Kiwiana - the Unique Side of New Zealand

fern frond  

Since we've just been talking about New Zealand recently, I thought I should mention Kiwiana because it fascinated me. You've heard of Americana … those nostalgic, quirky things that are uniquely American like baseball and Burma Shave signs. Well, Kiwiana is the same, only it's New Zealand's uniquities and they're not usually mentioned on the tour agenda. First of all, let's define kiwi. A kiwi is a fruit (grown in, but not native to New Zealand). Kiwi is a popular nickname for a New Zealander akin to Yank for Americans and not an insult. It's also a slang for a New Zealand dollar and of course, it refers to New Zealand's native kiwi bird.


new zealand dollar


Before heading to New Zealand, I came across a website explaining Kiwiana. I made a list of all things Kiwi to seek out and once we got to New Zealand, we made an effort to see and/or try it all. It's not like visiting a specific place or doing a particular activity, it's more of an insider's look at what makes Kiwis … Kiwis. Like spotting an endemic tui bird and listening to his distinct song.


tui bird in a coral tree


We've already mentioned the blue iridescent paua shell and greenstone (nephrite jade) used to create all sorts of Kiwi souvenirs. Kiwi birds, green-lipped mussels and Tui Beer are all considered extreme New Zealand. Ah, but wait, there's more. The Buzzy Bee! New Zealand's most iconic child's toy, the original Buzzy Bee was a pull-toy introduced in the 1970's in Auckland. Nowadays, you'll see this quintessential image as a sculpture in Wellington, a child's ride at the supermarket and, among other things, a child's pull toy in souvenir shops.


buzzy bee ride


If you're in New Zealand in the summer time, look for the Pohutukawa tree. Known as the New Zealand Christmas tree, its bright red flowers will knock your socks off!


pohutukawa tree


Okay, so sheep are not native to New Zealand; Captain Cook brought them. But there are more sheep in New Zealand than people by a big margin. And then, of course, there are all those sheep jokes. Red sheep, however, are not usual … except at Sheep World. They're definitely eye-catchers.


red sheep


I've never recommended toilets before, but there are some pretty funky toilets in Kawakawa … the Hundertwasser toilets … and you know us, we hate to miss anything. No action shots permitted here.




The big kiwi in Te Puke, Bay of Plenty catches your attention as you drive by. Not sure if it's the world's largest kiwi, but it's pretty big.


big kiwi


In the food and drink category, you need to try an L&P to wash down your “fush and chups” and then have pavlova for dessert.




Take a look at a Billy T. James, Maori comedian, skit if you want a taste of Kiwi comedy.


Though you probably know that Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed in New Zealand, there's been many more filmed there as well like Avatar, The World's Fastest Indian and The Last Samurai, for instance. There are movies like Whale Rider and Boy that might give you insight into Moari culture.

There's certainly lots more and if you're there, the easiest way to learn more about the Kiwis is to ask a Kiwi. They're warm, welcoming and happy to share.

For more New Zealand and Kiwiana, visit our web page.