Go for a tramp in any forest on the North Island and you’ll likely see a number of plants which inspired the Koru, a Maori word meaning “loop.” The Koru’s form is based on the shape of a new frond of the Silver Fern which slowly uncoils itself as it matures, just one of the spectacular beauties of Mother Nature in this country.
Simply put, the Koru is a spiral, an integral symbol in Maori art and design. It represents new beginnings, harmony, and growth. Its shape conveys the idea that life is in perpetual movement while always staying close to the point of origin, an idea that hits pretty close to home for this wanderer.
Mean – Kiwi slang for something good
A lot of the Kiwi Slang is pretty easy to pick up just based on context; while the Kiwi use of “mean” was pretty intuitive, I found it extremely difficult to explain to my non-native English speaking boyfriend who had grown accustomed to me saying “Nice!” Though Eugenio’s Italian-English dictionary told him that “nice” and “mean” are opposites, little did he know that they’re synonyms when used as slang.
Yes, that’s correct – “Mean!” to a Kiwi is like “Nice!” to an American. It’s a positive adjective used to mean cool, awesome, or fan-freaking-tastic. And just like our tendency to draw out the vowel to add emphasis (niiiiiiiiice), Kiwis also lengthen the word to convey their level of enthusiasm – “meeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaan!”
So just a heads up to friends and family back in the States, when you hear Eugenio say “Mean” what he really means is “Nice.”
Kiwi Word of the Day #11 – Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu
In Maori culture, places are named based on events of historical or mythological significance which creates some incredibly long names. In fact, it is on the east coast of New Zealand’s north island where you can find the world’s longest place name:
Tamatea was a strong warrior and famous chief in his time. After losing his brother in a battle, he climbed to the top of a hill and played a lament on a Koauau, a Maori flute. The name of the hill was given based on this event.
Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu can be loosely translated as “The hilltop where Tamatea with big knees, conqueror of mountains, eater of land, traveller over land and sea, played his koauau to his beloved.”
Side note: the locals simply call it “Taumata”
We’ve been getting pretty crap weather over the past month, which I’ve come to understand is anything but normal during an Otago summer. On a rare, blissfully sunny morning a few weeks ago, I had the following conversation:
Katie: it’s nice to finally have a break from the rain. What are your plans for the day?
Tim: I was thinking about going for a tramp. You interested?
Rest assured Mom & Dad, you don’t need to worry about the recreational activities of my new Kiwi friends. To be honest, I’ve been tramping around both the North and the South Island for over 6 months.
Tramp – Kiwi for “hike” or “trek”; can be used as a noun or verb, and neither implies promiscuity
You put your right hand in, you put your right hand out. Put it back in again, but this time you shake it. Do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around…
In New Zealand, whenever you hear the words “Hokey Pokey” (actually quite frequently), odds are that nobody’s dancing. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if the Kiwis even know “what it’s all about.”
Hokey Pokey – also known as honeycomb toffee, frequently found in chocolate bars and as its own ice cream flavor.
Upon arrival in New Zealand, my first order of business was to rid myself of my caffeine addiction. My reasons for doing so were simple: 1) at an average price of $4.50, it was no longer a habit I could afford and, 2) after 2+ years living in Italy, I had simply become a snob and assumed (rightly so) that Kiwi Coffee couldn’t meet my unreasonably high expectations.
Note to readers: if you are interested in decreasing your caffeine consumption, and you’re used to 5+ shots of espresso per day, I do not recommend quitting cold turkey unless you are prepared to be a complete monster. Consider giving those you love advanced notice of your intent to quit, and it might be wise call in sick for a few days. Actually, don’t plan on leaving the house at all. You’re in no shape to be seen by the public.
Anyway, after a week of constant headaches, unbearable mornings, ridiculous irritability and the incredible desire for naptime, I could finally say I was no longer an addict!! But every so often when I have a rough morning, I do splurge.
It was on the first morning splurge that I encountered a new menu item, and it took a while to understand exactly what it is: the flat white.
Found on every menu of every café or coffee stand in the country, a flat white is different than both a cappuccino and a latte. The Kiwi Cappuccino, and the American cappuccino for that matter, has a ton of foam. It’s a shot of espresso, a bit of steamed milk, and a massive amount of that fluffy, frothy, foam. So much that if you were to drop a sugar cube in your cappuccino, there would be a hole in your foam. Any Italian could tell you that this is not a proper cappuccino; how it devolved I have no idea, but I have never enjoyed this interpretation of a cappuccino. The bubbles just get lodged in your throat.
A flat white is also different than a latte, which actually doesn’t exist in Italy. Latte simply means “milk,” so if you order one, you’ll get a big glass of warm milk. But in the Anglo-Saxon world, a latte is a shot of espresso which is then filled to the top with steamed milk, and it might have a dollop of foam on the top, just to be fancy.
The flat white is a bit more complicated, for it takes into consideration the type of foam. None of this bubbly, airy cappuccino foam…no no no. The Flat White is all about silky foam – much smoother and creamier than the frothy stuff. I’ve been instructed that technically, a flat white is one part espresso, one part steamed milk and one part silky foam. It is the closest thing I’ve found to a true Italian cappuccino.
Now if I could only get the Kiwis to stop scalding the milk and burning the espresso, I would be in heaven…and I would likely become an addict once again!
Driving along the coast of the North Island, you’ll see numerous signs to the effect of “Bach for Sale.” While I enjoy classical music, I had a feeling that the signs were not indicating the availability of CDs of the famed composer for purchase. I consulted my favorite resource, an online Kiwi Dictionary for foreigners and sure enough Bach has nothing to do with music.
Bach (pronounced ‘batch’): Kiwi slang for a modest, no-frills holiday home. Known as a “crib” on the South Island.
My understanding is that Jeggings are simply leggings that have been made to resemble a pair of jeans. If that is the case, then what on earth are Jandals?!?!?!?
Jandals – Kiwi for flip flops or sandals
If you go to a dairy and come back with a hot pie, a coca-cola, and a pack of gum, you must be in New Zealand.
Dairy: a convenience store, open early and closes late. A staple of any neighborhood or small town in New Zealand. Some might even sell dairy products!
The wonderful thing about Tiggers
Is Tiggers are wonderful things
Their tops are made out of rubber
Their bottoms are made out of springs
They’re bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy
Fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN!
The most wonderful thing about Tiggers is
I’m the only one!
The Kiwi phrase “Ta” brought me back to my childhood and my favorite Winnie the Pooh character. Up until now, I believed that Tigger and my mother were the only ones to ever use Ta; and it was always a way of saying goodbye: “T-T-F-N…Ta Ta For Now!”
But I’ve come to realize that there’s an entire nation of “Ta” users!! However, the Kiwis clearly didn’t grow up with Tigger, for they’ve put their own spin on the word.
Rather than stutter “Ta Ta,” the Kiwis use the word only once and it’s a way of saying “Thanks.”
Merv: Could you pass the butter please?
Katie: Here ya go.
I have to admit that this is another case in which I dig my heels in the ground. For me, “ta” will forever be used in accordance with my beloved Tigger.
The Warrant of Fitness. It is every Kiwi Car Owner’s worst nightmare…and if you’re a foreigner with an 18-year old van, it’s even worse.
The Warrant of Fitness (WOF) is a certificate which every vehicle must pass in order to be driven legally in New Zealand. In theory, it’s simply a safety inspection – lights, brakes, tires, suspension, fluids, etc., just to make sure you’re not putting yourself or anyone else in danger while driving. In reality, it’s a royal pain in the ass.
Our WOF expired at the beginning of October which meant we needed to pay a quick trip to the mechanic to have our van inspected. Considering the age of our vehicle, we anticipated the need for a few repairs. We had a broken steering rack boot, which the mechanic said he could repair easily, but there was some severe damage to the cross member which he was not qualified to fix.
Mechanic: “In order to get your WOF, you’ll need to get this work completed or signed off by a certified Panelbeater.”
Katie: “I beg your pardon?”
Mechanic: “A Panelbeater. I don’t do work on the body of the car, that has to be done by a panelbeater.”
I suppose when you break down the word it makes sense that this repair would be completed by “one who beats panels.” But seriously? That’s what they’re called??!?!
Kiwi Word of the Day: Panelbeater, also known as an Auto Body Shop.
Katie: We’re thinking about taking a day or two to drive around the Peninsula.
Brian: Do you guys have a chilly bin? You could borrow one of ours.
I had no idea what Brian was talking about, so I kept the conversation going to figure out what on earth was being offered…
Katie: Do you think it’s necessary?
Brian: Sure! It’s always nice to have a cold beer in the afternoon or be able to keep some milk for brekkie.*
*not worth it’s own post because it’s fairly intuitive, brekkie is slang for breakfast.
The official language of New Zealand might be English, but I swear the Kiwis speak a completely different language. We’re not just talking about accent and pronunciation here, there are Kiwi dictionaries full of words and phrases I’ve never heard before. This has inspired a new series of posts – Kiwi Word of the Day.
Most commonly heard as “Sweet as” the adjective proceeding “as” can be anything. I’ve heard “cold as”, “full as”, “fast as”, “smart as”, “steep as”, “organic as”, “Kiwi as”.
My initial response was, “as WHAT????”, thinking that I had somehow missed the rest of the sentence. But the Kiwis just chuckle, the phrase ends with “as.” It’s a Kiwi thing.
How was the concert? – Sweet as.
Can you believe this weather? It’s hot as outside.
Are these vegetables organically grown? – They’re organic as, bro.
If it sounds like surfer slang, I must say that I’ve heard these phrases from all age ranges and walks of life. A 50-year old female dairy farmer texted me, “Sweet as” when I confirmed what time we’d be arriving at the farm.
After 3 months in New Zealand, I think I’ve finally figured it out. The use of “as” is an intensifier, it makes the adjective more intense. It’d be like adding “super” or “very” before the adjective. Come to think of it, it’s functions exactly like “issimo” in Italian.
So if I can use “Bello” for beautiful and “Bellissimo” for very beautiful, then I suppose I can accept that “hot” is hot and “hot as” is very hot.
Not that I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and start using it, but understanding is half the battle.