Visiting Australia is an exhilarating experience for many reasons. It’s such a foreign and exotic country to most Americans yet you don’t have to buy a foreign language dictionary to get by in the Wonder Down Under.
However, don’t be fooled into thinking that Aussies speak English. Well they do, of course, but they don’t speak it like other English-speaking people. With a few minor variations in idiom and tempo, the language is the same all over Australia. There are no real regional dialects as there are in the United States. Perhaps to the trained Australian ear there might be some very slight differences but to the visitor, the Aussies all sound the same.
I’m an Aussie, having been born in Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland on Australia’s east coast. Although I spent most of my formative years in the USA my Aussie family and I have remained very close and I can speak Strine with the best of them.
What is Strine, you ask? Well it’s Australian slang, and it’s fascinating and colorful, not to mention quite often difficult for the foreigner to interpret.
Australia is comprised of six states and two territories although there is a much lesser known territory known as Jervis Bay Territory. All of the states and territories are unique and beautiful in their own right. The states are, in no particular order, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the island state of Tasmania. The two territories are the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
On his first visit to the land down under, my husband was impressed with not only the unusual flora and fauna of this vast land, but especially with the courtesy and friendliness of the Aussies. In fact we were treated so well by everyone there that my Australian rellies (relatives to you Yanks) decided they should adopt a “Yank” accent so they too could receive the same treatment by their countrymen.
No matter what situation you may find yourself in while touring Australia, you will be met with the standard Aussie response of “no worries, mate” or “not a problem.” Of late, I’ve noticed that the “no worries” response is creeping into the American lexicon. I suppose due in some large part to the popularity of the late Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin.
If you say “thank you” to an Aussie, don’t expect them to say “you’re welcome” in return. It isn’t part of their vocabulary. What you will hear is a hearty “no worries” accompanied by a jolly smile.
Australia of course, does have its drawbacks, the same as any country. Prices for most items are much higher than what Americans pay for the same goods. One Americanism that has caught on in Australia, much to Australia’s detriment, is the sales tax and tipping. At one time tipping was rarely heard of so if you’ve got an old travel guide and they say tipping is not the custom, you should chuck it and be prepared to tip.
During our three week stay we visited five of the six state capitals. It would be exceedingly difficult to name one favorite place but if I was forced to choose just one, it would have to be the beautiful, rugged island state of Tasmania.
Tasmania is situated off the southern tip of Australia, an overnight ferry ride away (highly recommended) or a short flight by plane from Melbourne, Australia. Tasmania is about as far south as you can go and still be in civilization. The southern tip of Tasmania is bordered by the Antarctic Ocean, and this is also where the infamous penal colony of Port Arthur is located.
No matter where you travel in Oz though you will hear many of the following expressions and it would do you well to remember them. Aussies love to speak in rhyme too. In no time at all you’ll be calling your kids, the Billy Lids or you’ll be giving something a butcher’s hook (you will look into it). Catching on? It’s a lot of fun to speak Strine.
Some other noteworthy words to keep in mind: If you get into a blue with an Aussie, it means you’ll be getting into a fight. However, if people refer to you as a bluey, they’re not calling you a fighter, they’re referring to the color of your hair…red!! Yes in Australia a bluey is a redhead. Go figure.
If something is nice, it’s beaut or brilliant. If something is great, it’s bonza or bonzer. (bonzer being pronounced exactly like bonza by the average Aussie).
Brekky is breakfast.
Bob’s your uncle. You just understood something or there you have it.
Have a bo-peep (a sly look at someone or something)
If you’re invited to tucker, you’re being invited to join them in a meal.
Aussie men are blokes and a really good bloke would be your mate.
Drongo, a stupid person or idiot.
While in Australia try to avoid being referred to as a blow-in (buttinsky) or lug punisher or earbasher (nonstop talker), an earwigger (eavesdropper), a ratbag (a ne’er do well), a mug (a know nothing) or a galah (see all of the above). A galah is also a beautiful native bird but if you’re called one, it is not a complimentary term.
If someone tells you to Go to Buggery, you’re being told not so nicely to go away or keep your nose out of their business.
If you’re feeling sick, you’re crook. However, if someone goes crook on you, better look out. They might be looking for a blue.
Aussies also love to shorten their words, adding to the confusion experienced by the visitor. So if an Aussie tells you that he has all the mod cons he means that he has all the modern conveniences and that’s the fair dink (the truth, shortened from the Aussie expression fair dinkum). Also he will give it a Butcher’s (same as above, give it a butcher’s hook but of course shortened to butcher’s).
Most Aussies are fun-loving blokes and birds (girls) who are always ready to give you a fair go (fair deal).
It is important to keep in mind while traveling there, not to winge (complain) or act in any way like a larrikin (buffoon). Doing so would cause the Aussies to consider you a bloody nuisance.
There are far too many strine terms to include here and if you don’t understand something that an Aussie says, just ask and they’ll tell you. Of course they may explain it to you in strine but it would just be to poke a little fun at you. Australians love to have fun and are some of the most laid back people in the world.
Upon returning home you can dazzle your friends by having a good chinwag (a good chat), telling them all about this amazing land and its people and that’s dinki-di (good, true Australian).
We hope to return to my homeland again as soon as we can find someone to shout (pay) for the trip and that would be apples (okay).
Australia – It’s Great Mate!