Friday, 9 November 2012

Australian + American = embrace the differences!

Back in another life I worked as a Test Coordinator on an Australian Government project.  As part of this project, we had quite a few US compatriots come over from Lockheed Martin.

All of a sudden our boring Government office was taken over by loud, vibrant, live-life-to-the-full co-workers.   They were a varied bunch, mainly men, and they were all very loud and very very sociable.  They arranged barbecues on the weekend, and went out together for lunch every day.  They cracked open cans of Coke at 7am.   They LOVED their food.   When they invited me along, I was in seventh heaven.  It was so exciting, they wanted to eat with little ole me!! 

One of them cooked a huge pot of chili in the lunchroom and stunk the office out for a week.    Did I try eating any of it?  You betcha - I didn't!

Another US work-mate brought bagels every friday morning from his local Jewish bakery.  They were delicious, not like the rubber ones we buy from the supermarket.   I wasn't a member of his team, so I would crawl between the cubicles ninja-style and snaffle one from the plate (with cream cheese!) 

My fondest memory, is seeing one of the food-lovers go to the vending machine in the lunch-room and buy a packet of chips.  He stood in front of the vending machine, tore open the packet and poured the lot down his gullet right there and then.   This man had the hugest pair of pants I've ever seen and his braces were still under a great deal of strain.   Ah, good times.

My boss was US ex-military.  He wore one of those huge military academy rings.   His shoulders were 4 feet wide, and he was very fit.   He could probably do push-ups using only his pinkies.

He was a very nice man, but he intimidated the hell out of me.   Every now and then, he'd come up to me and drawl :

"Karina.  What's happenin?   What's goin' on?"

I would shiver in the corner like a chihuahua confronted with a doberman and nervously reel off all the things I had achieved that day, only JUST managing not to wee myself or swallow my tongue.

On the day that my boss left, he told me that when he said those words to me, it was only his way of saying "hi."  No information was necessary.

Doh!   Aussie-US communication fail!

One of my other US co-workers said to me that Australians were lazy, that we shortened everything so we didn't have to say the whole word.    "You even shorten Australian to Strine," he said.

I thought about it, and practised the word, and he was right.  This man was magnificent.  He was a marvel!  Had anybody else noticed that!!!

Well, of course they had.   But I only found out about this a couple of months ago, when I was listing a book on eBay by Monica Dickens.

From the Wikipedia listing for Monica Dickens:

In late 1964 Dickens was visiting Australia to promote her works. It was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 30 November 1964 that during a book signing session in Sydney she had been approached by a woman who handed her a copy of her book and enquired, presumably in a broad Australian accent, "How much is it?". Dickens reportedly misheard this as an instruction as to the name which she should include in the inscription ("Emma Chisit") and thus was born the phenomenon of "Strine" which filled the newspaper's letter columns and subsequently was the subject of a separate weekly article and, later, a series of humorous books

Strine!!!   I love that story.

So as part of my blog, I thought I might gently educate you on some Aussie slang, just in case you visit our great southern land, or meet one of us in your own. 

Don't worry, there's no sharks/spiders/sting-rays/snakes lurking on my blog!

(FYI, I live between the convicts and the giant spiders).

I'll start you off with these ones to prevent any "awkward moments" at the beach.

If you're at the beach and somebody tells you they saw a "bondi cigar / brown-eyed mullet / blind mullet" - they're not offering you a cigarette or pointing out a rare fish - someone has done a turd in the water.  Beware!

If mention is made of "white pointers", they're not talking about sharks, they're talking about women bathing topless.  Either avert your eyes or perve, depending on your own preferences.

If is man is wearing small, tight bathers (eg. Speedos) - he is officially guilty of being a "budgie-smuggler".   Again, either avert your eyes, or perve, or even point and laugh, depending on your own preferences.

I'm so proud of how classy our language is, I'm getting all emotional right now.   Look, I've squeezed out a tear.  Let me just get my snot-rag *ahem* hankie, and wipe that away.

Now maybe some of my US or even Canadian friends can help clear up some things that bewilder me when reading books or looking at TV shows set in the US.

"Cream in your coffee."   I mean, it's not really "cream" is it?  That sweet stuff that you serve with hot apple pies?   Are they referring to milk?    If so, then what do you call milk?

"Biscuits".  I don't know how many books I've read, where someone serves up a hot meal with biscuits.   Here, biscuits are what you call cookies.   So what are biscuits, and why are they served with a hot meal?

Hopefully, here we can gain some further understanding and bring our cultures closer together, with a very heavy dose of humour.   (Instead of just so many WTF moments)


  1. Funny stuff! I live in Texas so not only speak US English, but Southern. It is a big difference from "ya'll". We do however put liquid "whipping cream" into our coffee!

    1. Hi Maria! Thanks for stopping by. Ooh, so it *is* cream of a sorts. Learn something new every day!

  2. (Southern US drawl)Hey,
    Yes,people really put cream in their coffee,but not the whipped cream you put on apple pies(unless it's that fancy Starbucks coffee).It's like putting milk in coffee.
    And biscuits here are...well they're like scones without the sugar.It's a quick bread usually served at breakfast,but in the South can be served with every meal like cornbread.

    1. Hey spymay! Wow, and here I was was thinking *cream* was another term for milk!! 8-) Mmmm, those biscuits sound nice. Now I'm hungry. Thanks for the info!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.