Listen to New Zealand news, spoken slowly and clearly, using easy vocabulary. Note:You may need to download Adobe Flashplayer if you can't access the podcast.

Teenager quits job after boss tells her not to say ‘kia ora’

A teenager in Whangarei quit her part-time job because she wasn’t allowed to welcome customers by saying “kia ora”.

Monet-Mei Clarke, 17 years old, quit from KiwiYo frozen yoghurt shop this week because the owner Margaret Lang told her to say “hello” instead of “kia ora”.

Ms Lang thinks that it is unacceptable for staff to greet customers in Te Reo Maori because New Zealand is an English-speaking country.

Monet has five siblings and her father is the principal of Whau Valley Primary School. She is bilingual and uses Te Reo Maori at home with her family. She enjoyed working at KiwiYo for four weeks. Her only problem was not being able to say “kia ora” because she felt it weakened her Maori identity. Her parents are proud of their bicultural children and support Monet’s decision.

Norman Markgraaf, chief executive of KiwiYo, said that he has no problem with the staff saying “kia ora”, as long as they said “hello” afterwards. He said that Monet was disciplined by her boss because she greeted customers in Te Reo Maori only, and not in English as well.

KiwiYo will open stores in Beijing where staff must greet customers by saying “kia ora” and then repeating a greeting in Mandarin. The company is creating double standards because the staff in China are forced to say “kia ora” to represent New Zealand culture. But the staff in New Zealand cannot say the same greeting in New Zealand.

Te Reo Maori is an official language in New Zealand and it should not be forbidden for anyone to welcome people by saying “kia ora”.

Thanks to Hannah Choi for this contribution.

Vocabulary

• unacceptable – not allowed
• greet (v), greeting (n) – welcome someone with polite language
• siblings – brothers and sisters
• weakened – made it weaker (note: strong / strengthen; long / lengthen etc)
• disciplined – punished, “told off”
• forbidden – not allowed

Questions

1. Do you think most people in New Zealand know what Kia Ora means?
2. Would you be happy to be greeted by the words “Kia Ora”?
3. What is the double standard here?