Born in Johannesburg and immigrated to Sydney as an adult, there were a lot of expectations and beliefs that I was very far from.
Aussies obviously enjoy rugby – the Wallabies and all – but the next one isn’t nearly as feverish as across the Indian Ocean. The other rugby – like in the league – is much more popular. And AFL surpasses even that. In fact, if union ranks in the top five sports Aussies play in, the national team has an outstanding year.
2. The zebra crossing thing
In a country that actually has zebras, we’re not that big on zebra crossings. They’re more monochromatic suggestions if you’re feeling magnanimous. In NSW it will cost you $457 and three penalty points to ignore.
3. The Biltong Thing
I used to be as snobbish as the next expat about this meaty delicacy, but as more of us start calling Australia home, the quality has risen exponentially. While you may be pining for that corner store at home with a secret recipe, brands like Barbell and biltong.com.au are just as competitive as the Wallabies. Most years.
4. The Nik-Naks Thing
I will go to my grave in the belief that Nik-Naks and Twisties are not the same. The match ends with you both being covered in orange powder. If your Aussie friends don’t believe you, do a taste test as both are available in Coles.
5. The snake thing
While Aussies certainly have a beautiful expression that can be wonderfully nasty (one example in particular that would cause a fight in Durban is actually a term of endearment in Dandenong), it’s still based on just one language.
South Africa, on the other hand, has 11 official (and many unofficial) languages that are all layered and intertwined amid a multilingual population. Point is: why say centipede when the Zulu “shongololo” is much more fun and expressive. The thing is, native languages are much more used in everyday chat in SA.
6. The pub thing
Obvs, Saffers and Aussies both like a beer or three. The former gave the world Castle Lager, not to mention a host of emerging craft breweries. Where we differ is in the pub culture.
Cities like Melbourne and Sydney are much more like London, with pubs on almost every CBD corner. The bars in SA are much less numerous and much more spread out. When I moved here I was stunned to see the bustling pubs that open at 8am to cater to high-visibility shift workers.
7. The Traffic Light/Stop Sign Thing
Due to the high rate of street crime, SA drivers have developed a range of effective safety habits, such as not coming to a complete stop if a quick escape is needed, going through a red light if it’s safe to do so, and allowing yourself plenty of room to maneuver around vehicles you’re driving. try to block.
Don’t try that on an Australian road. At best, you’ll get some light road rage coming your way. Worst case scenario, you have to explain to the police what’s what in the Rainbow nation. And don’t call them – the traffic lights, not the police – robots.
8. The Sweater Thing
In Australia, a jersey is worn by NRL or football players and a guernsey is worn by AFL players. The warm wool garment you are talking about is known as a sweater. It is also acceptable to refer to a particular breed of cattle as a Jersey, but good luck purchasing one.
9. The Bug Thing
So help me out, I checked my sneakers for redbacks every morning for the first few years in Oz. While living in inland Sydney. In an appartment. Yes, SA may have the Big Five, but there’s no way you’ll find a leopard lurking in your Nike Air.
10. The Nickname Thing
While the African ‘boet/ie’ and ‘bru’ equate to ‘mate’, more often than not Aussie will refuse to call you by your real name. At least if they like you. What your parents have given you is simply not sacred, for it will either be shortened, lengthened, or completely diminished with the best of intentions.
My name is David Smiedt but I will answer to “Davo”, “Smiedty” and – my favorite – “Smiedt and potatoes”. Just to name a few.
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