If you’re considering a trip to New Zealand-Aotearoa then it’s worthwhile investing a little time before you go researching the local culture. This isn’t a difficult homework task and you don’t need a PhD – just watch a few NZ movies, listen to some great music and if you like, read a few books. It’s fun to find out what the Kiwis are all about and to make it as easy as possible for you, here we provide some quick links to the cultural landmarks of the country downunder!
NZ movies can be dark and humourous, and many of the best are infused with elements of the Maori culture. For example what did Peter Jackson do before he made Lord of the Rings? One of the best comedy zombie movies ever, Braindead.
NZ actress Anna Paquin started her Hollywood career with this atmospheric art film, the Piano, with Harvey Keitel and Holly Hunter.
A great historic-action film is Utu (meaning ‘revenge’) set during NZ’s colonial civil war in the 1860s.
For bitter-sweet comedy check out Boy.
For just the ‘dark side’ watch Once Were Warriors, exploring tensions between gang culture and family.
Top of the list for pure feel good factor and a great story we recommend Whale Rider, which everyone is guaranteed to love.
Apart from Peter Jackson and his hobbits, nobody’s done more to promote New Zealand to the rest of the world than NZ’s fourth-best folk band, Flight of the Conchords – watch their classy music video Sexy Lady!
For a local hit that could not have been made anywhere else check out the animated comedy Brotown, this excerpt is from an episode about the Kiwi love hate affair with the Australians.
The Booker Prize-winning The Luminaries is very readable and will give you a sense of the gold mining history of the South Island. You could also read Whale Rider (Witi Ihimaera) the excellent short novel the film is based on, or the only other NZ book to win the Booker, The Bone People, a magic realist poetic narrative from the ‘80s.
There’s really too many great musicians to mention here – for such a small country there’s some great sounds coming from the South Pacific, and it’s not just Lorde. If you love music then you’ll love NZ. Here’s a few local classics and some of my personal favourites:
Fat Freddy’s Drop – funk soul electronic
Katchafire – blissful reggae
Che Fu – smooth hip hop soul
SJD – beautifully crafted pop songs
Fly my Pretties – a collective of NZ musicians performing each other’s songs (this song is the awesome Ria Hall)
Iva Lamkum – up and coming soul sister
Woolshed Sessions – a beautiful one-off folk project
The Haka & Maori culture
The haka is a traditional war dance that is part of the Polynesian cultures of the south Pacific. There’s the haka, which many associate with the sports teams of New Zealand (for example the Samoan and Kiwi rugby league teams face off here; even school kids do a mean haka) and then there’s kapahaka which is music and dance performance:
The Guardian; a photo essay
Winning performers of the 2015 kapahaka national champions:
All you really need to know is that the national sport is rugby and the All Blacks are the best in the world! They are one of the most successful sports teams ever:
The Guardian Business lessons from All Blacks team culture
Finally, you may have trouble understanding NZ English so here’s a couple of clips for you to study.
Chat show host Graham Norton’s reaction to the New Zealand accent:
Flight of the Conchords’ again – Bret has trouble with his name.