Top Culture Shock Experiences in New Zealand

New Zealand, with its stunning landscapes and welcoming people, has become a sought-after place for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). However, moving to a new country, even a beautiful one like New Zealand, can bring some surprising challenges.

In this article, we’ll explore the experiences of OFWs in New Zealand, focusing on the culture shock they’ve faced and how it has changed their lives.

culture shocks in new zealand

Disclaimer: The information posted here is based on the personal experiences shared by the OFW in the video below. Please let this post serve as a guide only. If you have specific questions, you may ask the OFW by commenting on their video on their accounts.

Navigating New Zealand: OFWs’ Culture Shock Journey

The information presented in this article comes from a YouTube video from the channel, Love Trisha. In this video, the OFW minimalist vlogger shares some of her culture shock experiences from living in New Zealand. If you want to watch the full video, then click on the link below:

In this video, our vlogger shares her personal observations after living in the Philippines for over 20 years and then making the move to New Zealand. She wants to clarify that her intention is not to compare or criticize either country but simply to share her own experiences and insights. Her opinions may evolve over time, and other Filipinos in New Zealand may have different views, as she genuinely loves both countries.

Cold Weather

The initial culture shock hit our vlogger the moment she stepped off the plane in Auckland, New Zealand, following a lengthy 10-hour flight from Manila. The most noticeable difference? The weather. It was like a burst of icy air compared to the warm embrace of the Philippines.

Back home, in the Philippines, people are accustomed to a tropical climate, with plenty of sunshine and warmth. But in New Zealand, especially when she arrived, it was a whole different story. The climate felt significantly colder, even during what Kiwis consider their summertime. This sudden transition from the familiar tropical heat to the chilly New Zealand weather was the very first thing she experienced when she arrived, and it set the stage for her journey of adapting to a new way of life in this faraway land.

In New Zealand, the weather can change quite a bit, and this was a surprise for our vlogger. Summers might not be as warm as she was used to, and she soon learned to carry a jacket even during the supposed warmer months. This climate difference was the very first piece of the puzzle as she navigated her way through her new life in New Zealand.


She noticed this when interacting with Kiwis. English terms in New Zealand follow British or New Zealand English, which meant that “trash cans” were referred to as “rubbish bins,” and “push carts” were commonly called “trolleys.” She quickly learned to adapt to these differences because she wanted to communicate effectively with the locals. It’s worth noting that in the Philippines, English is often more influenced by American English, making this language difference one of the early adjustments in her journey.

Here are some facts about the language in New Zealand:

  • Kiwi English Influences: New Zealand English has been heavily influenced by British English due to its historical ties with the United Kingdom. As a result, many British English terms and spellings are prevalent in New Zealand, distinguishing it from other English-speaking countries like the United States or Australia.
  • Rubbish Bins and Trolleys: In New Zealand, it’s common to refer to what Americans might call “trash cans” as “rubbish bins.” Similarly, what Americans might call “shopping carts” are often referred to as “trolleys” in Kiwi English.
  • Spelling Differences: New Zealand English often uses British English spellings, such as “colour” instead of “color” and “centre” instead of “center.” This adherence to British spelling conventions is seen in various written materials throughout the country.
  • Pronunciation Variations: While New Zealand English generally follows British pronunciation patterns, it also has its unique regional accents. The Kiwi accent is known for certain vowel shifts and a distinctive way of pronouncing certain words, making it distinct from both British and American English.
  • Te Reo Māori Influence: Besides British English influences, New Zealand has a strong Māori heritage, and Te Reo Māori, the Māori language, has had an impact on the English spoken in the country. Certain Māori words and phrases are integrated into everyday Kiwi English, enriching the local linguistic landscape.

New Zealand Accent

The third interesting aspect is the New Zealand accent, which is recognized worldwide. For instance, when someone asks for “eggs,” it might sound like “IGz.” The distinctive feature is the “E” pronounced with a firm and sharp sound. Similarly, even words like “Netflix” can have a unique Kiwi twist, sounding something like “Nitflix.”

Accents vary from place to place, and in New Zealand, it’s no different. When you talk to someone and notice their accent, it’s a clear indicator of where they’re from. This distinctive Kiwi accent adds a layer of charm to the way English is spoken in New Zealand, making it stand out in the global linguistic landscape.

  • Distinctive Vowel Sounds: The New Zealand accent is known for its distinctive vowel sounds. Vowels, such as “e” and “i,” often have unique pronunciations, contributing to the distinctiveness of Kiwi English.
  • “Fish and Chips” Test: One way to identify the New Zealand accent is through the “fish and chips” test. When Kiwis say this phrase, it can sound more like “fush and chups,” which showcases their distinctive vowel shifts.
  • Regional Variations: Just like many other countries, New Zealand has regional variations in its accent. Different parts of the country may have slightly different ways of pronouncing words, adding diversity to the accent.
  • Influence of Māori Language: The Māori language, Te Reo Māori, has had an influence on the New Zealand accent. Some Māori linguistic features have made their way into everyday Kiwi English speech, making it unique.
  • Recognizable Globally: The New Zealand accent is widely recognized and celebrated around the world. When you hear someone with a Kiwi accent, it’s often a distinctive marker of their New Zealand identity and adds a touch of charm to their speech.

Driving Discipline

The fourth notable aspect is the driving discipline in New Zealand, which is notably better when compared to the Philippines. Kiwis have a reputation for diligently following road rules and road signs.

A significant contributing factor to this discipline is the strict process of obtaining a driver’s license in New Zealand. It’s not an easy feat; you must go through a comprehensive learning process. This rigorous approach to driver training and testing ensures that those on the road are well-prepared and knowledgeable about road safety, making New Zealand’s roads safer and more orderly compared to some other places.

How to get a driver’s license in New Zealand:

  1. Learner License: To start, you’ll need to obtain a learner license. To do this, you must be at least 16 years old, pass a theory test to demonstrate your knowledge of road rules, and then complete a practical driving test to show your basic driving skills. With a learner license, you can drive under supervision.
  2. Restricted License: After holding a learner license for six months, you can apply for a restricted license. This involves passing a practical test to prove your driving abilities. With a restricted license, you can drive on your own but with certain restrictions, such as not driving between 10 pm and 5 am.
  3. Full License – Stage 1: You can apply for a full license (Stage 1) once you’ve held a restricted license for 18 months (or six months if you complete an advanced driving course). This stage focuses on advanced driving skills and hazard awareness.
  4. Full License – Stage 2: After holding a Stage 1 full license for 18 months without any disqualifications, you can move on to Stage 2. This is the final stage, which allows you to drive without restrictions and holds no time limit.
  5. Continual Learning: Throughout all stages, there is an emphasis on continual learning and safe driving practices. It’s essential to keep improving your driving skills and stay updated on road rules and safety measures.

Adequate Road Signs

Fifth. Road signs are very adequate. When vlogger went to the remote parts. Even the far away places in new zealand have adequate road signs to guide the drivers. Iwas aksidente.

Virtually no Poverty

The sixth observation revolves around poverty. Our vlogger noticed some homeless people in New Zealand at times, which was unexpected for her. In the Philippines, it’s sadly common to see slum areas or squatter settlements, and it’s a stark reminder of the poverty prevalent in the country.

However, what struck her in New Zealand was that even in the heart of the city, where you’d expect otherwise, there were homeless individuals. Yet, she found their approach quite different from what she was used to. In the Philippines, some homeless people might approach you aggressively asking for money, but in New Zealand, they were not confrontational. They would politely ask for assistance, and when you declined, they would simply move on.

New Zealand takes a different approach to address homelessness. They have housing projects designed to help those who can’t afford their own homes. These projects provide apartments in large buildings, offering a stable place to live. The government provides significant benefits to those who are homeless, ensuring they have the means to meet their basic needs.

In New Zealand, they use a system called a “benefit card” or “payment card,” sometimes referred to colloquially as a “green card.” This card allows people to pay for essential goods and services at places that accept it. The money is provided regularly by the government, but it’s strictly regulated. It can’t be used for alcohol, cigarettes, or similar items; it’s primarily intended for food and transportation. This approach, which she appreciated, demonstrates the government’s commitment to caring for its citizens in need.

Here’s how New Zealand addresses poverty and helps the poor:

  • State Housing Projects: New Zealand offers state housing projects that provide affordable housing solutions for low-income individuals and families. These projects include apartment-style buildings that offer stable accommodation.
  • Financial Benefits: The government provides financial benefits to individuals and families in need through a system known as a “benefit card” or “payment card.” This card allows recipients to pay for essential goods and services from accepting shops.
  • Regular Financial Assistance: Recipients of financial benefits receive regular financial assistance from the government to help cover their basic needs, such as food, clothing, and transportation.
  • Regulation of Funds: The funds provided through benefit cards are strictly regulated, with restrictions on spending for items like alcohol, cigarettes, or non-essential purchases, ensuring that the support is directed towards necessities.
  • Healthcare Support: New Zealand offers a public healthcare system that ensures access to medical services for all residents, regardless of their financial situation. This helps alleviate the healthcare burden on low-income individuals.
  • Education Assistance: The government provides support for education, including financial assistance and scholarships, to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds access quality education and break the cycle of poverty.
  • Work and Income Services: New Zealand has government agencies, like Work and Income, dedicated to providing employment assistance, financial support, and guidance to individuals and families facing financial hardship.
  • Community and NGO Initiatives: Many community organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in New Zealand work tirelessly to address poverty through initiatives such as food banks, shelters, and counseling services.

Malls Close Early

The next observation our vlogger made was a bit disappointing for her – the early closing times of malls in New Zealand. Typically, malls in New Zealand close as early as 9 pm. This was quite a contrast to what she was used to in the Philippines, where malls often stay open until 10 or even 11 pm.

The difference in closing times left her wondering why malls in New Zealand closed so early compared to those in the Philippines. It’s a curious aspect of daily life that reflects cultural and societal differences between the two countries, and she was eager to understand the reasons behind this scheduling contrast.


Another noteworthy observation is the prevalence of gardens and parks in New Zealand. These green spaces are extremely common and serve as popular recreational destinations for people, often rivaling the popularity of malls. In fact, it’s common to find dedicated park areas in every suburb.

What particularly struck our vlogger is the level of care and attention that New Zealand dedicates to its parks. The main parks, in particular, are meticulously maintained and beautifully landscaped, providing a serene and inviting atmosphere for visitors. This emphasis on creating and preserving green spaces showcases New Zealand’s commitment to enhancing the quality of life and the importance of connecting with nature in the everyday lives of its residents.

Here is a list of popular parks in New Zealand:

  • Albert Park, Auckland: Located in the heart of Auckland, this park is a green oasis in the bustling city, featuring beautiful flower beds, trees, and sculptures.
  • Queenstown Gardens, Queenstown: Nestled on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, these gardens offer stunning views of the Remarkables mountain range and a variety of recreational activities.
  • Hagley Park, Christchurch: One of the largest city parks in the world, Hagley Park offers vast open spaces, walking paths, and the beautiful Avon River running through it.
  • Wellington Botanic Garden, Wellington: These gardens are a peaceful retreat with a diverse collection of native and exotic plants, including the famous Lady Norwood Rose Garden.
  • Tongariro National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this park is renowned for its stunning landscapes, including active volcanoes, thermal springs, and pristine alpine lakes.
  • Rotorua Government Gardens, Rotorua: These historic gardens feature stunning floral displays, historic buildings, and the famous Rotorua Museum.
  • Pukekura Park, New Plymouth: Known for its beautiful lighting displays during the Festival of Lights, this park offers lush greenery, a boating lake, and walking trails.
  • Abel Tasman National Park: Located at the northern tip of the South Island, this park is renowned for its golden beaches, crystal-clear waters, and hiking opportunities along the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

Tourist Attractions

In the southern islands and popular tourist spots in New Zealand, the activities primarily revolve around water sports, hiking, and outdoor adventures. While these activities are incredibly thrilling for many, our vlogger, as an introvert, found that they didn’t quite align with her preferences.

For her, the charm of the Philippines lies in its simplicity – the ability to head to the beach and simply relax. Unlike the adrenaline-pumping adventures of New Zealand, the Philippines offers a serene escape where she can unwind and recharge in the gentle embrace of the sea and sun. It’s a testament to the diversity of travel experiences that both countries offer, catering to various tastes and personalities.

Here is a list of popular tourist destinations in New Zealand:

  • Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park: Home to New Zealand’s highest peak, Mount Cook, this park offers breathtaking alpine scenery and hiking trails.
  • Fiordland National Park: Known for its stunning fiords, including Milford Sound and Doubtful Sound, this park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a haven for outdoor enthusiasts.
  • Tongariro National Park: Famous for its volcanic landscapes and the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, this park offers some of the North Island’s most iconic hiking opportunities.
  • Bay of Islands: A picturesque area with beautiful islands, historic sites, and water-based activities like sailing and dolphin watching.
  • Queenstown: Often referred to as the “Adventure Capital of the World,” Queenstown offers a wide range of outdoor activities, including bungee jumping and skydiving.
  • Abel Tasman National Park: Known for its golden beaches and pristine coastal landscapes, this park is a paradise for kayaking, hiking, and wildlife enthusiasts.
  • Rotorua: Famous for its geothermal wonders, Maori culture, and adventure activities like ziplining and mountain biking.
  • Waiheke Island: A short ferry ride from Auckland, this island is renowned for its vineyards, beautiful beaches, and art galleries.


Another interesting observation our vlogger made was about snow in New Zealand. While snow is a common occurrence in New Zealand, it’s a rarity in the Philippines. However, she found it intriguing that in Auckland, where she was located, snowfall was infrequent.

Auckland experiences distinct seasons like summer, spring, winter, and fall, but it generally doesn’t receive snow. The city enjoys relatively small temperature variations between summer and winter. Instead, the snowy landscapes are typically found in the southern part of New Zealand, especially in the South Island, as well as the lower part of the North Island, mainly in mountainous areas.

For her, the prospect of experiencing snow in New Zealand, especially in the southern regions and mountains, was something she eagerly anticipated. It was one of the first things she sought out upon arriving in the country, highlighting how different climates and natural phenomena can be a significant draw for travelers exploring new destinations.

Local Brands

Another interesting observation our vlogger made was related to local shops and products. In the Philippines, it’s common to find American brands prominently displayed on supermarket shelves. However, in New Zealand, she noticed a strong emphasis on supporting local products and companies.

Kiwi consumers in New Zealand seem to take pride in patronizing their locally produced goods. You’ll often find a range of products proudly labeled as “Made in New Zealand” or featuring local brands. This emphasis on supporting the homegrown industry reflects a commitment to bolstering their own economy and celebrating their unique products. It was a cultural difference that our vlogger found notable and appreciated during her time in New Zealand.

Here are five popular local brands and products in New Zealand:

  • Pavlova: A beloved Kiwi dessert, pavlova is a meringue-based dessert topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit. It’s a classic New Zealand treat.
  • L&P (Lemon & Paeroa): L&P is a famous New Zealand soft drink with a unique lemon flavor. It’s often enjoyed as a refreshing beverage, especially during the summer months.
  • Whittaker’s Chocolate: Whittaker’s is a well-known New Zealand chocolate brand that offers a wide range of delicious chocolate bars and treats.
  • ANZCO Foods: ANZCO Foods is a prominent New Zealand meat company known for its high-quality beef and lamb products, which are exported worldwide.
  • Wattie’s: Wattie’s is a popular New Zealand brand known for its canned fruits, vegetables, and sauces, including iconic products like Wattie’s Baked Beans.

Official Languages

Another important observation our vlogger made was related to the official languages of New Zealand. While New Zealand is primarily an English-speaking country, she discovered that there are two main languages officially recognized in the country.

The first and most widely spoken language is English, which is the primary language of communication for the majority of New Zealand’s population. It’s used in everyday life, education, and business, making it an integral part of the country’s identity.

The second official language is Te Reo Māori, commonly referred to as the Māori language. This language holds significant cultural importance in New Zealand, particularly among the Māori people, the indigenous population of the country. Efforts to promote and preserve Te Reo Māori have been ongoing, and you can often see Māori place names and phrases incorporated into daily life, reflecting the country’s commitment to its rich cultural heritage.

You may want to learn these 5 Maori phrases along with their English translations:

  • Kia ora: This is a common Māori greeting, similar to saying “hello” or “welcome.”
  • Whānau: It means “family” in Māori, emphasizing the importance of family ties in Māori culture.
  • Aroha: Translating to “love” or “compassion,” this word reflects the significance of love and caring within Māori communities.
  • Hāngi: A traditional Māori cooking method involving food cooked in an earth oven; it’s also used to describe the meal prepared this way.
  • Whakapapa: This term refers to genealogy or ancestry, highlighting the importance of tracing one’s family history in Māori culture.


Another observation our vlogger made was about mangoes. Mangoes in New Zealand turned out to be quite different from those in the Philippines. They are notably larger and come in various colors, including some resembling the Indian mango style in appearance and taste. Some New Zealand mangoes even have a unique flavor that combines the sweetness of a peach with the classic mango taste.

Initially, she found the taste unfamiliar because she was accustomed to the vibrant yellow and exceptionally sweet mangoes from the Philippines, which are renowned for their deliciousness. However, over time, she adjusted to the different flavors of New Zealand mangoes.

Interestingly, in New Zealand, mangoes are typically sold individually rather than by the kilo, unlike the Philippines where they are often purchased by weight. While she discussed this observation, it was clear that mangoes held a special place in her heart as her favorite fruit, and the differences in mango varieties were a notable aspect of her culinary experiences in New Zealand.

Right Hand Drive

Another significant observation made by our vlogger was the difference in driving practices between New Zealand and the Philippines. In New Zealand, driving is on the left side of the road, and vehicles have right-hand drive, which is quite distinct from the Philippines.

The Philippines, influenced mainly by the United States, follows a system of driving on the right side of the road with left-hand drive vehicles. Our vlogger had accumulated three years of driving experience in the Philippines before arriving in New Zealand. However, this significant change in driving orientation was a source of uncertainty and confusion for her.

It took her about a year to gain the confidence to drive in New Zealand comfortably. This transition is not unusual, as adjusting to driving on the opposite side of the road can be a significant challenge for newcomers. The influence of British driving practices in New Zealand, due to its status as a member of the Commonwealth nations with strong British ties, adds to the uniqueness of this observation.


Immigration is a major part of Auckland’s culture. People from all over the world have come to call Auckland home, including the Philippines, South Africa, India, China, Taiwan, and Latin America. This diversity is one of the city’s greatest strengths. It allows us to learn from each other and to grow as a community.

When we interact with people from different cultures, we learn to be more respectful and understanding. We realize that there is no one right way to live, and that we can all learn from each other. We also learn to appreciate the different cultures and traditions that make up our world.

Immigration is a complex issue, but it is also a source of great strength. When we embrace diversity, we create a more welcoming and inclusive society for everyone.

Obeying Laws

Immigrants in New Zealand are generally more law-abiding than those in the Philippines. This is likely because immigrants in New Zealand are aware that they are guests in the country and that they need to respect the laws and customs of the Kiwis, the original inhabitants of New Zealand.

In the Philippines, on the other hand, people are often more relaxed about following the rules. This is partly because the Philippines is a relatively poor country, and people are more focused on making a living than on following the law. Additionally, the Philippines has a long history of corruption, which can make people less likely to trust the government or the police.

There have been cases of Filipinos in New Zealand who have broken the law, such as by faking their address to get food vouchers. However, these cases are relatively rare. Overall, immigrants in New Zealand are generally law-abiding and respectful of the Kiwis.

Free Public Healthcare

Free public healthcare is another area where New Zealand and the Philippines differ. In the Philippines, there is a government-run health insurance program called PhilHealth. PhilHealth covers a variety of treatments, including inpatient care and non-emergency surgeries, but it does not cover all medical treatments and costs. In New Zealand, on the other hand, all residents have access to free public healthcare through the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) and the Ministry of Health. This means that New Zealanders can get the medical care they need without having to worry about the cost.

Here are some facts about New Zealand’s public healthcare system:

  • It is a universal healthcare system, which means that all New Zealand residents are eligible for publicly funded healthcare.
  • The system is funded by a combination of taxes and user fees.
  • The main providers of healthcare are public hospitals and primary care providers, such as general practitioners (GPs).
  • There is also a private healthcare sector, which is used by some New Zealanders who want to pay for faster or more specialized care.
  • The government is currently in the process of reforming the healthcare system, with the goal of making it more equitable and efficient.

In conclusion, moving to a new country and adapting to its culture can be a challenging experience, especially for Filipinos who are used to a different environment and way of life. From language barriers to cultural differences, there are various obstacles that Filipinos may face when working in New Zealand. However, with open-mindedness, flexibility, and a willingness to learn, they can overcome these challenges and thrive in their new workplace.