While New Zealand is a sophisticated country with a multicultural population, an abundance of cultural attractions and professional opportunities, there are still numerous misconceptions some Americans have about this island nation. Here are a few of the most pervasive misunderstandings.
1. Thinking New Zealand is just like Australia
In all fairness, it’s easy for foreigners to get confused. Those of us who are neither from New Zealand nor Australia might find the accents similar, but the two countries are entirely separate. They have different currencies, governments, Prime Ministers (New Zealand: Bill English. Australia: Malcolm Turnbull) and ecosystems (no kangaroos or dingoes in New Zealand). Also, New Zealand can take credit for Russell Crowe – he was born in Wellington.
2. Believing that sheep roam the streets
There are a fair number of sheep in New Zealand (6:1 sheep-to-human ratio), but you won’t find them wandering through shopping centers or on public transportation. The sheep are largely relegated to more bucolic regions like Arthur’s Pass and Queenstown. However, if you want your stay in New Zealand to include visiting sheep, there are plenty of sheep farm tours and sheep shearing exhibitions.
3. That New Zealand is technologically backward
This is a broad stereotype, jokingly exploited by the “Flight of the Conchords” TV series, but ultimately untrue. New Zealand is a developed nation that is ranked highly by international economic counsels for its high quality of life, prosperity, public education, civil liberties protections, freedom of the press and economic opportunities. So, if you’re worried about your ability to get Wi-Fi, rest assured – you’ll be fine while on-campus. However when traveling, just be prepared to have spotty Wi-Fi in more rural areas.
4. Assuming the entire country looks like “The Lord of the Rings” set
“The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movie sets had to be built – New Zealand architecture didn’t actually look like that. However, a significant portion of the set was lovingly preserved in the Matamata region (Hobbiton), where tourists can visit and explore the numerous Hobbit Holes.
5. That all New Zealanders know one another
The country of New Zealand has 4.5 million people. Two random people from New Zealand are as likely to know each other as two random people from Los Angeles.
6. Believing you can tour all of New Zealand in a day or two
While the population of New Zealand is sparse, the land mass itself is rather large, roughly the size of Italy. Several months or a year is more likely the time period it would take for someone to really get to know the country intimately. It is perfect for someone studying abroad (hint, hint)!
7. Just ordering fish and chips because that’s all there is
If you are in a rural area, sure, fish and chips might be your only option (that and Chinese food). But trust us, you won’t be disappointed. The fish you’ll eat in New Zealand is some of the freshest in the world.
Now when it comes to New Zealand’s cities, where all of our campuses are located, you will have an incredibly diverse food scene. With an increasingly international population as well as some of the freshest and most diverse produce, the food in New Zealand’s cities is spectacular.
8. That New Zealand was discovered in the 1600s
That’s when the Europeans arrived. The Māori had already been there for roughly 400 years. And if you don’t know much about Māori culture, we highly encourage you to. Māoris are the second-largest ethnic group in New Zealand, making up roughly 15 percent of the country’s population. Māori is also one of New Zealand’s official languages. New Zealand’s history with its native population is far from perfect. Yet for people coming from countries where European colonizers completely wiped out local indigenous groups, New Zealand’s integration of Māori culture will impress you. If you want to learn more about New Zealand and Māori history, we highly recommend you visit the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the North Island, and Māori sacred sites found throughout the North and South Island.
9. Planning for unfailingly great weather
It’s true, the weather is great a lot of the time, but it is important to know that there is a cyclone (hurricane) season in the North part of the island and cold winters in the South. Fortunately, if the weather gets you down, you can easily escape to different parts of New Zealand in just under a couple of hours.
10. Thinking Auckland and Wellington are the only places to see
While Auckland and Wellington are fabulous cities, there are literally dozens of regions with incredible attractions. The opportunities for skiing, hiking, snorkeling, climbing and jet skiing are legion. There’s more fun in New Zealand than you’ll know what to do with!
We offer numerous programs for study abroad in New Zealand. Visit our program page for more information.
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