Tribal Wives Wellington, New Zealand

I am bravely picking up the baton and going to give this post my best shot, where others have skillfully gone before me – inspired by the amazing mistress of words Vix of Vegemitevix blog and her ‘Tribal Wives in Britain‘ post. Here follows my offering and I’d recommend visiting ‘Moments of Whimsy‘ blog for an Auckland version of Tribal Wives, by Cate, an Australian expat with a keen eye and great writing style.


As an expat from Britain, married to a fellow Brit, I was instantly cast on the periphery of the tribal wives in New Zealand. Thankfully, I live in the cosmopolitan, wind-swept city of Wellington where countless expats also reside. In fear of the high standard of crafty and gourmet kitchen talented natives I initially aligned myself with fellow expats. They, like me, didn’t seem to have the same penchant for baking and sewing. You see, when I first arrived I was a total failure (and still am in the sewing department). I’d spent all my youth immersed in books, music and writing. And in the UK there was Marks and Spencers (who needs to sew when you have M&S) and Waitrose for food. My twenties were spent in the office or in the pub, with the occasional weekend spent planting trees and doing my bit for the environment (which helped endear me to the natives).

However, I did find a niche group of tribal wives who were into extreme sports, rather than sewing, and underwent the ritualistic bungy jump, as well as a few white-water rafting adventures, caving, tramping, heli-hiking on glaciers and sea kayaking trips. These were all in my pre-child tribal wife days, when weekends at wine festivals were the norm, as was accompanying ones husband to rugby and cricket matches (I even learned to play golf – bonus points!).

The following ‘rules’ apply generally speaking to the stay-at-home tribal wife & mother in Wellington…

1. Shape up

There’s the need to be a strong, fit, healthy wife and mother. In Wellington it is not enough to simply take the baby for a walk in the buggy, but one should really go jogging around the water front. The alternative is strapping the baby in a back-pack and walking the hills of Wellington. If one does drink, then it should be done in secret (though it is perfectly acceptable for husbands to consume large quantities of beer whilst tending to the BBQ). Smoking is absolutely forbidden. Shopping at Moore Wilsons, Commensense Organics, or better still the weekend markets, is highly commendable. Growing your own is looked upon with great respect.

Lunch-times eating MacDonalds and admiring the view are frowned upon. To be a true tribal wife in Wellington trade the MacDonalds for sushi (or better still home-made salad).

2. Learn to bake (bonus points if you can knit/sew)

When I became a parent here, and a stay-at-home-parent, I was thrust deeply into the tribal wives scene with little chance of going undetected. My British accent, so engrained, refused to budge – though I did manage the upward inclination at the end of every sentence. With babe in arms I was invited into the homes of other tribal wives for morning and afternoon tea gatherings. I quickly realized that I was going to have to learn to bake. No more lazy mornings spent cuddled up with baby watching day time T.V. and reading novels. It was time to face the music, purchase an Edmond’s Cookery Book (no self-respecting Kiwi tribal wife should be without one) and start baking.

3. Serve good coffee and always have fresh, home-made muffins to offer guests

It is no accident that Lord of the Ring’s was filmed here. The tribal wives share a lot in common with hobbits, the main similarity being the endless servings of food throughout the day. It is not enough to offer a biscuit with a cup of tea or simply grab a piece of fruit at morning tea. Muffins are expected, always home-made, and in Wellington (in particular) quality coffee is a must (offer up a cup of instant and risk being ostricised). Not only must a good tribal wife bake, but bonus points are scored if one can sew or knit (on both fronts I still fail miserably).

4. Be cafe cultured

Tribal wives in Wellington love to meet up and gossip in the numerous cafes of the city. It is important to train the children in cafe etiquette from an early age and get them accustomed to drinking fluffies from a china cup. A large, tribal wife bag comes in handy as one should always be prepared with toys to distract and entertain their children to ensure quality gossip time.

5. Always be prepared for an impromptu visit to the beach

In the summer time Wellington tribal wives can be found at the beach with their offspring. They are experts in meteorology and generally choose the beach most protected from the ensuing wind. The British penchant for ‘wind-breaks’ is something laughed at by Wellington tribal wives and one is expected to toughen up and wear over-sized glasses at all times.

6. Dress code for tribal wives

The dress code for a stay-at-home-mother, tribal wife is casual. Occasionally European expats lean back to their stylish days of haute couture and remember heady visits to gay Paris. But lip-stick, rouge, stylish scarves and heels are looked at with very questioning glances and will very likely make fellow tribal wives feel uncomfortable. It is best to stick to jandals (flip-flops) for summer and Ugg boots for winter.

7. Dress code for children

Children should be dressed equally casually. It is normal for them to wear ‘messy play clothes’ and run bare-foot (except for trips into the city centre, visits to the library and cafes – then shoes really ought to be worn). Dreadlocks are accepted. Hats in summer are an absolute must. If you or your child are caught without one expect to receive disapproving looks. A good tribal wife is an organized one and sun-screen, insect repellent, spare clothes, towel, water, food…. (kitchen sink!) should be carried around at all times (as of course the threat of ‘the big one’ is every present).

8. Honour thy husband thus…

Tribal wives should ensure the fridge is always stocked with cool beer for her husband and that the BBQ is always primed and ready for action. A dart board in the garage scores bonus points. Tribal wives should accept that rugby comes before everything else and if, like me, you are a tribal wife with an expat British husband then expect your husband to play soccer with fellow expats on a Saturday afternoon and wake up at ridiculous hours of the night to get live updates from the other side of the world. They will also require afternoons off for golf from time to time. If it’s not golf, then it will be surfing, pig hunting, scuba diving or fishing.


What is expected of a good tribal wife in your neck of the woods?

Hear from other tribal wives at ‘Tribal Wives Go Viral‘ and Tribal Wives Go Viral Part Two / Vegemitevix