People and Society, Way of Life
New Zealand society has changed dramatically in recent decades. Until the 1960s the country was culturally isolated from the rest of the world, except Britain. Most homes did not have television, import controls limited access to some consumer goods, and overseas travel and tourism were small in scale. Most women did not participate in the paid workforce. Retail stores and other businesses were closed on Sundays, and pubs (taverns) closed at the dinner hour. All of this changed by the 1990s, however, and today New Zealand is just as modern and consumer-oriented as any other Westernized nation. Social issues facing New Zealand include increasing rates of unemployment and crime, especially since the 1980s.
New Zealanders enjoy a high standard of living. Many live in single-family houses with a plot of land, even in the larger cities. The rate of home ownership is high, although apartment dwelling has increased in the cities. High-rise residential development is a recent phenomenon confined mainly to Auckland and Wellington. Although most people live in the cities, scenic rural areas are just a short distance away. Popular leisure activities include beach swimming, fishing, skiing, and hiking. Most New Zealanders take pride in their healthy, active way of life. In recent years New Zealanders have become more conscious of the need to moderate their sun exposure and high-fat diets. Restaurants now offer more varied and health-conscious cuisine, although traditional dishes such as fish and chips and lamb roast remain popular.
New Zealanders are keen sport participants and fans. Rugby Union football is traditionally the favorite national sport. Rugby League football, soccer, hockey, cricket, softball, netball (a form of basketball), water sports, and track and field are also popular. Women participate actively in all these sports except professional rugby. New Zealanders take part in a variety of international sporting events, such as rugby, soccer, cricket, tennis, and sailing competitions.
In recent years Maori culture and perspectives have experienced a sort of renaissance in the predominantly white society. Maori views on the colonial past have gained some mainstream acceptance, especially in regard to land grievances in the courts, and Maori arts are shown prominently in the Te Papa national museum in Wellington. Maori themselves have made sustained and vigorous efforts to stem the loss of their traditional ways of life, or Maoritanga. Social inequities remain a problem, however, as Maori remain underrepresented in higher levels of education and in the professions/