Kiwi Savvy Blog

... where you can find out how and why Kiwis do the things we do!

Summer holidays - the countdown is on!

Summer holidays - the countdown is on!

We’ve hit December, which means the countdown is on until summer and the holidays arrive. Christmas music is playing in shops, people are going to end-of-year work functions, and kids are finishing school for the summer break. So, what can you expect to happen in New Zealand over this time? Let’s find out.

What’s the summer weather like in New Zealand?
Yeah, you’re probably wondering where summer is. It’s on its way. It has a habit of not turning up until January – and it’s even been known to send a little snow beforehand. Expect any kind of weather around the end of December/start of January. But often, our real summer kicks in in January. Temperatures vary around the country, but they average in the 20s, sometimes early 30s – degrees Celsius, that is.

What holidays does New Zealand have over summer?
School holidays start around mid-December and continue until the end of January/start of February. New Zealand has four public holidays over Christmas and New Year:
  • Christmas Day – most shops shut, some dairies and petrol stations will open 
  • Boxing Day – many shops will reopen, but not all
  • New Year’s Day – some shops will open, some not
  • Day after New Year’s Day – most shops will open

Many New Zealanders take a break from work over this time – usually a couple of weeks. So, expect bigger places like Auckland to be quieter and beachy places like Whangamata to be buzzing!  

What do Kiwis do over the summer holidays?
We head outdoors! Well, many of us do – swimming, fishing, diving, kayaking, water-skiing, walking … and more. Camping’s a popular activity – New Zealand has some amazing spots to pitch a tent or set up a caravan. A lot of the country celebrates Christmas, either on 25th December or around that time. Generally, it involves being with family and eating. New Year’s Eve is 31 December – often celebrated with a few drinks and welcoming the new year at midnight.

How can I join in?
Heading to your nearest beach is a good start. Or grab some camping gear and hit a campground. Check out some Kiwi musicians at one of the many music festivals or gigs around the country. The main thing is to relax and soak in the sunshine (hopefully). Just remember to drive safely, slap on some sunscreen, and swim between the flags!

Five questions Kiwis might ask you about your travels

Five questions Kiwis might ask you about your travels

Travelling in New Zealand means you’ll experience some pretty cool stuff. And hopefully, that’ll include conversations with Kiwis who want to know more about you and your travels. So, here’s 5 common questions Kiwis might ask you. They seem simple, but can easily cause confusion – especially with New Zealand pronunciation thrown in!

1. Whereabouts are you from?  (Where are you from?)
It’s a standard question, but Kiwis might sneak the 'abouts' bit on the end of 'where'. This might cause a moment of confusion before you answer!  But now you know, you’ll be prepared if you hear it. The stressed (more strongly pronounced) words are 'whereabouts' and 'from'.

2. How long are you here for?  (How much time will you spend in NZ?)
Even the best English speakers can get this one wrong. We're asking you how long your entire stay in New Zealand will be. The question form and tense are important. People often incorrectly answer, ‘we arrived here two weeks ago’, which answers the question, ‘how long have you been here for?’. For example:

If today is 1 February:


Q: How long are you here for? 
A: Three months.
Present Simple tense 

Q: How long have you been here for? 
A: One month.
Present Perfect tense

3. How are you getting around?  (What method of transport are you using?)
Kiwis can use many questions to find out your method of transport, but this is a common one. Short answers start with 'by'; by car, by bus, by bike. Or you can extend your answer with, ‘we’ve got a campervan’, ‘we’ve hired a car’, ‘we’re flying between cities and towns’, etc.  

4. Are you heading down/up/over to ...?  (Are you going to …?)
Instead of using the verb go, we often use the phrasal verb head up/down/over/around, etc. Kiwis will be genuinely interested in where you’re heading in New Zealand. South Islanders might ask if you’re going North, and vice versa. You might receive some useful advice or tips on what to do and where to go, so try and extend this conversation. Look out for our soon-to-be-released head up/down/off/over lesson to see how to use this phrasal verb.

5. What do you think of NZ?  Are you enjoying it?  (no translation – it is what it is!)
Flutter your eyelashes, clap your hands and say, ‘it’s amazing!’. Well, only if you want to! No, you should say what you think – if it’s rained too much, say it. If the roads are not what you expected, say it. If you love the place, say it! Just remember, diplomacy is always a good thing 😉

So, you now have 5 questions you’ll be prepared for. Let that conversation flow and you’ll soon have heaps more questions to practise answering.

Happy travels! (and chats)

We're a pretty casual bunch!

We're a pretty casual bunch!

Laid-back.  It’s a great adjective. Relaxed and easy-going is the Oxford dictionary definition. Perhaps Oxford could include this scene to support their definition:

Raeleen - walking down a small-town New Zealand street in her trackies (trackpants), young son padding barefoot by her side. She’s zipping into the dairy to grab a bottle of milk because her mate Kylie’s just texted to say she’ll be round for a cuppa in 5.

Yep, we’re a pretty casual bunch. Laid-back, relaxed, easy-going, casual – this is the Kiwi way of life!

Language and chat
Our language choice shows our relaxed nature. Expressions like, ‘how’s it going?, ‘no worries’, and ‘what are you up to?’, are used daily. For practicality, we sometimes shorten language, e.g. ‘what’s happening?’ becomes ‘what’s the haps?’. And, love it or hate it - we swear. A lot.

Along with the casual language is the casual chat. Many Kiwis think nothing of chatting to someone they don’t know. If a shop owner asks, ‘how are you?’, they mean it. And they’re expecting an answer! Walk down any suburban street and it’s possible to strike up a conversation with a fellow walker or someone out in their garden, usually starting with the weather.

It’s fair to say the average Kiwi wouldn’t feature on any fashion catwalk. Our standard getup for winter = hoodie, jeans, sneakers; summer = shorts, singlet, jandals. And that’s for females and males.  We go for practicality. Walk to work? – wear sneakers, yes even with your good work clothes. Need comfy pants? - wear trackies. Too hot for shoes? – go barefoot.

Outdoor activities and farming are big in New Zealand, so sturdy, practical outdoor clothing is everywhere. It transitions into more urban environments too. Don’t be surprised to see hunting clothing worn at the supermarket – it might be a hunter grabbing some milk on the way home, or someone who just wants to be comfortable.

A practical attitude
You might’ve noticed a recurring theme here – practicality! Our practical approach to life gives us our relaxed, casual attitude. If we can find a more straightforward way to do something, we’ll do it. It mightn’t be the prettiest or the classiest, but if it makes life easier, we’re in. 

That attitude also includes being easy-going, chatty, friendly and down to earth. New Zealand is not as class-structured as other countries, and so more egalitarian than most. That’s why those conversations you’ll get into are real. 

Join us!
So, feel free to join us! Relax, lay back, get casual. Try your chatting skills and throw in some of your newly-learned language. Put yourself in the Oxford dictionary scene. In fact, hey, isn’t that you chatting to the dairy owner and making Raeleen wait to buy her milk?

Good on ya!


Welcome to the Kiwi Savvy Blog!

Welcome to the Kiwi Savvy Blog!

Hi, how’s it going?! 

If you’re reading this, you’re either in New Zealand or heading our way soon.  You might bump into some of us New Zealanders – or Kiwis as we call ourselves.  Yes, we speak English.  Some of us also speak Te reo Maori – the indigenous language of Aotearoa, New Zealand.  And of course, many Kiwis speak other languages from their ethnic backgrounds.  But, English is New Zealand’s main language. 

The way we use English and the way we do things is a little different, though. Understanding this will make your time in New Zealand more enjoyable.  That’s why our first blog post shows you what Kiwi Savvy is about and how to use it.

Get Kiwi savvy!

Savvy, or being savvy, means you know your subject well.  If your subject’s New Zealand, we can give you the knowledge.  There are two parts to Kiwi Savvy:  English language lessons that’ll help you understand and communicate with Kiwis; and the blog that’ll show you how we live in New Zealand.  Get stuck into both, and you’ll be Kiwi savvy in no time!   

Learn our language

You speak English well, you have a good vocabulary, you know your grammar, you might even be a native speaker.  But do you still have difficulty understanding Kiwis? 

You might find the same expressions or language patterns in other English-speaking countries, but do they use them like we do?  Context is important.  Being exposed to English in a New Zealand context prepares you for what you might hear while you’re here.

In each Kiwi Savvy language lesson, we’ll show you one chunk of language.  It might be a:

  • language pattern - could do with a + noun
  • expression - bring it on
  • phrasal verb - check out

You’ll see the language in a New Zealand context, listen to it, learn how to use it, learn how a Kiwi might use it with you, learn how to pronounce it, and then – hey presto –  you’ll be ready to use it.

Something to remember.  We:

  • receive language by listening and reading
  • produce language by speaking and writing

Some Kiwi Savvy expressions/language patterns are more suitable for receiving than producing.  In other words, you’ll understand it when you hear or read it, rather than say or write it yourself.

We’ve also thrown in some commonly-used vocabulary.  You can get heaps of listening practice from each Kiwi Savvy lesson and learn to pronounce language correctly – important for us to understand you.  Look at the Lesson Extenders to see how you can get more practice in listening, pronunciation, vocabulary, speaking and writing.

Find out why we do the things we do

Check out the Kiwi Savvy Blog and those quirks of New Zealand culture will become clearer with each post!  You’ll read about things that are typically Kiwi - our food, mentality, work, life, sport, language, family, etc. 

The language in each blog post is purposefully native-speaker level – it’s another way of exposing you to how we use English.  You’ll find heaps of new vocabulary.  Note it down, work out how it’s used (see our vocabulary lesson extender for ideas), then use it yourself.

Give it a go!

You’ll notice there are no worksheets for our lessons.  That’s because you’ll never have a conversation with a Kiwi by doing a gap-fill exercise.  No, we want you to get out there, get amongst it, and give your newly-learned language a go!  After all, you’re learning English to use it with real people, so why not use it with us Kiwis – we’re pretty real.  And we like chatting, so give it a try!

Most of all, enjoy your time in New Zealand.  Don’t get too worried about having perfect communication – our resources are simply here to help you along the way.  

See you out there!