Wellington/Te Upoko-o-te-Ika-a-Maui ("head of Maui’s fish"), New Zealand’s capital city, leans out from the Rimutaka Range into the roaring forties headwinds blowing up through the Cook Strait. The city hunkers on the North Island’s southwestern tip, its stately suburbs of colonial villas climbing steeply from Wellington Harbor.
Its strapline "The coolest little capital in the world" could not be more succinct. This compact, densely populated city is New Zealand’s seat of power, where the nation’s policies are thrashed out in the iconic "Beehive" parliamentary buildings.
Wellington is dynamic, creative, and well educated; over a third of its relatively small population holds a university degree. As a thriving business hub and cultural powerhouse, it plays host to the New Zealand Stock Exchange and is second only to Auckland in terms of CBD size and creative industries such as IT and film.
The city boasts a star-studded, action-packed cultural calendar. The World of Wearable Arts (WOW) show, the Cheapskate Grom skateboarding competition, Wellington Fashion Week, Art Splash Youth Festival and Rugby Sevens are just a taste of the events held throughout the year.
Gourmands and wine connoisseurs will revel in the wine-growing region of the Wairarapa plains that fall away from the Rimutaka Range. Go-getters and high-hitters will relish the city’s fast-paced politics and progressive business culture. Wellington’s creativity and passion for fashion will slake any thirst for culture. Meanwhile, the city’s proximity to fantastic alpine resorts and its prolific outdoor activities will satiate the most avid sportsperson.
What is special or unique about your city?
It is a stronghold of the arts, home to the Royal Ballet and the New Zealand Symphony. It is also the second-largest city in the nation, home to approximately a third of a million people.
Also known as the “Harbour City,” Wellington boasts one of the most beautiful harbors in the world.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Wellington has emerged in recent years as the established cultural headquarters of New Zealand, as well as its political capital. With a condensed landscape, it has a compact feel within a multicultural environment. If first impressions count, then Wellington scores highly with new arrivals. The city is set between mountain ranges and the ocean. In addition, its harbor is ranked as one of the most scenic to be found anywhere.
The fact that the city itself is so compact aids greatly to the settling-in process. Distances and transportation fail to be insurmountable challenges even for the newest of arrivals. In fact, Wellington has been referred to as one of the easiest places for an expatriate to settle into. Wellingtonians are familiar with a diverse range of nationalities and cultures and newcomers to the city will find themselves embedded within the local communities and businesses within a very short time.
Are these impressions likely to change?
These impressions are not likely to change. Wellington harbor is the remnant of an ancient volcanic crater and while the City Council may have plans to revamp the waterfront, there is a responsibility to ensure that the natural resources are sustained. Wellington is a picture-perfect city. This beauty needs to be preserved.
The city is also filled with funky shops, trendy cafes, exciting art galleries and great restaurants, all within easy walking distance. Furthermore, Wellington is home to the Parliament Buildings (icons of Wellington) and also many historic buildings and museums that tell the story of New Zealand.
What is the local language?
English is the official language of New Zealand; however you will also hear Maori spoken, along with other languages from the South Pacific islands and Asia.
Here are a few Maori words that may be fun to learn as well as help you while you are here:
English = Maori
- hello = kia ora
- good bye = haere ra
- please = koa
- thank you = kia ora rawa atu
- good = ka pai
- bad = ka kino
- help = äwhinatia
- yes = äe
- no = käo
- food = kai
- water = wai
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
It would be difficult to live in New Zealand without speaking English, as most New Zealanders only speak English or Maori. There is a wide variety of English language schools throughout New Zealand.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
The main thing to remember is to respect the many diverse cultures in New Zealand. To avoid offending, please take note of the following:
- Casual dress is acceptable and usually preferred in most situations.
- Do not use the "V for victory" sign as it is considered offensive.
- Always try to be on time for appointments. Punctuality is considered good manners.
- Afternoon tea is between 3:00 - 4:00 p.m.; sweet items, such as cakes and biscuits, are served.
- The evening meal (dinner) is between 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. and a larger meal is served. Supper is an optional snack served much later in the evening. If you are invited to a friend's home for a meal and have been asked to bring a plate, this means that you are expected to bring a small plate of food appropriate for the meal.
- Tipping is uncommon, but it is acceptable if you wish to acknowledge good service.
- Cover your mouth if you must yawn, do not use toothpicks or spit in public.
- Ask permission before you attempt to photograph someone.
- When meeting someone or departing, use a firm handshake and maintain good eye contact.
- Avoid confusing or comparing New Zealand to Australia, as they are two distinct countries.
- Remember that New Zealand has strict smoking rules, and smoking is not permitted in any public building or public transport.
- Smoking is not permitted in any bars, cafes or restaurants; smoking areas may be provided outside.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
Wellington’s climate is generally mild, with cooler temperatures in winter and warmer temperatures in summer. Although the temperature fluctuates in the seasons, they are never extreme. Wellington can, however, be very windy.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
The dominant cultural groups are European and Maori with other smaller groups from all over the world. As such, it is a multicultural, lively city that offers a great variety of ethnic restaurants and cafes. In addition, Wellington celebrates different cultural and art festivals almost every month.