G’day Mate

In The Art of Travel Fall 2017, 2. Communicating, Sydney by Nicolas2 Comments

Learning how to handle expectations can be an extremely difficult, and at times, disorienting task. Whether you’re experiencing a different cuisine, trying out a new product you just purchased, or judging the value of an alternative service you just received, regardless of the outcome, it’s easy to fall victim to feelings of dissatisfaction and regret.

Yet, often when you are least expecting it, the seemingly minute or overlooked details of an item or experience are the ones that resonate with you the most. As a native English speaker, the language aspect of coming to Australia was never something that significantly intrigued me.   In my mind, I was going to find the most satisfaction from Sydney’s impressive skyline, beautiful harbor and beaches, and eclectic wildlife.  I’ve learned already that although these may be the archetypal offerings available at a glance, from a cultural standpoint there is definitely more than meets the eye.

In many ways, it was foolish to assume that all Australians sounded more or less the same, given how large and diverse Australia truly is.  On my airplane ride to Sydney from Vancouver, I quickly became aware of a phenomena for which I had yet to learn the term.  For all 16 hours of flying, I sat scrunched up in the middle seat with Australians to my left and right.  Given the duration of the flight and the proximity of the people sitting next to me, there was ample time to converse.  The person to my left spoke like, what in my mind, an “ordinary” Australian person sounded like, but to my right, the person spoke in a manner where it was almost impossible for me to understand on the first go.  More often than not, I would have to ask the person to repeat herself or explain to me a term that she had used.   I soon found out that the individual to my right was from the Northern territory of Australia, which is essentially equivalent to the southern states of the U.S.  After a few days of class I also learned that Australian “strine” is the variations in words, phrases and intonations spoken across the country.  Interestingly enough, we were surprised to find out that dialects and different inflections in tone are not so much due to regional differences, but rather based on circumstances related to growing up in an urban, suburban or rural setting.  Being an “outsider” and having the unique ability to be surprised and interested by the various different word phrasings, intonations, and slang used is refreshing and definitely a part of living in Australia that I didn’t think would be of particular interest to me.

So far, conversing with local people has produced some of the most rewarding experiences for me during my first week and a half in Sydney.  Although the natural beauty of the country and wildlife that I’ve seen so far have lived up to what I imagined it to be, the language and cultural aspects of the country have added greatly to my general idea of Australia.  Luckily, Australians do live up to their stereotype of being amicable and readily available for conversation.  Even in a city as multicultural and fast paced as Sydney, it’s never difficult finding an “Aussie” who is willing to chat, provide recommendations for sightseeing or exploring, or just simply get to know you.   Traveling truly is about receiving a chance to confirm, reject or discover the features of a foreign country that can only be accessed through broadening the preexisting notions of how that country is special in the first place.


  1. Hi Nicolas! I thought your post was really interesting because most people would assume that there wouldn’t be much to discuss in terms of language barriers in Australia but there are so many different variations of English! Last semester I was able to travel to Ireland, and I honestly had no clue what some of the people were saying even though they spoke English. I feel like Australian slang would be really fun to learn. You’ll be able to come home with a whole book’s worth of new terms. I hope you are able to continue to talk with the local Aussies and exchange cultural knowledge.

  2. Hi Nicolas- I’m glad I read your post, because even though I’m in a Spanish-speaking country, I can definitely relate to your language transition. Different accents and dialects make all the difference here. The different “strines” you write about are interesting, because I was aware of different accents in the US and even in the UK, but I rarely think about Australias’. From what I’ve heard, it’s a combination of accent and just different lingo altogether. I just read Brooke’s comment and I was about to say the same thing! You should totally make a booklet for future travelers!
    Also, my sister studied in Sydney a year ago, and loved it so much that she is now working there full time, so I hope you have a similar good experience.

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