Kangaroos, koalas and amazing coastlines; you know what to expect from Australia right? Well maybe not quite when it comes to chatting with the residents. Sometimes even when you travel to other English-speaking places you need a few local language lessons. Whether you’re heading on a long-term backpacking trip or perhaps a shorter holiday to Australia here are a few key Australian words and phrases to keep in mind.
Australian Greetings and Essentials
You might have gotten off the plane to a sign that says “Welcome to Australia” but you’re with the natives now so you’ll need to match the lingo and get ready for your adventures in “Straya”.
How you going?
This had me stumped the first few times as I was never quite sure how I was meant to respond to this one as it seems a mix of “Where are you going?” and “How are you doing?”. Basically this is your standard greeting in Australia. You’ll probably encounter this one right from the get go as it’s a favourite of service and counter staff as well as friendly locals.
She’ll be right
Things will all work out okay. You might have lost your key or be awaiting something getting fixed but “She’ll be right” will be the phrase to tell you “don’t worry about it, it’ll all be fine”.
It could be those keys or you, if you’ve misread your map, but going walkabout is getting a bit lost. This phrase is actually steeped in Indigenous Australian history as it comes from the native aboriginal practice of a rite of passage where young men would split from their group and spend time out in the wilderness alone. Also, watch out for someone telling you to go walkabout so effectively “get lost, you’ve annoyed me”.
Australian Terms for Food and Drink
There’s plenty of culinary choices in every state and Australia is well known for is wine around the world but it’s good to start with the basics.
Every kiddie or grown ups favourite sugary treat. Lollies refer to all sweets and confectionery and you’ll find a lollie aisle in any supermarket.
A staple lunch of many, this isn’t some fancy Aussie delicacy; it’s a simple sandwich.
You might be offered one at a picnic or maybe sat round the fire. A tinny is an alcoholic beverage served in a can, typically a beer or a lager.
If the same drink is in a glass bottle then it’s now a stubby. You’ll also be wanting a stubby holder so your hand doesn’t freeze holding that cold one. Stubby holders are little sleeves to sit your beer in and are very common Aussie souvenirs.
If you’re looking for a cheaper option for your evening meal accompaniment, a glass of goon is just the thing. Typically referring to cheaper brand boxed wine but occasionally used in a party scenario to mean a cheap wine in bottles but certainly never in a restaurant or bar. Goon is definitely the drink of choice in any backpacker dorm!
So you’ve got your sangers and maybe a few stubbies for your lunch now you just need somewhere to keep it cool – enter the esky. An essential for any barbecue or beach picnic is your cool box filled with ice or cool packs.
It’s not the most upmarket restaurant and you certainly wouldn’t be sampling the local delicacies if you eat here but sometimes you’re just looking for something simple or maybe just a cheap ice cream. Where could it be? McDonald’s of course. Even if you don’t plan to eat here it’s good to remember that Aussie will pretty much always call it Maccas so if someone gives you directions that include turning left at the Maccas, you’ll know where to go.
Bottle-o or simply “O”
The bottle shop. In Australia alcohol cannot be purchased in supermarkets or local stores so you will need to head to your local “O” for a few beers or a bottle of wine
Camping in the Australian outback is an amazing experience no matter what state you find yourself in, but my own camping trip in Uluru -Kata Tjuta National Park was pretty spectacular. Only thing is there doesn’t tend to be much signal out here so the only telly you’ll likely be watching is your bush telly aka the campfire.
A campsite teapot hung on your campfire.
In other places is might mean your belongings or perhaps something you’ve won but if you are out in the wilds it will more likely refer to your sleeping bag. Look out for tours which offer swag camping experiences where you’ll sleep in giant heavy material bags in the open air rather than in a tent. They are an amazing way to spend the evening under the stars and actually pretty cosy once you’re all tucked up inside.
Jackaroo / Jillaroo
These are examples of true blue (highly traditional) Australian occupations which are still going strong and refer to young workers on sheep or cattle stations. You might spot these as popular tourist activities to take part in, in the Aussie outback. Australian cowboys, known as Jackaroos, and cowgirls, known as Jillaroos, learn to ride horses, muster cattle and maybe build the odd sheep fence or two while living and working on Australian farms. These are great ways to experience this way of life and I loved my own two weeks Jillaroo-ing in rural New South Wales
There are plenty of names for it around the world. W.C., the lavatory, the loo. Basically this is the Aussie equivalent. So if someone asks you “where’s the dunny?”, you’ll know to point them in the direction of the toilet but if you are outback camping you might need to dig your own!
Australian Terms for Clothes
Nope, this is not your delicates. Despite the alternative meaning of underwear in other English-speaking places, thongs are simply your flip flops and they are an essential part of your Aussie kit. It might get a bit of getting used to but this will probably be one of the more common Australian words you come across. Aussies love their thongs!
Your swimming costume. Although you may also here bathers or cozzie as well but all of them refer to all versions of swimwear from bikini to trunks to…budgie smugglers – that’s tiny little Speedo on a man if you didn’t know.
Gumboots or Gummies
It’s not always perfect sunshine in Australia so even the Aussie have wet weather gear. While in the UK we might reach for our wellington boots or wellies in the land down under you’ll need to keep your gumboots or gummies handy.
Referring to trousers or pants, for American speakers, dacks usually mean more casual wear and is most commonly used in the phrase “trackie dacks” meaning tracksuit bottoms. You might also hear someone mention “underdacks” with would be your underpants or knickers.
It’s all about the “o”s and “y”s
One thing you’re definitely going to notice during your travels in Australia is that the locals love to shorten things and shove either a “o” or a “y” sound on the end. This list would be never-ending if I included everything but here are a few so you get the hang of at.
Brekky – Breakfast
Arvo – The afternoon
Evo – The evening
Smoko – A smoke break or morning tea break
Servo – A petrol or gas station
Ambo – Ambulance
Firies – Fire fighters
Biccy – Biscuit (Cookie for our American readers)
Yobbo – Anyone causing a bit of trouble
Rego – Your car registation plate
Saltie or a Freshie – Referring to spotting a crocodile (either a saltwater or a freshwater)
The shortening can apply to almost anything, including people and places. Heading for a day of cycling on Stradbroke Island? I’ll think you’ll find that’s Straddie. Maybe a beach day in Newcastle? Newie is a great place to stop. Perhaps you’ve got an adventure planned for Tasmania – you can’t beat Australian snow in Tassie. Whether you have plans in Bello (Bellingen), Bundy (Bundaberg) or Brissy (Brisbane) it’s worth checking out both versions of the place name before you head there. And while you’re there you might even meet Steve-o, Dave-o and Johno – no one is safe from an Aussie nickname!
Have you heard any of these Aussie phrases? Any others you would add to the list?
This post was sponsored by Flight Centre UK.
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