Born in Johannesburg and migrating to Sydney as an adult, there were a bunch of expectations and beliefs I was way, way out on.
Obviously Aussies enjoy rugby – the Wallabies and all that – but the following is nowhere near as feverous as it is on the other side of the Indian Ocean. The other rugby – as in league – is way more popular. And AFL tops even that. In fact, if union scrapes into the top five sports Aussies are into, the national team is having an excellent year.
2. The pedestrian crossing thing
In a country that actually has zebras, we aren’t that big on zebra crossings. They’re more like monochromatic suggestions if you’re feeling magnanimous. In NSW, it costs you $457 and three demerit points to ignore.
3. The biltong thing
Back in the day, I was as snobbish as the next expatriate about this meaty delicacy but as more of us begin to call Australia home, the quality has risen exponentially. While you may be pining for that corner shop back home with a secret recipe, brands like Barbell and biltong.com.au are as competitive as the Wallabies. Most years.
4. The Nik-Naks thing
I will go to my grave believing that Nik-Naks and Twisties are not the same thing. The similarity ends with the fact that both will leave you coated in orange powder. If your Aussie mates don’t believe you, do a taste test as both are available in Coles.
5. The slang thing
While Aussies certainly have a magnificent turn of phrase that can be marvelously filthy (one example in particular which would cause a fight in Durban is actually a term of affection in Dandenong), it still draws on just one language.
South Africa, on the other hand, has 11 official (and many unofficial) tongues all layering and interwoven amid a multilingual population. Point is: why say centipede when the Zulu “shongololo” is way more fun and expressive. Point is, Indigenous languages are way more widely used in everyday chat back in SA.
6. The pub thing
Obvs, Saffers and Aussies both love a beer or three. After all, the former gave the world Castle Lager not to mention a host of up and coming craft breweries. Where we differ is in pub culture.
Cities like Melbourne and Sydney are way more akin to London where there is a pub on almost every CBD corner. The bars in SA are far less numerous and way more spread out. Upon moving here, I was gobsmacked seeing bustling pubs that opened at 8am to cater to high-vis shift workers.
7. The traffic light/stop sign thing
Because of its elevated levels of street crime, SA drivers have developed a series of effective safety habits like not coming to a full stop in case a swift getaway is required, cruising through a red traffic light if it is safe to do so and allowing yourself enough space to maneuver around any vehicles which may try to block you in.
Don’t try any of that on an Aussie road. At best, you’ll get some light road rage directed your way. At worst, you’ll have to explain to the cops what’s what back in the Rainbow nation. And don’t be calling them – the traffic lights, not the cops – robots.
8. The jersey thing
In Australia, a jersey is worn by NRL or soccer players and a guernsey by AFL ones. The all-purpose warm woolen garment you’re referring to is known as a jumper. It is also acceptable to refer to a certain cattle breed as a Jersey but good luck getting one on.
9. The Insect Thing
So help me I spent my first few years in Oz checking my sneakers each 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 leopard curled up in wait inside your Nike Air.
10. The Nickname Thing
While the Afrikaans ‘boet/ie’ and ‘bru’ are equivalent to ‘mate’, Aussie will more often than not refuse to call you by your actual name. If they like you that is. What your parents gave you is simply not sacred as it will either be shortened, elongated or bowdlerised completely with the best possible intentions.
To wit, my name is David Smiedt but I will answer to “Davo”, “Smiedty” and – my favorite – “Smiedt and potatoes”. To mention just a few.