class consciousness
While the UK is still influenced by the concept of social class, this idea is largely absent in New Zealand. The country is a multicultural melting pot, and locals usually mix across socio-economic groups.

How to counter culture clash: Talk to everyone. We’re all human after all.

Casual dress
Corporate dress code is company and industry dependent, but typically more casual than in the UK. Outside of work, locals wear a lot of black, and tend not to ‘dress up’ for clubbing or parties.

How to counter culture clash: Get advice about dress code before starting your new job. If attending a special event, ask the host, but in many cases casual will be fine.

Casual attitude
New Zealanders’ laid back attitude can be disconcerting, especially in the workplace. Timekeeping especially is not so rigid as in UK business.

How to counter culture clash: Don’t misconstrue a relaxed approach as lack of care.

Local slang
While 96% of New Zealanders speak English, the local tongue includes several phrases that will be lost on the average Brit.

How to counter culture clash: Brush up on common New Zealand phrases before you arrive. If you don’t understand what someone said, just ask, but be prepared to explain your own Britishisms.

With partner offices in 12 key cities, Pickfords relocates hundreds of expats to New Zealand every year. To find out how we can help you fulfil your expat dream, visit our website or call 0800 019 8557.

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