Two people talking

Ute with a Big Set of Boots, and Other Kiwi Slang

If you tell someone who’s new to the country that you’re heading down the dealer to look at secondhand Utes for sale, they’ll most probably look at you like you’re mental. Kiwi slang is as unique as the rest of its language structure, thanks to the diverse cultures that make up New Zealand.

Here are some of the more popular slang words to get your migrant friend started:


Get a Ute, what a beauty. A ute is what Kiwis and Aussies call coupé utility vehicles or cars with an open tray in the back. Utes differ from pickup trucks in terms of their body, their interior space, size, and load capacity. Utes are also unquestionably loved in the neighboring country of Australia—so much that they’re called “the Kangaroo chaser.” Coupé utility vehicles handle smaller loads than pickups, but they can accommodate more people and cargo at the same time.

Colombo Run

It’s not associated with TV detectives or Sri Lanka, though it is related to an Anglican diocese in the Southeast Asian country. Colombo or lombo runs are infamous races done along Colombo Street at Christchurch. Colombo Street is named after the said diocese in Sri Lanka and is now more known for the pubs and diverse communities that line up the 7-kilometer street.

Yeah, Nah

When your bro says “yeah, nah,” you know what they’re on about, but does your friend from France understand what it means? “Yeah, nah” can be a simple acknowledgment of your statement, an indication that the person you’re speaking to is indecisive about their answer, or a gentle way of letting you down after the other person is finished listening to you.

North Cape to the Bluff

North Cape is located on the northern tip of the Northland Peninsula, while The Bluff refers to the seaport town that serves as the southernmost mainland town of New Zealand. When you put the two together, this slang means from the one end of New Zealand to the other.

Māori Phrases

People talking

Common Māori phrases typically heard throughout the day may confuse a foreigner who has never heard the Polynesian language before. Learning at least the essential phrases is useful for an Aotearoa (Māori name for New Zealand) road trip.

Kia ora is the most basic of all phrases—it typically means hi, though it can also convey thanks or agreement depending on your inflection. Formal gatherings and big crowds need a “tēnā koutou” or formal greeting. Haere mai and Haere rā are paired in the sense that they mean ‘welcome’ and ‘goodbye,’ while e Noho rā is said by the person who is leaving a home.

If you’re asked the question “Ko wai to ingoa?,” the speaker is asking for your name. “Ko (name) ahau” is the proper response. “Kei te pēhea koe?” inquires about the well-being of the singular subject, to which a person replies “Kei te pai” if they feel fine. When a person tells you “tu meke” or “ka pai,” they’re telling you that you did a good job.

Whether you drive a secondhand Ute or a brand new SUV, these delightful slangs are the right fit for any road trip to Auckland, Wellington, or Hamilton. They’re sure to keep the conversation going, from North Cape to the Bluff.

Scroll to Top