Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

~ Abraham Lincoln ~

Happy But Confused? Welcome to My World!

October 14th, 2011 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 8 secs

Happy but clueless

Sometimes life is very confusing, isn’t it? Happy as we were to go Stateside for an especially happy Christmas holiday, there were times when the local lingo left me totally stumped. Like when I politely asked a Florida shoe store salesgirl whether they had any brightly colored thongs for me to wear. If they had, I wanted something slightly padded to try on and wear straight away…  You might not be into thongs but everyone wears them in Australia because it gets so hot. They’re the most casual thing you can wear… on your feet. Thongs in Australian are flip flops

In San Francisco though, I was curious to hear that hundreds of bums stayed out all night with nothing more to cover them but cardboard. At this end of the world “bum” means buttocks!

When the happy looking lass in Las Vegas came to our restaurant table to announce she would be our server I wondered what computers had to do with dinner.

But after a bit of encouragement I was happy to ask for a soda (aka soft drink) and even a popsicle (which Aussies call an icypole). So there was a happy outcome to it as I got there in the end. Still, I missed saying lollies for candy and biscuits for cookies. You get used to your own expressions, don’t you?

When people kept saying “happy holidays” to us we appreciated the thoughtfulness. But how did they know we were on holidays? Of course we didn’t realize holidays in the US is the term for festive and official days off. Holiday also means vacation in Australia. So the confusion came because our holiday happened to overlap with the Christmas holidays. Sheesh!

But confusion reigned supreme at the gas station. Gas as you can imagine means something entirely different to people outside of America. So going off to a “gas” station conjures up some pretty bizarre meanings! For the record Australians say petrol (actually petrol stations really do sell gas “gas” so I guess I’m just being silly).

That said, getting fuel from the bowser (um, pump) was baffling. I couldn’t figure how to get the fuel going until I discovered you pay beforehand which was a happy if inevitable discovery. When I told the station proprietor that in Australia we pay after filling up, he said dryly, “That’s coz you guys trust each other. We don’t trust each other in America.” That shocked me a bit. But then we were in Las Vegas so I guess the locals do see some pretty strange behavior.

Thinking about my confusion got me mulling over what it must be like for American visitors coming to Australia. Notwithstanding happy, welcoming “g’days” at night, it must be equally tricky knowing your biscuits from your scones, your barracking from your rooting, and your rednecks from your bogans.

Confusing? Yes. But I am happy to report we managed okay, and if you ever find yourself near the bottom of the world in Australia, I’m sure you will too.

Have you ever found yourself bewildered by local lingo?

  1. Noelle says:

    I still chuckle at the memory of a restaurant sign in Indonesia- “Pried Frawns” 🙂