How to spend Christmas as an international student in New Zealand

Amelia Carruthers
Amelia Carruthers
Published on: Dec 17, 20214 min read
How to spend Christmas as an international student in New Zealand

So – you’re facing your first Christmas as a student in New Zealand!?

If you’re used to marking Christmas with your family, it can be a lonely time. Even if you don’t celebrate Christmas personally, it can feel odd to be left on an empty university campus…
The great news is that a New Zealand Christmas is a truly fantastic experience! There are plenty of different ways to spend Christmas as an international student in New Zealand. From a trip to the beach to cooking up a traditional feast and immersing yourself in Māori language and culture – it will certainly be a Christmas like no other.
Here are our six top tips for international students at Christmas. Celebrate in style and make the most of your New Zealand study adventure.

How to spend Christmas as an international student in New Zealand

1. Celebrate with a traditional feast

Our top tip on how to spend Christmas as an international student in New Zealand? Celebrate with a classic Christmas feast of course! 

Remember that Christmas falls in New Zealand summertime, so many families opt for a barbeque or beachside picnic. Fresh seafood and local foods are common, so ask your New Zealand friends what they enjoy. You never know… you might get a few invitations as a result.
If your friends have Māori roots, a traditional “hangi” might be on the menu. This is a particular style of cooking, where food is placed on hot stones at the bottom of a pit – covered with a wet cloth and buried. This could include fish or chicken and vegetables (including kumara, a form of sweet potato). The food will take around 3-4 hours to cook, allowing you to kick back and enjoy a relaxed Christmas morning.

2. Learn Meri Kirihimete!

If you’re wondering how to spend Christmas as an international student in New Zealand, why not immerse yourself in the local language and traditions? Māori language is deeply respected all over the country. So explore your host culture and take the time to research customs and greetings. You’ll be welcomed as a member of the “whanau” (extended family) in no time!
From welcoming people with “kia ora” (hello) to wishing friends “Meri Kirihimete” (Merry Christmas) there are many ways you can show your love (“Aroha”) for this beautiful country. Trust us, it won’t go unappreciated.

3. Attend a Christmas parade

For any international student at Christmas, taking in a New Zealand parade has to be top of the list. It’s a tradition that began in the early 1900s when department stores sought to entice customers with a visit from Santa… and he has to get there somehow!
In the 1930s, Father Christmas arrived in Christchurch riding an elephant. Auckland wasn’t to be beaten, however – and he later parachuted in to meet his adoring public. These days, Christmas parades are often run by charities and local councils. They feature extravagant floats, marching bands, and enthusiastic participants in fantastic costumes.
As it’s the peak of summer, don’t be surprised if Father Christmas dons a pair of “jandals” (Japanese sandals, better-known as flip-flops) – a summer kiwi staple.

4. Experience a coastal Christmas

There are plenty of different ways to spend Christmas as an international student in New Zealand – but one of the most exciting has got to be a trip to the beach. So why not spend time researching the best beaches near you?

Many New Zealand families head to the beach on Boxing Day (26 December). They might hang out with friends under a Pohutukawa tree, play games on the sand, or head for a dip in the ocean. There may be another barbeque or leftovers packed in a hamper from the day before.

Whether it's sunbathing or snorkeling – don’t forget your Santa hat!

5. Spend time volunteering or working

If you’re an international student at Christmas looking for ways to spend your time – have you thought about working or volunteering in New Zealand?
New Zealand is a backpacking hub, so there are plenty of charities and organizations geared towards young volunteers. This could include WWOOFing (where you volunteer your time and live and work alongside a farming family) or providing free Christmas lunches with a charity such as City Mission. It’s a wonderful way to meet people and experience an authentic New Zealand Christmas.
Your university might be able to put you in touch with local charities, so reach out to your student support team.
If earning a bit of extra cash is appealing, working over the Christmas period is also a great option. You’ll probably be paid double if you work on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day – and restaurants, bars, and shops are always on the lookout for seasonal staff.

6. Go on a sightseeing tour

Last but not least – if you’ve got spare time in New Zealand over Christmas, it’s a great season to get out there and head on a sightseeing trip. Create a list of all the places you’d like to visit and go for it!

From white water rafting and forest hikes in Rotorua to the pristine beaches of the Coromandel, surfing at Dunedin, and New Year’s Fireworks at Queenstown, there are so many options. Wanaka is a particularly popular student spot on South Island. With the Mount Aspiring National Park and the crystal-clear Wanaka Lake – you’ll never want to leave.

With these top tips on how to spend Christmas as an international student in New Zealand, you won’t be stuck for ideas this festive season. From everyone at Edvoy, we hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Meri Kirihimete!

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Written By
Amelia Carruthers

With a background in academic publishing, education and digital marketing, Amelia Carruthers is a freelance writer with a love of history, philosophy and the written word.

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