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The Journey, Travel

Aussie As! (9.68%)

Over the course of a lifetime, we build a collection and label it “Important.” Important People. Important Ideas. Important Items. Important Places.

I never would have guessed that Australia – and, more specifically, a quaint little oceanside town of 8,000 Victorians – would become an Important Place.

I first visited Portland (not to be confused with Portland, Oregon… I’m talking about The Other Portland) in 2012 on a 6-week stint around the country with my now ex-partner. Little did I know that, four years later, I’d be living full-time in that same small town with one of Portland’s own.

I haven’t had the chance to see everything Australia has to offer – I dare say I never will – but what I have seen is proof of the country’s biodiversity and cultural diversity. You won’t find culture in the form of temples and ruins (though there is a really big rock), but you’ll find it in footy, in Sunday sessions, and in the kind of kinship that life on an island begets. The longer I’m here, the more I realize the impossibility of painting this country with the same, single brush.

For four and a half years, Australia has captured different parts of my heart for different reasons. But for four and a half years, every time I’ve been in conversation with Aussies (and when you’re dating one, it’s pretty often), I struggle to understand what the heck they’re saying.

Thanks to a suggestion from my friend, travel buddy, and former Aussie ex-pat Maia, here are six (weird) words I’m slowly adopting into my every day vocabulary:

1. Straya. 

If there’s one cultural nuance about Australia you need to understand and get on board with, it’s that there is a country-wide refusal to pronounce words in full. Chocolate becomes choc, football becomes footy, and afternoon becomes arvo. It makes sense, then, that Australia be condensed to Straya. You’ll impress the locals if you casually toss out “Straya” in conversation.

2. Heaps. 

I was part of a pretty animated debate with a few friends the other week about whether the word “heaps” was bogan (the Australian equivalent of a redneck). The word stands in place of “many,” “lots,” and “very.” For example: I miss you heaps, Canada!

3. Googs. 

Don’t ask me why, but a “goog” is an egg. And googs come from chooks (chickens). …yep. Moving on.

4. Onya, mate! 

This might be my favourite bit of Aussie slang, right up there with “You’ll be [al]right!” Why say “Good for you!” when you can abbreviate it to “Onya” and tack the word “mate” at the end? Linguistic brilliance.

5. Ute. 

Before I moved, I was under strict instruction not to let my Canadian pronunciation of the word “car” be debased to “ca.” I’ve since generalized that principle to the entire automotive industry, so a “ute” will, for me, forever remain a “truck.”

6. How ya goin’ (Heygan)?

In North America, we typically greet each other with a formal “Hello, how are you?” or an informal “What’s up?” In Australia, their greeting of choice involves taking the words “How ya goin'” and reducing them to a singular sound: “Heygan.” I have yet to successfully say this with confidence/without giggling.

With each passing day I spend in this Important Place, new slang weaves its way into my vernacular. Future “Aussie As” instalments might be on the horizon.

Sharing is caring: where are YOUR Important Places?


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