Our family is a mixed up blend. When we moved from China to Australia four years ago we were all going through different things. My husband was returning to his home country. My boys were learning how to be more Australian because they had never lived anywhere but China. Then there was me. I was immigrating. I am still immigrating. It is a long process.
I am learning to be something new while not losing what I already am. My children have embraced their new lifestyle. My husband is now enjoying being able to get back to all the things he loves about Australia. I am learning to love new things but that doesn’t mean that I am learning to love all new things. Unfortunately for my husband’s sake, cricket is one of those things I do not love.
4 years of transition have equaled laughter, sunshine and frustration and have seen me start this long process of becoming a member of the Lucky Country. I am American so the process is fraught with confusion and teasing from Australian friends. Don’t worry… I get my own back. How can you not good-naturedly rib people who belong to a country in which the main point of any political party seems to be to overthrow the leader so that the next person can become king of the hill? It seems like this country indulges in political blood sport every time the season changes. Yes, I good-naturedly rib them until I realize that while they have been born in this country I am voluntarily choosing to join it.
People might think that making a new home in another English-speaking country is easier than acclimating to life in a place like China. China presented its challenges but at least it was up-front about it. My roommate and I used to have what we called “bad China days”. It really meant we were in danger of behaving poorly or already had behaved poorly towards someone because of cultural stress and overload. I love Aussie land. I love the people, the weather, the lifestyle and the animals, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have “bad Australia days”. Australia’s cultural and language differences are hidden beneath a very thin veil of similarities. That veil of similarities makes it seem, from the outside, like it should be no sweat to adjust to life here.
Contrary to the illusion, the shallow similarities that these two cultures actually have, barely hides a deep chasm of differences between mind set and traditions. This chasm is where I find myself overwhelmed and likely to behave outrageously. I recently refused to hang up on a customer service representative until my problem was resolved to my satisfaction. There is an iceberg under that tip of that story but sufficed to say I behaved poorly and I wish I could take it back. I wish I could put off that call until I wasn’t having a day where I was struggling to adjust to a country which hates the tall poppy. A country where it feels as though sport is almost always more important that a really amazing classic novel. Where there is so much slang that I don’t understand so I have to spend time figuring it out and then using it. Most of all it is difficult to never quite fit in. I will never have a proper Australian accent. I will never enjoy sport or the great outdoors, (unless the great outdoors is the beach with flavored iced coffee). I would never choose to drink multiple cups of tea instead of coffee. A big stress is having to explain where I am from/not from, over and over and over again. I really should appreciate everyone’s interest and thoughtfulness but what happens is that some days it is really too much. My circuits overload in those moments and I have a, “bad Aussie day”. In my case this means a fire breathing dragon of epic Hobbit proportions bursts forth and everyone wonders where such a teeny tiny lady was hiding such a hideous beast.
Immigration is tricky and it is tricky business trying to make sure every Aussie I come in contact with knows how much I love this country while all the time trying to be diplomatic about the fact that sometimes the differences make me uncomfortable or stressed. The ironic part is that now that I live in Australia, the Chinese community feels like a welcome relief from some of the adjustment stress. They say that cultural adjustment is like a roller coaster that starts off with huge dips and scary peaks and then gradually slows down and the peaks and dips get smoother and smoother until you almost don’t even notice them anymore. At this point in the amusement ride the adjustment is almost over and hopefully the screams filled with terror have stopped. If that is the case then Australia is my roller coaster, a roller coaster that is starting to feel more and more comfortable, while Chinese culture would be the merry-go-round that is fun and different from normal life but not scary anymore. You might think that my experiences with adjusting to life in China had given me tools for eliminating cultural stress. You might see me drinking a flat white coffee and eating biscuits and think that I am an experienced world traveler and I breeze through moves to new cultures. Anyone who has known me longer than 2 minutes can now proceed to laugh at the picture that presents. I do have tools for culturally stressful times, but they don’t eliminate cultural stress. The tools I have tame the beast I become when cultural stress gets out of control. The times when I ignore the inner voice which is telling me I am not emotionally or mentally fit to face a certain task like a trip to a huge mall, (the shops), and countless sales people. When I ignore that silent pressure to give myself a break then I am sure to become a raging beast which indiscriminately stomps all over innocent people and their feelings. Just as it would be challenging to play Monopoly at the same time as you ride a roller coaster, dealing with tasks which are normally challenging while also coping with cultural stress is impossible and will have a different effect on everyone. Perhaps you have faced something similar. Maybe you don’t become a beast but something else happens. Want to share what nickname you have for the days you are struggling to cope? Let us know in the comments below.
For those going through something similar all over the globe I would say it will get better! Time is key.
The following are websites with information on tools to deal with cultural stress.
Now let’s turn our attention to the “ee” sound in Aussie. There is a need to make Australia seem less intimidating to outsiders because it is home to a slew of many frightening and lethal creatures. For example, there are more deadly snakes in Australia than any other country worldwide. The answer to this problem seems to be adding an ie,y or ee ending onto several essential words. This sounds absolutely adorable! It does feel downright odd though that a country that speaks English in such a cute way has men the size of Chris Hemsworth, as well as sharks, killer snakes, spiders and drop bears. With words like footie, sunnies, cossie, mossie, rellies and schoolies, it is like the whole language is designed to take a tourist’s naive mind off the deadly flora and fauna.
You can imagine an entire continent of people saying, “Look at the beach now look at my hand there is a bikkie. Look at the beach, now at my hand, there are some sunnies for you. Look at the beach. You could be here at the beach instead of in your country freezing vital parts of your body off. Oops! Sorry ignore the huge shark. Go for a swim, she’ll be right mate.”
It would make sense if this were the case, if the language was a vast conspiracy of cute designed by Australians to distract attention away from the dangerous insects, animals and plants native to Australia. This is really not the case though. Australians actually love to point out the variety of bugs this country has that can kill you! Give an Aussie an uninitiated tourist and they will frighten the pants off them in 5 seconds flat. They will spout numerous facts about the gruesome kinds of death or injury you can experience in this country. It makes me think they take children aside in school and say, “Alright this is how we scare the tourists, pay close attention!”
To put this all in perspective though, this is a country which boasts unusual animals of all kinds. While the crocodile, box jellyfish and redback spider are indeed scary, the country is also home to kangaroos, koalas, quokkas and wombats. Also home to, I kid you not, the Fairy Penguin. These are animals which go above and beyond just cute .They are adorable bundles of picturesque sweetness that will reduce any tourists to oooohs and ahhhs. Petting them is even better. I will never forget the feeling of a kangaroo eating out of my hand while snuggling into me. Australia is a wonderfully weird place where the absurdly dangerous meets the absurdly cute.
I think this is the only way we can really make sense of the language. It may be hard but try to imagine Chris Hemsworth saying, “chippie”, and there you have Australia in a nutshell. By the way chippie does not mean what you think it means. One of the more entertaining parts of my life in Australia is trying to figure out the meaning of new “ee” words.
So let’s dive right in, what are some words you need to know and understand here in the Great Southern Land.
Lippy- Lip gloss
Footie- Australian Rules Football, side note here; it is necessary to know the difference between rugby and footie. Some American commentators messed up the two recently and Aussies everyone got a good chuckle out of that.
Bikkie- Cookie or Biscuit. Not to be confused with bikie – a guy on a motorcycle.
Sickie- Sick day
Dodgy- Not to be trusted
Lackies- Elastic bands
This is just a taste of some of the terrific ways Aussies have altered words. You can imagine having an average conversation can be a little mind boggling. I was once told I should, “Rug up and have a bikkie.” I was pretty baffled until it was translated for me. I was being told to wrap up in a blanket and have a cookie. I had no objections. Add a cuppa, (cup of tea), to that and I will stay for life.
Aussies are incredibly proud when their unique words make it to other parts of the world. Seeing the look of pride on my Aussie friend’s faces when I say a word like, “rellie”, in the middle of a sentence is worth feeling slightly strange when I actually say it. It may also make sense that Aussies speak this way since they also refer to their country as “lucky”. Why wouldn’t they? They live near the beach in temperate weather with a variety of beautiful native plants and animals. In fact if anything is a conspiracy maybe it is the built up reputation Australia has for being a place where death follows you constantly. Perhaps that is the biggest trick Aussies pull, making everyone think Australia is a frightening place to live when actually it is an insanely nice place to settle down.
I think you will see what I mean if you are brave enough to find an Australian and ask them about Drop Bears.
Sitting in the dark, in a hotel room, in the middle of a town I had never been to before in China. The only sound was the echo of my slightly frustrated and emotional chuckle because seriously this day could not possibly be this bad. The temptation was to just burrow under the covers and pretend it wasn’t happening but that was not going to get the lights back on. I needed to put my big girl panties on and deal with it. Let me tell you how we got from a missed flight, newly booked flight and a hotel reservation to here.
I had a ticket and I managed to call a hotel and get a reservation but I now had to negotiate the taxi line. Those who have lived or are living in China can commence laughing at me now. Zhengzhou is a smaller town and they haven’t gotten around to regulating airport taxis as of yet so imagine a tiny,irate, exhausted fireball trying to convince a long line of drivers that she wasn’t taking a taxi unless they used the meter. Joke was on me because my driver said he would use the meter then took the long way around so 260rmb, (Chinese dollars), later I finally arrived at my hotel which was a grand total of 3 kilometers from the airport. I arrived at the hotel tired, hungry and riding a very thin line between patience and a World War III emotional breakdown. I would not be the ugly foreigner again. I would be sweetness and light. Ha!
Since the airport did not take Mastercard I thought it would be judicious to ask, before I checked in, if the hotel took Mastercard. “Oh yes, we do, of course!” Except we don’t apparently. The hotel is brand new and the bank hasn’t approved it, they will have the permission by the end of the month. I was told this right after I was all checked in and they wanted me to pay. “You can’t pay in cash?” they asked. No I couldn’t because as a rule I don’t keep that much cash on hand ever. Tomorrow would have to include a trip to the bank to get the money and pay them. Lovely.
I had not eaten all day either, so my next stop after the room had to be a restaurant, room service or a hotel restaurant. There was no room service or nearby restaurants but the front desk informed me there was a restaurant on the 3rd floor so I went there….except it wasn’t open…yet. It is a new hotel, in fact it is so new the elevator still has paint all over the mirrors, so yeah, ok you get the picture.
Thankfully for some reason they had a waitress looking after a restaurant that had tables, chairs, plates, polished flatware and napkins but no customers. No it is not the Twilight Zone, just a new hotel. They also had a chef. The two of them decided that they would give me food. I think if I didn’t have a husband, I might marry that chef because of his kindness to me. He made me egg and tomato noodle soup and an espresso. I might marry him even though I have a husband because wow, he knows how to treat a girl.
My day was looking up. It was 9 pm, almost the end of the day, but I am an optimist when caught at the right moment. I believed the day could still get better. I had a hotel room, I had a flight, I had eaten and developed a very proper crush on the hotel chef. (Don’t worry my husband will understand, he knows all about my relationship with caffeine.) Nothing could go wrong. All was right with the world. I blame the caffeine for this uncharacteristic rush of euphoria.
But… five minutes passed and the power in the whole hotel went out. My rush of euphoria promptly left and I could only laugh and I lived in hope my flight did actually make it out of Zhengzhou the next day. I was also thankful for my Chinese language at the moment. Most days I feel that you can make it in China without a lot of language. Today, however, if I could not speak the language I am afraid I would have been stuck forever. To be honest, I am not sure I am going to make it out of this city even with the language. I hope I see you all again, if not, I guess I have moved back to China.
And the rest of the story…
For those of you wondering what happened with the power and paying the hotel bill this is the happily ever after. After looking out the window and determining that it was a whole hotel problem, I started trying to contact the front desk. I had no luck but did find a maintenance man out in the hall a few minutes later who assured me he would have the power back on in 10 minutes, and he did. After a very good night’s sleep, I was taken to the bank the next day by a lovely member of the hotel staff. Not the chef. I arrived and the bank president promptly came out to show me the banks brand new ATM machine. He was quick to point out the English capabilities of the machine and I was very thankful, if a bit embarrassed. I paid my hotel bill and got to the airport where my flight took off and landed in Beijing. I made it through another 18 hours of flights and some layovers and home to Perth.
If you are looking for more great ironic pictures of signs in China, try this link Shanghaiexpat.com.
I am writing this blog sitting in a hotel in the middle of a dark hotel room in Zhengzhou, China. Zhengzhou is meant to be a stopover between many larger cities. Zhengzhou is a middle point between two places and not often a destination, even though it is a capital city. The fact that I am writing this from a hotel in this city says a lot about how my day has gone. First of all let me say that it is no surprise to anyone that I have a love affair with China. I adore this country. I fly, and to say I hate flying is an understatement, so that I can come to this country. Having said that, there are days when it throws me for a loop and today was one of those days.
I lost my patience today with several people. I will no doubt be referred to as tiny crazy lady, or dragon lady, in this city for a long time because I got a little peeved. I did not yell, but most people who speak Chinese as a second language will say there are some times when it would be better for everyone around them if they couldn’t speak the language. For me today was one of those times. I checked into my flight at Shenyang airport and the flight was supposed to go to Kunming. At check in I was informed that I would be changing flights in Zhengzhou and it was not just a stopover. I would actually have to get a new ticket and change planes. “OK” I said politely, “Would I have enough time?” The lady at the check in counter replied, “Oh certainly, more than enough.” I had my doubts so I later asked at the gate and found that this person thought I would definitely not have enough time if without someone to help me. “Tell the flight attendant,” she said, “she will arrange for someone to meet you and transfer you.” I then asked, “OK, well I have an international flight leaving from Beijing the next day, I am meant to fly to Kunming for a meeting then immediately after, fly to Beijing, so are there many daily flights from Zhengzhou to Beijing?” She replied, “Oh yes naturally!” Newton’s law went into effect here. A little voice said, “Switch airlines or flights now!” But I ignored the voice, I was already checked in and, I thought,I am not that person that screams about broken phalanges and gets off the plane. (Watch Friends the TV show.) So I took the flight, which arrive a half an hour late, and no one met me to help transfer me so, no, I didn’t make my flight to Kunming.
I finally found the domestic ticket desk at Zhengzhou airport, (see picture of airport above to the right), and some people who were reluctantly willing to help me. (At this point I had already gotten put out with the people at the transfer desk who couldn’t help and now was actually power walking mad so their reluctance was very understandable). There was not much they could do though. There were no more flights to Kunming today. The flights the next day were too late to arrive in time for my meeting. Surprise, surprise there were also no more flights to Beijing because there are not, as I had previously been told, many daily flights from Zhengzhou to Beijing. So I cancelled my meetings in Kunming with embarrassment and as much grace as I could manage and moved on to booking a ticket for Beijing tomorrow.
This sounds easy and it would have been but I am in a city where people are not supposed to stop or do things like buy brand new tickets so I could not pay with foreign currency or used my MasterCard to pay for the ticket. The banks were closed so I couldn’t exchange any of the three other types of foreign currency I had. So, I had to call my husband, have him purchase the ticket online and send me the confirmation while also looking up hotels. Then I had to confirm the flight with the airline which I had been told to do. Shoot to a picture of me still in the airport four hours later.
You may think my story is finally over, I have a plane ticket for Beijing and a reservation at a trusted hotel chain. “It wasn’t so bad after all”, you might be thinking. You would be wrong because as of this moment the electricity has gone off in the entire hotel and here I sit in the dark writing a blog because that is all there is left to do. You can read about how I ended up in a dark hotel room writing a blog in part 2, coming soon!
In March 2014, Ross Taylor, President of the Perth-based Indonesian Institute, suggested that Indonesia could provide nannies for Australians and relieve some of the issues surrounding childcare in Australia. A huge problem in this country which every mother has experienced and to which there does not seemed to be a well thought out solution in place. It is a dilemma, and it seems that leaders think if we just talk about the problem and then sort of ignore it well it might just go away. Probably more to the point, they will get elected looking like they care and then do nothing and no one will be all that surprised. The wonders of democracy around the world!
There was almost nothing said in the media about the fact the Indonesian Institute had suggested it. No one was leaping at it as a possible solution. Overseas Foreign Workers send back $5 billion a year to the Philippines and have been called heroes by one of the country’s former presidents. Has The Nanny Diaries scared us all off? Are we scared of Asian immigrants stealing day-care jobs? I find the non-reaction funny because if by some miracle Indonesia did start sending nannies over and, big if, we could afford it, then we would be running over people to invite an Indonesian nanny to come work for us.
Let me tell you why. We had a Helper in China. A Helper is a person who is employed by the family to well… help. She did, so much. She helped me by teaching me language for everyday things. She made delicious Chinese food for us. She laughed with me on my days when I didn’t seem to be able to figure out how to do even the simplest things in China. She cleaned our house. She became a loved auntie to our children. She spoiled them…rotten. We ate at her house and her daughter played with our children. She hugged me and cried with me when my grandmother died. She was and remains to this day, a friend.
Is it possible for some people who are employed in these types of positions to be exploited? No one would like to hear this, but yes and it happens more frequently than we would like to know. It is hard work and when the employer is from a different culture then there is the possibility that every day will mean culture shock or, in the worst scenarios, abuse for the employee. They can be asked to do too much. We can blame them for mistakes we made ourselves. I have done that. I would rant to my husband about a sweater that was lost and claim that she must have put it somewhere strange only to find a that I had lent it to a friend. If you can think of a mistake to make with someone working in your house, chances are I did it because I am flawed like that.
There were plenty of friends and family living in other countries who would make judgments about our lifestyle based on the fact we had a Helper. I was teased many times about my “high on the hog” lifestyle. To those who teased me I laugh and say, “Yes and I loved it!” I have a friend who nicknamed her Helper the “Dinner Fairy”. They both got a good kick out it. She was charmingly overboard in her gratefulness and amazement at the wonder of a dinner which magically appeared without the need for her to slave over it. I don’t blame anyone for being green with envy over that lifestyle and if the employee is happy and fairly treated then I don’t see any reason to apologize out of a silly sense of misplaced guilt.
We kept it as fair as we could by paying a decent wage, fairly allocating sick days and holidays, making friends with her, and providing training. Our helper learned to cook many western dishes to sell to others.
She always made them better on her first try than I made them after a lifetime of practice. She would make tortillas once a week for our youngest child. All he ever had to say was, “I am hungry” in Chinese and he had tortillas. Spoiled rotten! One of our friends tutored her Helper in English and she became a teacher’s assistant. This was not something our Helper desired but I think it is important to provide opportunities to learn new skills.
It doesn’t always work well and I wouldn’t want the job of figuring how to legislate this for the best of everyone involved, but the cultural enrichment and relationship is fabulous. It must be free and fair. I have no interest in a program which abuses people. I would love to make a new friend. Maybe I would make a fewer mistakes than I did before.
Our helper didn’t live in our home, which is a whole other ball of wax. So, would you hire an overseas nannie if you could?
*I have omitted our Helper’s name and have not included photos of her out of respect for her privacy.
You may catch me sometimes looking at you blankly, hesitating for several beats before I answer your question or finish the sentence I just trailed off in the middle of. You may have already started your next thought and moved on without me. Forgive me, but the truth is I am still trying to figure out whether to call it a wardrobe, a dresser or a gui zi柜子. My mind is stuck in a hamster wheel flashing up other options that might work as well. The problem is that one of those words has the best meaning but the person I am talking to probably wouldn’t understand it. So here I am, holding my breath and waiting for the word to come out, and here you are, trying to pretend that I am not odd or an airhead or at the least just a little ditzy. In some instances I will just use the wrong word for the language I am speaking at the time, and if you wait for it I may remember to translate for you when it finally clicks that you have no idea what I just said. This process makes me look even more ditzy because I should be able to remember what language I am speaking, right?
I am not really bilingual, and if you want to know the truth I am not even biEnglishgual. Yep, you caught me, that is not a word. If in doubt I like to make it up as I go along. Try to keep up because my mind is a bumpy ride. So is it a clothespin or a peg? Or a clothes peg? Is it a laundry powder or laundry detergent or washing powder? The English isn’t even really the problem. It is just incredibly entertaining for you because in those instances when my mouth doesn’t wait for my brain to catch up, you to hear me rattle off every word I can think of that might fit until you nod and say, “Yes that is it, I know what you mean.” My good friends do this because they know they have to eventually indicate which word is the right one for Australia or else I will just keep going. Sometimes I think they let me keep going as long as they do because it amuses them to watch me try. Some of the words I come up with are way off base. Did you know a brad in the US is a split pin in Aussie land? Those words have no relation what so ever.
Chinese, that other language that I semi speak but am completely illiterate in, is the real issue. It’s the issue because there are so many of my thoughts, that after 12 years of living there, I must express in Chinese. You think I am talkative, verbose and overwhelming? Imagine if you could hear the 30% of my thoughts that are kept quiet because the entire sentence can only be expressed in Chinese. Oh boy, would you love that joke or appreciate the irony if only you knew what the heck I was saying. Imagine how much more articulate I am when I don’t stop breathing in the middle of a thought because the last half of the thought was in Chinese and now I have to translate it or explain it. You might find me understandable. You might think I was humorous. Well maybe not because I never really mastered the art of a joke in Chinese. I want to tell you I have a gege 哥哥, not a brother, because then you would know without any further explanation that he is my older brother. I want to tell you that that problem I am having is well meibanfa 没办法 . This has so much more meaning than just no solution because it indicates there will never be a solution and all hope is lost. I feel this way when dealing with websites and html. Another word that comes to me when I think of html is ma-fan麻烦. It means trouble or stress or both rolled into one. Hard to translate but sheer joy to apply when you are at the end of your rope. And when you are leaving my house after I have complained about all of the above, I want to say man-zou 慢走 because it kind of means take your time leaving but it also means I care and because I care I say man-zou not just see ya. If you are born into a single language family, then all your thoughts and feeling take place in that language. Like me, you may not realize that there are a bunch of other thoughts, feelings and ways to describe things until you start to learn your second language. Once that other language and culture becomes part of you, it becomes very difficult not to express that other language and culture. It becomes, for me, like holding your breath and containing all those other descriptions and thoughts that are running through your head.
By the way if you are bilingual and would like to own one of the t-shirts in the picture above, you can find them and many more items for bilingual families at Bilingual Style.
Mate is one of the best words to learn if you are trying to be an Aussie. A word that I believe is most misunderstood by the world outside of Australia because it is not often used to mean an actual mate, and by that I mean friend or significant other. Mate is used in such a plethora of different ways that I can write a whole blog about this one word. It reminds me a great deal of how we used to use the word “Dude”. For reference please see Keanu Reeves in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. Duuuuuude!
The best definition I have seen so far was in the online Urban dictionary which says a mate is anyone you don’t know or can’t remember the name of. Perfect! Although there are other uses for the word this one really sums up its most common use. Although, I would have to add that when it is used this way there is often a heavy sarcastic tone added to it and in this context it comes closest to meaning idiot of the highest order. In the car when road rage strikes it’s, “What are you thinking MATE?” When another person knocks into you, “Well excuse me MATE!” Aussies are most likely to also add one of the five senses to this as well as in, “Look Mate…” or “Listen Mate..” when look or listen is added to mate you are in trouble. The look and listen mate is usually accompanied by the Chris Hemsworth vibe. This is when an Aussie bloke stands up tall, squares his shoulders and looks down at you with a scowl on his face. His voice will also deepen an octave or two, just in case you were not already aware you were in trouble. Sometimes there are no words needed after the “Look mate”, after all most lessor mortals are apologizing and running the other way. An Aussie male was chosen to play Thor for a good reason. I am not sure where Aussie men learn this. I don’t think they are taught. I think the skill is simply part of being an Aussie bloke. I believe it makes its first appearance somewhere right around the first time that their team loses a game. My best advice is not to be there when that happens.
It is, however, amusing to watch if you are not the target of the aforementioned look or listen mate. If it happens to be between two relatively good natured Aussie blokes then it can be quite educational. You may even get the rare instance of a, “Look mate!” being answered back by a, “Listen mate!” If you happen to catch this rare display of Aussie blokes in action, then watch and learn… from a safe distance.
“Maaaaate!” When mate is used in this context it comes closest to meaning awesome. Oddly enough you will hear this usage when a member of an Aussie bloke’s favourite team does something really spectacular. It can also be used to refer to cars, electronic devices and DIY done by an Aussie bloke. Barbecues are also an important part of the Aussie male psych so listen for it when a new barbecue is purchased as well.
“Ohhhh mate.” This is the direct opposite of the mate mentioned above. I have been hearing this one a lot this year as my husband’s footy team, The West Coast Eagles, is not doing very well. Whenever a particularly idiotic play is made then I can be sure and hear this. You may also hear it when a real mate or child gets hurt. The depth of sympathy that comes across in the, “Ohhhh mate”, in these instances is second to none and manages to convey real sympathy and concern.
Lastly, let’s talk about mateship. Aussies really value mateship and it means something quite deep. It is part of the Australian military vernacular and also has been used by the Salvation Army to invoke a deeper call to action towards those who may be struggling. When an Aussie man says, “Yeah he’s a good mate”, he usually means something a bit more than just a guy I watch a game with or a colleague I work with. This is a man who will be with them or who has been with them through real life stuff. It is usually someone they think they can count on or someone they would be willing to be there for. Australian understatement is a real part of this as an Aussie is very unlikely to say, “Yeah this here is the best man I have ever met. He’s been with me through thick and thin.” Instead you might hear a, “Oh yeah Mike? Yeah we’re mates.”
Someone should and could write a book about how Aussies use the word mate. It is fascinating and new uses seem to be invented everyday because this is not a nation of men who like to talk. If one word can be used to mean several different things and convey feeling then by all means that word will be used instead of actual sentences.
I will leave off with the following series of jokes about the differences between Americans, Australians, Brits and Canadians. I found them at conviction creations. I hope you enjoy it as much I did.
Canadians: Endure bitterly cold winters and are proud of it.
Brits: Endure oppressively wet and dreary winters and are proud of it.
Americans: Don’t have to do either, and couldn’t care less.
Aussies: Don’t understand what inclement weather means.
Aussies: Are extremely patriotic about their beer.
Americans: Are flag-waving, anthem-singing, and obsessively patriotic to the point of blindness.
Canadians: Can’t agree on the words to their anthem, in either language, when they can be bothered to sing them.
Brits: Do not sing at all but prefer a large brass band to perform the anthem
Americans: Will jabber on incessantly about football, baseball and basketball.
Brits: Will jabber on incessantly about cricket, soccer and rugby.
Canadians: Will jabber on incessantly about hockey, hockey, hockey, and how they beat the Americans twice, playing baseball.
Aussies: Will jabber on incessantly about how they beat the Poms in every sport they played them in.
Suite 18, Piccadilly Square West Building
7 Aberdeen Street, Perth, WA, Australia
Telephone +61 448 089 336
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