Workplace Culture, Dress Code, Personal Hygiene and Etiquette

Workplace culture

The workplace culture within the NZ tech community might be described as one of talented artists bought together to collaborate on great works. This is a uniquely Kiwi approach which is loosely related to the Kiwi dislike for suits and ties that may be hiding a lack of useful talent. Kiwis like professionalism, but not dressed up.

The approach overseas, for example the US, Australia, UK, Europe, is typically more formal. There are anecdotes of Kiwi tech companies failing to win business in those markets, purely because our dress standards did not meet their cultural expectations.

Kiwis tend to respect talent and tend to prefer to work with bosses rather than working for bosses. The work itself is a collaborative exercise deserving of input from a variety of sources, including new staff. Everyone has a voice and diversity of opinion is seen as an asset. Once the manager makes a decision, everyone then works to deliver that decision.

Culturally many other countries place far more emphasis on hierarchy and conforming to the managers views. The manager expects respect based on the authority passed to them by the company. The manager also interprets direction from outside the team. The teams role is to deliver based on the managers decision. Discussion may be had with senior team members, while juniors are expected to follow and learn.

While we can talk generally about NZ culture, keep in mind that NZ recruits globally and among NZers there exists a lot of variety. This means you will experience a wide variety of workplaces and managers. Expect the differences, enjoy them and steal the best approaches to use when you aspire to be the team lead or manager.

Dress Code

Your author has limited experience beyond dressing as a male. Rather than attempt to bridge this knowledge gap (poorly), interpret as appropriate. If you can recommend a resource that may be useful for female and non-binary students, forward it to your work experience co-ordinator (crowd sourcing a solution).

With a few exceptions, dress code is typically tidy casual. Jeans, trainers and t-shirts in many cases. Tidy casual is better than what you wear at home relaxing. Clothes and shoes are in good condition and looked after. When inevitably they start looking worn, they become your sloppy joes for home use.

The exceptions are typically Government departments and consultants which both dress formally. This involves dress pants (ironed), a business shirt (ironed, short sleeved in summer), a tie and clean dress shoes (typically leather).

If in doubt, dress up and throw a t-shirt in your back-pack on day one.

Personal Hygiene

Your clothes should be undamaged and washed regularly. No one enjoys working with Mr Smelly. If you are already aware of a body odor issue, take a spray can of deodorant with you and avoid working out before or during work unless there are showers handy.

Foot odor can be dealt with by using, for example, Odor Eaters insoles and foot powder (available at Supermarkets). If bad breath or halitosis might be an issue, chat with your oral hygienist for possible causes and solutions. In the meantime, carry a pack of mints and make a habit of popping one before meetings or asking for advice.


In short, etiquette is about contributing to a great place to work. If everyone contributes, everyone enjoys their working day.

Be nice to everyone, including the cleaner and receptionist. A number of employers look to their receptionist, cleaners or barista for input on who you really are, verses how you present yourself to the boss.

Be aware of any occasion when your presence is negatively noticeable beyond your immediate vicinity. We have already touched on personal hygiene. Add to this; raised voices, smelly drinks or food, throwing darts, playing the fool.

Expect to self manage around issues of race, gender, religion, age, experience, etc. In short do not turn diversity differences into either jokes or put-downs. The defense of “they laughed too”, “they don’t mind” or "they weren't meant to hear", does not suffice for explaining either poor judgment or the lack of ability to self manage on sensitive issues.