Kiwi Lingo

slangHalfway through our three-hour class one day this past week, my classmates and I sat in a circle on the grass outside during our break. The sun shone brightly and the mood was light. As I looked around, I noticed a pattern in the snacking.

“What’s the deal with the bananas today? Like five of you are eating one.”
Julie laughed at me. “Ban-ayh-nah. You say it so funny, Jess. It’s cute.”

Unlike me, kiwis say “bah-nah-nah.”

(It just hit me that I’ve had trouble with kiwis saying this word in the past. Read more here.)

The banana difference is one of many small cultural discrepancies that I’m slowly picking up on. When I was figuring out my Mihi Mihi introduction and how to deliver it correctly, another classmate was teaching me the proper way to say “Ko” in Māori. All the vowels are long; it’s not “kow,” but “koooh.”

“Say “Kooh,” like the center of an apple.”
“I’m sorry, you mean an apple core?”

“R’s” are nearly nonexistent with the kiwi accent.

Apart from strange pronunciation – I ask people to repeat what they just said a lot – there really is a distinct kiwi slang here, and it has been fun to pick up on some of it.

Remember in grade school when your teacher made you incorporate all the new vocabulary words of the week into your own story? I decided I’d do the same for a post update.

Kia ora friends!

If you have been keeping up with pictures I have posted, you know I have been doing heaps of tramping on the weekends during this first month in NZ (“En-Zed”). While some kiwis and their partners have spent their summer holidays at a bach (“batch”), I have enjoyed camping in my tent. Fortunately, there are enough people who have been keen to join me on these wee outdoor adventures, and I have gotten great exposure, albeit brief, to many parts of the South Island. After the Abel Tasman, I did a fairly challenging overnight in Arthur’s Pass, part of the Alps region only a 90 minute drive from Christchurch. The brochure labeled the track “Difficult/Expert.” Since it wasn’t always clearly marked, I stopped by the DOC office first to buy a map and make sure I knew what I was getting myself into. I thanked the officer for his guidance, and he just smiled and said “That’s alright.”

The trek up to Avalanche Peak was steep, but the 360 views at the top were incredibly rewarding. As I snapped a pano, one of the guys at the summit commented, “It doesn’t get much better than this, eh?” That’s for sure. Had I known the term at the time, “Sweet as” would have been an appropriate response. The next day there were at least fifteen river crossings of various depths. Before the first crossing, I imagined how much dryer this would probably be with a pair of gum boots or jandals. Instead, you keep your hiking boots on and just find your mojo with the squishing of each step for the rest of the day. Most rivers were fairly shallow, but I’m definitely glad I learned how to do a proper crossing by linking up and walking together. It breaks the strength of the current substantially and you can stabilize (stabilise) each other. As we exited one river, I accidentally tripped up the girl I was walking next to. After I apologized (apologised), she responded, “No worries, we both would have fallen if we had been alone.”

The following weekend I roadtripped all the way down to the Routeburn Track about an hour outside of Queenstown. We also made pitstops in Wanaka and Rob Roy Glacier in Mt Aspiring National Park (so worth the very, very long gravel road).

When I’m not reading for class or writing papers, I am also learning how to grocery shop without my beloved Trader Joe’s (Seriously missing that dollop of cookie butter in my morning oatmeal.) Grocery stores aren’t that different here, but they are generally more expensive than in the States, and I’m glad the dollar is strong here right now. I’ve taken to buying produce like kumara and capiscums at the fruit and veggie shop. So long bite-size carrots. I still haven’t adjusted to washing and cutting ones that have been pulled straight from the ground, or celery with enough leaf tops for a head of hair in Veggie-Tales. For five flatmates, we also don’t have tons of fridge space, so I’m working on shopping more often for less, trying not to fill up my trolly or the boot of my car completely. It also prevents me from letting any food go off and gives me permission to go out for some fish (fush) ‘n chips every once in a while.

So… that was a bit forced and certainly not my best writing, but it was a fun little exercise. Ultimately, most everything about my new life here, be it in the classroom, out in nature, or with the people I have met, has been really great. The first three weeks I was all alone in this empty apartment, but campus is becoming more lively now. Three of my flatmates have finally moved in, and now we’re just waiting on Georgia to join us in a few days. I remember thinking that a month would be a pretty substantial amount of time before my sister came, but, true to the saying, time really does fly when you’re having fun. After two back-to-back tramping weekends and looming school assignments, I admit I have worn myself a little thin. I was definitely riding on a high of newness and excitement, and that came crashing down this past week. I have been taking it easy this weekend and getting to know Christchurch better, and I feel more rejuvenated now.

Cheers to this new season! I’m so glad to be in it.


Kia ora – Hello in Māori. Also thank you, nice job, general recognition
Partner – not just for gays. Whoever your significant other is, regardless of orientation
Bach – holiday home
DOC – Department of Conservation: administers all the national parks, tracks, & huts
That’s alright – you’re welcome, no problem
eh -Used at the end of a sentence when you’re not really asking a question, more providing a statement that you want confirmation for
Sweet as – cool, awesome
Gum Boots – rain boots
Jandals – flip-flops
Kumara – Polynesian sweet potato
Capiscum – bell pepper
Trolly – grocery cart
Boot – trunk
Go off – go bad, expire
Cheers – not really the way I used it, more like thanks or goodday

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