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Kiwi/ New Zealander National Stereotypes

Most countries are informally thought to have a national 'type'; this can be seen in positive or negative terms. Most have some basis in reality, but are often outdated and applicable to only a small section of society. They typically exclude women, although there may also be a national female type. A number of famous New Zealanders seem to fit the national stereotype. This is probably due to three factors: the stereotypically 'Kiwi' qualities of famous people being emphasised; people who seem to embody the type becoming famous due to this (for example Barry Crump), or famous people acting as people expect them to. It should not be assumed that a famous person who seems to fit the stereotype provides evidence of the widespread truth of that stereotype.


The kiwi male 

The stereotypical New Zealand male is essentially a pioneer type: he is rural, unintellectual, strong, unemotional, democratic, has little time for high culture, good with animals (particularly horses) and machines, and is able to turn his hand to nearly anything. This type of man is often assumed to be a unique product of New Zealand's colonial period but he shares many similarities with the stereotypical American frontiersman and Australian bushman. New Zealand men are supposed to still have many of these qualities, even though most New Zealanders have lived in urban areas since the late nineteenth century. This has not prevented New Zealanders seeing themselves (and being seen) as essentially country people and good at the tasks which country life requires. The stereotypical Kiwi male is assumed to be a heterosexual of Anglo-Celtic origin, although Māori men are often seen as embodying many of the characteristics described above.


The kiwi male is said to have unique qualities which have become national stereotypes in their own right:


Kiwi ingenuity: This is the idea that New Zealanders display a MacGyver-like ability to solve any problem, often using unconventional means or whatever happens to be lying around. This is also described as the Number 8 wire mentality, which holds that anything can be made or fixed with basic or everyday materials, such as number 8 fencing wire. New Zealanders seen as embodying this quality include Burt Munro (subject of The World's Fastest Indian) and Richard Pearse, who some believe achieved flight before the Wright Brothers. Kiwi ingenuity is also linked to the phrase "she'll be right, mate" (shared with Australia), which expresses the belief that the situation, repairs, or whatever has been done is adequate or sufficient for what is needed. It is seen less positively than Kiwi ingenuity, especially if something goes wrong. Kiwi ingenuity is not strictly a male preserve, although it is generally spoken of in relation to men.


The hard man: New Zealand men have often been stereotyped as strong, unemotional and prone to violence. For many years this was seen as a good thing, and was best embodied by All Black Colin Meads. Voted 'New Zealand player of the century' by New Zealand Rugby Monthly magazine, Meads was the second All Black to be sent off the field, and once played a match with a broken arm.  In recent decades the macho attitude has been both criticised and reviled as dangerous both to men who embody it and those around them. It has been blamed for New Zealand's culture of heavy drinking and its high male suicide rate. However it still has its supporters, with some commentators claiming that the All Blacks do not have enough 'mongrel'.


Rugby, Racing and Beer: New Zealand male culture was traditionally said to centre on the 'three Rs': Rugby (union), (Horse) Racing and beer. Rugby union has long been popular as both a spectator and a participant sport, with the national rugby team (the All Blacks) considered national heroes. Horse racing has always been more popular as a focus of gambling than for any other reason. In addition, for many years horse racing was one of the few things which could be legally bet on. Beer is New Zealand's most popular alcoholic drink, although most New Zealand beers are actually lagers of varying colour.

Few people consider the Three Rs to dominate New Zealand culture today, although rugby and beer are still very popular. Race betting has declined in popularity, partly due to the legalisation of other forms of sports betting in the 1990s, although cup races still attract considerable attention. National level rugby continues to be very popular as a spectator sport, although not to the same extent as in the mid twentieth century. Spectators at club and some regional levels have also dropped since that time, mostly due to television and the increasing number of international and semi-international (ie the Super Rugby) matches. There has been some concern in recent years that parents are reluctant to let their children play rugby for fear of injury, however it has been estimated that 14% of 5 to 17 year olds regularly play. Beer continues to be a popular drink, although it is losing ground to wine and 'RTDs' (ready to drink spirit and mixers).


The kiwi female: There are few stereotypes surrounding New Zealand women, and these stereotypes are not as strong as those involving men. The two strongest stereotypes are:


Independence: New Zealand women are sometimes thought to be more independent than women elsewhere. New Zealand being the first country in the world to give women the vote and the only one to have all its most important positions of state power simultaneously filled by women is seen as evidence of this. 


Lack of femininity: Women in New Zealand are supposedly unfeminine, for example wearing masculine clothing and spending little time on makeup and other forms of personal grooming. This can also be seen in a positive light; Kiwi women are portrayed as not being held back by ideas about being 'ladylike' and are therefore willing to take on 'masculine' tasks such as car maintenance and playing rugby. Former Prime Minister Helen Clark is often seen as an embodiment of this stereotype, for good and bad: critics point at her lack of children and her choice on one occasion to meet the Queen while wearing trousers; supporters like her passion for mountain climbing and ability to hold her own in parliamentary debates.

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