Way of Life

Karawhiua! Give it a Go!

The Māori language - Te Reo Māori - is only spoken in Aotearoa New Zealand and its use in everyday life by locals and visitors is encouraged.

If you know even more words or phrases, you'll have a better understanding of our culture - and Māori people will love you for it!

Find more words and phrases you may come across, what they mean, and where you can go to find out more.

What to know

Māori Language

The Māori Language Commission promotes and fosters the use of Māori as a living language.

Te Reo Māori is one of the three official languages of New Zealand. The other two are English and New Zealand Sign Language.

Try its resources for a pronunciation guide and to learn helpful words and phrases - Learning Te Reo Māori.

Māori Music and Performing Arts

Māori song, dance and music were important ways of celebrating, retaining and transmitting the life, customs and history of Māori.

Traditionally there was a song (waiata) for every occasion and many are still sung today. Modern compositions often reflect the issues of the day.

Musical instruments (taonga puoro) were part of many rituals and were also played to entertain. Many drew on the sounds of nature and were made from gourds, bone, shell, stone and wood.

The haka is a traditional dance made famous by our national rugby team, the All Blacks. But haka includes a wide range of dance styles, including many performed by women. A haka could entertain, criticise or praise someone, welcome guests, celebrate important ceremonies, honour ancestors or the dead, and teach traditions. 

Kapa Haka is a modern term for a team (kapa) that performs traditional and contemporary Māori dances such as the haka. Their repertoire includes poi, haka, and other activities performed by cultural groups or individuals, and can take place in formal or informal settings, on marae, at schools, or at Kapa Haka festivals.



A Māori community's hub is its marae, where Māori retain their tribal history and stories, genealogy, customs and traditions.

These days some marae are also based in non-traditional settings such as hospitals, schools and universities. Even Auckland International Airport has a marae!

Tips when visiting a marae:

  • Smoking during the powhiri (welcome) and inside marae buildings is not allowed.
  • Avoid walking in front of the speakers.
  • In the wharekai (dining hall) do not sit on tables or kitchen benches as these surfaces are for food.
  • Greet your hosts with 'Kia ora!'

© 2017 NZ Maori Tourism Society