The chilly bin is chocka, you’ve got your jandals on and you’re ready to take a tiki tour through the wop-wops for a bit of tramping with your mates.
Or, you would be if you had any idea what those words even mean!
If you’re a native English speaker, traveling to English speaking New Zealand is super easy, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hit a few language barriers when you’re chatting it up with the locals.
New Zealanders have enough local slang and colloquialisms that you could easily find yourself lost in translation. Luckily, we’ve put together a quick guide to keep your conversation on track and have you talking like a Kiwi in no time.
Common New Zealand Slang
Kiwi – An endearing nickname New Zealanders have given themselves based on the flightless bird of the same name. All New Zealanders love the Kiwi – it’s even featured on the New Zealand one dollar coin.
Sweet as – When something is a step above good, it’s sweet as. Use sweet as any time you would use the word awesome back home and you’ll be good as gold (another Kiwi-ism!).
Mate – Just like their Aussie cousins, New Zealanders refer to their friends as their mates.
Chocka – When something is full, it’s chocka, whether you’re talking about a closet full of clothes, a bin full of rubbish or a stomach that’s just eaten too much Pavlova. In the U.S. we would say chock full, but we don’t use it quite as often as the Kiwis do.
Jandals – It seems like every nation has their own interpretation of this thin-soled, open-toed beach wear. Whether you call them sandals, flip-flops or thongs. They pretty much all mean the same thing, but in New Zealand, they’re jandals, a truncation of “Japanese sandals”. “I’m putting on my jandals and heading to the beach!”
The Wop-wops – The wop-wops refer to a rural area in the middle of nowhere. Often shortened to simply, the wops. You might refer to them as the boonies or the sticks. Generally, any place that’s an hour or more from civilization is in the wops.
Keen – This work is used when you’re excited about something. “Want to head to the beach?” “Keen!”
Dairy – This one might be one of the more confusing Kiwi terms if you’re not familiar with it. A dairy is not just a place where cows are milked and cheese made! A dairy is most generally a convenience store or corner store where one would buy eggs, milk, newspapers, general goods and more. “I’ll pop by the dairy and pick us up a few things on the way home.”
Tomato sauce – What you probably call ketchup is simply tomato sauce in New Zealand. Chips (that’s fries to you – try and keep up, now!) are a staple food among Kiwis so don’t be surprised if a restaurant asks if you’d like tomato sauce with your chips.
Chippie – Chippies on the other hand, are potato chips.
Tramping -Going for a hike, walking through rugged terrain, trekking through the mountains. Whatever your outdoor pleasure, it’s all called tramping in New Zealand. Since New Zealand is such an amazing outdoor paradise, with tons of Great Walks, you’ll probably hear this one a lot.
Dag – Kiwi’s use this term when something or someone is funny or outrageous. You’ll know you’re joke landed if someone comments, “You are such a dag!”
Chilly Bin -Exactly as it sounds, a bin that’s cold inside, perfect for keeping things chilly! In the U.S. we call them coolers, a name that’s a bit less descriptive and not nearly as fun to say.
Shout – Someone shouts when they treat someone to a meal or drinks. “It’s nice to meet you. Let me shout you a drink.”
Choice – If you’re from the west coast, you might be familiar with this one. When something is excellent or above average, it’s choice.”That bike is choice!”. A very versatile Kiwi word, choice can be used any time you want to express positive feelings about something.
No worries – If you thank someone, they’ll likely respond with no worries.
Tiki Tour – To go on a tiki tour is to take the scenic route to your destination, or simply to go on a scenic tour to see the sights with no particular destination in mind. The word itself is no doubt Maori influenced, with tiki referring to a Polynesian wood-carving.
Eh – Just like our cousins to the north, Kiwis like to add eh to the end of sentences. “It’s a great day, eh?” It normally sounds more like, aye.
Knackered – When you’re more than simply tired, or you’re completely wiped out and exhausted, you’re knackered. “I pulled an all-nighter last night, I’m completely knackered today!”
Loo – The toilet or restroom. No doubt a holdover from British influence, what we would call the “bathroom” New Zealanders call the loo. There’s not a hold lot of solid evidence out there about where the British even got the term loo, so don’t try and make too much sense of it, but you’ll definitely want to know it! Besides, how many of our bathrooms actually have baths in them anyway?
Yeah nah – New Zealanders say yeah nah as a slightly hesitant way of technically, sort of saying no. But they also use it to technically, sort of, kind of say yes. Sometimes they even use it to say maybe! Yeah nah is an indecisive word that’s made it’s way in to the Kiwi lexicon as a way to agree or disagree in the most agreeable way possible. Or maybe that you understand what someone’s saying, but don’t personally agree. Use this one anywhere and often!
Footy – Rugby, New Zealand’s national sport. Kiwi’s are huge fans of rugby. New Zealand culture is reflected in the sport as the national team, the All-Blacks, perform a haka (a native Maori war cry) before every game to intimidate their opponents. Not to be confused with “soccer” which is no where near the national obsession that footy is!
B.Y.O – This is a license given to restaurants which allow customers to bring in their own alcoholic beverage. Very useful to know if you are the type to enjoy libations on vacation.
Ta – This simply means thanks. “Here’s your baggage.” “Ta.”
Biscuit – Just like in the UK, a biscuit in New Zealand is a cookie. So if you’re looking for something sweet, head to the biscuit section of your closest dairy.
Togs- This is a swim suit. “I’m heading to the beach.” “Wait for me, I got to get my togs on!”
Bach – Being on vacation you may hear this word from time to time. It means a holiday home.
Te Reo Māori
While the Kiwi language has been heavy influenced by the Brits, you’ll also find that Te Reo Māori (the Māori language) is very much a part of the New Zealand vernacular. Here are a few Māori sayings you might find useful on your New Zealand vacation!
Kia Ora (key-or-ah) – This is an informal hello. It’s very versatile and used to address people from all walks of life. It could mean hello, good morning/afternoon/ evening, thanks and show agreement.
Haere Mai (hi-ra-mi) – You’ll see these words on signs as you enter new cities and buildings. It means welcome.
Tēnā Koutou (ten-a-ko-toe) – This common saying means, hello everybody. Say it when you are greeting more than one person.
Haere Ra (Hi-ra-raw) – A goodbye of sorts, said to the person who is leaving. If you are leaving, you would say e noho ra as a farewell.
Now that you have a few basic Kiwi phrases, you’re ready to make your way to New Zealand! Since New Zealand is an English speaking country, it’s very easy for Americans to communicate with the locals.
Start Planning Your Trip to New Zealand
It’s a little harder to plan a stress free New Zealand vacation, especially if you are planning on visiting multiple destinations.
As you may know, New Zealand is one of the world’s most popular destinations and with so little populated areas, it fills up quickly. Let the experts at About New Zealand help you navigate vacation planning and contact us today.
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