New Zealand may be a tiny drop in the Pacific Ocean at the bottom of the world – but they may just hold the secrets to a happy life. In this peaceful place, you’ll find kids running barefoot in the backyard, friends enjoying barbecues, and a serious work-life balance. From outdoor living to open minds, here are our top laidback lifestyle lessons we can learn from New Zealand.
You don’t have to wear shoes
New Zealand is a laidback, freedom-living country – and that means shoes are optional. Many children learn from a young age that they can run around the park, beach or backyard without the shackles of shoes, and this relaxed attitude tends to continue in adulthood.
This custom also comes from Maori culture, where going barefoot means you are connected with nature. You are also required to take off your shoes indoors, especially in a wharenui (meeting house). A wharenui is considered a tapu (sacred) place, and wearing shoes here is considered sacrilege.
So whether you’re at the beach or walking down the street, remember that it’s okay to go barefoot and embrace the fresh air…. or maybe start with a pair of jandals (flip-flops/ thongs).
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Your quality of life is important
As an OECD country that always ranks highly for factors like income and wealth distribution, education, health, life expectancy and overall wellbeing, New Zealand has a great quality of life.
Most of the country is peaceful and relaxed, and even the big cities are not overcrowded. The country has a population density of 18 people per square kilometre, compared to the UK which has 281 people per square kilometre.
A healthy balance between work and play is strongly encouraged and working overtime is not a common occurrence in New Zealand. Even the Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, has suggested that “employees consider a four-day working week and other flexible working options” for their employees.
This comes after a New Zealand company trialled a four-day working week and found staff did as much work in 30 hours as they used to do in 37.5. New Zealanders also tend to see everyone as equal regardless of their occupation or wealth, which creates a more cohesive and laidback society.
They also know how to take care of themselves. Government-subsidised healthcare is for all New Zealanders, regardless of their residency status, while the country’s public education system is one of the best in the world and mostly free.
New Zealand’s crime rate is also extremely low compared to the rest of the world. They also ranked first with Denmark in the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index and second in the 2019 Global Peace Index.
So what can we learn from New Zealand? It’s essential to put your health, education and leisure time first for a happier life.
Nature is good for the soul
Kiwis love to get outdoors and with spectacular landscapes and good weather for most of the year, we can see why. Whether you’re in the bush, the beach, the mountains or the countryside, New Zealanders are always close to nature.
They love spending their time on hiking trails, cycling paths, pristine beaches, lush forests, and sparkling rivers and lakes. Studies show that contact with nature can improve mental health and reduce stress, anxiety and depression. So take a leaf out of New Zealand’s book and spend some time outside.
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It’s nice to be nice
One of the best laidback lifestyle lessons we can learn from New Zealand is simply to be nice to others. Kiwis are a friendly bunch, and it’s not unusual to have a stranger smile or say hello, or even offer help.
New Zealand is also a very multicultural society and Kiwis are welcoming to people from all walks of life. It’s such a breath of fresh air to be around kind and courteous people and it makes for a much happier community.
Good food is essential
New Zealand has a booming agricultural industry, with its biggest exports including dairy, eggs, honey, meat, fish, fruit and nuts, and their award-winning wine industry. With world-famous ingredients like crayfish, lamb, snapper fish, cheese, ice cream and wine, Kiwis eat very well. But it’s not just about enjoying good food.
In New Zealand, food and friendship go hand in hand, and generous hospitality is all part of their laidback lifestyle. Whether the family gathers for a roast lamb dinner, a hāngi (traditional Māori technique of cooking food in an earth oven), or fish and chips on the beach, it’s all about sharing good food and good company.
Of course, we can’t forget about the iconic ‘barbie’. Cooking outside on a barbecue is basically a birthright in New Zealand. Sizzling sausages are a very common sight in backyards around the country, especially in summer. However you like to eat, the lesson we can learn here is that it’s wonderful to share it with friends.
There’s no need to rush
Kiwis are famed for taking it easy and having a relaxed attitude to life. They’d rather do it right than do it fast, and you’ll rarely catch them losing their temper over things like peak hour traffic.
Learning to slow down and live in the moment is an invaluable lesson we can all take from New Zealand’s laidback life.
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Fancy a taste of that laid-back lifestyle? Then check out our new Near Not Far Limites Series of trips and discover your own backyard like never before. Do you have any laidback lifestyle lessons to share? Let us know in the comments below!