Manaakitanga – unique New Zealand hospitality

Loosely translated as hospitality, 'manaakitanga' plays a key role in Māori society and inspires the New Zealand visitor experience.

Loosely translated as hospitality, manaakitanga plays a key role in Māori society and inspires the New Zealand visitor experience - summing up the act of welcoming and sharing.

And, whether it's the nation of New Zealand hosting thousands of international visitors from around the world for a major sports event, or an individual on their own self-drive exploration, it is the spirit of manaakitanga that makes a New Zealand holiday unique.

Māori hospitality

For New Zealand’s Māori people, being hospitable, looking after visitors and caring how others are treated - no matter what their standing in society - is of prime importance.

The traditional value of manaakitanga in Māori culture has had a positive influence on the unique Kiwi-style hospitality that makes a New Zealand visit memorable.

As is the case with many Māori words - the meaning of manaakitanga is much broader than a one word or direct translation.

It can be broken down into three parts: mana-ā-ki which loosely translates as 'the power of the word' and reminds hosts to be expressive and fluent in welcoming visitors.

Another explanation has the words mana / prestige and ki te tangata / to the people - pointing out the importance of enhancing the mana which covers the integrity, status / prestige, and power of guests.

Mutual respect

Manaakitanga encompasses reciprocal hospitality and respect from one individual or group to another - with values like mana and utu / revenge, reflected in culture, language, and continuous efforts to be generous hosts.

It also acknowledges the mana of others as having equal or greater importance than your own, through the expression of aroha / love, hospitality, generosity and mutual respect.

In doing so, all parties are elevated and the host status is enhanced, building unity through humility and the act of giving.

Food and rest

It is important in Māori culture that hosts provide food and rest for visitors, and that guests be treated with respect at all times - and manaakitanga is shown in many ways, especially evident on the tribal marae / meeting place.

Māori consider that whatever the gathering or activity, whether it is a small family affair or a larger tribal event, it should be remembered with fondness and gratitude by those who attended.

A particular emphasis on feeding guests is shared by many Pacific cultures along with other societies around the world. In New Zealand, it is common for hosts to treat their guests, especially at large and significant occasions, to local delicacies, for which their area is well-known.

This tradition also revolves around what is available seasonally in the area, and could include particular kinds of seafood such as pāua / abalone, kina / sea urchin, tuangi / cockles, river and lake food such as tuna / eel, tuna korokoro / lamprey, forest food like karaka berries, aruhe / fernroot, harvested food such as pūhā / sow thistle, kumara / sweet potato, kamokamo / squash, and birds like tītī / muttonbird.

Welcoming settlers

Manaakitanga is a time-honoured practice and many early European settlers experienced Māori hospitality on their arrival in New Zealand.

Local Māori often traded and gifted food to settler families and some took individuals into their marae, where they became members of the whānau / family, hapū / sub-tribe and iwi / tribe.

The term manaakitanga expresses all of these things and refers to members of communities caring for themselves and each other as well as for their visitors.