Guide to Kiwi workplaces


Kiwi workplaces are different. You might not be expecting this if you are from an English-speaking country.

worker moving into an office

This guide will give you some key tips to help you settle in to your new workplace in New Zealand. 

Is it easy to settle in a new country?

All migrants go through a number of stages as they get used to their life in a new country. It can take up to two years.

Gather as much information as you can about your new job, New Zealand and the settlement process before you migrate. Show this settlement curve to your partner and family. Talk about it together.

Also talk to colleagues and friends and seek support during the low period. It can make all the difference.

The Settlement Curve

Diagram of the stages of the settlement curve. The Settlement curve diagram shows a curved line which starts at a point of high mood (fun) at the end of the forethought period and the start of the Settlement period. The line continues at the high mood level until the period marking 3-6 months in a new culture, when it starts to drop until it reaches a low point at 18 months in a new culture. As it dips it passes through the stage Fright (3-6 months), Flight (12 months) and Fight (15-18 months). It rises again between 18 and 24 months as it enters the Integrated / Settled stage, and stops as it reaches the fit stage which rests halfway between the high mood and low mood markers.

The settlement curve diagram shows how your emotions may change as you start living in a new culture.

Stages of settling in

Forethought - Do you and your partner have the same expectations? Have realistic expectations about living and working in New Zealand and understand that these settlement phases are normal

Fun - excitement with the move to a new life in a new country.

Fright - a bad experience, small or large, may trigger frustration and dissatisfaction.

Flight - having second thoughts - either wanting to go home or actually leaving.

Fight - decision to battle with negative feelings and make the most of the opportunities available.

Fit - adjustment to a new life, feeling 'settled'.

For more information about the stages of the settlement curve, and some tips and suggestions about making a smooth transition to life in New Zealand, check our 'tips for settling in' section.

Tips for settling in

Can my employer help me get settled?

Your employer should be aware that many newcomers have partners and families and will need time to organise the nuts and bolts of their new life in New Zealand when they arrive. Discuss this with them before starting your new job. 

The Workplace Settlement model

The Workplace Settlement model shows how settling in both at home and at work are part of a successful shift to a new culture.

Workplace Settlement model. The Workplace Settlement Model shows 2 large intersecting triangles. One triangle represents settling into the workplace and the second represents settling in outside of the workplace. The overlapping area represents areas of settling in that are interrelated. 
Each triangle is separated into three layers. The first layer concerns the nuts and bolts of settling in. The settling in the workplace side shows that this process affects new migrant employees, and the the settling outside the workplace concerns partners and children in settling in employment and school. The section shared by both triangles lists some of the things a migrant needs to get organised when they arrive such as home and car, power and phone, bank account, IRD number, doctor, dentist
The second layer of the triangle concerns building a sense of belonging. On the work side there is integrating into work and training and support. On the side outside the workplace there is children integrating at school and partner integrating into work. The shared section between these is about integrating into the community. 
The top layer is about the outcome of maximising potential in settling in. On the settling in the workplace side the outcome is a high performer and on the settling outside the workplace side it is a well settled migrant.

Talk to your employer, your  'buddies' or your new colleagues about groups or clubs that you, your partner or your family can join. Use their local knowledge and advice to help you integrate into your new community.

You can also check our tips for meeting people, and find community networks in your area in the Community Services pages of our regional information

Meeting people


How will I fit into the Kiwi workplace?

Different people value different things. These values affect how people think and act in the workplace. Everyone in the workplace can benefit from knowing a little about these differences so they can work better together.

Cultural value differences

This cultural value differences chart is adapted from the work of Geert Hofstede, and shows how the top 12 countries that provide migrants to New Zealand value status and rules in the workplace.  Note that Fiji and Sri Lanka are also in the top 12 countries, but no data was available for these countries. 

Cultural values difference chart. The cultural values difference chart maps attitudes to the importance of rules and the importance of status in 11 countries with high migration to New Zealand. The importance of status rankings are approximately:  Malaysia 100, Philippines 90, China 73, South America 62, India 58, South Korea 55, South Africa 45, UK USA and Germany are all at 38, and New Zealand is at 20. The importance of rules rankings are approximately: South Korea 83, South America 75, Germany 63, South Africa 48, Philippines 44, New Zealand, India and China 42, USA 32, UK and Malaysia 23 Please note these figures are an interpretation of the chart and are not be exact.

This research makes some big generalisations, so it is important to note that not all people from one culture are the same.

The diagram shows that generally, among these countries, Kiwis place the lowest value on status. 

What are the implications of this for you in the Kiwi workplace? 

How do employees from different cultures say they work?

These are some of the things that employees from different cultures say about how they work. 

Things employees from different cultures say about how they work. This diagram has 10 speech bubbles containing a statement about how people from different cultures like to work.  The statements are:
I show respect by not looking the boss in the eye.
I think it’s rude to ask the boss questions.
I like to know exactly what I have to do and that my job is secure. I will work hard and stick by my employer.
I like to know who’s in charge and who the big boss is. I don’t usually call people who are older or more senior than me by their first name.
I am usually quiet in meetings until I am asked to speak.
I often ask direct questions as I like to get things right.
I like to call everyone by their first name. I expect to be consulted and want things to be fair.
I like to know exactly what the rules are and I will stick to them and get the job done. I don’t like surprises.
I don’t like being told what to do all the time.
I use quite a bit of slang when I speak and often make suggestions without being asked.

What would you say about how you work?

For more information and advice about settling into the Kiwi workplace, visit our section on Work in New Zealand

Our New Zealand way of working

Support in the workplace

Tips from successful migrants

I noticed that Kiwis like to have a chat before starting work. My workmates like to talk about sport- I've learnt a lot about rugby, and netball, since I got here!
Kiwis don’t like people who brag so I’ve learnt to be careful how I talk about any successes and I always acknowledge the contribution my colleagues have made.
In my company they often have drinks after work on Fridays. I don’t drink alcohol but I still go. It’s a good way to get to know my colleagues better and they always have orange juice!

For more tips about settling in and communicating at work, check out our Worktalk tool. It has tips about what is different about workplace communication in New Zealand.


How different cultures like to be managed

Knowing about the different work styles of Kiwis and other cultures can help new migrants when they first arrive.

Cultural differences in management style preferences

Chart showing cultural differences in management style. This chart shows a bar chart which measures how much 10 countries like their work to be directed by their manager. 
The results are: 
New Zealand 20%  
UK and Germany 34% 
USA 39% 
South Africa 44%  
South Korea 59% 
India 75% 
China 78% 
Philippines 92% 
Malaysia 100% 
Please note these figures are an interpretation of the chart and are not exact.

What are Kiwis like at work?

Compared to migrant employees from other parts of the world:

  • Kiwis like to work on their own without being closely supervised
  • Kiwis expect everyone to be treated the same
  • Kiwis respect the boss but usually speak to him or her in an informal way
  • Kiwis are willing to take on various tasks, not just those they were hired to do

What are you like compared to Kiwis?

What about my English language skills?


Kiwis have an unusual accent and speak very fast. They often use informal language and a lot of slang. 

Ask them to slow down and explain any words you don't understand. You will soon find it much easier to follow what they are saying. 


If you have an unfamiliar accent when you speak English your new colleagues may find it difficult to understand you to begin with. If you speak fast, slow down and make longer pauses.

Look for opportunities to speak English - at work and outside work. The more you speak English the easier it will be for others to understand you.

English language skills

If you don't feel confident when you speak English, or your reading and writing skills need enhancing , talk to your employer about any help available. 

Photo of a couple saying, "We enrolled in cooking classes one evening a week. We improved our English and made lots of new Kiwi friends!"

Check our English language section for tips on improving your English, and the learning English section of the regional pages for information about learning English in your area. 

English language


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