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New Zealand Slang

  

New Zealand Slang

New Zealand is very unique in that there are two national languages - English and Maori, the indigenous language of the islanders who lived in New Zealand before it was colonised. There are only a few countries around the world with more than one national language, such as Ecuador where they speak Quechua and Spanish, and Switzerland where they speak Italian, German and French. Evidence of the Maori language can be seen all over the country, particularly dominant in difficult to pronounce place names such as Whangarei and Whakapapa, and even the longest place name in the world - Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, a small hill in Hawkes Bay, is written in the Maori language (good luck getting your tongue around that one).
Although Maori language and culture have a huge part in the culture, New Zealand is very much an English speaking country, and if you happen to stumble across some people having a legitimate conversation in Maori, you will be very privileged, as most of the people of indigenous decent just communicate in English. And yes, while it technically is the same language as the settlers from England, and indeed our neighbours in Australia, there are a few words and phrases that have worked their way into everyday communication that leave some visitors and tourists completely stumped, even when English is their first language. So here are a few phrases it helps to know when you visit Aoteoroa - the land of the long white cloud.
Jandals - this is one of the first words you will probably hear that you don't understand. The Australians call them “thongs”, and are not speaking about e revealing undergarment. Jandals is the abbreviation of “Japanese Sandals”, and to the rest of the world, this describes “Flip Flops”. Kiwis love their jandals, and will wear them at any convenient moment.
Kiwis - Kiwis are a type of fruit that you eat. It is also the word that is used to describe New Zealanders. It is also a type of rare an endangered bird that can only be found in New Zealand. Be careful to listen to the context so that you don't get confused with this ambiguous and commonly used word.
Ka Pai - Actually this is a Maori phrase that means, good, or well done. This is also used by the westernised population in New Zealand and often gets mixed in with English, for example, “Everything is ka pai”, meaning “everything is good”.
Kia Ora - This is another example of Maori language that has been adapted by the westernised Kiwis and is used in everyday communication. This is how Kiwis say hello to each other, and it is not unusual to be greeted at a restaurant with “Kia Ora” instead of “Good evening”.
The Wops - “He lives way out in the wops”. This is only really heard when you speak with the true locals, but it means “the middle of nowhere”.
Yeah nah/nah yeah - So “yeah” means “yes” and “nah” means “no”, “Yeah nah” means no and “nah yeah” means yes. “Yeah nah yeah” means “yes” and “nah yeah nah” means no… If ever you find yourself on the receiving end of a string of “yeah”s and “nah”s, just take the last word they say and presume that that is what they mean. If they still look at you slightly befuddled, it is possible that they have managed to even confuse themselves with the concept.
Sweet as - There is never any need to wait for a Kiwi to define exactly what their experience was as sweet as, because you will never get an answer. This is a response that Kiwis use to express their excitement or positive feelings, much like the word “awesome” or “cool”. This is potentially the most overused phrase in New Zealand, often followed by the word “bro” (short for “brother” but used in a friendly way) which is also overused, and you will notice that the “a” sound is drawn out because of the Kiwi accent. It's sweet as bro!
Not Even - This is a response to express surprise and disbelief, much like “no way” or “far out”. Although instead of “far out” a Kiwi would probably just say “faaa”.
Eh - The true mark of a Kiwi is this little noise they insert anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes you will hear it at the end of a phrase with an upwards intonation to imply a question. “You're going out, eh?”. Sometimes you will hear it as a response to a question, usually inviting repetition of the question. Sometimes it is used to express disbelief. Sometimes it is used to invite agreement.
This really is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Kiwi slang, but these phrases will help you to blend in with the locals when you first arrive. Grab some cold brews, slip on your Jandals, and everything will be ka pai. Haere ra!

 

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