Being Happy As A Kiwi: Your Guide To New Zealand Slang

When you think of a kiwi, you might think of a hairy green fruit, but in New Zealand, the term actually describes three things. First, there’s just a regular “kiwi” which is the colloquial name for a New Zealander. Second, they’ve got the “kiwi bird,” which is the iconic flightless national bird of New Zealand, which gave its name to New Zealanders. And finally, there’s the “kiwi fruit,” the one we all know and love.

Of all the places I’ve been to and all the people I’ve met, the Kiwi culture and attitude is the most friendly, chill, and open that I have personally experienced. However, there are some kiwi slang terms that I found very foreign to me at first, but after living there, they have come to grow on me. Today, I’ll break down a few key words and phrases that will get you sounding and acting like a kiwi in no time!

  1. The two most popular and crucial phrases to know if you want to sound like a proper Kiwi are “keen and “sweet as. Kiwis are an adventurous people, so they’re always keen to try new things, that is, they are always eager, or as we would say in America, they’re always “down.” ‘Sweet as’ essentially means sweet as f***. As Americans would say “sweet af.” And as a general rule, you can use any adjective in front of “as,” kind of like how you would use any adjective in front of “af” the same way that is done in American slang. So a person can be “cool as” or a situation can be “simple as.” For example: “I just bought a new ute if you want to check it out later and go for a ride!” Sweet as! I’m keen for a nice coastal drive. (bonus: ute is an abbreviation for utility and refers to a type of truck).
  2. “She’ll be right. Translation: it’ll be fine. To be a Kiwi, you need to be chill. The whole country is a stress-free zone. I remember on my flight to New Zealand, the first Kiwi I ever met was sitting next to me. While I was stressing out about my delayed flight and wondering if I would be able to catch the next one, he was ripping shots of free Bacardi next to me. He also befriended a flight attendant who gave him a free cheese platter, and when I got super anxious and sick, he got me a free cheeseburger. ONLY A KIWI COULD DO THIS! Instead of worrying and being anxious over nothing, theyseemingly can’t be bothered to stress. Key phrase: “CBF Translation: Can’t be f***ed.
  3. Kiwis are also super ourdoorsy. They like to go for “tramps (hikes) in the “wopwops (backcountry, ‘boonies’). If you travel with them, be sure to bring your “togs and “jandles Translation: swimsuits and flip-flops.
  4. Some Kiwi words for foods you may encounter are “kina, which are sea urchins, “capsicum, which is what we might call bell peppers, and most famously “kumara, which are sweet potatoes that can come in a variety of colors like red, gold, and orange.
  5. Modern Kiwi culture embraces the Maori heritage of the native people of New Zealand, or “Aotearoa,” which is the Maori name for the country. Phrases like “Kia Ora which vaguely means hello, be well, farewell, thanks, and other general forms of greeting are always exchanged when meeting new people in New Zealand. “Tu Meke literally meaning ‘too much’, is an exclamation of joy or excitement, loosely translated to awesome. “Ka Pai is another commonly used Maori word meaning ‘good’ and can be exclaimed in a similar fashion.

Finally, some final day to day phrases are:

  • “Gutted which essentially means disappointed. Example: I’m so gutted that I missed the rugby game last night.
  • “Heaps” means a lot of, similar to how it is used in American English. For example: I bought heaps of kumara at the grocery store, so we won’t have to buy more for a week.
  • “Arvo” : Afternoon. Example: Let’s go surfing this arvo.
  • “Brekkie” : Breakfast. Example: I’m hungry as because I skipped brekkie.
  • “Hire : Rent. Example: I need to hire a new board because I broke my other one.
  • “I reckon : I think. Example: I reckon if we go for a tramp tonight, we’ll see a kiwi bird.

If you adopt a chill, open-minded, adventurous attitude and start using these words, I reckon you’ll be sounding like a sweet as Kiwi in no time. But most of all, just enjoy your time in New Zealand, as it’s one you’ll never forget.


Have you ever been to New Zealand? What are some of your favorite slang terms in new countries that you’ve visited? Let us know in the comments.

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Morgan is studying at the University of Auckland during the spring of 2017. Follow her adventures as she crosses oceans to spend five months in New Zealand!

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