There’s more to New Zealand than incredible landscapes and awesome adventure activities; the country holds some interesting facts and world firsts.
Before mingling with New Zealanders and fellow backpackers on your trip of a lifetime, there are a few things to learn about the country you’re going to be travelling in. For instance, the term “kiwi” has far too many meanings, so saying you are going “kiwi picking” might just get awkward.
Other than avoiding awkward situations, use this list to wow your fellow travellers with all your new-found knowledge of New Zealand!
1. A kiwi is not a fruit!
It is New Zealand’s native flightless bird and a slang term for a New Zealander. Kiwis call the fruit “kiwifruit”.
2. New Zealand was the first major nation to have universal suffrage
In 1893 it became legal for all male and female citizens of New Zealand to vote.
3. New Zealand is one of only three countries (Canada and Denmark) that have two official national anthems.
The first is God Save the Queen (the English national anthem) and the other is God Defend New Zealand.
4. A native bird of New Zealand (the Moa) was one of the largest birds in history standing up to 3.6m tall and weighing 300kg.
Unfortunately, they were hunted to extinction by the Maori by the end of the 1500s.
5. New Zealand was the first country to have its three top positions of power held simultaneously by women
The Prime Minister (Helen Clark), the Governor General (Dame Silvia Cartwright), and the Chief Justice (Sian Elias).
6. Weta is an insect endemic to New Zealand bush that is a relic from the time of the dinosaurs.
It has incredible survival instincts and cannot be killed easily, as Sir Walter Buller found out. He wanted a weta for his insect collection, so tried to drown the insect for four days but failed. He also put it into almost boiling water. Another one chewed through his handkerchief to get free again.
7. The Sky Tower in Auckland is 328m tall – the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere.
8. The Surville Cliffs is the most northern point of New Zealand.
The cliffs are 3km further north than Cape Reinga, which is often thought wrongly to hold this position.
9. The Chatham Islands is a group of 10 islands that are part of New Zealand located 800km east of Christchurch in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
10. “Jandals” the kiwi word for flip-flops is a combination of “Japanese” and “sandals”.
11. “Togs” is a word used for “swimsuits” in New Zealand.
12. The most popular sport in New Zealand is obviously rugby, closely followed by golf.
13. For each person who lives in New Zealand, the country produces 100kg of butter and 65kg of cheese each year.
14. 30% of New Zealand’s land is forest.
15. At 41.2° south, Wellington is the most southerly capital city on the planet.
16. Australasia’s highest mountain is Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand. It is 3754m high.
17. Currently New Zealand generates about 10% of its electricity geothermally from volcanic heat.
Another 55% of the country’s electricity is generated from water flowing through hydroelectric dams. Wind-power accounts for less than 5% of electricity needs.
18. New Zealand has 9 sheep for each human.
Unlike the human population, the majority of New Zealand’s sheep are based on the South Island, where there are more than 20 sheep for every human!