Starting up

How Kiwis do business: guide for migrant entrepreneurs

3 min read

From sending our initial shipment of frozen meat to the UK in 1882, to being the first developed country to sign a free trade agreement with China in 2008, New Zealand has a long history of doing business with the wider world.

New Zealanders pride themselves on their openness to other cultures when doing business – both offshore and at home. But like all nations, New Zealand still has its own ‘way we do things around here’. So if you’re relatively new to New Zealand, here are some insights on how Kiwis do business that may help.

1. Kiwis are a friendly and open bunch.

New Zealand has a relatively small population and its business environment is largely made up of firms with fewer than 10 employees. Hierarchies within companies – big and small – are also often quite flat. These factors mean business connections can be easily made. When it comes to networking, New Zealanders like to help others in business and reach out to others if they need help, so people are generally open to meet with new connections or make introductions to others.

2. New Zealanders can be reserved.

Kiwis generally don’t like hype, preferring people who ‘can do’ rather than those who ‘can say’. Actions speak louder than words in business circles. The reserved nature of many New Zealanders also means some can find it difficult to say ‘no’ directly, so if you’re unsure of an answer it pays to gently seek clarification.

3. Authenticity and honesty are important.

New Zealand doesn’t have a bargaining culture, so there’s an expectation that any negotiations will begin at realistic levels. The country also consistently ranks highly for its low levels of corruption – a reputation its business community highly regards. If you get caught on the wrong side of the law in New Zealand, ignorance of rules and regulations is not a viable defence, so it pays to be familiar with the regulatory and legislative landscape. For migrants who find communicating in English a challenge, some services – such as BNZ’s Asian Business Banking team – also offer assistance in other languages.

4. Recognising Māori culture and values.

New Zealand’s founding document is the Treaty of Waitangi, which was signed in 1840 by representatives of the indigenous Māori and the British Crown. As such, Māori culture and values are recognised in many contexts, including in some business situations, so it’s helpful to gain some understanding of how these can be recognised and respected.

5. Striking a work/life balance.

New Zealanders love the great outdoors and value their leisure time. And the Kiwi lifestyle, which puts a high emphasis on work/life balance, is one of the great attractions for many migrants who come here. It’s courteous, therefore, to respect business hours and pre-arrange an appointment if you’d like to meet with someone. And if you do schedule a meeting, it’s expected you’ll turn up on time.

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