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Common cultural misconceptions about New Zealand

Let our breakdown of these three cultural misconceptions help set your ideas about New Zealand straight.

1997

Tucked neatly away in the southwest expanse of the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand is an ancient island country with a culture as rich as its history. When most try to imagine it however, they sadly don’t get much further past the image of an endless pasture that is speckled with sheep. Dwarfed by misconception, real knowledge of what it means to be a New Zealander tends to fall by the wayside.  

With a high quality of life, high-ranking universities and breathtaking scenery, it’s unsurprising that the country is a popular destination to study aboard. But before you go, make sure you learn the truth behind common myths that surround New Zealand.

 

Sheep, sheep, sheep

It is true that there are a lot of sheep in New Zealand, but nowhere near as many as the stereotype purports. Hearsay suggests that there are 60 million sheep to three million people, when the actual ratio is more like 31.1 million to 4.4 million. This makes roughly 7 sheep to every person, as opposed to the imagined 20. The latter figure might have been more correct 30 years ago, where there were about 70.3 millions sheep to 3.18 million people, making about 22 sheep per person. Since, development factors such as wool prices, droughts, harsh farming conditions and the growth of industries such as dairy and forestry have seen a decline in the number of sheep in New Zealand.  From 2007 to 2012, the amount of sheep being farmed in New Zealand dropped by almost seven million.

New Zealand is a developed country with a number of thriving cities and well-established businesses. Do you think this would be the case if everyone took their allocated 7 sheep to work every day?

 

“You mean Australia?”

New Zealand and Australia’s remoteness from the rest of the world tend to see them being collectively referred to as ‘down under.’ The two are in fact very different nations: Australia is a continent and New Zealand a series of islands, both with unique sets of flora, fauna and indigenous legacies. Whilst both are members of the British Commonwealth and there are some similarities in culture and accent between the two, both have different currencies, laws, governments and histories.

New Zealand was once governed by the Australian state of New South Wales, and was offered a place as an Australian state during the 1901 federation. The New Zealand government refused the offer, and now has no outstanding ties to Australia other than through the commonwealth or via economic relations.

 

Provincial living

They may have captured the world’s imagination in Lord of the Rings, but unfortunately New Zealand’s stunning landscapes are commonly taken to account for most, if not all of the country’s land mass. For a relatively small country, it’s true that New Zealand manages to pack in an impressive array of different natural environments: glaciers, snowy mountains suitable for skiing, fiords, beaches and hiking trails. 72% of New Zealand’s 4.5 million inhabitants live across the nation’s 16 main built-up urban areas, with 53% of that figure living in either Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington or Hamilton. Urban life then is the reality enjoyed by most New Zealanders, with Auckland named the world’s 4th most liveable city in the 2010 Mercer Quality of Life Survey.

New Zealand has embraced the hype surrounding its mythic hills via the tourism trade, offering a number of Lord of the Rings themed tours that showcase rural filming locations.

 

Now that you know more about New Zealand, start browsing courses in New Zealand now.

 

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About Author

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.