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Life Happens The adventures of Nora Dunn & Kelly Bedford, Professional Hobos. Nora writes, Kelly makes music. Together, we are on a lifelong journey to...wherever.

Australian Differences

AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 24 June 2008 | Views [6305] | Comments [3]

As with Edmonton, Hawaii, and Thailand, we are always on the prowl for little differences and idiosyncrasies that add character to a place. And Australia is home to many such charming qualities.


I remember reading a book that described Australia as being “almost home” (the author was American). They speak the same language, but with a smaller inset of vocabulary that is unique to Australia.  I too agree that this is a country which at first blush seems oh so familiar, but upon closer inspection marches to a drum all its own.



Miscellaneous Abbreviated Words and Different Terms

laptop = lappie

washroom = toilet

cell phone = mobile (pronounced moh-by-l, not moh-bl)

gas/fuel = petrol

tires = tyres

trailer = caravan

expensive = dear

esky = cooler

rent = hire

crocodile = croc

sunglasses = sunnies

flip flop = thong

thong = g-string

g-string = ?




How are you going? = How are you.

(In response when asked, I can’t but help to want to say “I’m walking of course” or “to where?”)


Australian Differences

Turn it on…no, ON!

Not only should you be prepared for the switches to turn every outlet on and off, but it pays to remember that down is “on”, and up is “off” – the opposite of North America.


Half Flushed

Every toilet we’ve seen so far has both half flush and full flush options. Both seem to throw a lot of water down, but having a half flush option is brilliant. This is something I only saw once in Canada, in somebody’s home. Here in Oz there is a keen attention to water consumption and environmental awareness; a pleasant and refreshing characteristic.


Eco Bags, Please

In keeping with the environmental friendliness of Australia, some stores won’t even give you a plastic bag. You are absolutely required to bring your own bags. And green canvas “eco bags” are slung on people’s shoulders everywhere.


Counting Pennies – I Mean Nickels

Australia has done away with the penny! However, grocery store and petrol tallies regularly come out to an odd number. What to do? Why, round up or down, of course! So unless you pay with credit or debit cards (and get to pay the exact amount), you could be consistently cheated out of a few cents by virtue of circumstance. Or alternately, constantly making a few extra cents. Seems to work the other way around more often than not, though.


How Much?

Living (or traveling) in Australia is dear (see vocabulary guide above for translation).  Eating out at restaurants is prohibitively expensive for a mediocre a-little-bit-slower-than-fast-food meal, and the prices go up from there. Petrol (again, see the translation above) is well over $1.50/liter, with promises of the price going up exponentially in the next month. Oh yeah, and everything on the coast is way cheaper than in the outback (where we’re headed).

Technical gear (for camping, rock climbing, or even just running) is almost quadruple the cost of what it is in Canada. The only things we have found to be comparable to Canada are the cost of groceries. Hence – we eat in a lot. And limit the driving. And cry because we sold all our rock climbing gear back home thinking we could repurchase gear here in Oz without much ado.


What Street Are We On?

The street signs sometimes leave something to be desired. When you are getting used to driving in another country, and navigating a city’s streets, you want the street signs to be overt and obvious.

However at this intersection in Brisbane, we actually had a lively debate as to which street we were actually on. (These debates are not uncommon).


For the Love of God, Stay on the Left Side!

Words that have been uttered while navigating the roads here.


What Did You Just Say?!

Almost every Aussie we have met has quite a sarcastic streak to them. Don’t trust what you hear, and question everything. Who knew that crocodiles don’t in fact prey on small children in urban areas all over Oz? I mean, really.


You’re Kidding. What Time do You Close?

Weekdays, the streets roll up by about 6pm. Weekends: ghost town. Even in some of the larger towns and cities we have been to, you’d be hard-pressed to find much open Saturdays after about 2pm and Sundays at all. How on earth people with Monday to Friday 9-5 jobs go shopping is beyond me. Maybe 9-5ers here don’t actually work 7am-9pm like they do at home. Fancy that.


What is That Accent?

While at a club one night in Brisbane, we danced the night away. The music was loud, and most people were dancing and not talking. Could have been anywhere in the world, including home. It was when we caught bits of conversations and found ourselves doing a double take, wondering what accent that was. Oh. Yeah. Duh. Australian.

We love the accents here, and sometimes find ourselves getting used to it so much that we don’t really notice. So when we do notice the accent, it’s a pleasant reminder that we’re traveling through Australia; a cause for appreciating the opportunity to travel here.


Winter or Summer?

After a lifetime of understanding that June meant the beginning of summer and the longest days of the year, I am still having difficulty wrapping my head around June being wintertime in Australia. It gets dark well before 6pm, and every night (despite numerous rationalizations), a feeling of panic wells up in me when it gets dark. Oh my gosh – we need to get dinner going. And find a place to stay. It’s dark for god’s sake – it’s really late! And occasionally in the midst of my panic-induced fits, I’ll glance at my watch and realize that we’ve finished dinner and chores and are twiddling our thumbs by 7pm. We have many early bedtimes as a result.

Many more Australian differences will be noted and journaled before too long, I'm sure! Suffice it to say, we love the country, the people, and the charming differences that make Australia the country that it is.





Tags: ambassador van, australia, funny, unique, world nomads



Hey you've taught me something ... maybe I haven't been back home in Oz long enough to hear anyone call my computer a "lappie"! But I wouldn't be at all surprised. I'm off to have a bickie for brekkie in front of the telly now.

  Amanda Jun 24, 2008 4:37 PM


I beleive the sarcasm comes from being down to earth (having a history of living an out door 'natural' life) and unable to stomach (but must live with) the superficialtiy of so much plastic in the modern world. Or it could just be an off shoot from being a British Colony. Some of the British South Afrian's have it too. I thought Canadians were also prone?

  allwelcome Jun 27, 2008 9:45 AM


i like ur post...but i must say that i have never heard anyone call a laptop lappy. and a gstring is just a gstring. and we do have sunday trading (brisbane) but they shut around 5ish.:)

  kate Apr 28, 2009 11:24 PM



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