Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire: An introduction to NZ language for visitors

Photo / George Novak, Bay of Plenty Times
Photo / George Novak, Bay of Plenty Times

It is the middle of January and the holiday hotspots of New Zealand are teeming with visitors from abroad. If you believe everything you read it's not just tourists, but high-level American security staff scouring the streets ahead of a visit by Barack Obama, muttering into their wrists as they strive to identify the nation's most POTUS-worthy lamingtons.

To any and all of the above, welcome. And a warning: you may find us a little tricky to understand at times. There's the accent, for starters. It's heavily influenced by our former colonial masters and often indistinguishable from the Australians, so we'll soon be voting for a new one in a referendum.

But there are also plenty of phrases, idiom and slang that can be difficult to decipher. Here's a selection of NZ terms in popular contemporary usage, helpfully explained.

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Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire is a Wellington bred, Auckland based journalist. He writes a weekly column for the NZ Herald, the NZ Listener's Internaut column, blogs for, and contributes to the Guardian. From 2000 to 2010 he worked at the Guardian in London, and edited the 2012 book The Arab Spring: Rebellion, Revolution and a New World Order.

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