Non-Verbal & Verbal Communication
Nonverbal and verbal communication styles in New Zealand are very similar to those practiced in most western countries. As an individualistic but low power-distance nation, people are seen as extremely approachable with an “open communication style” but also maintaining a strong desire for personal privacy. English is their official language, however, some of the Maori still use ancient tribal language practiced by their ancestors hundreds of years before.
In public, a certain level of courtesy is expected of most. Rules like covering the mouth while yawning and refraining from chewing gum are enforced, to raise the levels of civility in public. Also, it is appropriate and suggested that you ask someone before you take a picture of them. Other suggestions are to maintain a forceful, but never loud, tone of voice. The natives appreciate someone who is reserved upon meeting them, for formality’s sake, with the expectation of moving past that once you are well acquainted. Good eye contact and a firm handshake, extended by the woman if both genders are meeting, are good examples of this. People may be reserved, but appreciate a high level of respect and will assume the laid-back, warm persona that so many know New Zealand for already.
Weather, sports and politics are all within the limits of good conversation topics. The “nuclear free” zone of New Zealand is also a hot topic among locals; however, be sure not to group them in with Australians, as they respect them, but are still an independent nation.
The Maori people practice their own set of non-verbal communication signals, gestures, etc. For example, as a sign of respect to old traditions and customs, some Maoris still press their noses together to greet another member when walking down the street. Giving someone the “thumbs-up” gesture can mean a variety of things to natives. If it is used forcefully, it can be taken as a sharp insult (comparable to “up yours” to Americans), but it’s also used often by hitch-hikers and to say “OK” when talking to others. It is also an insult to show the V-sign (or the index and middle fingers) with the palm facing toward someone else, as with the thumbs-up reference (cyborlink.com).
As mentioned before, an expectation of formality is expected within New Zealand business practices. Besides being honest and speaking directly and respectfully, most of it relies on non-verbal messages being communicated through, most specifically, attitudes and appearance. It is recommended that people traveling to New Zealand always have a conservative suit to wear to meetings, not straying far from neutral colors. Punctuality is incredibly essential. The term “fashionably late” does not really apply to natives, as every function starts on the time it was slated for. At a lunch or dinner function, it is appropriate to speak less during the actual meal and do so before or after, and generally no business is conducted at dining; tipping is also a rare practice.
Information for this page was found on: