Upside Down Expat

Land of Oz Lingo

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Eh, what did you just say?! Communicating overseas can be challenging. And, while English, the wacky words down under can cause a lot of confusion! This is for anyone who would like to get a better understanding of the lingo in the Land of Oz.

Lay in the Australian dentist chair; numb gums, white knuckles and dribble down my chin, I sat up and apologised, as we British do.

 ‘I’m sorry for being a wet lettuce’

The dentist and nurse fell about laughing. I would have laughed too if my face wasn’t so fat from the filling. Because, believe it or not, ‘wet lettuce’ is not part of the lingo in the Land of Oz.

For those not familiar, wet lettuce is a northern English term describing someone who’s not very brave. Which, when it comes to the dentist, I definitely am not.

It is communication that is perhaps one of the biggest challenges of moving overseas. Particularly if you have to learn a new language. But, in the English speaking South Pacific, you’d be forgiven for thinking things would be smooth sailing. Yet, while for the most part things are, quirky British idioms and the wacky words used by the Aussies commonly create linguistic-language barriers.

Australian vernacular is a smorgasboard of shortened words and o’ing (arvo, righto, servo), rhyming slang and bewildering sayings, that have proved a never-ending source of conversation starters, awkwardness, and entertainment.

Their questionable figure of speech can, at least the first time, render you speechless. For instance, a small talk convo (conversation) could potentially go like this:

Friendly Aussie; ‘How you going’?

Grumpy Aussie; ‘I’ve got the shits’

Friendly Aussie; ‘No dramas’

You see, the grumpy Aussie is just in a bad mood.

The cuisine can also cause a little confusion. My once beloved crisps are chips, and crappy ones at that, no Quavers or Discos here, standard chips; hot chips, sweets; lollies, courgette; zucchini and the aubergine an eggplant. Crucially, unless you want the sneeze-inducing variety of pepper on your sanger (sandwich), you’d better get your tongue around capsicum (bell pepper).

It also took me a while to realise the Aussies can, at times, find my accent hard to understand. But when lunch is lanch, no; na, mum; mom, bus; bass, down; darn and duck; dack too, I strongly suspect this is down to our difference in opinion on what constitutes an a, o, and u.

There is also some diversity in the footwear department. At home, wellies headline the shoe show, to their gumboot counterparts down under which are more of a once-a-year wonder. Unless you live in Melbourne! And while UK flip-flops rarely see the light of day, Aussie thongs are worn practically all year long; on the feet of the men tucked up tight in their budgie smugglers.

But, while some things induce a belly laugh and others prompt a groan, my favourite word of all has to be the word used for bedding. Because they call it Manchester. Meaning every night I am, in theory, snuggled up at home.

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