New Zealand Culture Introduction
New Zealand has a unique and dynamic culture. The culture of its indigenous Māori people affects the language, the arts, and even the accents of all New Zealanders. Their place in the South Pacific, and their love of the outdoors, sport, and the arts make New Zealanders and their culture unique in the world.
Poupou at Waitangi
This beautifully carved poupou post stands guard at the Waitangi Meeting House in the Bay of Islands. A poupou is a carved Maori post that resembles a tipuna (ancestor). The Waitangi Meeting House at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands has many beautiful carvings as well as stunningly decorated tukutuku panels.
The culture of New Zealand is a synthesis of home-grown and imported cultures. The country's earliest inhabitants brought with them customs and language from Polynesia and developed their own Māori and Moriori cultures. British colonists in the nineteenth century brought their culture and had a dramatic effect on the indigenous inhabitants, spreading their religious traditions and the English language. Māori culture also influenced the colonists and a distinctive Pākehā or New Zealand European culture has evolved. More recent immigration from the Pacific, East Asia and South Asia has also added to the cultural melting-pot.
There is debate about the characteristics of a Pākehā ethnic group as many of the cultural traits associated with New Zealand Europeans can also be found in the cultural traditions of other English-speaking Western nations, such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, Canada and the United States. Both Māori and Pākehā have adopted and adapted cultural forms from other countries creating recognisably New Zealand versions.
Today, New Zealanders are largely sophisticated and highly educated urban dwellers. Members of a unique and vibrant multicultural society, New Zealanders are embracing 21st century technology and culture in record numbers. But New Zealanders also have a background of quiet but rugged individualism, self-reliance, and a genius for invention-qualities still evident in the population today.
With so much coastline, it is little wonder New Zealanders love the water. Since Kupe, the first explorer to reach New Zealand, made landfall in the far north of the country over a thousand years ago, New Zealanders have had a passion for ocean-going craft.
New Zealanders were at the forefront of yacht design and racing during much of the 20th century, and continued their dominance into this century by winning and retaining the prestigious America's Cup.
New Zealanders have also won many Olympic medals for yachting, windsurfing, kayaking, and rowing.
What is a Kiwi?
To understand Kiwiana, its important to first know what exactly a kiwi is.
A kiwi is a flightless nocturnal native bird, and the national bird of New Zealand. It has a long beak with nostrils on the end, and fossicks about at night feeding on small insects. However, over the years, New Zealanders have become known as 'Kiwis' as well.
There is a 'kiwi' sense of humour, a kiwi 'do-it-yourself' attitude, and Kiwiana means the things that contribute to our sense of being Kiwi. Just to confuse you, the kiwifruit is often called a 'kiwi' in Europe and America and 'Kiwi' nugget (shoe polish) is known throughout the world, although it is an Australian invention!
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