Barefoot in New Zealand – The Story, Culture, Interesting Facts

A woman walking barefoot in New Zealand

First time visitors to New Zealand are often astounded by the fact that Kiwis will often walk around with bare feet. In New Zealand, going barefoot, even outdoors and in stores, is far more common than it is in other parts of the world. While some see going barefoot as a sign of poverty, in New Zealand, those of all social backgrounds and financial status tend to spend a lot of time without any shoes.

Where Do People Go Barefoot in New Zealand?

Of course, being barefoot on beaches is normal in many destinations, but in New Zealand you may well also see people barefoot in parks, in airports, in stores, on the high street and even, sometimes, in more informal offices. Unless there is a formal occasion, or a much more formal meeting, it is not unusual to see some Kiwis without shoes – or even jandals (flip-flops/ thongs).

Cultural Norms

In New Zealand, informality and a laid-back vibe are often the order of the day. Children learn from a young age that they can run about without shackling their feet into oppressive footwear. Often, kids will take their shoes off in school, and enjoy gym times or sports events barefoot. A relaxed and freedom-loving attitude amongst many Kiwis means that this tendency to avoid footwear whenever possible continues into adulthood. In New Zealand, often, almost anything goes.

Perfect Conditions for Barefoot Living

Of course, it would be unlikely that such a tradition of barefoot living would have emerged here in New Zealand were it not for the fact that the conditions here are often optimal for allowing the feet to breathe. Summers are warm, and yet usually not too hot for the ground to scorch the soles. Even in winter, some are still found going barefoot in some milder parts of the country. Aside from the climate, other environmental factors also contribute to making New Zealand a great place to go without shoes.

For example, there are not any parasites or dangerous creatures that could harm you if you wander about with your feet unprotected, as there are in other parts of the world.

What is more, the high standards of cleanliness and social amenity in New Zealand’s towns and cities means that streets are not clogged with gum, and there is little risk posed by needles, broken glass or other dangerous things.

Maori Culture

New Zealanders, whether or not they themselves share a Maori heritage, are extremely proud of their country’s native traditions. Another reason why going barefoot is so popular here is that Maori culture promotes fostering a connection to the earth – and going barefoot allows you to get closer to nature. Forging closer links with the natural world is an important part of life for many who live in this beautiful country.

Wearing shoes inside a Maori wharenui (meeting house) in a Marae (meeting place) is actually considered to be a desecration of this sacred place. This also filters through into broader new Zealand culture and colors the attitude of many to wearing (or not wearing) footwear in different situations.

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