My name is Emma. I'm a third year Sport and Social Science student and I'm currently on a 12 month placement with Harbour Sport, a non for profit sports organisation in New Zealand! The job and the place have a lot to offer and I wanted to share some of my experiences, with the goal of encouraging others to step outside their comfort zones when thinking about going on placement!
Given the distance between Britain and New Zealand it’s not hard to imagine that there are a few cultural quirks that might throw you off when you first land in the country! Below, I go through just a few things that I’ve picked up on over the past few months. These may or may not entertain you, either way if you are thinking about a placement in New Zealand, or have already accepted one hopefully you’ll think back to this post if ever you are faced with a barefooted kiwi telling you everything is “sweet as” and to get yourself a drink from the “chilly bin”.
The ‘Haka’ is certainly one of the first things that springs to mind when we think about New Zealand. The ancient practice precedes most sports games and is performed at a variety of cultural celebrations and occasions. New Zealand is a very young country having only been founded in 1856. And so, where in the UK we might have a vast history of castles, caves, war sites as well as countless museums, New Zealand has very little.
However, there is an incredible emphasis on the history of the indigenous Maori people that stems back much further than 1856. It is not uncommon to be greeted with “Kia ora”- ‘hello’ in the native Te Reo Maori, or to see elaborate buildings decorated with impressive wooden sculptures.
There is also a heavy importance placed on the environment and natural beauty of the land- which is one of the most striking and beautiful things that I think the country has to offer (see pictures). It is fair to say that despite the indigenous Maori people being treated poorly in the past, there is a massive effort and pride in showcasing the routes of modern-day New Zealand that is highly respected and looked after by kiwis.
Put Your Bare Foot Forward
If you hate feet beware! Toes are on display year-round, in New Zealand it is not uncommon for people to walk around barefoot in the supermarket, down the street, at work, at school etc…
At first this really stood out to me and the other placement students, coming from a culture that generally enforces shoe wearing as a bare minimum. But throughout our time here were all guilty of taking on the habit from time to time. There is something, quite literally grounding and freeing about being barefoot. When asking a girl working with me why they do this she simply said, “We’ve never not done it” and she recalls “getting to school and taking coats and shoes off” as well as removing shoes when playing sports because they were “uncomfortable”.
Along the same vein, kiwi’s vocabulary and certainly slang differs from ours to. How laid-back kiwis are is reflected in this. Absolutely everything is considered to be “sweet as”. Got a meeting you’re running late for? Sweet as. Forgot your mate’s birthday? Sweet as. Knocked your nan off her bike? Sweet as. You might also have the occasional person say “Shot”- which baffled me for a long time, but essentially means “good job” in both an ironic and literal sense.
You might come across someone wanting to play a game of “scissors, paper, rock” which I can only describe as being wrong, might as well call fish and chips “chips and fish” whilst you’re at it! But most of all, and you will catch yourself using it one day, and there will be no going back - you slip the term “ey” onto the end of every question/statement. It is both infuriating and endearing, because a little part of you does feel like a true kiwi when you use it!
Sun cream is not an option
You will burn to a crisp. Wear sun cream, year-round, or learn the hard way.