Kiwi behaviour overseas

Saturday , 16 May 2015 by Aimee Bourke

With Malaysian police last week arresting tourists who removed their clothes on a sacred Malaysian mountain – it’s timely to remind Kiwis of etiquette and behaviour when travelling overseas.

Southern Cross Travel Insurance, New Zealand’s largest online travel insurer, covers the travel plans of over 200,000 Kiwis each year, so when it comes to cringe-worthy behaviour, CEO Craig Morrison has pretty much heard and seen it all.

“For starters, we know they’re not the only ones exposing themselves at popular tourist destinations – but when you do and post it on social media it certainly highlights the ramifications,” says Morrison.

“Kiwis are generally fantastic travellers, but when overseas, you represent your country, and there are quite a few things we could be doing better.”


Kiwis love to dress down, especially on holiday. While singlet, Stubbies and Jandals might be fine around many New Zealand towns, it downright offends in some other parts of the world.

“New Zealand is renowned for being one of the few countries in the world where men wear shorts for almost every occasion,” says Morrison. “It’s important to dress appropriately for the country you’re in and be aware of their social expectations.”

For example, cover your shoulders and legs when entering the Basilica in Vatican City or Thai Temples, or when in Dubai - to avoid getting arrested - don’t stray from the beach in togs.


If there is a trend that’s universal bad tourist behaviour, it would be drunkenness and Morrison says New Zealanders certainly aren’t exempt from this.

“While in some European countries alcohol is consumed moderately throughout the day, a lot of Kiwis take their bingeing habits with them.

“New Zealanders drunk at Oktoberfest, and performing intoxicated Haka’s on the Waitangi Day Pub Crawl through London, don’t make us look particularly sophisticated,” he says.

“This isn’t only a bad look, a lot of travellers also aren’t aware that excessive alcohol consumption can result in travel insurance claims being declined,” says Morrison.


Most guidebooks will give you a rundown on what isn’t acceptable, and it’s a sign of respect to do your homework and understand a country’s quirks and laws.

In some countries it’s taboo to touch a person on the head, or touch someone at all, even some normal hand gestures can be extremely offensive. Other countries have laws that would easily catch out the unsuspecting. For example it’s illegal to chew gum in Singapore, you can’t eat around monuments in Rome and apparently you aren’t allowed to sing loudly outside after sunset in Honolulu.


In a lot of countries workers rely on tips for the bulk of their income. Not tipping ‘because we don’t do it in New Zealand’ is rude and insinuates you were unhappy with the service says Morrison. If you’re not sure – ask.


Our ‘she’ll be right’ attitude can often be detrimental – just because drug trafficking, taxi scams and pickpockets aren’t a problem in New Zealand doesn’t mean you’re not going to face these and a raft of other problems when you travel.

Morrison says, for starters, share your itinerary with friends or family, have a way people can get in touch if anything goes wrong, have copies of your passport, airline and accommodation bookings, and making sure your insurer knows if you get into strife, will make life easier when you return home too.

“It’s really easy to switch off when you’re on holiday – so try and not lose the sight of common sense. Keeping your bags in sight at all times, locking jewellery in the hotel safe, and not flaunting wealth are all simple things that can help keep you safe.