Australia & New Zealand | Travel Tips & News

7 of the main differences between Australia and New Zealand

Recently updated on July 25th, 2023 at 01:32 pm

Wondering what the difference between Australia and New Zealand is? Well, you might have noticed that one is bigger than the other. That’s a good start, but there are plenty more differences from the people to the climate to the accent, animals and flag.

Before we dive in, let’s make a comparison of Australia and New Zealand first. As former British colonies both countries down under are part of the Commonwealth, they love the same sports (cricket, rugby and soccer), both have incredible beaches and wine regions, and – depending who you ask – they both invented a meringue dessert called a pavlova.

Here are seven of the main differences between Australia and New Zealand.

1. The accent is different

If you’re from Australia or New Zealand you will think that the accents are worlds apart. But for an outsider (who might think the two nations are joined by a bridge) Aussies and Kiwi accents are tough to pick. There are some easy hints to listen for – the first is vowels. Aussies love to draw out their vowels and shorten words. George is more like “Geoorge”. Afternoon is arvo (read: aaarrvo). Something as simple as “no” can be “naaah” or “noooh”.

New Zealanders also play with vowels. Everything feels a little more nasal, so a “I” has a “U” sound. Fish and chips = fush and chups. Don’t giggle too much when your bill comes to six dollars in New Zealand.

2. The flag is (somewhat) different

Yes, both flags feature the British Union Jack in the top left corner. Yes, both flags feature the Southern Cross star on the right-hand side. BUT the Australian flag has two extra stars – a small one near the cross and a big one under the Union Jack. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s flag has just four stars but they are red with a white outline. Yes, the difference between the Aussie and NZ flag are small, but they are important.

3. There are no dangerous animals in New Zealand

In New Zealand you can run through long grass without a care in the world. It’s something you wouldn’t do in Australia thanks to all those deadly snakes, spiders and other critters that might kill you. Somehow when the two countries physically separated some 85 million years ago, New Zealand’s animals didn’t evolve the same way.

You probably know Australia’s most famous native wildlife – the koala, kangaroo, wombat, emu, snakes and crocodile. Maybe you’re familiar with the platypus or echidna, birds such as cockatoos, rosellas and lorikeets, and of course the hundreds of tiny marsupials.

Over in New Zealand their most famous native animal is the kiwi, a brown flightless bird with a long beak. You can find other unique birds and parrots like the kea, tui, yellow-eyed penguin, little blue penguin and morepork owl, plus fur seals and dolphins.  

Image: Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park

RELATED CONTENT: 9 Natural Wonders in Australia and New Zealand

4. New Zealand has all the volcanoes

Australia and New Zealand have very different landscapes and climates. New Zealand sits on a major fault line that causes earthquakes and volcanic activity that has shaped the small nation with volcanoes, fjords, lush forests, geothermal springs, alpine lakes, snowy mountains, islands, sandy beaches and limestone caves. It’s no wonder New Zealand is essentially one giant Lord of the Rings film set. The trilogy was filmed entirely in New Zealand across more than 150 locations on both the North and South islands. 

5. Australia has all the deserts

In comparison, Australia is much drier than New Zealand. Say g’day to the Outback with the iconic red Uluru rock, little rain and plenty of desert. In the north of the country, you can step from a humid overgrown tropical rainforest straight onto white sandy beaches where the Great Barrier Reef kisses the coastline. In the south you can climb to a snowy peak and even ski in the winter months. Being a bigger country, Australia has more variety of landscapes to explore.

GET INSPIRED: Outback Adventure

6. One is better at celebrating its indigenous culture

It’s easy to think of Australia and New Zealand simply as English-speaking countries. The truth is a little more complex as, of course, there were already people on these lands. New Zealand shows a great deal of respect and pride for its indigenous Maori culture and people. Maori is an official language in NZ and you’ll notice locals of both Maori and non-Maori heritage pepper words into English when they speak. You will spot some signs in both English and Maori, there is a TV channel dedicated to Maori language news and shows and you will see New Zealand sporting teams perform the Haka, a ceremonial war dance, before a big match.

tamaki maori experience greeting

Australia’s Aboriginal culture is a lot less prominent, especially in the big cities. A movement has been growing in the past few years to show greater respect to the oldest continuous culture on earth. Being such a large country there are more than 250 Aboriginal languages and over 800 dialects, so you might see different words for “hello” in different areas.

RELATED CONTENT: 6 ways to connect with First Nations culture in the Northern Territory, Australia

7. Both have a different words for flip flops

Most people know Australians like to call flip flops “thongs” (insert childish giggle here), but less people know that New Zealand has its own term for them. Kiwis call them “Jandals”, short for Japanese sandals. Now you know.

Can you think of any other differences when you compare Australia and New Zealand? Let us know in the comments…

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