“G’Day Mate!”

Whenever you visit a new country – or even a new region within your home country – chances are you’re going to encounter some unfamiliar words and phrases. Citizens might be speaking your native language, but when their speech has unusual slang or puts a new spin on common items, you might feel lost in translation.

Visiting New Zealand is no exception. This island nation might technically be an English speaking one, but they use some rather unusual – and in some cases, amusing to Americans – slang terms. Use this handy guide to help you out on your next trip to New Zealand, and you’ll be talking like a local…or at least understand what the locals are going on about!


Food Terms

You’ve probably heard the term “throw some shrimp on the barbie,” when referring to Australia, but “barbie” is a common term for barbecue in New Zealand as well. Perhaps someone asks if you want some bangers or snarlers (possibly cooked on the barbie)? They aren’t talking about an instrument or angry person; bangers and snarlers are sausages. Smaller sausages – cocktail weenies to Americans – are Cheerios, and chips are actually French fries, not chips. An order of fried fish and chips is also known as Greasies or shark and tates.

If you’re thirsty, ask for a fizzy drink, the New Zealand term for soda pop, or a cuppa, if you would like a cup of tea. You can also order a shandy, a drink made with lemonade and beer. After your meal, ask for pudding if you want dessert. Be careful not to scull your meal (eat it too quickly) and always use a serviette, or napkin.

Last: Be careful not to ask for kiwi in your fruit salad; a Kiwi is a New Zealander – a kiwifruit is the green fruit. Can’t imagine the Kiwi would appreciate being served atop a fruit salad!

Clothing and Household Items

Kiwis have some unusual terms for common household items as well. If you have a full day of activities, you might rise with the sparrow fart, or very early in the morning. Clean your sprog’s (young child’s) face with a flannel (washcloth) and ears with cotton buds, also known as cotton swabs, in the loo (bathroom) before getting dressed in togs (a bathing suit) and sunnies (sunglasses) for a day at the beach.

Many beachgoers wear jandals, or sandals. If you drive a small truck, it’s a ute; if you pull a camper behind it, the camper is called a caravan. Be sure to fill your vehicle with petrol, or gas and use the drunny, or toilet before heading on your adventure.


Once you have your ute filled with petrol, get your friends and family to rattle their dags (hurry up and get moving) to go exploring. You might head out to the wop-wops (a place off the beaten path) or take a tiki tour, the long scenic route; watch out for judder bars, or speed bumps. If you get too tired from driving, pop into a pub for a handle, or pint, of beer. Just be careful not to perve, or stare, at the locals. If you do, they might tell you to naff off, or go away, or it could turn into an open slather, or free for all. Oh, and that good looking guy or gal in the pub? Don’t call him or her a hottie – that’s a hot water bottle.

Once you’re back on the road, watch out for the boy-racers and hoons, the young boys driving too fast with their stereos blaring. If you end up driving from one end of New Zealand to the other, you’ll have driven from North Cape to the Bluff.

People Terms

If you encounter a sad woman on the street in New Zealand, you might say “That Sheila was sure packing a sad.” You might have a conversation, or yack, with her, before saying “Ta!” or goodbye. If you invite her to a “piss up” – a party or excuse for drinking alcohol – she might perk up a bit, unless of course you serve plonk, or cheap wine or liquor.

Don’t play the fool in public or you might be called a drongo. Ear bashing, or talking too much to someone else, or whingeing, complaining, is another surefire way to make someone “mad as a meat axe” or “ropeable,” also known as angry. However, if you’re funny, you’ll be a hard case, and you might find people offering to shout you, or treat you to meals and drinks.

Before you head off on your trip to New Zealand, take some time to learn some of the common slang words and phrases. As the Kiwis would say, getting familiar with their terms is not hard at all – and guaranteed to make you some new mates.

This guest post article was written and provided by Erica Gustafson a freelance writer and digital media consultant for Expedia.  She is constantly booking flights to Wellington and other amazing locations throughout New Zealand.