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A Visitor's Guide to the Real Australia

Maybe not so much in the flash places, but certainly in ordinary shops and life in general, there are a few common expressions that are easily misinterpreted. Shop assistants might ask: "You right, mate?" If you assume they are enquiring after your welfare and say: "Yes," they'll probably smile and leave you to your own devices. Assuming you don't want to browse and need serving, you should come back with something like: "A bag of those lollies, thanks," while pointing to the desired candy. This avoids stretching the intelligence of the assistant and the "thanks" up front saves on a "please" beforehand. That's the way it is here - economising on everything from speech to actions. Most Aussies are laid-back, a point well worth remembering, particularly when you believe they have insulted you. Chances are, they were just passing the time of day with a friendly comment intended to put you at your ease. Another confusing habit they have is qualifying things using opposites or diminutives. So, Bluey might be the nickname of a person with red hair; Scotty could actually be Irish; a really rough sea can be referred to as a tad lumpy; and "down the road a bit" may mean anything from a short stroll to a five-hour drive.

I would suggest that this casual attitude stems from the time of colonisation. Today's "True Blues" are descendents of the early settlers. They ranged from the wealthy hoping for greater riches, to transported convicts. In between came sailors, soldiers of the Rum Corps, a few government officials and a growing host of ordinary folk who had been given an assisted passage and a grant of land. All had high hopes, even prisoners who dreamed of the day they completed their sentence and were handed their ticket of leave. Most failed to realise that Australia was like nothing they had ever experienced before. It was harsh, unforgiving and hot - most days were a fair cow! If their intention was to stay and make a go of it, they had to adapt just to survive. No longer was it a case of who you were or where you came from - that didn't matter in a country that ignored government directives and made its own rules. Co-operation was essential and would see landowners rubbing shoulders with commoners as they worked the soil together and helped each other in times of trouble. Class barriers diminished, mateship grew and a new breed began to emerge, one that found life was better lived at a slower pace; and when misfortune struck, as it seemed to quite frequently, the best thing to do was laugh it off and get stuck in to fix it.

So, when Aussies say: "She'll be right," they really do mean it; and if concerted attempts fail to make it so, they won't be deterred, truly believing that luck or something will come along to give a hand. Pondering such complex issues can make a bloke thirsty enough to suggest: "Reckon it's about time for a drop of the amber fluid." To which his mate will doubtless reply: "You're not wrong, Blue." Advice like that can turn even the worst of days into a pearler.

I might just have a tinnie myself while I come up with some other stuff. There's quite a bit more, so feel free to drop in later and find out what else the land downunder has in store for you. The light's always on and someone will be home to welcome you.

Colloquialisms used in the above text:

Amber fluid: beer, specifically light-coloured, lager-type.
Assisted passage: the British Government's contribution towards the cost of a voyage to Australia.
Blue: a mistake ("He's made a blue"); a fight or heated disagreement; a person's name, especially someone with red hair and blue eyes (also Bluey).
Crook: Sick, ill or under the weather. Ask for an explanation of the word and an Aussie might reply: "Not real well."
(Fair) cow: really horrible and hard to bear. "She's a fair cow of a day," can apply equally to one which is oppressively hot, or cold and raining in torrents.
Fair dinkum: genuine, without a shadow of doubt, honest, a perfect example of its kind. Probably originated in the goldfields where many Chinese were employed as waiters in bars and pubs. Dishonest proprietors would water-down liquor or give short measure and irate patrons who found out they were being cheated were likely to take it out on the waiter. To avoid repercussions, the waiter would assure his customer that the drinks he served were correct weight and unadulterated saying: “Fair dinkum.” In other words, this is a fair drink. The phrase came to be used to describe any thing or person worth trusting implicitly; plus dinkum on its own, and dinky-di.
Flash: flamboyant, swanky, upper-class, loud (as in appearance); also a person who is over-confident and self-important, ("He's a bit too flash for my liking.")

See next page for more colloquialisms...

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