Before the arrival of Europeans the Maori people used to call the North Island as Te Ika a Māui (the fish of Māui) and the South Island as Te Wai Pounamu (the waters of greenstone) or Te Waka o Aoraki (the canoe of Aoraki).
Until the early 20th century, the North Island was also referred to as Aotearoa (colloquially translated "land of the long white cloud") and nowadays this name refers to the whole country.
There are a few quite common Maori words that are used in regular conversations in New Zealand. For example, kia ora (Maori greating, hello), hangi (underground barbecue feast done with hot stones), Haka (war dance), and hongi (pressing noses together as a greeting).
There is also a very distinct New Zealand slang to get your head around. Try these for starters.
Bach: small holiday home, pronounced "batch"
Bun-fight: social gathering with food
Chilly bin: sealable cold box for beer, picnics etc
Choice: excellent, fabulous. As in "this blog is really choice"
Chuddy: chewing gum
Full tit: going very fast, as in "he was running full tit"
Hokey pokey: type of ice cream with butterscotch bits
Jandal: thongs, flip flops
Judder bar: speed bump
Kumara: sweet potato
Lay-by: Where you can put goods aside in a shop, to pay them off slowly
Pack a sad: become moody, also meaning broken or died
Rellies: family, relatives
Somewhere near Taupo: like "just round the corner" it's a vague term
Tiki tour: scenic tour, the long route
©Visa Bureau 2003-2013