Act Like a Local…in Australia

By Lauren Alexander
Published September 6, 2011


 Whenever you find yourself on foreign lands, you will most likely notice different customs, habits and cultures. The key to international travel is to embrace these differences and “act like a local”. Making an effort to fit in is the safer way to travel and the best way to make the most of your trip.

If you find yourself studying abroad in Australia, as Lauren Alexander did, you may notice some of these differences. Don’t be alarmed, embrace it!

Know the Lingo:

  1. No one actually says “goodday”.
  2. Avoid saying “how are you” or “what’s up,” say “how ya going?”
  3. Make sure you’re not caught calling women “mates,” you can call them “shielas”.
  4. There is no such thing as a “garbage can,” it’s a “rubbish bin” or simply “bin”.
  5. And feel free to use the word “rubbish” in daily conversations.
  6. If it’s raining, it’s actually “pissing”.
  7. Just a heads up: “thongs” are flip-flips, not underwear!
  8. Brekkie = breakfast
  9. Skull = chug a drink
  10. Oh, and don’t use the word bathroom, washroom, potty, etc. Only call it the “toilet”. Also, keep in mind, toilet paper is known as “toilet rolls”.
  11. jam = jelly
  12. jelly = Jell-o
  13. jumper = sweatshirt
  14. boz = to borrow
  15. doona day = day off of work

Dress the part:

  1. As far as Melbourne fashion goes, when in doubt dress like a “hipster.” Wear lots of layers and feel free to bust out those old combat boots. For guys, the tighter the pants the better. For girls, the more mismatched the outfit, the better.
  2. Try not to go out in running sneakers or shirts plastered with American logos, you will look very out of place.

Last words of advice:

  1. Most cafés don’t offer decaf unless listed on the menu, and they don’t drink regular coffee here, it’s only specialty drinks like lattes and cappuccinos. If you want skim milk, just order your drink “skinny,” and they always offer brown sugar.
  2. Wondering what the best way to strike up a conversation with a local is? Follow the Australian Football League (Australian rules football) and “barrack” (or root for) a team. Also, if you watch Master Chef, you should be golden!

The most important thing to remember in order pick up on some local tricks of the trade wherever you choose to study abroad: be observant! Watch and learn. Keep an eye out for patterns in the habits of locals. If people remove their hats before going inside, follow their lead. If no one crosses the street until the crosswalk light allows it, wait! As long as you continue paying attention to the locals around you, you’ll fit-in in no time.

Learn more about studying abroad in Australia.

Lauren Alexander is a Junior at American University. She is currently studying abroad in Melbourne, Australia. See what she’s up to and follow her blog

View Programs