5 Things I Noticed About Race & Ethnicity in New Zealand
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5 Things I Noticed About Race & Ethnicity in New Zealand

As a cis-gendered Native American-Navajo woman, here's five things I noticed while living in New Zealand for over a month.

5 Things I Noticed About Race & Ethnicity in New Zealand

Discussing race or ethnicity in a different country is tricky. However, you'll get endless interpretations to both as neither are understood in the same fashion. This is MY racial and ethnic experience while I was in Hamilton, New Zealand.

Frankly, for me, I was not too concerned with any racial prejudice because I felt like there was no other extreme racial violence (systemically or direct) like the U.S. I knew the Indigenous people of Aotearoa and those elsewhere had experienced similar forms of colonial violence. (Unfortunately, as most minority groups have.)

What I did not expect was to see as many black and brown faces of difference ethnicities to be as present and involved as I had seen. There were more people of Asian cultures or descent in addition to the many different Pacifica (Pacific Islanders/Polynesian) groups.

From what I observed within the 36 days, there were distinct social groups where people gathered with those most like them. Within the student body on-campus, I saw different cliques based on language, ethnicity, nationality, and age develop as the trimester began.

Here's 5 things I noticed about race and ethnicity:

Predominantly White or White-passing individuals in most spaces

When departing, I did not know what to expect. On the plane, I had seen many Americans, New Zealand, and different travelers – most were White (or White-passing). I admired that white people would identify as Pakeha, a white New Zealander in Maori. I'd never heard of people of a different racial group use Indigenous language to identify themselves (outside of those who grew up around Native communities). Super cool though.

Different Pacific Islanders – Fresh Off the Boat (FOB)

It took me a while to observe the different Pacifica groups on-campus, which made me smile. I love meeting different islanders, they carry such grace, outgoing, and sweet personalities that I've ever had the pleasure of meeting in my life. Even then, they have smaller categories of those who grew up on different islands and those that grew up on the NZ island. **Shoutout to all mah fraaannnsss making the best of their situations**

International Students

On Waikato's campus, you can point out the international students pretty well, which is cool. It was super easy to find other American students from different states while I was there. Something I noticed was that it was smooth for international students to blend in with locals of similar ancestry or ethnic descent. Sometimes I couldn't tell and that was fine with me.

No loud-proud ignorance

Oddly, I did not hear outright ignorance. Meaning, I did not hear your typical stereotypes referenced in discussions or in-passing as much as I hear it in the U.S. I believe that is due to the general culture of New Zealand because they like to be polite and quite modest with their opinions. No one seemed extremely direct, loud, or abrasive when you first met someone. It was refreshing and more content for my introverted personality.

National use of Maori language

I've never witnessed this in my life. The national government, university administration, and city officials (Maori and non-Maori) used Indigenous words so casually and comfortably. I was shocked but so so proud of my extended Indigenous relatives reconstructing societal norms.

Just keep in mind that I was a foreigner here. These observations are not to generalize or paint broad brushstrokes for the different racial or ethnic groups mentioned in this article.

My conceptions of race and ethnicity are understood and experienced differently than those in New Zealand, therefore, they will tell you their stories if willing. My perspective is incomplete and will continue to change and differ than others.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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