Kia Ora! 7 Kiwi slang terms you’ll hear when you study abroad in New Zealand

February 12, 2019
New Zealand

Studying abroad in New Zealand provides you with the unique experience of exploring, literally, the other side of the world! This gorgeous country is home to some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. To help you navigate life in your host country, here are 7 Kiwi slang terms you’ll hear when you study abroad in New Zealand!

Kia Ora

Kia Ora is a greeting many people outside of New Zealand are familiar with. It can mean a lot of things, too! Kiwis use it to say hello, good morning, good luck, and take care. It’s essentially an all-encompassing way to wish someone well. New Zealenders are very friendly people and our friends at Massey say this is one stereotype that’s very true! When you study abroad in New Zealand, you’ll find random strangers on the street greeting you with “Kia Ora!” as you start your day.

Sweet as

Many American students misinterpret this saying, thanks to the way it’s pronounced. (Let’s just say they think a certain body part is being complimented…) Rather, this fun piece of Kiwi lingo is means “that’s okay,” “no worries,” or “that’s awesome”. It’s often followed by the word “bro,” as in “It’s sweet as, bro, just let me know when you’re ready.”

That was mean!

No, a Kiwi isn’t calling you rude! No negative connotations to this version of “mean”. Rather, it’s meant to describe anything of an awesome nature. For example, a great rugby game might be “mean”. In addition, if you win our contest & take home a $1500 flight voucher, that certainly would be “mean”!

It looks a bit sus

This slang is short-term for anything that looks or feels suspicious, dodgy, iffy, or sketchy. See a past-date expiration on your milk? That looks a bit sus!


If you study abroad with us this fall, you’ll be in New Zealand during the spring. That means it’s important to pack your togs! So what in the world are togs? Your swimsuit, of course!

Tu meke

Pronounced too-meh-keh, this means “too much” or a person who has gone above and beyond. For example, if your flat mate surprises you and brings you home take out, you might say, “Ah, tu meke, friend!” It’s a nice way to say thank you to someone who goes out of their way to improve your day.


Of course, most of us have heard this term. But why do New Zealanders call themselves Kiwis? As it turns out, it’s it’s after the ‘kahu kiwi’ bird, a national treasure that unfortunately is seeing a drastic decrease in population numbers. The Kiwis are widely regarded in the Maori culture and it’s a strong point of pride and patriotism for all New Zealanders.

We hope to see you in New Zealand this fall… Kia Ora!


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