Where is New Zealand? And other questions you’re too embarrassed to ask

Why does everyone think we live in Hobbit holes here?

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I don’t know why this keeps happening, but New Zealand has been left off a world map. Again.

This isn’t the first time either. In fact, it happens frequently. WTF guys?

There was even a #GetNZOnTheMap campaign to remind people that hey, we’re a tiny but awesome nation down here in the Pacific so please don’t forget about us.

I know, it’s hard to keep up with every country, especially the tiny ones that seem far, far away but I thought this blog had done a decent enough job of helping shed light on what New Zealand is all about for foreigners.

Apparently, there’s still work to do, so let’s get into it.

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Is New Zealand Real?

No joke, this is the first auto-fill question that pops up in google after you type “Is New Zealand…”

Yes, it’s real. It’s an actual country with a functioning government and real humans with jobs and lives and hobbies. Population – under 5 million people.

Someone please tell that to Kazakhstan who once detained a Kiwi traveling there because they were skeptical that New Zealand was a real country. Jesus.

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Where is it?

New Zealand is an island nation the South Pacific Ocean, about 2,000 km east of Australia across the Tasman Sea.

It’s made up two main islands (North and South Islands, yeah we know, creative) and a few off-shoot smaller islands.

Bottom of the world!

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Is it the same as Australia?

No, they are completely separate countries. Please don’t ever ask this in New Zealand if you don’t want to get punched in the face.

Ok, but can you drive to Australia?

Also no. These two countries are separated by 2,000km of open ocean. Definitely not.

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Are there any dangerous animals?

No, not really, unless you count humans.

We have no venomous snakes, spiders, scorpions or bitey insects unlike our neighbors across the Tasman.

We do have one species of venomous spiders, the katipō, which is super rare to see. They are quite shy and will probably only bite if being squished. There is no evidence of any deaths due to a katipō bite in the last 100 years so you’re probably safe.

There have been a few, rare spottings of red back and white tail spiders, likely brought over from Australia. Thanks a lot, guys. But again, nothing to worry about, you probably won’t even see them.

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What side of the road do they drive on?

In New Zealand we drive on the left side of the road.

If you’re visiting and you have never driven on the left before, you’d do everyone a great favor if you looked up the road code and familiarized yourself with this driving style before coming over.

Roads are different here, they are mountainous, winding, and generally not that great. And dangerous tourist drivers are all too common here.

Is New Zealand a modernized country?

Yes. We have electricity and cars and even the coveted world wide web.

We don’t have central heating though, so I guess it depends on your definition of modernized. (Okay, okay we do have heating but old New Zealand houses are notoriously drafty and poorly insulated.)

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Do you have kangaroos?

Negative. We’re happy to keep that drama over in Australia.

Do you have dolphins?

Yes! It’s common to see dolphins all along the coast.

Do you have sharks?

Yes, however, shark attacks are infrequent. Only 12 people have been killed in shark attacks since we began keeping records.

You tend to have sharks when you’re an island nation surrounded by open ocean.

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Do you have owls?

I don’t know why this is a frequently search question, but apparently, it is. Yes, we have owls in case you were curious for some reason.

The native morepork or ruru is an owl and it is known for its haunting, melancholic call and is an important creature in Māori culture and it’s the only native owl species left in New Zealand.

Do you have penguins?

Do we ever!

New Zealand is home to more 7 species of penguins: Rockhopper Penguin, Tawaki or Fiordland Penguin, Snares Penguin, Erect-crested Penguin, Yellow-eyed Penguin, White-flippered Penguin and Blue Penguin.

They aren’t as big as the Emperor Penguins you’re probably picturing in your head right now but they are still cute and adorable, and many of them are endangered.

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Do you have crocodiles?

Fuck no.

Are there really as many sheep as everyone says?

Yes, we have about 9 sheep to every 1 person in New Zealand. They are cute and adorable when you first get here but like most things, they quickly become commonplace and really not all that interesting.

Springtime here is amazing when all the little lambies are born.

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Where is Old Zealand?

The name New Zealand comes from the Dutch word “Zeeland” and was dubbed New Zealand after being spotted by Dutch Explorer Abel Tasman from the Netherlands in 1642.

As you may have guessed Zeeland is a Dutch province in the Netherlands. The Māori name for New Zealand is “Aotearoa” which means land of the long white cloud.

A much cooler name if you ask me.

Do New Zealanders live in Hobbit Holes?

What the hell is this question? Sigh.

Although if you’re Lord of the Ring obsessed, you can visit the original set of Hobbiton and take a tour. Just keep in mind actual, real Kiwis live in actual, real houses.

No one lives in the hobbit holes in Hobbiton. I hate to spoil it, but there is nothing inside, and they’re empty.

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Do they celebrate Australia day?

No. Australia celebrates Australia day, and even there it is controversial.

Do they celebrate the Fourth of July?

No. Think of why that holiday was created and then ask yourself why any other country in the world would celebrate that besides America.

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Is New Zealand part of the EU?

No. We are not part of Europe.

We were once governed by Great Britain but slowly gained our independence and now remain as a colony of Great Britain. Technically, the queen of England is also our queen but we run our parliament completely separate from the Monarchy.

Is it really like what I saw in Lord of the Rings?

I mean I guess?

Scenery wise, it’s just as (if not more) impressive than the movies. Culture-wise? No. Please refer to my earlier answer on living in Hobbit Holes.

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When are their seasons?

New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere so they have summer from December through February, autumn from March until May, winter from June until August, and spring occurs from September to November.

It’s basically opposite.

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Does the toilet water flush the other way?

I literally have no idea. This is something I’ve never paid attention to. I wouldn’t even know which way the water flushes in the northern hemisphere. Y’all need to get a life.

It’s a small country, I should easily be able to get from the top to the bottom, right?

Technically, sure, depending on your definition of easy.

You can certainly drive the length of the entire country (albeit, you have to put your car on a ferry to get between islands), however, it’s going to take you a while.

By area, New Zealand is slightly larger in size than Great Britain and driving from tip to tip will take you well over 24 hours in a car. The roads are long and crazy, no modern straight highways here.

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Does New Zealand have a president?

No, we have a Prime Minister and she’s a certified BOSS.

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Happy Lunar New Year!

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Is New Zealand safe?

Yes, super safe.

In spite of the recent terrorist attack in Christchurch, we have a few random spots of crime but compared to the rest of the world, we’re doing okay. Our murder rates have recently hit a 40 year low.

And our boss of a Prime Minister Jacinda has had our gun laws changed in six days to make it even safer.

Is New Zealand expensive?

It really depends on what you think expensive is. If you’re coming to visit and you’re expecting prices on par with SE Asia, yeah, you’ll be in for a shock.

Here are some price points to help give you an idea so you can make your own conclusions: a beer at the pub ($8-10), movie ticket ($18-20), a liter of gasoline ($2.30/liter, $8.50/gallon), an in-season avocado ($2), an out of season avocado ($6.50), a coffee from a coffee shop ($4.50-$5), monthly rent ($800 – $1200/month), a cheap lunch ($10).

Most people consider it fairly expensive, especially kiwis.

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What language do they speak in New Zealand?

New Zealand has three official languages:Māori, New Zealand Sign Language, and English.

They tend to mumble when speaking English so even though, yes, technically it is English, it might leave you scratching your head for a hot minute before you figure out what they’re talking about. Kiwi slang is going strong here!

What continent does it belong to?

No continent. New Zealand belongs to Oceania which is a region of the world, not a continent.

A continent is a large land of mass so places in the world (like New Zealand and Hawaii) that do not belong to a continent but rather a region of the world that is dominated by water. Oceania is divided into sub-regions including Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia.

New Zealand falls into the subregion of Oceania, Polynesia (as does Hawaii in case you were wondering)

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Is it really as magical as it seems?

Yes. But also no, of course not.

New Zealand is doing some amazing things and yeah, sure, it’s stupidly beautiful but at the end of the day, it’s a country, just like yours. We have our own issues and areas for improvement just like any other country. Sure we have postcards worthy landscapes around every corner. But we also have one of the highest youth suicide rates in the world and the runoff and mismanagement by the dairy industry is polluting the country at a rate that’s almost laughable.

Yes, we are planning the use of single-use plastic. But we also have one of the highest rates for family violence in the developed world. What I’m trying to say is, yes it’s a great country but just like any country, we still have a lot of work to do.

People to idealize it here, me included. It’s magical to many but it is imperfect too.

What did I miss? Have any burning questions about New Zealand that you were too afraid to ask? Spill and we’ll reply, though we can’t promise we won’t sass. 

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17 Comments on “Where is New Zealand? And other questions you’re too embarrassed to ask

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  1. I loved this post! I enjoyed reading more about New Zealand from the perspective of an expat living there, would love another post like this. For expats wanting to do the working-holiday visa in NZ, are there certain regions/cities you’d most recommend?

  2. This is great! I like the fact you haven’t idealised New Zealand. I must admit I did for a long time after visiting and deciding it was the place I want to live. I’d still love to return but also realise day to day life anywhere in the world has its ups and downs.

  3. Greetings Erica:

    It was interesting to read the questions you get about NZ. So sad to know that so many people who read your blog are so ignorant and/or uneducated. And they’re probably mostly American! 🙁

    On other fronts, it was greatly saddened to read your post about the youth suicides and family violence in NZ. I did not know it was so bad there. So tragic!!! Do you have any good insight into why this is?

    Thank you!

  4. Such a brilliant post. I love your sense of humour. I’m fascinated by your answer to “Is it really as magical as it seems?” Being a tourist sometimes can create flowery perspectives of locations. So important to keep it real! Thanks for all of the info & tolerating years and years of silly questions!

    Deanna | luxandvitae.com

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