As a modern and globally connected country, business etiquette in New Zealand is very similar to what one might expect to find in many first world nations. When preparing for an internship abroad in New Zealand, it’s important to note key business practices. There are a few subtle nuances of the Kiwi way of life that carry over into the business world, and prospective interns should be aware of them in order to be as successful as possible. Here are your top five most important things to keep in mind to make your internship down under successful!
1) Be On Time!
Like the United States, business practices in New Zealand revolve around punctuality. If you have a meeting scheduled for 9 o’clock, you’d better be there at 9, if not a little earlier. Other international destinations for interns, specifically nations throughout Asia, place less of a premium on time, allowing for arrivals anywhere in a 10 or 15 minute interval with no major consequences. However, New Zealand is thoroughly Western in its business ideology, and punctuality is a must for anyone working in the country, not just interns.
2) Recognize Cultural Differences
New Zealand is a predominantly Western, white country, but nearly 15% of the population is made up of Maori citizens, descendants of the native islanders. Standard, common sense business etiquette can be expected in most situations but interactions among Maori citizens is much more ceremonial, especially if your business takes place on Maori tribal lands known as the marae. If this is the case, be sure to ask for clarification on what is expected of you as a visitor to their home.
Maori are very accepting of outsiders and generally expect them to not be entirely understanding of traditional practices, but it is always polite to ask if you are concerned about possibly being rude. Also, don’t be concerned if you hear Maori citizens speaking to each other in a language you don’t recognize. This is simply their native tongue, similar to other islander languages such as Tongan, Samoan, and Native Hawaiian. Over 150,000 people in New Zealand speak Maori, but any type of business that takes place outside of the marae will be conducted in the country’s official language, English.
Another essential part of this is addressing the person’s honorific title and last name. This is very important especially when addressing superiors and new colleagues. You can later switch to a casual first name basis when you are friends and have established a relationship.
3) Dress For The Job
You may find that New Zealanders as a whole are more laid back than citizens of other nations, but don’t let this fool you into thinking board shorts are acceptable in the board room! Business casual dress is expected in many occupations throughout New Zealand, especially in office settings. For these scenarios, button down shirts and long pants with a belt are appropriate for men and a nice blouse with either pants or a modest skirt are typical for women. If your internship takes place more in the field than indoors, be sure to clarify with your supervisor what types of clothing should be worn each day. Outdoor jobs in environmental preservation and ecology are common throughout the country and the terrain one may be working in can vary greatly, necessitating different types of clothing for both safety and comfort.
4) Embrace Environmentalism
New Zealand is one of the most naturally beautiful nations on Earth and the Kiwis are keen to keep it that way. Almost everyone in the country has a vested interest in preserving the natural environment and this is reflected in many aspects of life there, including in the professional realm. Whole cities actively press their recycling and conservation practices on their citizens, as do most businesses. If you want to make a good impression, be sure to follow along with the locals in obeying rules about recycling, littering, and proper waste management.
5) Money Doesn’t Talk, Actions Do
Relatively speaking, there is very little difference in social classes among New Zealanders. This, combined with the fact that many of their social programs are free to all citizens (including healthcare, housing assistance, and unemployment benefits) means that Kiwis really couldn’t care less exactly how much money you have or where you are from. Due to the high volume of tourists in the country, Kiwis meet people from all over the world and from all walks of life on a daily basis.
You can certainly be proud of where you come from, but don’t flaunt it. Pointing out differences between New Zealand and other countries (specifically the U.S.) is a surefire way to stir the pot with locals. Instead, allow your actions to speak on behalf of your heritage. Just as with most internships, tangible results are the quickest way to win over your supervisors. This effort, combined with a positive attitude and open-mindedness, makes for the quickest route to a successful internship in New Zealand.
With these five etiquette guidelines in mind, you’ll start your internship in New Zealand off on the right foot to work on fulfilling your career aspirations.