What makes you proud to be a New Zealander?
Our diverse cultural heritage — a mix from all over the world, but predominantly Maori (tangata whenua — the indigenous people), Pacific Islanders, Pakeha (people of European origin) and people from a range of Asian countries. I am proud of our independent approach and the way that New Zealanders treat people with fairness and respect.
I am proud that we were the first Western country to give women the vote in 1893, and that we believe in creating a society that is equitable for all — if you work hard you have an opportunity to succeed. And I am proud that we have such a beautiful country that has the sea, mountains, lakes, rivers, fjords, glaciers, great food and a relaxed way of life.
We are the country of open spaces, open hearts and open minds.
What is unique about New Zealand?
New Zealand’s Maori heritage, culture and language is unique to Aotearoa (New Zealand) and is an integral part of the New Zealand identity.
Many elements of our Maori culture are world famous, including the Haka — known to many internationally as it is performed by the All Blacks (our World Champion rugby team) at the start of every match.
The similarities between Maori culture and Emirati Bedouin culture are also quite astounding, right down to the “hongi” or the “Mukhashamah” that both cultures use as a form of greeting.
We also have a number of flightless birds, which — given the distances New Zealanders have to fly to get anywhere — is somewhat ironic. As I often point out, our closest neighbour is a three-hour flight away, and Dubai is 16 hours direct!!!
We are also famous for having the windiest capital city, Wellington, anywhere in the world.
What is the Kiwi cultural identity?
We have lots — ranging from being at the beach or out walking in the bush, through to Lorde, the Flight of the Conchords or Dame Kiri Te Kawana.
Our art incorporates Maori and Pacific themes and family and a sense of place is hugely important to us.
New Zealanders like to stop and chat, usually about the rugby, and we don’t like to be rushed. So be like a local and sit and enjoy your flat white coffee and simply watch the world go by.
What is your hometown like?
Auckland/Tāmaki Makarau is our largest city, with over one-third of the New Zealand population. It’s known as the “City of Sails”, as it’s built around two amazing natural harbours and a wonderful set of islands in the Hauraki Gulf.
Being connected to the water is a part of being an Aucklander and weekends spent at the beach are a key recreational pastime. We also have spectacular bushwalks, great parks and public spaces. Auckland is also blessed with a diverse cultural mix that creates a vibrant art scene — the Auckland Art Gallery is a not to be missed highlight.
Finally, Aucklanders are passionate about our food and coffee and enjoying a meal with friends, sampling fresh New Zealand produce or drinking a flat white at a favourite café — it’s all part of the lifestyle.
What’s your favourite Kiwi food?
I personally love New Zealand’s fresh seafood and produce. Fresh pan-fried snapper, local avocados, tomatoes and asparagus, followed by local strawberries and raspberries would be my favourite.
But, like most New Zealanders, I am also a big fan of our lamb and beef products.
Which stereotypes about New Zealanders are true/not true?
We certainly don’t all own a sheep!
Don’t tell anyone, but the hobbits are real and can be visited in Matamata, at Hobbiton — two hours south of Auckland.
New Zealanders are warm, friendly, relatively easy-going and like to spend time with friends and family.
We love the All Blacks.
We are fiercely proud of our country and our cultural heritage and want as many people as possible to experience our country.
Our accent is terrible and we do speak too quickly — but it’s just because we have so much we want to tell you about!
What sights or experiences in your country are not to be missed?
The whole country. Everyone should visit at least once in their life. But we have some jewels in the crown.
The Bay of Islands in the north of the country, Waiheke Island in the Auckland Hauraki gulf (go helicopter fishing), Rotorua for the boiling mud pools and geysers, skiing in both the North Island and South Island during the winters, the Hawkes Bay and Marlborough for the food and wine industries and Queenstown for the dramatic scenery.
And that is just for starters. Visit newzealand.com for advice on how to plan your travel.
It’s also worth remembering that all GCC nationals have visa-free access to New Zealand for 90 days per trip and with the non-stop flight on Emirates to Auckland, there is no reason not to visit!