The bare necessities, Travel and life hacks

A beginner’s guide to speaking Kiwi

Us Kiwis are a rare breed. With a population of about five million, we would make up only half the population of London. However, half a million of us live overseas. So you may have more chance of spotting a Kiwi than you first thought. Unlike our bird that gives us our namesake, we are far from extinction, forever flying all over the world.

Yes, you’ll mistake us for Australians. We’ve already well and truly accepted it. We won’t get as offended as the Canadians will, don’t stress. We tend to be a fairly laid back bunch!

Rule number one

Forget the differences between vowels. Just pick any one you fancy and roll with it. Beer, bear, and bare are all used equally. It’s up to you to work it out from the context. Obviously I can’t drink a bear. But we often do get asked to clarify. The phonetic alphabet is lost on us. We don’t speak proper. We know.

Pick some obscure names for things and roll with it

Bach: pronounced like batch. If you’re “headed to the bach”, you’re off to a beach house.

A tinny: small boat with an outboard motor. May come with a chilly bin for keeping fish cool (see below).

A chilly bin: this really should be self-explanatory, but the whole world finds it hilarious. A cooler, esky, or whatever else you want to throw your bears in.

Jandals: if the previous one doesn’t get people, this will for sure. Otherwise known as flip flops or thongs, this one has been a long debate of origin. It’s thought it comes from Japanese sandals; those hilarious wooden block clogs. I’m glad Havianas took over.

The wops: this refers to anywhere in the middle of nowhere. So most of the country. Here you’re free to run around beer without the neighbours seeing.

Barbie: not the plastic disproportionate child’s toy. This is probably more an Australasian one, but refers to a barbecue. Essential in every Kiwi household, and used to cook every dinner in summer. You’ll often find the blokes outside all drinking bears and discussing life.

Tomato sauce: this isn’t obscure, more very accurate. However, the correct name for ketchup (could it be any more literal?!) is often met with serious confusion.

Chucks: any Kiwi travelling will be found in a pair of these. For those less versed in Kiwispeak, Chucks refers to Converse shoes; namely, Chuck Taylors.

We have a tendency to have heaps. Heaps of fun, heaps of friends, heaps of adventures. Heaps is interchangeable with lots or loads, and often gets confused with a heap of laundry. I’ve been asked many a time, “but heaps of what?” It can be used as a stand-alone comment or reply. “How much wood would a wood chuck chuck if a wood chuck could chuck would?” “Heaps”.

We can be hard to understand, for anyone who loves a bit of proper pronunciation and lack of mumble. But we are a loving bunch, and won’t be offended when you ask for the tenth time what on earth we are on about. If you’re lucky, we might even embrace you in a bare hug. So don’t be afraid to say hi to the next Kiwi you come across! You might even learn something new.

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