Be Nice to Australians Month

Part of learning how to become Australian has meant trying to figure out the relationship between Australian and New Zealand.
Woman stands on hilltop bench above Auckland
Growing up in Canada, I never thought much about NZ. Australia had a defined character, a national brand, thanks to Crocodile Dundee and Foster’s beer ads. New Zealand was just a place on the map, like Wales or Delaware.

One article described Aus and NZ as “two warring children with the same parents“, which is a lengthy way to say siblings. The author couldn’t pinpoint the origins of the rivalry, though a lot of it has to do with sport – and possibly the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

My most significant insight came from the March 2007 Tourism New Zealand marketing campaign Be-Nice-to-Australians Month.

The campaign was created in earnest, and involved “painting New Zealand green and gold” in honour of Australia. It also encouraged Kiwis to cut back on the snide remarks: “While one comment is pretty innocuous, if every second Kiwi makes a comment about the cricket or about the rugby, it will start to grate on them.”

New Zealanders didn’t respond well to it. An article in the NZ Herald describing the initiative was headlined “Through gritted teeth”. The Herald ran a follow-up article of collected responses.

What I found most interesting about these comments is that you could substitute Canada/America for New Zealand/Australia in most of them. Take these:

“I am all for a Be-Nice-To-Australians month. And from the 1st of April, I will be looking forward 1000 years or more to the next one.”

“How can you be nice to people whom 90 per cent of do not know where NZ is or even that it exists? To the average Australian, New Zealand means zilch.”

Works both ways! A Canadian political TV show used to have a segment called Talking to Americans. In it, a reporter travelled to the US and interviewed Americans about fake Canadian news stories, like the dome we had to install over the igloo that serves as our capitol building, to prevent it from melting. At one point, the governor of Arkansas congratulates Canada on preserving their national igloo.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know New Zealand as part of our Australian experience. It has some of the most unique places I’ve ever visited, like Hot Water Beach, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, and Hells Gate Mud Spa. (Smearing that mud on my face was a mistake though, I had a splotchy face rash for the rest of the trip.) 

I wonder if, as Canadians, we would have fit in better in New Zealand. But I suspect much of the ‘rivalry’ stems from both nations’ habit of expressing affection (and many other feelings) through needling sarcasm – and that’s something I’ll never adjust to.


6 responses to “Be Nice to Australians Month”

  1. I lived in England for 8 years and during that time my Aussie drawl softened and often English people would be confused by it. “Are you from New Zealand?” they would ask. When I explained I’m was Australian, they’d apologise and I’d laugh and say, “It’s fine, just don’t ask a Kiwi if they’re from Australia, because they will take offence!” In my overseas travels, I met many Canadians and it seemed to me that they had a similar *assertive* response when asked if they were Americans. And that also comes through in your book, How to be Australian. 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I love this story! But did you take offence? I know some Canadians who get really upset about it, but I often can’t tell the difference (as I show in the book) so I can’t expect others to. But it is tiring to get asked all the time if I’m American. Some Aussies can pick my accent as Canadian, which is an impressive magic trick!


      • I was never been offended to be mistaken for a Kiwi when I lived in England and now, with Jacinda Ardern as their PM, I’d be right proud of it! Your comments about some Canadians getting upset about being confused for Americans reminded me of the time I attended The Buddy Holly Story in London. Being chatty, I asked the woman sitting next to me, who I’d overhear talking and was obviously a tourist, what part of “North America” she came from. “Oh, I’m not American, I’m Canadian,” she replied. “Oh,” I said, “I thought Canada was part of the North American continent.” That was the end of our chat! 😉


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