culture shock – language

The old adage about England and America being two countries divided by a common language could also be said about England and Australia. Yes, they speak English here, and mostly it is understandable, especially when you get used to the so-called “high-rise terminals” – the ubiquitousinterrogative tone that make every Australian sentence sound like a question? 

People really do use G’day as a greeting, and the phrase “fair dinkum” is commonly used, even by politicians in speeches. But it takes a while to understand words such as sook ( a softy or sulk), rapt (delighted), bogan (somebody who is perceived as being an unfashionable “lower-class” person, typically of British Isles ancestry and living in deprived urban areas), and shonky (dubious, underhanded).

Once you have figured out that shortening any word and ending it with an “o” will make you sound like a local, you’ve made it:

Ambo              paramedic

Arvo                afternoon

Servo               petrol station

Reffo               refugee

Rego                vehicle registration

Milko               milkman

One also has to learn where Woop Woop or the Back of Bourke is (very far away), how to handle a stickybeak(tell them to mind their own business) and find the alternative local phrase to”It’s like Piccadilly/O’ConnellStreet” when trying to emphasise how busy somewhere is (still looking for that one). One of my favourite alternative local metaphors – the same as a few sandwiches short of a picnic – is “kangaroos loose in the top paddocks”.

On the other hand, if you use a phrase familiar in England or Ireland like “starter for ten” or “I amn’t” or “it was great crack” you are also likely to get mystified looks as if one was speaking a foreign language (which of course one is).


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