New Zealand culture and population
Area: 1,600km from the tip of the North Island to the tip of the Southern Island.
Population: 4,173 000 inhabitants.
80% of the population of New Zealand is urbanised.
Currency: NZD dollar
Main cities: Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Most of the cities are small, with less than 100 000 inhabitants. Auckland, in the north of North Island, counts around 1,3 million inhabitants and forms the largest urban area in the country.
Best time to visit:The warmest months are September to April with December, January and February being the hottest months of the year.
Climate: In the southern hemisphere, the seasons are the inverse of ours. The climate is semi-tropical at the tip of North Island (13 ˚ in July, 23 ˚ in February) and oceanic throughout the rest of the country, in particular on South Island, which is very familiar with the violent Antarctic winds. It's one of the facts on New Zealand that rain is a frequent visitor all year round. Unless you are a ski or snowboard enthusiast, South Island should be avoided in the winter months (June to September).
Among the most interesting New Zealand facts is that the country is seperated into two Islands:
North Island, also known as Smoking Island, is distinguished by its geological activity. The volcanoes of Tongariro National Park and Egmont are well-known hiking areas. North Island is also where thermal water centres are found, the most well-known being Rotorua. The Island is also the more heavily populated, with two out of every three New Zealanders residing there. More urban and more developed, North Island has lost much of its natural heritage. Despite the development, you can still find some beautiful forests in the Northland, the Coromandel, Waikato, as well as in the east of the Island.
South Island, also known as Jade Island is much wilder; the Maoris came here to mine the Jade to use in their tikis. This island is home to the most beautiful national parks in the country. Settlement on the west side of the island came later. The forests have guarded their secrets well and here you will find the country’s most iconic species.
Population and Maori culture
Of all of the facts about New Zealand, it's interesting to know that the country was originally inhabited by the native tribe called Maoris, who lived off the land mining and hunting. To this day, there are few Maori tribe members among the modern day population of New Zealand, with their numbers making up around 7.9%.
Rotorua, on North Island, is an important Maori centre, both culturally and spiritually. Those interested in Maori culture should also visit Auckland and travel the length of the Wanganui River. Since the release of the film “Once we were Warriors”, rumour has it that to really get to know the Maori culture, you are better off in South Auckland. Whilst it is among the best facts about New Zealand that the Maoris were frequently ostracised and relegated to the distant suburbs of Auckland, you will still find rural communities throughout your trip.
The Maoris are known to have developed their own social rules, their own forms of art and thought. They live in extended families and tribes structured by caste systems. Maori arts bear witness to their heritage of fierce warriors through their dance, music and tattoos. Typically New Zealand, the haka, made famous by the rugby playing All Blacks, was originally a war dance.
Sports and lifestyle in New Zealand
New Zealand is most famous for its excellent Rugby team, The All Blacks, often dubbed as the best rugby team in the world as they remain unbeaten at The Rugby World Cup. As well as rugby, New Zealand sports are primarily English; Golf, netball, tennis and cricket are the four top participatory sports played nationally in the country. Soccer is also popular among young people, but it is the rugby union that attracts spectators and sports fans from around the world.
New Zealand is also known for its extreme sports, adventure tourism and strong mountaineering tradition which appeals to backpackers and travellers alike. Other outdoor pursuits such as cycling, fishing, swimming, running, tramping, canoeing, hunting, snowsports and surfing are also popular. Bungee jumping and sky diving are the most popular extreme sport activities amongst travellers and visitors to New Zealand. The Polynesian sport of waka ama racinghas increased in popularity and is now an international sport, involving teams from all over the Pacific.
Things to remember on a Gap Year
Although there are a lot of pleasant New Zealand facts, there are some things that you should do if you wish to make your stay similarly so.
- Be smartand organise your travel insurance before you go, protect yourself!
- Be aware of pick pockets - always keep your bags with youwhen you are travelling around the country
- Be savvy as far as local lawsare concerned, knowing what is 'legal' and 'illegal'