Whether you’re living in the Land of the Long White Cloud or just visiting, it’s a great idea to get your head – and tongue – around some New Zealand slang. What are you doing if someone invites you out tramping, or tells you to bring your togs? How about if someone tells you they’re heading to their bach this weekend? (Spoiler: it’s not a bachelor party.) So, are you keen? Here are 13 of the best New Zealand slang words you need to know before you go.
- Chilly bin
- Sweet as
- She’ll be right
- The wop-wops
- Tu meke/too much
Let’s start with the most important slang word: Kiwi. A Kiwi is New Zealand slang for a New Zealander. They’re named after their national bird, rather than the hairy brown fruit. Cute as, eh?
Example: Did you know that Jacinda Ardern is a Kiwi?
Jandals are the New Zealand slang for flip-flops, and, as this is a very casual nation, you’ll be able to wear jandals pretty often.
Example: Put your jandals on – the sand is boiling!
If you’re already wearing your jandals, why not put your togs on as well? Your togs are your swimwear, be it a bikini, swimsuit or shorts.
Example: Pop your togs on and we’ll head down to the beach.
Smoko is a short break from work, usually about 15 minutes. Some people smoke on their smoko, which is where the term comes from, but everyone calls it a smoko, regardless of what they do. Smoko is used in Australia too.
Example: I need to run to the shop during my smoko.
5. Chilly bin
A chilly bin is a cool box, and New Zealanders really often take them to the beach when they’re having picnics or barbecues.
Example: Put some snags (sausages) in the chilly bin.
Tramping, or hiking as it’s known in other countries, is a massively popular pastime in New Zealand. And no wonder, given that their Great Walks are some of the most scenic in the world.
Example: Kiwis love tramping on the amazing trails in the country.
You probably know the word keen already, as in to be enthusiastic or eager about something. It means the same in New Zealand slang, but it’s often used alone. You’ll hear this a lot across the Tasman Sea in Australia too.
Example: Do you want to go tramping this weekend? – Keen!
8. Sweet as
The phrase ‘sweet as’ means great or excellent. The phrase isn’t used as a comparative, so it’s not ‘sweet as pie’, for example.
Example: Her new surfboard is sweet as.
9. She’ll be right
This is another phrase that unites Kiwis and Aussies, especially as it exemplifies their generally laid-back attitude. ‘She’ll be right’ means everything’s going to be OK. It’s always ‘she’, never ‘he’ or ‘it’, no matter who or what you’re talking about.
Example: “I’m a bit worried about the car in the snow.” ‘She’ll be right, just go slowly.”
10. The wop-wops
This means a remote, countryside area, and it’s sometimes used to refer to a place that’s a bit backward. In Australian slang, they call this ‘the woop-woops’; they just had to go one better and add an extra ‘o’.
Example: John lives out in the wop-wops.
A bach (pronounced ‘batch’) is a New Zealand word for a small holiday home on the South Island. A bach is small and simple, and Kiwis love them.
Example: I’m heading to my bach at the weekend. It’s out in the wop-wops.
12. Tu meke/too much
Tu meke translates from Te Reo Māori as ‘too much’. People use it to express their thanks, usually for a small gesture.
Example: You bought me flowers? Tu meke!
A dairy in New Zealand isn’t just a place where cows are milked. It’s also used to talk about small grocery stores, which are often on the corner of a street. They’re usually open for long hours and during public holidays.
Example: I’m heading to the dairy. Do you need anything?
Which New Zealand phrases are you going to use?
If you’re planning a holiday in New Zealand, learning words like ‘jandals’ and ‘togs’ will be pretty essential. Throw in ‘tramping’ too if you’re a fan of the great outdoors. Moving to New Zealand and want to be like a real Kiwi? Make sure you know what a smoko is so you don’t miss a break at work and make sure to thank your new mates by saying tu meke.
Laura is a freelance writer and was an ESL teacher for eight years. She was born in the UK and has lived in Australia and Poland, where she writes blogs for Lingoda about everything from grammar to dating English speakers. She’s definitely better at the first one. She loves travelling and that’s the other major topic that she writes on. Laura likes pilates and cycling, but when she’s feeling lazy she can be found curled up watching Netflix. She’s currently learning Polish, and her battle with that mystifying language has given her huge empathy for anyone struggling to learn English. Find out more about her work in her portfolio.