5 Uniquely Australian Traits You Might Struggle to Understand
Working in America has its perks — but being away from home is always hard. Despite the opportunities here, I wanted to take a moment to ponder on a few things which I think all ex-pats miss from Aussie shores and those who interact with us struggle to understand…
1. The Aussie Banter
Australia is one of the few places in the world where insulting someone in the first 30 seconds of conversation can be seen as a form of deep affection. Recently at a mixer here in San Francisco — an Aussie guy came up to me and started the conversation by saying,
“Mate, are you a lesbian?”
I don’t know what or why inspired him to say this — but it turned out that he was actually quite a sociable fellow and with every insult I knew our bond was growing.
I find that back home the more we insult our friends, or as we like to call them close mates - the more we feel a sense of connection — an usual paradox which extends to potential altercations, where we tend to complement someone as a precursor to starting a conflict,
“Are you alright, mate?”
2. The Aussie Slang
A long time ago, after I was on the Ellen Show in 2013 — I made a video with Fitzy and Wippa from Sydney Radio station Nova 96.9 which tried to help Americans understand Aussie slang — check it out below
The Aussie twang — just like other variations of the English language from around the world has it’s own particular style. Here are a few samples which I particularly enjoy —
To Cop (something) — Means to be dealt an unfortunate circumstance or situation and be forced to endure it. Also can simply mean to receive something i.e. I copped an earful from my boss when I submitted the proposal in late (My boss got angry with me as a result of submitting the proposal late)
To Get Flogged — To be completely beaten. To dish someone a good flogging could also mean to physically beat them as well i.e. We got completely flogged by the San Francisco Department on the customer satisfaction survey
Oath- To completely agree with a statement some has made, similar to the American ‘word.’ i.e. Person 1 — American immigration is the tightest thing since the Six Foot Track. Person 2 — Oath. (N.B. The Six Foot Track refers to a notoriously thin hiking trail outside Sydney)
3. The Aussie Idioms
Extending from the slang section above, Australian’s, like our British forebears find a lot of merit in using metaphors and referential speech to make a point. Here are some of my favourites —
“Cut down the tall poppies” — Gave rise to the popular saying, tall poppy syndrome, means that we criticise those who tend to overachieve and stand out from the crowd and attempt to reduce them to a common level
“Fair suck/shake of the sauce bottle” — Said as a response to demands from another person which may seem unreasonable or unfair.
“Grinning like a shot fox”- Used to describe someone who is smiling or smugly grinning despite it being evident that they clearly have little to no knowledge about what is going on.
A powerful commander of Australian idioms is rugby union and sevens star, Nick Cummins — have a look at the best of his Australiana in the video below.
4. The Aussie Trust
Unlike some countries where trust has to be earned over time — a true Australian gives everybody the ‘benefit of the doubt.’ True Aussies tend to trust everyone implicitly from the get go and only retract this trust if someone does something that is uncouth. This is probably evidenced by the way Australian’s are perceived to treat everyone like a close friend quite quickly — taking less time to warm up to people than many other cultures
5. The Aussie Yarn
If you meet a conservative Australian — highly likely there is something wrong with them. “True-blue” Australians are likely to have a talk (or yarn) about anything and everything to you. Notoriously chatty — it is not uncommon for Australian’s to talk to people everywhere and in places where people normally ignore each other such as planes, buses, supermarkets and trains. It is also common for these chats to go much longer than expected or much longer than they should — something we like to call “chewing someone’s ear off.”