What You Need To Know: Important Customs Of Maori Culture

native timber carving

1min read

Published 11 May 2020


New Zealand's indigenous Māori community makes up nearly 17 per cent of the country's population, with the culture woven tightly into the national identity. It's thought that Māori migrated from Polynesia to Aotearoa (New Zealand) sometime between the 9th and 13th centuries, bringing with them what would become integral customs of Kiwi life.

Hongi and Moko

The customary Māori greeting is to press noses, "hongi", as opposed to a kiss on the cheek. Up close and personal, you might notice striking full-face tattoos on many Māori men, and lip and chin markings on women. Known as ta moko, the swirl-and-spiral style markings were once sacred signs of social status, while modern Māori don them to highlight their culture.

Te Reo 

Māori language or "te reo Māori" is considered a national treasure and is one of the official languages of New Zealand. Currently in the midst of a revival, the language is finding its way back into schools with its own dedicated week of celebration -Te Wiki o te reo Māori - Māori Language Week which is usually in September.

Many many places around New Zealand use traditional Māori names, like Whanganui, Mangawhai, Opononi, Onehunga, etc...there are too many to list!  



The Haka

The traditional war dance, the Haka, has been immortalised by our beloved All Blacks rugby team, who ritualistically perform the act before each game. The pre-battle war cry is performed to incite fear and proclaim the strength of the Māori by hard stamping, body slapping and poking out of the tongue with a wild gaze, which is called pukana.


Traditional welcome ceremonies, powhiri, bring visitors to the meeting grounds in the heart of the Māori community (usually when being greeted on a marai).

A warrior will challenge guests to see if they come in peace, followed by a presentation of waiata (songs) and speeches. Afterwards, guests can enjoy a hangi – a slow-cooked feast of meat and root vegetables using hot stones and a pit oven dug in the ground.

Traditional Tā moko Māori tattoo

Traditional Tā moko Māori tattoo. Image credit: Getty Images

Traditional Tā moko Māori tattoo

Traditional Tā moko Māori tattoo. Image credit: Getty Images

Traditional Tā moko Māori tattoo

Traditional Tā moko Māori tattoo. Image credit: Getty Images

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