New Zealand has been described as having a "true" merit-based tipping culture. 

It is not customary and not required, however, for exceptional service (particularly with Concierges or in restaurants and cafes) a tip is always appreciated. The amount is at the discretion of the tipper and would generally be in the range of 10% according to the value of the meal/services. Hospitality and service staff in New Zealand are often students or part-time workers and even professionals are not paid well comparative to other countries. Wait staff in cafes/restaurants etc do get paid a higher hourly rate than their North American counterparts.

It may be appropriate to leave an envelope with the manager to be shared amongst the staff if it is too difficult to pick one individual!

On statutory holidays it is becoming common for restaurants, cafes etc to charge an additional service fee of normally around 10-15%. This is to cover the additional cost of employing staff on these days. This is in addition to the prices on the menu and signs will normally be posted stating that they will be charging this additional fee. However, this is NOT a tip/service charge that gets passed on to staff. It is an additional charge imposed by the owners to cover the increased wage rates they have to pay to staff on public holidays by law.

Hairdressers and food-delivery staff are not customarily tipped. Taxi drivers aren't generally tipped but they do appreciate it if you round the fare up to the nearest dollar so they don't have to look for change.

Maori Etiquette

If you are formally or informally visiting a Maori marae (meeting place), it is best to go accompanied by a member of the local iwi, or someone who knows the appropriate etiquette. You may be welcomed onto the marae by the hosts, typically by women of the tribe who sing a karanga (welcome song / invocation to the spirits), and it will be considered impolite if you don't know the requisite responses or what to do when coming onto the marae. 

 The 'hongi' is the touching of noses and may be performed as a greeting or welcome - it holds the same intimacy and context as a hug. Generally the hongi will be initiated by a handshake, or perhaps a hand placed on a shoulder. The people will lean towards each other slowly, head held straight, and press their noses together for a few seconds. It can be an unnerving experience for the uninitiated, but is a sign of respect, affection and trust!

Some key points to remember: 

  • Generally, guests on a Marae should remove their shoes  before entering any building on the Marae.
  • Do NOT sit on any surface on which food is prepared or eaten on a Marae - this is considered rude and unhygenic.
  • Younger people - especially in their teens and early twenties - should be polite and deferential to older Maori.
  • Many Maori are devout Christians and will say a blessing before each meal - do not start eating until the blessing has been said!
  • The word 'tapu' means 'sacred' or 'forbidden' or 'treasure' - avoid walking on land or touching items labelled tapu.