Etiquette Tips for Doing Business in New Zealand

Are you planning to relocate to New Zealand for work? New Zealand offers many great business and work opportunities and this country has a thriving economy. However, in order to ensure that you are successful when working and doing business in New Zealand it is important to understand the local culture and etiquette.


New Zealand Business Tips

Here are some important things you should know when moving to New Zealand from the UK to conduct business:

  • Although most New Zealanders dress casually on their days off, they dress conservatively and professionally when conducting business. Make sure that you are smartly dressed for important meetings and events. Men should wear a dark coloured suit and women should wear a skirt and blouse with a jacket.
  • For everyday work wear the dress code is usually business casual. Stick to clothing in neutral colours such as grey, camel, white, navy and ivory and make sure that your clothing is not too revealing or provocative.
  • Always be on time for appointments, this is not a culture where being late is socially acceptable. Appointments are usually arranged at least a week in advance and if you need to cancel a meeting you should give as much notice as possible.
  • At the beginning of a meeting there might be brief small talk before getting down to the matter at hand.
  • When you first meet someone you should maintain a formal demeanour. If they encourage you to relax afterward you can take their lead and follow their behaviour.
  • Most New Zealanders will move to first names quickly, but it is still best to address them by their honorific title (Mr. or Mrs.) until they invite you to call them by their first name.
  • When you meet someone for the first time you should greet them with a firm handshake and good eye contact.
  • Be wary of comparisons between New Zealand and Australia.
  • A good sense of humour is valued in a business context. Don’t take yourself too seriously and be willing to take a joke.

Doing Business with Maoris

If you are going to be working with Maori people during your time in New Zealand, it is important to be aware of the certain etiquette and customs within their culture. The Maori people have a few ceremonial traditions when doing business and there are some distinct cultural protocols about how visitors are received.

If you are doing business with a Maori tribal group you will likely be greeted with a Powhiri, which is a formal welcoming ceremony. It can take anywhere between 30 minutes and 2-3 hours and all visitors will be gathered in the area in front of the traditional meeting house. Visitors should walk as a group and should nominate a responding caller to reply to the home people’s caller. There will be welcoming speeches given by the representatives of the home people and the speeches will always end with the most respected elder.


Speeches will be given in the Maori language and each one is accompanied by a traditional song. You will not understand what is being said as it will be in the Maori language, but the message will be a complimentary one.

If at all possible, a representative from your company should learn an opening in Maori. Take care in perfecting the pronunciation and choose something short, it is better to have a short opening pronounced correctly than a long one said poorly. The last elder of the home people will speak and then everyone will move forward in a line to kiss, shake hands or touch noses with the home people. After this, everyone will be invited into the kitchen for a meal. The business meeting will only begin after the food has been eaten.

Always make sure to show respect to the place where you stand and the houses, as these will have ancestral importance.

If you are slightly intimidated by the Powhiri and worried about making a good impression, you can always ask a Maori person to guide you through what to do during the ceremony. Although there is somewhat of a set procedure for a Powhiri, each one is different and will depend on the tribe that you are meeting with. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask questions if you aren’t sure of what the accepted protocol is.

For more information about New Zealand and Australia skilled visa applications and doing business in this part of the world, check out the Emigration Group.

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