21 November 2017

Work etiquette in New Zealand – will you fit in?

Philip Y. Lopez
Filipino postgraduate diploma student

I am very fortunate that I got a job as an academic lecturer in Toi Ohomai while I’m still studying. I’m truly blessed that my school has really supported me to achieve my dream.

As with everyone else, work didn’t just knock on my door. You should work hard, get that keyboard 'hammering' and give that mouse a lot of clicking to find job openings. Polish that CV of yours and make sure it stands out!

This is also when your established “network” comes into play. Make sure that the friendships you’ve established will give you a good reference – of course, this is only possible if you worked hard for it.

Be smart in your interview and put your best foot forward. These are the key elements which I feel will help you capture that job. These are the things that I found out myself by observing and working with Kiwis for almost three months now.

The working environment

Breathe in and just stay loose. The Kiwi working environment is pretty relaxed. You will even find some of them walking barefoot and enjoying the feel of that office carpet in between their toes. If you’re Asian, do away with all the formal titles of “sir” and “ma’am” because Kiwis call their workmates by their first names - even the boss!

With its highly egalitarian society, feel proud of yourself because you are equally as important as the boss. However, thread carefully. Let them set the mood as they will guide you on how to address them properly. There could be exceptions to the rule. Be keen.

Kiwi humour

You will notice that in the first week of your work, your workmates will tease you a bit and ask you difficult questions on how “good” you are at your new found job. 

As a Filipino, I sometimes found it a little bit offensive, up close, and too personal but I learned that this is part of the world-famous Kiwi humour. You will learn to understand that these statements weren’t thrown at you to offend but rather as a means to have fun and find out how you will fit with the team. 

Just learn how to get along with it and share a few laughs with them. You will find it quite confusing because they will use “sarcasm” with affection and concern for your wellbeing. This may be confusing but you will learn to embrace it and when you do, you will understand that you shouldn’t take offense. It’s just all part of the humour. 

If you have problems settling in and when the teasing gets out of control, you can let the manager step in and help you.  In New Zealand, every worker is protected and has rights to freedom from any form of harassment. I’m so glad that I haven’t experienced this but if your manager cannot help you, you can step up and let the New Zealand Commission on Human Rights do the rest.

The Kiwi working day

If you’re in the trades you will commonly work in an 8-hour shift, 5 days a week, with a 60-minute unpaid lunch break and two 15-minute paid morning and afternoon tea breaks – they call a “smoko”.  The employer will provide you with coffee or tea and milk – choose whatever suits your taste buds! 

Your lunch however is your own responsibility and this may only include a simple sandwich and fruit of your choice. Remember to bring something for the team too when you feel generous. They will really appreciate it when you share. Sooner or later, you will find out that they will do the same for you.

Kia kaha (stay strong)! 

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About the contributors
Philip Y. Lopez
Filipino postgraduate diploma student

Philip is currently studying at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology in Rotorua for a Level 8 Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Professional Studies (Mentoring and Leadership). He has a Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology and is a physician with specialty training in anatomic and clinical pathology. He earned his Masters of Science degree in the Philippines. He is currently finishing his PhD through distance learning alongside his NZ qualification.