When do I become a Kiwi?

Published 2007. Contact: James Liu


This research examines how New Zealand migrants think of themselves in terms of their social identities as New Zealanders, and/or as members of their ethnic heritage community. Ethnic communities in New Zealand have identified acculturation (the process through which migrants adapt to their new surroundings and the reactions of the host community to them) as an important area in need of research.

The research particularly addressed an integrative approach to acculturation - how migrants put together their ethnic heritage with the changes associated with becoming a New Zealander.


Most participants' acculturation orientation was not necessarily connected to the identity label they chose for themselves. For example Kiwi/New Zealander versus an ethnic label like Chinese or a hyphenated label like Malaysian-New Zealander. Choice of ethnic label was often attributed to the way the participants felt they were perceived by mainstream New Zealand society.

Participants reported both adapting to New Zealand ways and giving up elements of their heritage cultures. They also described things they were not willing to surrender like language and values. Respecting the local culture, interacting with locals, and fitting in were described as ways to "become a kiwi".

The results of this research can improve psychological theories of acculturation which are being used around the world both for scientific research and to help migrants understand how they can best adapt to new societies.

You can read the report "When do I become a Kiwi?: A Qualitative Account of New Migrants Experiences in New Zealand" here.