The Maori Culture

The Maori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand. Originated from settlers from Eastern Polynesia, they arrived between 1330 and 1350 in handmade canoes. Today, 1 in 7 new zealanders identified as Maori.

The Maori are an integral part of the culture of New Zealand, influencing all aspects of the society, from cuisine and customs to language. It is not uncommon to hear the Maori language on the streets in the country. They have a strong sense of family and pride.

The word Maori means “normal” or “ordinary” in their language, differentiating themselves from deities.

The Maori Culture


Due to isolation, these settlers developed their culture without influence from external factors, evolving independently.

When the british arrived in the 17th century, Maori culture had to adapt to the Western society, and signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, ensuring the survival and peaceful relationship between both cultures.

Although there is no sign of maoris in New Zealand before 1320, evidence indicates that they existed since 5,000 years ago in Taiwan. They settled in an area encompassed by Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand.


The Maori culture is rich & diverse, with traditional arts such a carving, painting group performance, oratory, and the famous “Ta Moko” tattoos.

Tikanga is the name for the “customary practices” or more accurately “the Māori way of doing things”, a concept with a wide range of meanings: culture, ethic, formality, protocol, style, etc. It comes from the Māori word tika meaning ‘right’ or ‘correct’.

Hangi is their traditional cooking method, using heated rocks buried in a pit oven, called an umu. It is still used for large groups on special occasions.

Haka is the Maori war dance. Traditionally used in the battlefield, today the dance it during ceremonies, celebrations and to honor guests.

Maoris New Zealand

Ta Moko Tattoo Maori

Ta Moko Tattoos

The Maori tattoos are particularly interesting. They are an important cultural representation of heritage, rank and wisdom;  marking a milestone between childhood and adulthood.

Experiencing the Maori culture is a must if you are traveling to New Zealand. The best place to learn about them is on a Marae, their sacred communal place, a focus for social, cultural & spiritual life; where you will hear them singing, dancing the Haka, greet the locals and enjoy their amazing cuisine.

More things to do in New Zealand