To understand Kiwiana you need to understand what a Kiwi is. And since the name confuses many tourists, here's an explanation.
The Kiwi is a flightless nocturnal bird native to New Zealand. It became a symbol of our armed forces a long time ago, and from there, New Zealanders started to be referred to as "Kiwis". That term continues to this day. Kiwi shoe polish, a brand known worldwide, was actually invented by an Australian with a Kiwi wife.
The Kiwifruit is of Chinese origin, and we used to call it the "Chinese Gooseberry". The fruit grew well in New Zealand, and quickly became an export crop, at which time we called it "Kiwifruit". The Kiwifruit is called a "Kiwi" in some countries, and its flesh colour is also called "Kiwi" by those same nations, which creates some confusion. We associate Kiwifruit with New Zealand still, and so it has become a piece of Kiwiana.
This is one of the first items that comes to mind when anyone mentions the word Kiwiana. The Buzzy Bee is a New Zealand wooden pull-along toy created over 50 years ago. With its bright colours and clacking noise as it is pulled along, it's a toy that has stood the test of time, and still, most Kiwi kids get given a Buzzy Bee at some stage during their childhood.
Kiwiana Clothing - Gumboots
Gumboots are an essential piece of farming equipment in New Zealand, and most people have a pair for working in the garden as well. Gumboots, or "Gummies" as we often call them, are calf-length rubber boots. Usually black in colour, but now you can buy colourful Gummies as well. A Gumboot Throwing Competition is an iconic New Zealand game for gala days, A& P shows (Agricultural and Pastoral shows), etc.
Kiwiana Clothing - Swanndri
Also referred to as a "Swannie", the Swanndri is an iconic New Zealand brand, with its main product being a thick 100% wool jacket worn by farmers, trampers ( hikers), etc to keep them warm and dry in winter. Usually made in a tartan or check pattern. often worn with a black singlet underneath, another iconic piece of Kiwi clothing.
Kiwiana Clothing - Stubbies
You can't write about Swannies without writing about Stubbies. Stubbies were a brand of short shorts introduced to the New Zealand man in the 1970s. Simple cotton shorts, elastic waist. Loved by tradesmen. Similar shorts are still worn, but they are currently considered unfashionable.
Number 8 Wire
Number 8 Wire is a gauge of fencing wire that grew to become a handy New Zealand item to fix many other problems other than fencing. It is the image that epitomises the Kiwi "can-do attitude", which no doubt grew out of our isolation and need to fix things or make things ourselves, because there was no alternative.
The Silver Fern is a native tree fern. Like the Kiwi, it has long been a symbol of New Zealand. You will see the fern displayed on army insignia and on the uniforms of our sports teams. The Silver Fern Flag is a favourite, even though it is not the official flag of New Zealand.
Edmonds Baking Powder
The Edmonds "Sure to Rise" Baking Powder image is an iconic piece of Kiwiana.
The Chocolate Fish is a classic New Zealand confectionery. A marshmallow covered with chocolate, in the shape of a fish. Other iconic New Zealand confectionery can be found in our Food section.
Hokey Pokey Ice-cream
Plain vanilla icecream containing small rounded chunks of hokey pokey ( toffee). Still one of New Zealand's favourite ice-cream flavours.
To read more about New Zealand's favourite foods, including iconic party food, click here>>>
The majestic Pohutukawa Tree is a native tree that grows along our shoreline and flowers in November/December. Its beautiful large red flowers lend themselves perfectly to making the Pohutukawa the New Zealand Christmas Tree.
Also called flip-flops or thongs elsewhere, the Jandal is a piece of footwear designed for the beach but worn just about everywhere in New Zealand. Hence some food establishments or bars who like to portray themselves as having a "classy" image will have a sign on the door "No Jandals, No Jeans".
New Zealand's iconic dessert, created in the 1920s to mark the tour by Russian ballerina, Anna Pavlova. Whilst Australia tried to claim the dessert as their own, New Zealand has categoric proof it was created in New Zealand first. You'll find a recipe for the Pavlova on our NZ Recipes page.
New Zealand's answer to Vegemite, a yeast spread that both Kiwis and Aussies ( Australians) grow up on. Not for the faint-hearted foreigner, although if you spread it very, very thinly on hot buttered toast, you may end up craving it!
An iconic New Zealand soft drink ( soda) that many foreigners come to love as well. L&P is short for Lemon & Paeroa. It started off made in Paeroa, from local water and lemon.
L&P is one of our top 12 New Zealand foods. Click here to see the others>>>
Watties Tomato Sauce
Kiwi kids smother just about everything in Watties Tomato Sauce. It has a taste quite different to American Ketchup.
Our national sport, our passion. Enough said!
Fish and Chips
A beloved dish. Traditionally bought from the takeaway store. Battered and fried fish, with fried potato chips ( fries). Wrapped up in greaseproof paper, then newspaper. Smothered with Watties Tomato Sauce . Eaten anywhere.
Maori Tiki pendant or necklace . Originally sold as a plastic tiki in tourist stores, but now more likely seen beautifully carved out of cow bone or greenstone. The Hei Tiki used to be the main Maori jewellery item sold, but now other iconic Maori images like the Koru, Manaia or Fish Hook are just as popular.
A truly iconic New Zealand lolly ( candy). Pineapple Lumps are a firm pineapple flavoured chewy lolly, with a chocolate coating.