CISABROAD BLOG · September 3, 2019 · 4 Min Read
Top 5 Cultural Differences between the US and New Zealand | Intern Blog from New Zealand

In my three weeks living in Wellington, New Zealand, I quickly became accustomed to the local lifestyle after noticing how New Zealanders do things differently compared to people back in the States. Some things both New Zealanders and Americans do include waking up to go to work and throwing parties on the weekends. Also, people in New Zealand walk and drive on the left side. Despite these similarities,  New Zealand and the US have different cultures.

Top 5 Cultural Differences

Here are the top 5 cultural differences between the US and New Zealand, from what I observed.

1. Water and Glasses are always provided

From the first day I came to Wellington, water and glasses were always present at any table, or your waiter/waitress would bring water and glasses to your table immediately. Even when my friends and I go to Nando’s, which is somewhat compared to a Panera Bread way for serving food, water is always provided. Back in the States, you have to ask your waitress or waiter for water, and yes, it can take some time for them to give it to you. However, every restaurant in New Zealand I have been to always had water present for the customers.

2. Tea and Coffee breaks every day

Top 5 Cultural Differences

Another cultural tradition in New Zealand is holding coffee breaks every morning at 10:00 and each afternoon at 3:00. This is required for everybody to participate.

A couple of times, my supervisor told me, “It’s morning tea time, Olivia.” So, I had to stop everything I was doing at the time and have a cup of tea or coffee in the morning and afternoon. When I told my Kiwi co-workers that back in the States there is no such thing as a tea time (but that people only get an hour or half-an-hour lunch break), they were shocked.

3. Rugby

The third difference between the two cultures is rugby, which is the number one sport here. I once went to a Hurricanes vs. Blues, which are both minor league teams. My friends and I had a fun time watching a game even though we had no clue what was happening.

Top 5 Cultural Differences

The game was so exciting that eventually, we started getting into it as well. The best part of it was when the Hurricanes came back and beat the Blues. You could compare rugby to football back in the US. Football is such an indispensable part of American culture that football will be on nonstop every Sunday and Monday night. I was in New Zealand when it was the playoff season for rugby so not too much action is going on, but you could definitely tell when there was a rugby game because people wear their jerseys.

4. The price you see is the price you are paying for

The next cultural difference I noticed is that the price you see is the price you are paying for. Let’s say a particular item costs $3.99. Well, the tax is already added in, so at the register you pay exactly $3.99. Comparing it back in the states, you will see $3.99, but then you have to add in the tax, and that will be your total. Everybody who I had talked to doing the program, they all liked the concept. Even though the price of food is pretty high due to a lot of importing, just be glad you do not need to add tax in as well.

Top 5 Cultural Differences

5. Everything is walking distance – no excuse for Uber or Ola

Lastly, there is no excuse for you to drive anywhere unless you are going a long distance. When I first signed up to go to New Zealand, I thought I had to take the bus, and yes, I was worried because I never use public transportation back at home. However, when I arrived here I learned that I could walk to almost everywhere. It only took me 10 minutes to go to work, to the harbor, and to the grocery store. Even a ten-minute walk doesn’t feel long, because there’s so much to see on the way.

Top 5 Cultural Differences

When I need to go from one place to another back at home, a car is needed because there aren’t sidewalks everywhere. When I have to go to work in the States, I have to take a car because I have to cross a local highway. However, in Wellington, there is no point for you to use Uber or Ola to go from point A to point B unless you are traveling far.

All in all, I hope my top 5 cultural differences between the US and New Zealand will help you better adjust if you are going to New Zealand!


Read more blog posts from New Zealand

Interested in learning more about cultural difference? Read other blogs about Culture Shock or Culture Immersion
Learn more about Olivia’s program in New Zealand!

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