Culture Shock: The Kindness of Kiwis
Culture Shock: The Kindness of Kiwis

Dear Kiwis,

I’d like to thank you! But, in order for you to understand my gratitude, I first need to give you some context. I grew up in the US, in a home where we never locked our door.  Some, including myself, thought this was odd, but my parents didn’t think it posed any real threat so we learned to accept it.  Although my family lived in a rural area, we were certainly the exception to the American rule at the time. My youth was unfortunately shaped by after-school TV specials, high-profile child abductions, high school shootings, and America’s Most Wanted – which combined would make my parents and I think that danger was lurking around every corner.  At some point, I’m not sure when, trust stopped being freely given. If and when it was given, it was given from a safe distance.

If you haven’t noticed, we take our safety very seriously in America – from germs to terrorist and everything in between.  It would be naïve for me to pretend that some of our fears are not justified based on the last twenty years of escalating violence and ever expanding threats, so I won’t. What I will tell you is that there has been a cultural shift in my country over the last twenty years. See, an unintended consequence of our concern for safety is that we have become jaded. The days of striking up a conversation with a stranger on public transit, letting children play with little to no supervision, or picking up hitchhikers are long gone. When you believe as we do, that every interaction you or your family have with people can cause you harm, it creates a hypervigilance where being guarded becomes your norm. “Stranger Danger” has become our mantra. Everyone and everything has become a threat, and our ability to experience meaningful human interaction has become nearly impossible.  This is the great tragedy of the last few decades – we’ve lost our confidence in each other. If distrust is the material that has created our walls, fear is the foundation on which it is built. You won’t believe how deep the distrust runs so let me provide you with a few examples of things that cause me angst when I’m out; tell me if you can relate to any of them.

A person coughs or sneezes, a person looks a little too pale or a little too red, they look at the floor, ceiling or me too long, they look too excited or too depressed, they look too aloof or too focused, their jacket is too long or too puffy, they walk too fast or too slow, they speak too loud or too quietly, they look too unkempt or too polished, just to name a few.

I’m sure after reading this you’ll probably think how tragic it is that someone considers so much daily. The truly sad part is that it had become second nature to me. Only after visiting your country have I taken the time to reflect on my sad situation. I realized that as a result of my skepticism I rarely have the privilege of enjoying great encounters with people I meet for the first time. If you are wondering, I don’t blame anyone else. Only myself.

So what does my paranoia have to do with visiting New Zealand? Everything. When I think of culture I often think of food, fashion, music, or the arts, but by doing this I fail to recognize the values that are at the center of those outward expressions. Because I forgot this, I came to New Zealand looking forward to tasting the food, watching a haka, visiting galleries, and enjoying the famous vistas. I told myself that I came to learn and experience new things, but I did not know what that would mean for me. I didn’t realize how uncomfortable you Kiwis would make me. At first, I could not place why I repeatedly felt uncomfortable, but, after a week in the country my wife and I came to the same conclusion.  During our first seven days in New Zealand, we had been recipients of so much unsolicited kindness and generosity that our human interaction paradigm was spinning. In those first few days people that hadn’t known us up until a few hours beforehand offered us rides, invited us to their homes for coffee and cake, invited us out to dinner in the city, took off work to show us around the country they were so proud of, engaged us in deep and meaningful conversation, bought us lunch and dinner, offered the use of their vehicles and homes to us, prepared us dinner, brought us home to meet their family, and even invited us to cross-fit with them. I will say it again in case you missed it – this was all in the first seven days! It was not the things people offered us that we were most impressed by, it was that they were offering us access to themselves and their families. The spirit in which they gave was eye-opening. There was no expectation that we would be able to give them anything in return, and even when we insisted, they wouldn’t accept anything.

At this point, you are probably not sure why I’m making a big deal about something that you already know. You have to understand, back home when I meet people, if we are able to make it past the obligatory name, place of origin, and occupation questions, at most we may exchange social media information. This way we can learn more about each other from a safe distance. Here, people were not offering friend request, they were offering friendships.

I know this is normal to you, but this has been a culture shock to me.  This level of kindness from strangers is so foreign to me it was like I unknowingly signed up for a language immersion program. Marcel Proust said that, “The only true voyage of discovery is not to go to new places, but to have other eyes.” It only took a week in New Zealand to see my need for new eyes. My cynicism towards strangers has been exposed, and frankly, I am embarrassed that it made the 8,700 mile trip from Rochester, New York with me. You should be proud! At the time of this writing I have been in New Zealand for two months and the consistency in kindness I have experienced from people across the socio-economic spectrum still leaves me in amazement. You continue to challenge me as I am constantly forced to examine the depths of my guarded condition.

On the surface, your biggest cities, Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, all look like American cities to me. But even despite the apparent US and European influence, there is something unique there. From my limited experience, it does not appear that you have succumbed to living in a state of fear of others as many of us do in the US. Perhaps this is the Maori influence and their culture of helping anyone that figuratively and literally shows up at their door (this would include my wife and me).  Maybe it’s because you are not tethered to the baggage of being a world superpower. It’s possible that you don’t have the burden of rebuilding your confidence in others after a major terrorist attack, although you know a thing or two about rebuilding a city.1 Regardless of the reasons, at least for now you have not let go of your grip on the kindness that has endeared you to my wife and me. For this, I applaud you. Despite a constant stream of new immigrants flowing into the country, and the challenge of absorbing their collective experiences, your culture of kindness remains. Although I’m sure you have your own problems as a country, it has been a breath of fresh air for an American who did not realize how tired he was of being guarded. You reintroduced me to the magic of human interaction. The mental tax that I ignorantly consented to levy upon myself has been removed.

If you take nothing else from this letter, take this – please don’t change! Some of us need to have our worlds rocked, our paradigm flipped on its head, and our kindness recalibrated. I am glad I started my travels in New Zealand because the experience has been like finding the corner-piece that helps you start solving a puzzle. In my quest to be transformed through travel, I did not know where to start. Thankfully, you Kiwis have provided me with a clear starting point, and for that I am indebted to you.  I can confidently tell you that I am growing, and I believe that is the best way I can pay you back.


Lucas Barber

(A beneficiary of your kindness)









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130 thoughts on “Culture Shock: The Kindness of Kiwis”

  1. Tēnā kōrua Lucas and partner- thank you for this beautiful acknowledgement. I agree that our unique culture in nz is hugely influenced by tikanga māori/ māori culture. We are blessed to live here.
    Safe and happy travels
    nga mihi mandy

  2. chur cuz, that was awesome 🙂 If you’re in gisborne look us up! Doors open… (ps fb marcus matawhero lloyd 😉

  3. Beautifully articulated Lucas. Thank you for reminding us to stay kind. Thank you for the gift of your words to our nation Aotearoa.
    A grateful kiwi.

  4. Dear Mr and Mrs Barber, thank you.
    Thank you for making it all the way to the bottom of the world and thank you for reminding me what makes us kiwis special. I too grew up in a neighbourhood where the back door was always unlocked, and if a neighbour came to visit, they’d let themselves in and put the kettle on. As kids, as long as we were back by nightfall/dinner, we could be out and play all day. No GPS, no cellphones necessary – we had every mother in the district knowing where we were!
    Having lived in Europe for six years and returning to Auckland six years ago, I came back with different eyes. I’m not from Auckland and there have been challenges settling in but the kindness that you have so eloquently described is real.
    I do remember one trip back to NZ, travelling with my five year old twins. I was tired, one bag had left Schipol on a different flight – to Sydney – we were delayed catching our connection to Wellington, my twins were hungry and we were all very, very tired. No NZ currency to buy snacks for my boys (that was a shock, had to buy snacks on our planes!) . They were eyeing up the menu while I explained I had no NZD to pay for it. Then a moment of complete wonderfulness happened, a man across the aisle said “please don’t worry, here is some money, I see your children are hungry and you’ve had a long trip”. I just cried. The Steward also had her own plan, to nick the pilot’s food for the kids and made them goodie bags. I knew then I was home, and it felt good.
    Anyway, thank you and enjoy the rest of your time here. If you are back in Auckland and feel like seeing what it is like on a city fringe lifestyle block, get in touch. There is a bed made up for you.
    Yours, Yolande

    1. Yolande,

      Thank you for sharing your plane ride story. This is exactly the type of kindness that we have experienced. I think it is hard to appreciate what you have until you have experienced the alternative. If we head back to Auckland, we’ll try to connect!


  5. You missed the best place my friends I have yet to meet… Down those old roads to a place called Oruawharo.. just north of Wellsford.. Our sea food is the best.. and so are the people… Thanks for the kind words about our country… But be careful out there in the big world… God bless…

    1. Thank you for the kind words. Now you make us want to come visit Oruawharo :-). Maybe we can swing by the next time we are in New Zealand!

  6. Beautiful expressions from your heart. ? happy travels and keep on believing in the goodness of the human spirit. It’s what we shine our light on that becomes the focus of our beings.

  7. Hi

    Do you guys have any idea how impossible it is to read gray font on a white background, when you have a vision impairment I would love to read your story, but I can’t Love Trish P.S There are ots of us out here!. PPS I can’t proof read this, so apologies for typos.

    1. Trish,

      Sorry you are having a hard time reading the text. We will look into it.

    2. If you highlight the text, you should get white font on an orange background. Or you can select all (Ctrl-A) then copy and paste into Microsoft Word, then change the text colour and size.
      I hope this helps.

  8. Looking at your photo, I can understand why. A young white American guy with a black partner would immediately strike many Kiwis as very unusual – not at all the slightly racist slightly arrogant image of Americans most of us have. In a word., you are PEOPLE and not tourists!

    Yes, we are friendly and I experienced exactly the suspicion you talk about when I visited the USA rather a long time ago, but it was noticeable that once I became part of some organized group like a tour party or a conference delegate all that changed. One exception,. crossing over from Canada I was subjected to a random bag search and after that nobody on the tour bus would go near me. It was quite a relief when that trip was over. I have no idea what they were scared of – after all the security guys hadn”t found anything to worry about.

    1. I am sorry to hear about the negative experience you had while traveling. I believe the goal for all of us should be to act as ambassadors of kindness, compassion, and understanding. Sometimes it will be reciprocated, and sometimes it won’t. We can only control what we can control. Fortunately, we have had only positive experiences here in Aotearoa!

    2. Rubbish, interracial partnerships are common in NZ, dont know where you’ve been living but no one would bat an eyelid here. 2016 not 1960.

    3. I don’t think there’s anything unusual with couples who are of different ethnicity regardless of where they’re from. I see two people who love each other

  9. Aroha mai aroha atu, I am sure you made this experience because you are open minded and just lovely people. I had the same experience, now I am living here with my kiwi husband and whenever the opportunity knocks I will invite people (like you) to make their trip a worthwile and unforgettable experience. Its about giving and receiving.
    Ka kite

  10. Aww thanks for that and thank you both for coming to visit our wonderful country (home) that we are more than happy to share with one and all, come back anytime and bring your whanau. Blessings and safe travels.

    1. I would love for my whanau to experience your kindness. First, I’ll have to figure out how to get my father to agree to a 15 hour flight.

      1. Hi there. Thanks for your comments and generous feedback on NZ. Im sure if you lead with your blog review it wont be hard to convince your father to visit here. I wish you well on your travels, may it continue as it has begun. I look forward to your updates. Have fun!

  11. Loved your letter. Thank you so much for the encouragement. I loved hearing your perspective. I’m sure we all appreciate it!! Hope you continue to have a great time in NZ. If you’re anywhere near Manurewa, we’d have you around for dinner or a cup of tea for sure!
    -Emma Diack

    1. Emma,

      Thank you for the invitation! If we are near Manurewa we will certainly grab a meal with you!

  12. Thank you – ngā mihi nui. Sometimes it takes different eyes to see the true beauty in our country – in our people. Thank you for sharing your in-‘sights’ with us. Kia tau te rangimārie (may peace be with you)

  13. So beautifully written. Thank you Lucas. ? I hope that you and your beautiful wife continue to grow and continue to encounter kindness everywhere you go on your journey. You’re welcome here with open arms anytime.

    Best wishes, Kerri from
    Wellington, New Zealand.

  14. What a beautiful letter ❤️
    Thankyou Lucas, home is where my heart will always be and you are always welcome!
    Kia Ora!

  15. Lucas,
    Kia ora! When my dad addressed visitors on our marae (meeting ground) he would sometimes use the following quote:
    “He aha te mea nui”? Loosely translated, What is the most important thing in life?
    “He tangata! He tangata! He tangata! It is people! It is people! It is people! Caring is sharing no matter how much or what little we have. That was the way my parents our grandparents me o tatou Tupuna (our ancestors) passed onto us and am proud to say, that not much has changed in Kiwi attitude. I might just add that we do have our fair share of people who want to be heard or noticed for the sake of it…..that’s life I’m afraid.
    Fyi, I am Maori, ex military and am married to an American woman and we live in St George Utah. We are both linguistic, myself in Spanish, Bahasa, Kurdish, basic Arabic, Maori and am trying to learn french. My wife is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, German, Arabic, and basic in 5 others. We have learnt these skills in all of our travels, why? Because He Tangata! He Tangata! He Tangata! And yet, we are just normal people going about life because, life is too short.
    In both our former military careers, we have worked and fought alongside many multi cultural people and because of that sharing & caring attitude, we can go anywhere in the world and visit them.
    Apologies for the long winded message suffice to say: Amigo, mi casa es su casa cuando se encuentra en St George! My wife and I are away a lot; we have her mother living with us, but you are always welcome to hunker down anytime.I hope you like tennis, racket ball, hiking, golfing and favorite of all wining & dining coz that’s what we are going to do, should you both make it that far.
    No reira. Kua mutu aku mihi ki a korua. Manaakitia te Atua!
    Regards, God Bless!

    1. Shane, Your dad sounds very wise!… consider me humbled as I am trying to learn Spanish (language number two). It’s so cool that there is nowhere in the world that you and your wife can’t go and get by just fine. If we are ever in Utah, we will look you up!

  16. I don’t even know where my house key is any more!! So if you ever head to northland…..look us up. Happy travels.

  17. Dear Barber’s. I read your beautiful blog about your travels in Aotearoa and the kindness you have been blessed with. My parents met two American boys who had just arrived . They were in a telephone box trying to organise accomodation. Yes … parents took them home to our crowded house where they used our place as base and traveled NZ. We stayed very close friends watched and these young men find wives, marry come visit and brought family out many times. Now 40 years later their children are visiting. Wonderful connection and love shared for many many years. Safe travels. I must say I live in Melbourne Australia it is always relaxing to go home. I will be following your blog have fun may see you in Melbourne.
    Aroha xx

  18. This is so awesome to read. Thankyou for your kind words. Glad you have enjoyed seeing our beautiful country. I hope the rest of your travels are just as kind ???

  19. What a lovely surprise to read this warm and heartfelt story this morning. I’ve been living outside of NZ for a while now and recognise your description of my home. I’m glad your experiences in NZ have been positive and feel sure you played your part in making them so – accepting kindness and generosity and being open in return. It all goes both ways! Thanks for putting it into words so well. You reminded me what a treasure it is to see the world in this way and to be conscious of not giving too much ground to the cynicism and suspicion which can so easily prevail. Best wishes to you. Donna.

  20. Hi Lucas
    What wonderful adventures you both are having!
    I am so pleased I did not scroll past the link to your letter. It is beautiful It sounds to me that you have returned peoples hospitality. Maybe not in a monetary sense, but with your courage in taking the HUGE leap of faith when starting your journey, and in the stories you have to share. Those gifts are priceless, and wonderful to receive. We are just outside of New Plymouth, so if you haven’t made it this way yet, or plan on coming this way again, our door is open. You are always welcome. We would love to share stories with you.

  21. Thank you both so much for your glowing endorsement of our little piece of paradise in the South Pacific. Ngā mihi ki ā korua (many thanks to you both).

  22. I couldn’t agree more! I’ve seen young Kiwis give their burger to a total stranger whose burger fell on the floor, I’ve been escorted by total strangers across a freezing rooftop car park when the mall closed and I was trying to find my way out, and shown around and invited home by Kiwis who just want to make sure I get to see their beautiful country. Thank you for the article Barbers! Beautifully expressed 🙂

  23. Thanks for the great write up. I spent a lot of years living overseas and so I can definitely understand that in comparison to some people in other countries us Kiwis are a pretty friendly bunch. But don’t put us up on that pedestal without considering that even Kiwis aren’t friendly/welcoming/generous to people who aren’t open to it, interested in our culture, people, country or way of life. So pat yourselves on the back too because if you weren’t also friendly, welcoming or generous you might have discovered you didn’t get offered ‘jack s**t (as we say down here) 🙂 ‘.

  24. Hi! I am an American ( NYer too!) who came here for a visit 14 years ago and fell in love with the country. Now, I am raising two little kiwi kids with my kiwi husband. It is hard, even after 14 years, to shake that awful feeling of paranoia that Americans find normal. I thought it had long gone, but then I had kids! Hope you have an awesome rest of your trip and be sure to get some quality time in Wellington! 🙂

  25. Felt moved to tears to be reminded about what makes us as people and a country just a little bit different to the rest of the world. Thank you for that reminder guys! ? I’ve been to Rochester and thought it was also a great place. You will leave New Zealand still knowing there are nooks and crannies left to explore. If you have time left in your trip I would like to share my corner of NZ with you. I’m based in Nelson. If.not this trip, then maybe next time! Travel well. Enjoy the change of season. Stay safe. And thanks again for your acknowledgement of our country and culture ☺

  26. What a wonderfjul tribute both to New Zealand and to your humanity. Thanks for sharing these thoughts. This makes this Kiwi living in Rochester, NY proud of New Zealand and inspired that someone from Rochester can have been affected this way – for the good. – Mike Johansson

  27. I am from Pennsylvania, but I am currently living in Auckland. Sometimes I miss my family back in PA, but I am glad that I made the move here. I am glad your initial experience here was the same as mine when I first visited NZ 20 years ago. Enjoy!

  28. Kia ora/Talofa Mr & Mrs Barber.
    Loved reading your letter to the people of Aotearoa.
    Makes me proud that visiting our ‘shakey isles’ has touched you in such a way.
    As a kiwi who has travelled for a long time and is still living away from home it makes me miss the people/land and family even more seeing and reading you blogs.
    I love what you guys are doing and that you’ve chosen NZ to start such a great adventure.
    Will keep track of your travels

  29. I felt the same way as you when I first visited this beautiful country. But was soon shocked by the a bit of “culture” I encountered. … I’m an American married to a Kiwi. He’s a wonderful, kind, person, a Maori. Everything was as you stated. Until I had the “opportunity” to be mistaken for a a native Kiwi.. I’ve never experienced that level of discrimination. It was only when I began speaking (native NY accen) that apologies were offered. .i have been there quite a few times – and each time the discrimination toward NZed’s indigenous population becomes more apparent and acute. The patronizing , the “free education for blue collar jobs. The total lack of respect. I love the Maori people and, in particular my husband’s family. . I hope that one day the Maori people can be treated as well as they treat others.

  30. Thank YOU for your kind words! I’ve migrated to New Zealand 10 years ago, because I fell in love with the same lie warmth & openness as you just described. NZ is Home for me now. =)

  31. Kia ora Barber family.
    I can completely relate to your story and love it. I am originally American (Kiwi passport now!) and have seen and experienced many of the things you mention. My husband (a kiwi) is forever bring home people (esp. tourists… sorry, it sounds like I’m talking about puppies, ha!) for dinners or showing them around. I thought it was so weird at first but now I love it. For us I think it’s a great way to hear travel stories or just share knowledge… so we do get something out of it!
    The beauty and personality of this country, and the people, is why I love it so much and why I moved here after visiting 16 years ago!
    I hope you continue to enjoy your travels and if you make it back to Rotorua, spend some more time here and look us up (@Kris_OD on most social things). As everyone else said, door’s open!

  32. Lovely to read about your experiences here. Might I suggest another reason we are so friendly here – that we are small. Our actions still directly impact on our, more than likely, literal neighbour. We can not be lost in a crowd here. And, when we are growing up, if we misbehaviour, you can bet some old biddy down the road will tell our mums on us. As adults, we may well be working with, living next door to, or dating the sibling, cousin, best friend, of someone we have been rude to – so we have developed a rather round about way of speaking, and a general sense of courtesy and politeness.
    It looks like I’m the only one here who took this as a back handed compliment (oh aren’t we so twee!) or perhaps the only one with that opinion who is commenting. I think you’ll find, if you investigate the history and foundation of this country that we are world leaders, at least in thought, opinion and invention. Our size may not give us economic stakes, but what we do, we do well. For starters, I can point you in the direction of our policies on nuclear free, marriage equality and suffrage. Check out some of Sir Paul Callaghan lectures as a summary of more, much more eloquently than I could write.

  33. Just immigrate here, we’d love for you to stay. Summer is the best, we come out of hibernation and go off to the beach.

  34. Sometimes we take for granted how truly unique our country is that it takes a simple story to remind us all. Hope you and your wife continue to have an amazing trip and if you’re ever in South Auckland, visit Mangere and Otara markets – taste of the Polynesian culture. Take care – Samantha

  35. Hello to you both,

    My trip around the world is coming to an end and I can say without a doubt that my favourite country was New Zealand!

    I thought that maybe I had romanticised my experience of the place a bit … Your post reminded me of why I fell in love with the land of kiwis. Thank you for that. I hope to one day move there 🙂

    A fellow traveller.

  36. I agree with you and so would hundreds of young Israelis who arrive in NZ every summer to travel the country and find a programme called HIT ( Host Israeli Travellers) to which approx 500 families belong who offer them mostly free accommodation (or $5 a night) and are happy to show them the sights and meet their needs any way they can. It is such a neat testimony to NZ hospitality and it doesn’t stop with young Israelis as you have learned from experience. Blessings from NZ

  37. What a lively story you have wtitten about our beautiful country snd our people.. This is heartearming and very true.
    Im glad you experienced our open home culture.
    Cheers mate.

  38. Cheers from the bottom of the Pacific.
    Happy travels Lucas and Lisa. How cool, to sell up and decide to travel the world and explore.

  39. Hey Lucas great to hear you sharing your experience. and enjoying, if you are interested you should look up my son Brando, he walked for 600 days and 8000km around the coast line of our awesome country and he sums it up like this ‘my faith in humanity is restored’ check him out you could even pick up his book Wildboy by Brando Yelavich to read on your travels.

  40. Kiaora! This is such a lovely blog, thank you 🙂 Safe travels and all the best on your journey!

  41. I am fortunate to be a citizen of both the US and now New Zealand and you have beautifully articulated how I feel about living here in NZ. It is a place and a people that appeal to my true nature for the reasons you have explained so well…
    I hope all you travels are equally as rewarding!

  42. Enlightening letter, thank you. We are lucky to have been raised the core values of our ancestors, Te Aroha, Manaaki, Kaitiaki, and our Christian / Catholic Faith, ie forgiveness, compassion, empathy, mercy, respect, just to name a few. I hope we Kiwi’s adapt your American holiday ie Thanks Giving Day. If we do, then we may appreciate things we take for granted :0) And I hope we continue to Uphold these values and teach our children and future generations. Peace :0)

  43. Great to read such heartfelt feelings. An open heart & an open mind are key to enjoying all life has to offer. I’m an expat living in NZ now for many years. I experienced & fully identify your sentiments. Enjoy your travels.. wherever you go. Its part of life experiences. Take care. Mo from Kapiti Coast

    1. “An open heart & an open mind are key to enjoying all life has to offer.” Exactly!

  44. Very cool blog, thanks! My husband is travelling in the States atm, I’ve forwarded it on to him. Makes me proud to be a kiwi : ) But I have to tell you that we experienced fabulous hospitality in the US when we travelled there 4 years ago – maybe it helped that we had mountain bikes?? Invited to bbqs from people we met at trailhead carparks etc, I loved it!
    I head back to the US in a month to meet up with my husband, and to do some cycle touring, and am sure we’ll meet some fantastic people along the way.
    I enjoy your writing, I’ll be signing up.

    Warm regards,


    1. There are many wonderful people in the States and I am glad you met some… thanks for signing up!

  45. I’m reading this in Genoa, italy and gosh it makes me miss home! It’s hard to see it yourself when you live there sometimes but I think the kiwi friendliness is innate – you expect people to be nice because you would be in return and 99% of the time it works just like that. I hope you got to visit Dunedin and taranaki that hold pieces of my heart and you experienced a gisborne sunrise on the beach, just you and the gulls. Sending you blessings for your travels and if you are on Italy, look me up!

    1. Melissa, we can’t wait to visit Italy – probably early 2018. Is there anywhere you recommend visiting (we are always looking for non-touristy gems).

  46. I grew up in rural England and although we weren’t worried about crime, and also left doors and cars unlocked things soon changed as times changed and as a teenager i moved away never to experience that safe and friendly feeling again.
    Until now that is, me and my wife decided to emigrate to NZ 8 years ago bringing both of our boys.
    Settling in Christchurch, we have had some turbulent post quake years but any thoughts of fleeing were dismissed by the kindness and friendliness of Kiwis, it is a very special country.
    One of our goals was to progress from residents to full blown citizens, this we accomplished just 3 years ago and the best compliment i can pay is that we feel like Kiwis, our lives are more settled, calm, relaxed and fulfilled thanks to Aeteoroa.
    Your letter is touching, thank-you.
    You are also welcome at our house anytime you are passing
    Kia Ora

    1. Congratulations on becoming citizens! Glad to hear that Aotearoa has been great for you and your family.

  47. Hi Lucas
    Great tribute to the people of lovely NZ. We have lived in 3 beautiful countries – we are South Africans who chose NZ as our home 16 years ago, and love it there. We are currently on contract in Fiji for a few years, and all I want to say is that if you love NZ people, you will LOVE Fijians. Do make Fiji another stop over on your travels. If you come to Suva, look us up and we will put you in contact with people where you can have a real Fijian experience. Tis better than getting stuck in a resort…
    Looking forward to moving back to my home, friends and family in a couple of years…..miss NZ muchly

    1. We would love to go to Fiji! Not sure we will be able to but we are always on the lookout for travel deals.

  48. Hey Barbers,
    I read your article on FB today, and found it so refreshing! Thanks so much for reminding us how blessed we are to live in Aotearoa. I was born in Europe and came to NZ as a young child. I think it is easy to take your own country for granted when you’ve grown up here most of your life. Yes, we have our share of problems, but they are relative compared to overseas.

    I have a real affinity for Americans as I have family and friends over there (Missouri, Maryland). Being multi-cultural, and having travelled a lot in the past I really enjoy meeting people from different cultures. I would like to meet you both, if you are ever in Wellington again, please contact me. My email address: I hope that you thoroughly enjoy the rest of your trip around New Zealand, and the rest of the world! I look forward to reading more about your travels 🙂 Blessings, xxoo

    1. It would be great to meet you if we can make it back to Wellington. Thank you for the encouragement.

  49. Aroha to you. You appreciate the beauty and inner beauty of Aotearoa. Kia kaha. The only journey is the journey within. Welcome to our world.

  50. Thank you for perspective. As an american living in New Zealand (15+ years) I try to explain why living in NZ is so easy, stress free, good for the soul. My American friends and family just can’t understand it; can’t understand police without guns, children allowed to go to the park on their own, knowing that if you have trouble someone will help you, of going to the store with no shoes on and no one batting an eye. Yes, there are issues here but the underlying spirit of acceptance and kindness is something that no amount of money can buy. I’m so blessed that my children are growing up kiwis and have never know the fear that is propagated in America. Cheers, Diane

  51. Hey Barbersgoglobal,

    Love your perspective on NZ. We are another ‘goglobal’ family (Scottsgoglobal) and my husband tried his best to take his Kiwi openness everywhere we went. I loved seeing locals freaking out on the London Underground or New York subway as this man attempted to strike up unsolicited conversations with them. You could see them looking for a newspaper to hide behind or somewhere safer to sit 🙂

    Hope you continue to enjoy your time in our beautiful country.

  52. Kia ora Mr and Mrs Barber.
    I am totally blown away by your wonderful comments. We New Zealanders are not all perfect. We have ups and downs, tribulations, problems and issues like other people in the world but we are as you have mentioned true to heart. You can always immigrate to NZ. Thank you and Kia ora.

    1. We certainly understand that everything is not perfect, but you have a great thing going on here…. We won’t rule out living anywhere 🙂

  53. Hey Barbers,
    I’ve just viewed your interview and the lovely words you used to describe kiwis and this country which is ours and is truly worthy of sharing with visitors.
    I do hope you got to the Eastern Bay of Plenty? this is a stunning part of New Zealand.
    If you are passing you have to visit White Island, our off shore volcano, really something to see.
    Enjoy your travels and stay safe.

  54. I hope you guys are planning to come to Dunedin – would love to show you NZ best kept secret city – great street art , craft beer , gothic atmosphere . We will show you around !

  55. Love this…not only is it awesome to hear your experiences in beautiful Aotearoa, it’s a great reminder to me to not live in fear because of what I see happening throughout the world…and to not take where I live for granted. Yeah it’s not perfect and comes with its dramas, but for the time being, I feel safe. Best of luck for the remainder of your journey…if you’re ever passing through Hamilton…hit us up…we don’t have all the great touristy things, but I’ll shout you guys a feed…Churr.

  56. kia ora mr&mrs barber for your korero I have never felt the need to lock my doors so if ever yous are in town haere mai kuhi mai ki te whare ahau 1 can only imagine how you feel when yous come to our shores & experience the hospitality of the people of aotearoa nga mihi korua

  57. So beautifully written! I’m a Kiwi now living in Australia & Aussie’s are also lovely people! However, when I went back to NZ this year I was reminded of the exceptional friendliness of Kiwis. A smile & hello as you walk down the street, people not looking at you like you are strange if you strike up a conversation in a shop! It truely is the little things that we need to value in each other & in the world & you reminded me of this! I hope you will pay forward the Kiwi kindness in your life & travels in future – hopefully it will be contagious! Thanks for writing this blog! Acknowledgment of this & conversations I had I think are important & powerful! Best wishes to you both!

  58. So I read your article, and quite frankly I’m a bit taken aback by your thoughts of your own country. I am an American, born and raised in a sub-division of Baltimore, MD. We had wonderful neighbors, loads of friends, and no reason to mistrust people. Not much has changed except getting older. I still chat with strangers (mind you, I live in a very populated area), I’m not mistrustful unless someone gives me a reason to be. I don’t clutch my purse if I seen a person of color walk by, worry about people not making eye contact, the bulkiness of their coats, or stereotype because they may be wearing Muslim clothing or have their jeans below their butts. I treat people with respect and have never had a problem. If you walk around worrying about that stuff you’re letting life pass you by. Get out there and try to interact with people, you may be surprised. America is still a great country and will remain so. There are problems, and as someone here said there are problems everywhere. But there are still so many nice, thoughtful people here! Give them a chance. Maybe you’re looking in the wrong places but they are there. And if you’re unhappy living here or don’t care for the way things are or the way you’re treated, well….

    Don’t give up on your country so easily.

    1. Mrs. D,

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply. The letter was not a slight to the US, but a letter of gratitude to a country that embraced my wife and me with open arms. You are right, there are many wonderful people in the US. Many of them have left a lasting impression on me, and have helped shape me into the man I am today. I think it is absolutely wonderful that you have never experienced anything that I mentioned in the letter; but in my humble opinion, you are the exception and not the norm. What I hoped to convey through the letter is the new perspective I got from being in NZ. If you have done any travel outside of the US i’m sure you can relate – especially if you have done any long-term travel. Being immersed in another culture for an extended period of time reveals unexpected things. When I say that Kiwis have a culture of kindness, i’m not saying that there are not kind people in The States. What I am recognizing is that we have room to grow. We can be, and should be better!

      Please note that I never said I was unhappy living in The States. And as for the suggestion of leaving the US, it won’t happen. My American values taught me that you don’t run from problems, you work to fix it.

  59. Thank you Lucas for sharing your beautiful experiences while travelling in my homeland I believe you and your lovely wife were guided there to begin your fabulous journey to clear your heart and soul from negativity that you both have lived in America and seriously don’t blame you both sadly so much wrong is happening in your part of the world however there are some beautiful people there as well am sure of that even tho I have never been there enjoy the hospitality of our people and our gorgeous country which has so much to offer I live across the ditch lols so to speak Australia Melbourne well say no more you have a home to come to if you and your wife come over this way God Bless you both enjoy your new found journey Nga mihi kia kotou katoa

  60. Barbers,

    I am a kiwi living in London ! I needed to read your letter , it came at a time where I needed to be reminded of what beautiful and hospitable people we are.
    People think you’re a freak if you speak to them on the tube or train haha . this makes me so proud too be from NZ, and I am so happy our tiny country had such a positive and beautiful influence over you . Make sure you hit up Dunedin , in particular hoppers Inlet! Arohanui guys !

  61. Beautifully written piece about the country of my heart. Don’t miss out on visiting Napier! I couldn’t agree more about the impact people can make on your travels. My hubby and I are travelling full time now. We actually live on a boat and we are currently cruising Southeast Asia. We love meeting new people, interacting with new cultures, learning the history (good or bad), seeing the beautiful places or the unusual, the good experiences and the bad… it all goes together. We leave the boat occasionally and venture inland, usually on a motorbike, and one of my favourite places so far has been Vietnam… Not because of what we did or saw (because we ready didn’t do many of the touristy things). It was the people! The were so friendly and sharing. We were taken along to karaoke, bought dinner, taken out for coffee, invited to a family dinner etc. I am glad you have been open to that side of New Zealand. New Zealand is an amazing country. I hope it stays that way. Enjoy the rest of your travels.

    1. Living on a boat sounds amazing! I would probably have to cover myself in motion sickness patches to follow suit lol. I agree that the only way to know a country is to know the people. I also agree that we can learn much by seeing the good and the bad.

      Everyone we know that has gone to Vietnam says that the people are unbelievable. We should be there sometime early next year as we are planning on moving around SE Asia for 6-7 months beginning in October. Hopefully our paths will cross! If you are on social media connect with us so we can get some tips from you!

  62. Dear Lucas
    I am Latin American (Panama) and Kiwi (26+ years). Thank you for your kind words and I am so glad to hear that not just your eyes, but your spirit has been nourished here in this beautiful and welcoming country. I arrived armed with a computer science degree which I obtained in a NY university, and was offered a job the day after I landed in Auckland. So I understand the feeling of being “welcomed” by New Zealand. My experiences here has been so blessed, at every turn, moving here was the smartest decision I ever made!
    My theory about the great Kiwi hospitality… is that we are so far away from everything, that we are so happy when someone comes to visit. I know I’m in that boat whenever ANY friend or relative makes the grand effort of crossing the pacific to come visit. It invariably makes my year!
    Hope you continue to enjoy your travels and hope the Kiwi spirit never leaves you.

  63. Hi there Barbers!
    My father was always inviting people to stay, particularly foreign hitchhikers or tourists that he’d just start talking to in the street. As a teenager I was rather embarrassed by this but after I got out into the world and was a traveler myself, I am very proud of what he did and now appreciate his intentions. He believed everyone who he met was welcome at his home and to be treated like family. My brothers & sisters have carried on this tradition – if foreign friends come to NZ (or even friends of friends of friends…), you are welcome to stay with our family (where ever they are), you will be shown around, and be part of the family. It’s just the way we are. I’m looking forward to the day when my children are travelling and send their friends our way. 🙂
    Enjoy the rest of your travels and we hope you get back to NZ soon.

  64. You two are an adorable couple and I’ve enjoyed reading your blob! I am of Chinese-descent, born in NZ. My kiwi husband and I were returning from USA, where I’ve travelled 7 times to visit family in NYC & upstate. After one 3-week trip, we were delayed flying from SFO to Auckland, missing our Christchurch flight. An American man who was sitting two seats away from us, also missed his flight. We saw him looking confused at Auckland airport, so helped him to rebook his flight. Upon arriving in Christchurch at 7.00am, he was going to wait a couple hours for his mother and sister to arrive on a different flight. We asked him to join us for breakfast, took him in a taxi to our home (no fresh food at home), got my car and drove to a nearby cafe. We shouted him breakfast and some lovely conversation, then dropped him back to the airport in time to meet his family.

  65. What a lovely read. Thanks
    Just read article on about barbers travels!

    A fellow Kiwi Narnia fan.

  66. Thank you for writing such a positive post about my adopted country. We emigrated here 9 years ago from England. We have been welcomed here with open arms and are now the proud parents of two Kiwi kids. Our Kiwi friends are what has made our time here so special, the scenery and beaches are an added bonus!

  67. Dear Lucas and everyone reading the blog and this post,

    Thank you for reminding me what a beautiful and wonderful country New Zealand is and what amazing, helping and welcoming people live there.
    I was fortunate enough to live in NZ (Wellington) for a few months. Unfortunately, due to some personal circumstances I needed to leave the country. It took me a while to realize how much I miss New Zealand and the people .It’s something you won’t find anywhere else.

    I’m an Australian citizen (thus I don’t require a visa) who lived in Perth and although I love Australia and Australians, I felt more connection with the kiwis, it was easier as well. Lucas, you articulated the whole thing very well, and I found myself thinking the exact things about myself.

    Dear Lucas and readers- I would love to connect with you. I’m building my life all over again. Looking for friends and connections and just meeting people. If any of you is interested, able to help or provide any advice – please get in touch (, you can also look me up on facebook).

    Looking forward to hear back from you, get to know you and hopefully come back to NZ, this time for good.
    Thank you all,

  68. So true though. I came here as an Au pair and did some traveling before I began. Three people gave me their contact information incase something went wrong. There! In one week! It also completely flabergasted me when I saw that parents leave their kids in the car to run into a dairy or if they fall asleep. In the US, someone would break into the car, “save” the kids and be dubbed a hero! Definitely food for thought.

  69. I don’t wish to sound overly cynical but having lived most of my life in NZ, and experiencing virtually none of these things here, the kindness you ascribe to some quirk of NZ culture is largely mythical.

  70. Definitely echoes our experience. I’m Canadian but have lived in the US for 20+ years. My husband and I spent 3 months in NZ a few years ago and had a Kiwi friend take us and a few others on a whirlwind tour of the South Island. We camped in mountain bivouacs and caves overlooking the ocean and it was amazing. In the US, a public cave would have been littered with beer cans, cigarette butts, urine, and rude graffiti. In NZ, however, the cave was clean and even came equipped with a tidy pile of dry kindling and a freshly picked grass mat for sleeping, couteously left by the prior guest. The only graffiti we ever saw in one such cave said, “Good camping!” One mountain bivouac really shocked us … There was an axe and lighter fluid for your convenience. No one in the US in their right mind would dare leave those for a total stranger to abuse!

    One more story, then I’m done. We met a girl in Cuba St, Wellington, who needed furniture moved, and we happened to have a van, so we and some friends helped her. She lived at a communal punk house full of bicycles and people. Several of us cooked a big meal for everyone, and in the end after serving up everyone’s plates, we were one short. I handed the last plate to the second last person and didn’t make a deal of it, but one guy quickly noticed my lack of a plate and said, “(bleep) no, everyone give me a scoop from your plates” and before I knew it I had the largest heap of food in the room. He WAS a fellow Canadian, I must admit, but had been living in NZ for quite some time, so it could have been the influence of either or both.

    But NZ has definitely held a special place in our hearts and we can’t wait for an opportunity to visit again someday.

  71. As a Kiwi who now lives in Australia and has also lived in the US a number of years ago I want to say that I totally agree with what you have written. Every time we visit NZ we experience the kindness and friendliness that is totally unique to that country and we wonder why we ever moved away! So we cherish our visits back and are so proud of our heritage that we still call NZ ‘home’ because it runs so deep in our being. Thank you for sharing your experiences and for allowing yourselves to be immersed in the kindness of beautiful Kiwis.

  72. I can see by the amount of comments here that your blog has touched a lot more hearts than just mine. :o) I’m a Kiwi currently traveling through Africa and it was actually my Mum that forwarded me your link. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it was an awesome read. It reinforced for me that my country is still the wonderful home I grew up in. It also made me think about how things are for me currently. How traveling in countries that don’t have the same kind of blessings that a country like New Zealand has, can be tough. They say Africa is not for sissy’s and I’m not saying us Kiwi’s are sissy’s but it can be hard. Hard when you’ve grown up amongst friendly, caring and helpful people, who are like that simply because that’s a normal way to be, a way of life. For me traveling through Africa, I’m finding alot of my blogs show my excitement when I find that lovely person who is being friendly, or caring or helpful because it’s not the norm but rather a scarce experience that you gladly grab onto with glee. New Zealand is one lucky country and all of us Kiwi’s are lucky to have been born there.
    I’m going to sign up on your site so I can follow your posts – thanks again!
    And if you or anyone has an interest in reading about a Kiwi traveling through Africa, let me know and I’ll provide the link.

  73. What a lovely and well written piece. Thank you for writing it. I’m a Kiwi currently working and living in Australia which is a very, very different place from NZ. As a Kiwi, when you are away from your country ( and I go back there times a year to help with the homesickness), you realise just how very lucky we are. Every country is made up of the collective attitudes of its inhabitants- becauser of this, NZ won’t change.

  74. Tena korua!
    I’m so glad that you have felt so comfortable and welcome here in Aotearoa. Also that we’ve managed to bring out your kinder side, which everyone has, but due to worldly pressures may not feel compelled to express.
    Best of wishes to you both on the rest of your journey!
    Nga Mihi,

  75. Kia Ora bro,

    Your blog is popping up all over social media and it’s filled me up with pride. Thanks for sharing. I’m a kiwi living in the UK, and have been lucky enough to experience a similar thing with the Cornish folk. Lovely people and hilarious accent! “You ‘right, me ‘ansom?” is their way of saying “Kia Ora, Bro”.

    Safe travels and thanks again for sharing


  76. Look at all of the beautiful replies. Thank you for reminding me. This country and it’s people posess beautiful love, as do you Lucas
    A wonderful read. Thank you for sharing. Big love x
    Mark Vanilau

  77. I grew up in Auckland, NZ, and I never experienced any of these things you are describing. I have experienced a lot of discrimination actually, because I am a visible minority. As a kid, I went to a school of 90% white people, and I was made fun of for being different. I now live in Canada, which is a lot more multicultural and diverse, and more accepting than NZ ever was.

  78. Kia ora – Loved your message of love and hope (a reminder to all of us, from everywhere, on how to love and how to care for each other) – We are all connected – we are all of the One spirit. Thank you for reminding me of that. If you ever decide to go home… we’ve created a little bit of NZ that you can take with you (check out and our App is being launched on October 1st. Shake your phone and your NZ, Maori inspired meditation will be randomly selected. You guys are cool – no wonder it is easy for you to create affinities with us!! Nga mihi aroha ki a korua. Tess.

  79. This is beautiful! Thanks so much for a wonderful read on this rainy Sunday evening in Auckland. Posts like this make me even prouder to call New Zealand home 🙂
    Safe travels and come back again soon. My home is your home! Nga mihi.

  80. Kia ora!!!

    Thank You so much for your beautiful words! Im crying dang it!! kindness always does it to me!! It’s so nice to know that your experience here in Aotearoa my home was so special and I am so very proud of my fellow kiwis for treating our Guests with such wonderful manaakitanga which is so vitally important to Māori… Well as you have so beautifully put to us all … “He Taonga rongonui Te Aroha Ki te tangata” this is a Māori proverb which means “goodwill towards others is a precious treasure” take the treasure that has been given to you and pass it to all you meet on your travels this world needs it …. As you already know. Safe travels to you and your beautiful wife hope you visit again soon !!

  81. I once heard a little story, A NY’er was considering going to Ca and asked a colleague he knew had been there, what was the weather like in Ca, “what’s it like in NY, he asked” “Miserable” was the reply, “then it’ll be miserable in Ca”… think this sums up why you two are getting such a reception and also explains some of those who’ve popped up on why they’ve had a negative experience. We are lucky to have you here in NZ, I’ve travelled a lot and love small town Americans, but we noticed down south that people are very reserved. Such a rich history, will be going back in two months for the 4th time in 4 years. But you guys have turned a light on for us kiwi’s and it has brought about some rich dialogue. Be welcome with us anytime…

  82. Thank you – ngā mihi nui- for your kind words abouy my country and fellow New Zealanders. I married an Australian. We recently took our children back to NZ to meet my family. My husband also found the difference between Sydney and NZ was the open and friendliness of complete strangers. I took longer to see it. Why? Because I grew up with it and continue to be like that even in Sydney. Much to the surprise of a lot of people on the receiving end. My husband used to call me reckless. Now he just calls me a “kiwi”. I’m proud of my heritage, kiwis and my country. This letter just makes me prouder. Thank you and I hope the test of your trip is as great. Good luck guys.

  83. I have arrived in Auckland New Zealand since Fenurary 201 and hardly any Kiwi talked to me or even start a simple conversation. Feeling so isolated and alone…. you are lucky. I envy you.

    1. Kia ora Tom!

      Might be time you travelled to other parts of the motu? So many gorgeous people in Aotearoa whose doors are always open and who are happy to strike up a convo just for the sake of being kind to others and passing on the smiles 🙂

  84. Wow. What a compliment to kiwis! A revelation to me to read what caused you angst when you were out (because as you alluded to, they were things that I (as a kiwi) would never think anything of when I’m out and about. Actually, I never considered them as things I’d need to be aware of until I read your letter – not that I’d start to question these things now anyway! 🙂 ). So eye opening to me to read about the challenges you faced personally, how you accepted them and then changed because of them. I think one of our unspoken mantras is ‘kindness doesn’t cost a thing, so give it in bundles’. Might be said in a different way in different regions, since kiwis localise everything to suit them and their surroundings 🙂 but that’s the norm. As well as haere mai, ‘the doors always open’, and ‘help yourself to the kai. It’s there to be eaten’. Humbling to read your open letter. Thank you. And best wishes to you both for the rest of your travels around the globe. Your refreshing accounts and stories of your visits so far are great to read 🙂 Kia ora.

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