Secret Pleasures # 20: The Hongi

1 Jul

Americans tend to like their personal bubble; no one ever gets too close.  Our handshakes, themselves, force people to stay at least arms length away.  Therefore, when I came to New Zealand and entered a marae (a Maori sacred place) I was a little off put with doing a hongi.

A hongi is a traditional Maori greeting where you place the nose and forehead together.  The basic idea is that you are sharing the same breath of life.  Once done you aren’t a visitor anymore: you are apart (though usually temporarily) of the tribe.


The submersion into Maori culture was, least I say it, breathtaking.  I probably did the hongi nearly 50 times within 24 hours and while a bit awkward I feel like you are immersed and warmly welcomed into the tribe. So, say farwell to American reservations and haphephobia and hello to New Zealand’s warm and relaxed culture.  I think I might finally become a touchy-feely person.

My Secret Pleasure: Being immersed and feeling connected to a culture.


One Response to “Secret Pleasures # 20: The Hongi”

  1. kiwijenn July 1, 2011 at 1:19 PM #

    Kia ora! As an American who has been living in New Zealand for the last year (and how has a partner who is ensconced in Maori culture and policy), I had a very fast education in Maori protocol. I know exactly what you mean when you talk about the American concept of personal space. I still struggle with the “closeness” of people here, but I’m a lot more comfortable than when I arrived. Great post!

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