Coping in your new ‘home country’: Aussie customs and lingo

03rd September 2019


by Vanessa Mekisic, Centacare social worker

“How ya going, wanna come round for a barbie tomorrow arvo?”

“Bring a plate hey, and your own piss and we’ll chuck a snag on the barbie”

How would a non-Australian person interpret this? Maybe, they they wonder, “so, they want me to visit them with a Barbie doll and bring an empty plate with my own urine and chuck what at the Barbie? I am so not talking to that weirdo!”.

What would a non-Australian person think when he or she hears: “ Did ya hear bout Daz, down at the pub, he was having a whinge bout the cost of booze then he spat the dummy and they kicked him out!”.

So anyway…you travelled all the way to this wonderful country full of excitement, plans and expectations. You probably didn’t expect to be feeling confused, maybe disgusted or even shocked with the amount of swearing, shortened words, and misuse of alcohol.

Or, what appears to be a lack of values when it comes to family relationships, no trains, sometimes the rain never stops and then there’s the mud and not to mention how “prehistoric” we are with recycling and utilising the energy that occurs naturally.

But its not all that bad really, there are some great things about this country and some of these are probably reasons why you wanted to travel and study here.

When you start to feel confused and feeling like you might want to go home sooner rather than later, it’s important to remember what made you come to Australia in the first place. Some of the reasons that you decided to study abroad in this country may be the diversity that occurs naturally in this environment, the rain forest, the reef, the isolation, the animals and the weather.

It’s quite possible that you will go from being super excited when you leave home and after you arrive, to feel like you don’t belong there is no one here you can relate.  That’s quite normal. But following on from this, you might start to adapt, accept the changes, develop a routine and do what most other Australians are doing, then eventually hopefully you start to feel like this is your home away from home.

Studying abroad will help you to develop a better understanding of your own culture, you will likely be more accepting of others and gain and a better understanding of why people from different cultures do what they do. You will also be more resilient and be able to face challenges with an open mind and determination. You will feel more confident and want to meet people and ask about their experiences and the Australian culture.

Most Australians are more than happy to clarify words like daggy, dodgy, thongs, Barbie, arvo, budgie smugglers.

Here are some common Aussie customs that might cause some confusion:

BYO = Bring your own alcohol, at gatherings at someone’s else’s home, the park or even some restaurants will request that you bring your own alcohol. Often it is not acceptable to drink other people’s alcohol. At some events like weddings or social work functions celebrating Christmas, alcohol will be supplied free of charge and sometimes people will take advantage of this generous offer of alcohol and drink to excess.

BRING A PLATE = if you are invited to a gathering you might be expected to – not just a plate – but a dish to share with everyone else. Often the host will not ask you to do this, and it can be an unspoken Aussie rule.  It is always worth checking with the host if you are expected to bring something to a party.

GREETING = it is not common for Australians to kiss one another on the cheek when saying hello to a friend or family member. Some families and friends may choose to hug when they greet someone or say goodbye and some people may only do this if they have not seen someone for a long time. Hand shaking is common in business transactions and more common for men at gatherings than for women. From my experience Australians do not tend to introduce themselves to others but wait to be introduced by the person that is accompanying them to an event.

Once you have become an expert at figuring out all of the Aussie customs, then you can work on trying to work out what hipsters, bogans, hippies, new hippies, westies, Mexicans, frogs, deros, tradies, surfies, bludgers are.

Do you want to volunteer?

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