5 Differences Between NZ and Canada

Hey everyone,

If you’ve been reading my previous posts, there have been a couple of things which have come up which have been like “gotchas” for me– they’re very different from the way things are done in Canada. I’ve since had a couple more of these “gotcha” moments, so I (naturally) started thinking of making a list…

1) No tipping.

It’s not part of the culture here to tip. Not in restaurants, not at bars, not in taxis. Unless your server/barback/taxi driver has done exceptionally well or gone out of their way for you, you don’t tip them. I had my “gotcha” moment here when I tipped without thinking at a bar, and the confused bartender held it up and said “is this yours?”

Speaking of tipping… about a week ago, a group of us were at the hostel bar, and a NZ Navy guy came over and started telling us his job was to pick up penguins who had tipped over and couldn’t get up– it was one of the best pickup stories I’ve ever heard, and the best part was, he told it all with a completely straight face!

2) Driving on the other side of the road!

Self-explanatory, but especially as a pedestrian, this takes quite some getting used to! I keep expecting cars to right-turn on me at intersections (but this is like the North American left-turn– it usually has its own light), but they actually left-turn on me instead, which is a bit unnerving because it’s behind me, as opposed to being able to see a guy trying to right-turn in front of you. Also, NZ drivers here, unlike in Ontario, will stop for pedestrians– but like in Ontario, will speed and speed-turn through yellow lights.

3) Every bank will give you the option of a Visa Debit card, everyone uses them, and the card processing system is called EFTPOS

It’s really unusual in Canada to have a Visa Debit card, but it seems like every bank in NZ will give you the option of getting one instead of a regular bank card. The credit card part of it really just debits your bank account, but you can use it for online purchases as well. The “gotcha” here for me was this– when you want to pay for something in-person using a Visa Debit (or regular credit card), you don’t say you’re using your card, or your credit card, or your Visa. You say you’re using the “EFTPOS” (pronounced eft-poss). If a place doesn’t accept cards, they’ll have a sign which says “No EFTPOS”. Definitely took me a good couple of days to realize they meant the credit card processing system.

4) There’s no coin smaller than $0.10. However, there are $0.20 and $0.50 cent coins.

NZ has implemented Swedish rounding on their cash transactions, so they don’t have $0.01 or $0.05 coins. Everything rounds to the nearest $0.10. This would be a problem in Canada, but it works here because of the other coinage– $0.50 and $0.20 coins– which allows change to be made easily. It’s taken a while to wrap my head around this, but I managed to give exact change at a shop quickly today (as opposed to standing there trying frantically to remember what the coins are and what they look like).

5) Rent is advertised with a per-week price.

If you’re browsing rentals in NZ, they may initially seem extremely cheap– until you realize you’re looking at the price per-week rather than per month. It tends to be collected per-week, too. Rentals here are much more freeform than they are in Canada (at least in my experience)– if you’re renting from someone specific (as opposed to a property management company), you probably won’t sign a contract, you’ll pay weekly or bi-weekly, and you’re actually likely to pay in cash. It’s a little inconvenient, but paying $200/week in cash is much easier than trying to pay $800/month all in one go!

Interesting fact– the average weekly price of a CBD (downtown) room rental seems to be $200/week, probably including utilities, but probably not including internet or cable. That’s only slightly cheaper than what I pay in Ottawa for a Sandy Hill bachelor apartment, and internet here is really pricey (up to $90/month), so it may actually be the same in the end.

Surprise! 6) GST is included in most displayed prices

Goods and food seem more expensive here, and they are a little, but they also seem more expensive because there’s a 15% tax included in most displayed prices. What you see on the board is what you pay, which is nice for getting your change out in advance. For example, a small “flat white” (cappuccino) coffee here is usually around $3.90, which includes 15% tax ($0.51), so it’s actually $3.39. When you do the conversion to Canadian dollars, it works out to roughly $3.12 (at the time of writing), which is actually not too bad for a small specialty coffee.


I went up to Waiheke island today, because I hadn’t been yet– spent some time on the beach reading, hiked a really short trail, wandered around the shops, then walked back to the ferry. It was a really nice trip, but I think going on a Sunday afternoon was a bit of a mistake, because almost everything was closed by the time I got there. I’ll go on a Saturday next time! They have some awesome ziplining on the island too, so maybe I’ll make that my next adventure :D.

Have a great week everyone (and enjoy your long weekend for those of you in Alberta and Ontario)!



2 Replies to “5 Differences Between NZ and Canada”

  1. The thing about Canada I hate the most (and which is also different in Germany, like in NZ) is the tax thing on all advertised prices. Seeing the “real” price, i.e. what you are actually going to pay, right away is just soo much saner to me.


    1. Yeah it makes a lot of sense! I really like it, especially after 5 years of trying to calculate 13% tax (which is already an awkward percentage) on top of everything… (I used to live in Alberta– sales tax is only 5%, it’s much easier to calculate).


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