Six Australian Terms I Learned Living Abroad

G’day! Welcome to A Kaleidoscope Heart, my new life/style/travel blog. I’ll spare us any longwinded introductions and simply say – I’m glad you’re here! Whether you’re interested in Australia, personal style, music or meditation – I’ll be touching base on it all! After all, life is a bit of a kaleidoscope of different experiences and excitement, isn’t sit? Here’s the most basic jist you may need to know about me: I’m 23 and I definitely did not take the typical “post-grad” route of finding a job and settling into real life, but rather took on being a nanny in Brisbane, Australia and living with an Australian family. There’s a chance it’ll lead me to just the type of unconventional, traveling life I could be best suited for! Or when I get back to Portland, Oregon (where I’m from), I’ll settle down with my cat, a coffee and my rainbow umbrella. I guess you’ll have to stay tuned to see. 

I nanny for two little girls, one is four and one is nearly two. When I first moved in, Violet became quite obsessed with all of the different words American’s use compared to Australians. I honestly don’t hear the heavily-stereotyped “G’Day” or even “Mate” that often here, but there are definitely some words and slang that confused me at first, but now I use almost as much as a local. 

1. “Heaps” 

Heaps, of course, is still a unit of large-ish approximations in America… but people really do use it HEAPS here. I admit, it’s probably one that will stick with me even when I return to the states. It’s just so much more fun to say than “lots!” 

2.  “Dag”

This is slang for someone who isn’t very put together. “Such a dag!” or “kind of daggy” are usually how it’s used in context, and its not quite as critical as it sounds. I don’t know that American’s have a term that matches exactly. It’s loosely like “white trash” but more-so just generally sloppy… Aka Violet, on most days, because she dresses herself. 

3. “How are you going?”

I don’t have an explanation for it, but Australian’s somehow have confused “doing” and “going”. When I first arrived, this always threw me off – were friends asking if I was doing okay, or if I was going somewhere? Eventually I picked it up, but I still can’t say I understand it.

4. “Feeling dusty?” 

A way of asking if someone is hungover. A bit more subtle than just throwing the word out there!

5. “That’s okay.” 

While not strange by itself, but this is how Aussie’s politely respond to “Thank you!” I honestly thought it was just my host mum until I started getting out and about more. It sounds a bit odd and dismissive sometimes until you realize it’s simply the norm! 

6. “See you this ‘arvie/arvo” 

So, the rest of the internet has this term written “arvo” but whenever I hear anyone says it, it sounds much more like “see you this s’avie” meaning this afternoon. Aussie’s are famous for shortening their words and I can assure, it is absolutely a true stereotype. 

There are SO many other words to get used to, including a whole different set if you’re an au pair (nappies and prams and dummy’s, oh my!), but those are definitely the ones I find most amusing or common. Not to mention pronunciations – almost all herbs, vegetables, fruits, cities, but food especially we seem to say differently! Being a coffee lover, one pronunciation that drives me absolutely crazy is mocha. Australian’s pronounce the -ch as a K, so whenever I order one the barista replies back, a mocka? Even when I try to say it their way, it still comes out wrong. I was sure I’d have an accent by now, but no such luck! 

Have you ever travelled to another English speaking country and felt dumbfounded by their slang? Are there any fun terms that stuck with you even after you left? Let me know in the comments!

xo, Laura Kate