What's a chillybin? A guide to understanding the Kiwis

You could say I have a knack for languages.

I speak four fluently, and enough to get by in several more. I usually answer the phone in Te Reo. In fact, my ability to pick up languages quickly and my rather unorthodox travel record has had more than a couple of people ask in all seriousness if I'm a spy. (For the record, I'm not; I doubt the CIA would hire someone who sometimes struggles as much as I do to decide what to wear each morning).

Given all of that, I have a devilish time understanding a word Kiwis say. But, unfortunately, it's something I must shamefully admit.

Seriously, what is it about New Zealand English? It doesn't even matter who's speaking - even the Prime Minister is sometimes harder to understand than deciphering if your German Rentenversicherungsnummer is the same as your Sozialversicherungsnummer, and if it is required for a Krankenversicherungsnummer or a job with a Rechtsschutzversicherungsgesellschaften.

It's not just the pronunciation of words, either, but the very words that are used. Like, just what the heck does "she'll be right" mean? Who is she, and why will she be alright? Is she in danger? Have the authorities been notified that she could be in trouble?

Here's the thing: When talking, New Zealanders like to use a lot of slang. And I mean a lot.

But I've lived here for a little while now. Isn't it my civic duty to help fellow immigrants understand just what the heck it is New Zealanders are trying to say when they say they want a bucket of French fries (I'm sorry, I mean pottle of chips)?

Thus, I've put together a quick translation guide to Kiwi slang. Let's get to it...


Sweet as: This means something is "good". But sweet as what? Sugar? Molasses? Refried beans heated up in the microwave and sprinkled with ketchup, or sauce as Kiwis would say.

Good as gold: "Great" or "cool". My question, however, is why gold was determined to be "good." What about the phrase "money is the root of all evil"?

Choice: Can mean "good", "great", "awesome", or any iteration thereof. It seems to be more popular among young people than older generations. I've also heard it more in the South Island than the North Island, for reasons I don't understand.

Mint: See "choice". Still, whenever I hear it, I can't help but think of it as an ice cream flavour.

Nah, different kind of mint.
Nah, different kind of mint. Contributed

Hard out: This is basically a fancy way of expressing amazement. I have no idea as to its origins. There's an Urban Dictionary entry for it, but understanding that is harder than the Chimbay dialect of Uzbek.

She'll be right: Another way of saying "everything will be OK." I still want to know who "she" is.

Dairy: A convenience store or mini-mart. I know, I know: the first time I heard it, I was expecting to see cows, too.

Fanny: This one, of course, is rather rude here. In America, however, it usually refers to someone's derriere - if only I'd known that when I used it in the presence of a female co-worker. I'm just thankful I was able to keep my job.

Bro: One of the most versatile Kiwi words, this can mean basically anyone, even if they are not your brother.

Pis**d: Someone who has consumed too much alcohol would be "pis**d" or "on the pi**." This one has taken some getting used to for me, as in the US it usually means someone is so angry they're about to beat someone up. I spent the first few days in Aotearoa fearing for my safety as a result.

Jafa: An acronym for "Just Another F------ Aucklander" that plays on the fact that many of the two-thirds of New Zealanders that don't live in Auckland seem to despise the place and the people therein.

Crook: If someone is "crook," it means they are sick or otherwise unwell, not that they have broken the law. A relief, right?

Feelin' a bit crook?
Feelin' a bit crook? Chris Chan

Bach: Pronounced "batch," this means a vacation or holiday home.

Macca's: A nickname for a McDonald's fast food restaurant. I think. I haven't exactly been to one recently. And by "recently," I mean not since the 1990s.

Chocka: This can mean "full" or "packed," as in "Eden Park is going to be chocka for the All Blacks game."

Chur: "Thank you". I still don't use this one very often, probably because in the States it's an insult.

Pineapple lumps: Chocolate-covered chewy candy. They do not taste in the slightest like pineapple. Which begs the question how the name came about.

Scull: If someone asks you to "scull" something, it means they want you to drink it very quickly. Unsurprisingly, you'll hear this at parties far more than anywhere else.

Suss: If someone says they'll "suss it out," it means that they'll work it out.

Wop-wops: The middle of nowhere.

Tiki tour: A turn of phrase used in place of "to take the long way." It's another of those phrases that, the first time I heard it, made me think it involved literal tikis.

Squizz: Means "take a look". I know - when I hear it, I think of something else, like "squeeze" or something that can't be repeated in a family publication.

Flat tack: If someone is "flat tack" it means they're extremely busy, not that they have a tack that is indeed flat.

Feed: When a New Zealander says they're "going for a feed" it means they are going to eat something.

Yeah, nah: This can mean either "no thanks" in a sarcastic way or "yeah, right". Either way, it's usually not considered the politest thing to say to your boss.


So there you have it. Sort of. A compendium of common words and phrases you're likely to encounter in The Land of the Long White Cloud. I know it's not perfect, but as the Germans say, Leben ist kein Ponyhof ("life is not a pony farm", meaning life is not always easy).

I'll let you suss that out. Ta.

News Corp Australia

CQ park upgrade first step in creating community hub

Premium Content CQ park upgrade first step in creating community hub

Park boasts new barbecues, extra seating and shade structures to better accommodate...

Father caught drink-driving hours after big night out

Premium Content Father caught drink-driving hours after big night out

Central Queensland father of three young children said his “serious lack of...

BMX community ready to Rumble in memory of CQ teen

Premium Content BMX community ready to Rumble in memory of CQ teen

Riders will sport pink ribbons as they help raise funds for the Leukaemia...