New Zealand is Sweet As

Isabelle Galko
October 13, 2019

When I first came to New Zealand, I thought that since everyone spoke English, I would have no problem talking and understanding people (after all, I speak English too!). But within my first week, I had someone tell me “yeah, yeah nah, she’ll be right, mate,” (which at the time confused the heck out of me) and since then, I’ve tried, failed, and (somewhat) succeeded to understand the New Zealand accent and vernacular. In my few months here, I’ve picked up some of the common phrases that can only be found in New Zealand, here are some of my favorites...

Having (or spinning) a yarn

Chatting, making conversation, telling a story. Whenever I hang out at a friend’s place or chat with some people on campus or at a party, I’d been having a yarn with them. If you’re spinning a yarn, though, that means you’re exaggerating or telling a story.

Arvo vs. avo

Arvo means afternoon. Avo means avocado. These are very easy to confuse with each other.

Sweet as

Basically, this means great, cool, or awesome. It might sound like an incomplete sentence, which is what I thought when I first heard it…sweet as what? Pie? Cake? But, no, it’s just an affirmative expression and a very standard response when texting or in everyday life.


If you’re keen about something, it means you’re excited or enthusiastic about it. Like, “do you want to get dinner tonight?” “Keen!”

Add an “as” to add enthusiasm—yeah I’m “keen as!”

She’ll be right

Means things will be okay and everything will work out.

Yeah nah (or nah yeah)

An inventive word that means both yes and no at the same time—which one is it? It can indicate indecisiveness but generally means no if “nah” is the second word.


Togs are swimsuits or pretty much anything you’d wear to the pool or the beach. This past weekend, I grabbed my togs and jandals (which are flip-flops here) and headed to the Coromandel with some friends to lie on Hot Water Beach and sunbathe for a few hours.


Means cheers or thanks. Often followed with “bro” or “mate.”


Does not mean being drunk or risqué or engaging in illicit behavior. It means hiking. For example, I’m part of the Auckland Uni Tramping Club and sometimes go tramping with them on weekends.

I’ve definitely struggled with some of these words and with vowel pronunciation while I’ve been here, but it’s been fun figuring out different slang and trying (and often failing) to use them in conversation.

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