New Zealand’s two islands are divided by Cook Strait. The North Island boasts volcanoes, hot springs, mud pools, geysers, and beautiful beaches, while the South Island has rugged Alpine mountains, glaciers, and access to activities like swimming with dolphins and whale-watching. The Lord of the Rings film triology was filmed in New Zealand, and showcases the country's beautiful landscape. New Zealand has two predominant cultures: the European (or Pakeha) and the Maori. There is also a Pacific Island influence, a growing Asian culture and a plethora of other minority groups, which makes for a diverse mix of cuisine, music, art and architecture. Sports and the outdoors play a huge part in the life of a Kiwi.
The way of life in New Zealand is generally relaxed and informal. On the whole, New Zealanders, (also known as Kiwis), are self-reliant, practical people. It is not uncommon for both parents to work outside the home. Children and parents share the housework. Almost all families have pets living in the house.
Most families are a mixture of European, Maori, Asian or Polynesian descent. Kiwis are not influenced by Western culture alone. Fashion, jewelry, decorations and crafts reach deep into the Maori traditions. Maori are preserving their unique culture that contributes to New Zealand as a whole.
New Zealanders love both the outdoors and sports. Almost every young person is involved in some form of sport. The favorites are rugby, cricket, soccer, basketball, netball, hockey and touch rugby (rugby without the physical contact). National pride is connected with the world’s best netball team, the Silver Ferns, and the world’s best rugby team, the All Blacks.
New Zealand teenagers like to dress casually, but uniforms are required at school and makeup and jewelry are not permitted.
The New Zealand diet is very varied. In the last few years, there has been a large Asian influence on New Zealand cuisine. Many families cook Asian style curries and stir fries for dinner.
Dinner is the main meal in the evening. The most traditional meal is the roast. New Zealanders love barbecues; they are proud of their fish and chips take-outs and thanks to a wide variety of ethnic groups the culinary arts are becoming very diverse.
English, Maori, and sign language are all official languages of New Zealand. English is used in day-to-day business.
Maori, the indigenous language (related to Tahitian and Hawaiian) of New Zealand, was recognized as an official language in 1987. It is spoken by 160.000 inhabitants. Many Maori words are used in everyday speech and many place and street names are Maori too. Many New Zealanders are Christian or have no religious affiliation.