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My manager uses many expressions that I don't understand. How can I learn these sayings so I can understand better what he says?
Many people in New Zealand workplaces use sayings and expressions when they speak. Sometimes they are expressions that are commonly used in Kiwi English, sometimes they are specific to a particular workplace. When your manager uses an expression that you don't understand, you could ask him to explain what it means. For example you could say, "I'm sorry but I don't know what 'on the back burner' means. Could you please explain it to me?"
When I give feedback to the new migrant employee in our office, I never know whether he's taking it in or not as he just sits there looking blank. How can I get him to interact a bit more?
If your new migrant employee is sitting quietly and not reacting to you when you speak, it may be that he is showing respect. In some cultures maintaining an attentive silence is considered respectful. Give him a bit more time to adjust to the Kiwi workplace.
Why do New Zealanders use all those extra words at the beginning of a request or instruction, like "Would you mind looking at this". Why don't they just say what they mean?
New Zealanders use these extra words as 'softeners' because they want to sound polite and maintain good working relationships. A direct request like "look at this" would sound very rude to a Kiwi and could spoil working relationships.