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“Vegetarian” is not a word often heard in South-East Asia and you certainly should not think that the lady at the street food stall will be able to understand any English. It can be funny doing an half-hour improvisation mime to try and explain that you want rice with eggs and veggies, but without meat, but doing this three times a day, every day can get a bit boring. If you are now thinking that you do not have any dietary requirements and therefore will not end up in this situation, be warned that there can be other situations where you wished you could communicate a bit more clearly.
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“The best hostel in the Universe – 5 stars” “Not what it seems on the website – 1 star” “Best vibes in Bangkok – 5 stars” “Not meant for everyone – 1 star””Stay here! – 5 stars” “Worst place I’ve ever stayed – 1 star” “Loved it – 5 stars” “Do not stay here – 1 star”….
In case you did not realise what I was doing here, I was citing titles and ratings of other people’s reviews, found on Tripadvisor. As any other hostel, “the Overstay” has some intermediate reviews, however, the vast majority either loves it or hates it and it is rather easy to see why.
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Any place is easier to travel when you speak the language. Of course, Australia is no exception, so, as is only appropiate on Australia day, here are some helpful tips that I learnt the hard way when I was in ‘Straya: trial and error.
Righto, let’s start off with an easy lesson. If a word has more than two syllables, it is too long. Why would you go through all the trouble of moving your mouth around so much to pronounce just one word? It is starting to look like exercise that way and why would you exercise if you are nowhere in sight of a gym or or a set of barbells. Yeah, nah, two syllables is more than enough. It goes well enough that a mosquite shortens to mozzie, underwear becomes undies and a kangaroo will be referred to as a roo and kids go to kindie, not kindergarten, but what will happen if words stop containing a clear part of the word they originated from, or if the new, short variety already had a meaning of its own?
The last is the case for the word barbie, though I am wilfully leaving out the capital letter. This, because I am not speaking of the blonde Mattel doll, frequently dressed in pink and purple that played an important role in my childhood. It is obviously what any non-Aussie Western girl would think of at the sound of the word barbie. This time around though, I was only referring to a barbeque. Not such a strange move as it is obviously the most logical way to shorten the three-syllable word that I am not even sure if I spelled correctly to a much easier version, but can you understand the confusion? When an Aussie asks if you can put another shrimp on the barbie, this is obviously not what they want:
Another thing you might be asked to do is to grab another beer from the esky. Esky may sound a bit like eskimo, and that is not completely unrelated, but it does not mean you should rob a poor inuit of his beer. Australia is a pretty hot place and eskimo’s live in a rather cold place, that is what the inventor of the portable cooler brand “Esky” must have thought. However his coolers, or at least his brand name became so popular that everyone in Australia started using the word for a portable cooler of any brand. You won’t make friends by pointing out that your portable cooler is not an Esky, but a Willow in fact, just stay put with esky, it’s cool like that.
Now I have been struggling quite a bit when a friend told me we would meet tomorrow, in the arvo. I happened to be living in Newcastle (Aus) at the time and had not been there for very long yet. I did what most people would do and searched google maps for a pub called Arvo in Newy, only it wasn’t there. It wasn’t until I gave up and asked for clarification that I found out arvo actually means afternoon. So much for that, there is not even a v in afternoon, how was I supposed to know?
When your friends refer to you as a mad cunt, you have probably done something stupid to earn their eternal respect. It is a praised status, not an insult.
A sickie is a sick day off work, however Australians taking a sickie are said to be taking a day of when not actually sick more often than not.
A shocker for Brits is the excessive use of the word thongs in Australia. As mentioned before, Australia is a rather warm country, so it can nice to walk around in your thongs. If you think I was being inappropriate, I do not mean the skimpy, sexy pieces of underwear that many know as thongs. In Australia you will be talking about your flip-flops, and that’s not even a three syllable word.
Bloody is not meant for serious accidents, but just a more-used version of very: It’s a bloody hot day today!
Beautiful meaning delicious. I’ve heard many Aussies talking about their plate of food, which half of the time did not look any more special than the average meal, but it sure must have been tasting good.
Lollies seem to have a different name in any variety of English. Although it seems a logical shortage for the word lollipop, lollies can mean any type of the sweet delicacies. A gummy bear, a toffee, as well as an actual lollipop. As if using “sweets” in the UK and “candy” in the US wasn’t hard enough already.
Sweet as is awesome. You can put “as” at the end of almost any adjective for an Australian emphasis effect. Don’t overdo it if you want it to come across as genuine though.
Now some words that I mainly encountered in outback Australia (which is, by the way, absolutely worth going to!) are found below.
A ute is a pick-up truck or utility vehicle. I picked this word up in my everyday speech and am still refering to pick-up trucks using ute. However I always have to explain myself.
Fair dinkum means real and is a typical Australian phrase that I always thought was more cultural heritage than everyday speech, but I turned out to be wrong. When you leave the safe coastal areas people are using this hourly, usually after hearing an unbelievable story, going “Fair dinkum?!”, meaning, “really?!” in an unbelievable tone.
A bogan is a redneck or uncultured person.
And my personal favorite is “gone walkabout”. It is mostly used when something has gone missing, however it originates from when indigenous Australians would go hunting in the forest and would sometimes stay away for months. Going walkabout is not often practised anymore, as the indigenous Australians are also civilising. However I met multiple employers who would not hire indigenous Australians anymore, after they had had a few who had “gone walkabout” without so much as a word after their first paycheck. Still not a culture for settling.
Oh, and if you thought only Justin Bieber had swag, this is what an Australian swag looks like. A sort of sleeping bag with a canvas outside to keep the rain out. Who needs a tent?
Still keen for more?
A hoon = an agressive driver
Whinging = whining
A sook = A person who whines about small things
Bottle-O = liquor store (since you can only buy your alcohol in liquor stores, this is an often heard one)
A root = a fuck
That’s a ripper = That’s really great
She’ll be right = everything will be alright
Stubby holder = a koozie (insulated beer holder)
Keen = eager
Have a G’day mate!