Get to know the fascinating culture of the Māori!

Have you ever encountered the Māori culture? You might have seen on the discovery channel men standing in line, covered with tattoos and beating their chests, while screaming something in a language that is completely different to anything you´ve heard before. It’s captivating, right? The Māori culture is fascinating to witness and its rich traditions play an important part in New Zealand’s identity and soul. Let´s dig a little deeper to find out more about things you probably don´t know about the Māori culture.

Ta Moko – traditional tattoos

A bare chested man looking focused while preforming a traditional war dance in New Zealand.
The Māori people are very prideful of each of their tattoos. Photo by pxhere / CC BY

Ta moko is the name for Māori tattoos and the culture that surrounds it. The design of each Ta moko is unique to the wearer. Traditionally the tattoos identified the Māori who they are by giving out information about the person’s lineage and social position. The Māori take great pride in each of their tattoos and the Ta Moko are an expression of commitment and respect. (New Zealand Geographic. 2018)

Te Reo Māori – the language

A bare chested man with tribal tattoos is holding a spear.
The Māori people are masters at telling stories. Photo by Steve Evans / CC BY

The Māori culture does not have a long tradition of writing. Today the official name of the written language is Te reo Māori. But before the arrival of the first Europeans in the 17th century, all the stories were passed on orally within the Māori tribes or depicted in carvings. All legends were described in a captivating manner. Otherwise, they would not be passed on to the generations to come. This is why the Māori people are some of the best storytellers in the world. (Nzhistory.govt.nz. 2018)

The Hongi – the traditional Māori greeting

Hongi is completely different and maybe a bit frightening to what the western world is used to. Rather than using a handshake to greet each other, the Māori press their noses and foreheads together. This unusual greeting has a deeper meaning than a regular handshake. It signifies the blending of two souls, which makes this a gesture filled with respect for one and other. (TripSavvy. 2018)

You might also be interested in: What to Expect When Moving to New Zealand

The Haka – ancient Māori war dance

The haka dance is often thought to be only a war dance, and this is partly true. It was once used out in battlefields to scare their enemies but there are different kinds of haka depending on the occasions. For example, the haka was also performed during rituals of peace, during funerals or to welcome new visitors to their community. (Newzealand.com. 2018)

Nowadays, the haka dance can be seen before New Zealand’s rugby games by the famous All blacks team, and during Māori ceremonies

A Hangi – the traditional cooking method

Burning wood on the ground during nighttime in New Zealand.
The traditional Māori food has a smokey flavor to it but it tastes different than your typical summer BBQ. Photo by Wil Stewart / CC BY

The word hangi gets easily confused with hongi but they have different meanings. A hangi refers to the traditional method of cooking Māori food. The Māori people believe the earth was the creator of all life. Therefore, traditional Māori food is cooked in a pit under the ground. Meat, fish, chicken or root vegetables are slow-cooked and this results in a smokey aroma, which makes the food taste delicious. (Alves, T. 2018)

Hangi, hongi, moko… it all comes clear once you have experienced the Māori culture first hand. An exciting way to do it is by spending one study abroad semester in New Zealand.

Find out more about studying in New Zealand

Asia Exchange is a Finnish company providing study abroad opportunities in Asia Pacific for students from all around the world. Want to get travel tips and new blog posts straight to your inbox? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter! If you have any questions about studying abroad, feel free to contact us! We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

This article was written by our Digital Marketing Coordinator Fabian! 

Sources used for this blog post:
Maori Culture (Newzealand.com. 2018)
History of the Maori language (Nzhistory.govt.nz. 2018)
A brief history of the Maori Hangi (Alves, T. 2018)
New Zealand’s Maori Hongi (TripSavvy. 2018)
Ta moko (New Zealand Geographic. 2018)

Video copyrights: published on youtube by World Rugby

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