Born in Johannesburg and having emigrated to Sydney as an adult, there were a bunch of expectations and beliefs that I was far, far away about.
Sure, Aussies love rugby – the Wallabies and all that – but what follows isn’t nearly as feverish as it is across the Indian Ocean. The other rugby – like in the league – is much more popular. And the AFL exceeds even that. In fact, while the union ranks among the top five sports for Australians, the national team is having a great year.
2. The pedestrian crossing
In a country that actually has zebras, we’re not that big on zebra crossings. They are more like monochromatic suggestions if you are feeling magnanimous. In NSW it costs you $457 and three demerit points to ignore.
3. The biltong trick
At the time, I was as snobbish as the next expat about this meaty delicacy, but as more and more of us call Australia home, the quality has increased exponentially. While you might be dreaming of that corner store at home with a secret recipe, brands like Barbell and biltong.com.au are as competitive as the Wallabies. Most years.
4. The Nik-Naks trick
I will go to my grave believing that Nik-Naks and Twisties are not the same thing. The similarity ends with both of them leaving you covered in orange powder. If your Aussie friends don’t believe you, take a taste test as both are available at Coles.
While Australians certainly have a wonderful turn of phrase that can be wonderfully obscene (one example in particular that would cause a fight in Durban is actually a term of endearment in Dandenong), it still relies on just one language.
South Africa, on the other hand, has 11 official languages (and many non-official ones), all layered and intertwined within a multilingual population. The point is: why say centipede when Zulu “shongololo” is way more fun and expressive. The fact is that indigenous languages are much more widely used in everyday conversation in South Africa.
6. The ad thing
Obvs, Saffers and Aussies both like a beer or three. After all, the former gave the world Castle Lager, not to mention a host of burgeoning craft breweries. Where we differ is in pub culture.
Cities like Melbourne and Sydney are much more like London where there is a pub in almost every corner of the CBD. Bars in South Africa are much fewer in number and much more extensive. Moving here I was amazed to see bustling pubs that opened at 8am to cater for high visibility shift workers.
7. The problem of traffic lights and stop signs
Due to its high levels of street crime, South African drivers have developed a series of effective safety habits, such as not stopping completely in case a quick escape is needed, driving through a red light if there is is sure to do so and allow itself enough space to maneuver around any vehicle that might try to block you.
Don’t try any of this on an Australian road. At best, you’ll get mild road rage directed at you. At worst, you’ll have to explain to the cops what’s going on in the Rainbow Nation. And don’t call them – the traffic lights, not the cops – robots.
8. The Swimsuit Thing
In Australia, a jersey is worn by NRL or football players and a guernsey by those in the AFL. The warm and versatile woolen garment you refer to is known as a sweater. It is also acceptable to refer to a certain breed of cattle as a Jersey, but good luck getting one.
9. The bug thing
So help me, I spent my early years in Oz checking my sneakers every morning for redbacks. While living in inner Sydney. In an apartment. Yes, SA might have the Big Five, but there’s no way you’ll find a cowering leopard lurking inside your Nike Air.
10. The Nickname Trick
While Afrikaans ‘boet/ie’ and ‘bru’ are equivalent to ‘mate’, Aussie will most often refuse to call you by your real name. If they like you. What your parents gave you just isn’t sacred because it will either be shortened, lengthened, or completely bent with the best of intentions.
Namely, my name is David Smiedt but I will answer “Davo”, “Smiedty” and – my favorite – “Smiedt and potatoes”. To only cite a few.
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