May 6, 2006


I know, I know. People keep asking me questions, and I don’t answer them. The latest batch seems to be the same as the one before it: what in the world are you DOING in Australia? Not, “”what sort of church are you planting,” or “who have you met,” but “what are you doing? What are you actually physically doing each day?”

To be honest, I’ve spent the last six weeks with Liz trying to set up our life here, from finding an apartment to meeting the church planting team and getting to know them, and buying a bike (and a lock to go with it) so I can go buy groceries without spending too much money on tram tickets or wasting lots of time walking to and from the store.

“But what do you DO each day?”

Problem: it’s never the same. We have yet to develop any kind of routine that makes any kind of sense. When we need to buy groceries, we do. When someone says “hey, let’s go grab dinner in the city” (usually Sally), we do; it’s a great way to learn about the culture. It’s a funny thing, moving into a new country. Their customs are entirely different, but they have enough of that ‘vaguely familiar’ quality to them that it seems like I should already know what I’m doing.

And so I thought maybe this post I’d teach you some of the Australian that I’ve learned.

Australian is a fun language, but confusing for Americans. The number of times Liz or I have SMSed Sally or Ruth or Colin and asked them how to do ___ are too high to count at this point (sms = text message from a mobile [cell] phone. Text messages are the cheapest way to communicate here; you don’t pay to receive a call or sms on your mobile phone the way you do in America).

For example: do not say “napkin” in a restaurant. Ask for a serviette. A napkin is very close to “nappie,” which is Australian for “diaper,” the little tuft of cloth you wrap around your child’s butt to keep the poo inside; you wouldn’t want to wipe your mouth with what they might give you.

Or another example, when someone says “ta,” they’re saying “thank you.” It took me a while to learn this, because I thought maybe they kept starting to say something and then forgetting what it was. Brilliant bloke that I am though (bloke: Australian slang for “guy,” a term that is consequently endearing and mocking), I caught on that it might be language, not gibberish. So I asked Ruth (who uses it constantly), who explained that they use both: “ta” and “thank you” are interchangeable.

This brings me to lesson #3ish: Aussies (Aussie: Australian for an Australian) generally shorten everything. Their slang is almost entirely made of five-letter (or less) words, meant to make everything very quick to say so they can move on and go DO something. Incidentally, after you thank them, they’ll usually respond with “s’all right,” which is Australian for “you’re welcome.” They’re pretty modest here.

One last one: “g’day mate, how ya goin’?” is classic Australian, but there’s more to it than “hi.” It’d be like an American saying “hey Chris, buddy ol’ pal, how are you?!” It’s a greeting of friends. I love it – every time I hear it now, I feel a warm fuzzy, because it means that I must be doing something right (and I’ll confirm that feeling each time they start ribbing me about something – if they mock you, it means they like you).

A word of caution: don’t go and try to use any of the Australian that I just taught you, especially with any actual Australians. While it’s a compliment for them to try and imitate an American accent (it’s a sort of mocking, see above), you sound ridiculous if you try. So just … don’t.

In other news, I miss bagels.

And I noticed one other question that I missed: I have yet to notice any ladybugs here, but I have noticed an excess of parakeets and small black beetles.

No comments: