The effects and benefits of immigration and multiculturalism are big international issues at the moment, not least in my own small country of New Zealand where Auckland house prices have risen sky high over the last decade.  This Vogel's New Zealand advertisement about cultural identity discusses what it means to be a “New Zealander” and is sparking conversations about “togetherness” and diversity.  It raises questions about what inspires us to service of something beyond ourselves, and seems to suggest that this is love, family and nationhood.  

Everyone is surprised that is the Kenyan-born New Zealander who knows every All Black from 1987 until now.  Similarly there is surprise that it is the New Zealander of Chinese descent that is fluent in the country's native language, Te Reo Maori.  The ad challenges the viewer to consider what it means to be a “New Zealander”.  The other characteristics of the people around the table are also suggested to celebrate something of “New Zealandness” and what it means to be a “New Zealander”.  The single father dedicated to his children, the environmental warrior and the girl who taught children at her own peril in a warzone.  The stars of the ad apparently didn't know each other and hadn't been prepped. 

Tim Deane, managing director for Goodman Fielder NZ, which makes Vogel's, thought the commercial portrayed “a pretty important message – Although we're all diverse, we've got threads that hold us all together.”  He also said:

“I've been in business for 30 years, I'm the same age as Vogel's, and I've never been associated with a campaign that seems to have touched Kiwis like this.”

There are also deeper questions raised by the ad that are relevant to all cultures, such as what builds cultural identify and what the base values of our particular nation are.  To what extent do we expect immigrants to assimilate into something we recognise as our particular nation's values? (here the Maori language and the All Blacks are suggested to be part of “New Zealandness”)  

Does multiculturalism within a nation work, or do we also need established base cultural values which our nation considers absolute (such as the value of life etc.)?  What are the “threads that hold us all together” in any particular nation? Ultimately, it is surely the universal values of love, family, food and service to our families, youth and community.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...