Betrayed by Language in the US of “Ay”

Despite the two countries having the same linguistic origins, some fundamental differences can threaten every-day survival for Aussies travelling in the USA.

By Stuart Hill

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge, California. A famous bridge in the United States of

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs needs to start issuing cultural hazard warnings. It starts innocently enough, but quickly turns into the most ahrkwaad moments. It’s the linguistic equivalent of falling flat on your aass.

“Where’s the barthroom?” you ask.
“The whart?” comes the reply.
“The barthroom.”
“Sir, the baathroom is over there.”

You get a hand gesture and it helps immensely.

The dangers have been around for years, so why isn’t anything being done? When Australia was negotiating its trade agreements, wasn’t anyone thinking of the cultural threat?

Sydney Harbour Bridge

The Sydney Harbour Bridge.
A famous bridge in Australia.

In fact, travelling in the United States can be pretty exciting, but there are some cultural traps lurking around each corner. Australians and Americans generally look alike, we watch the same crappy TV, follow the same celebrity gossip, we even share 98% of the same written language, yet why is it so difficult to communicate?

The answer is that your “ays” will betray you. In the land of faast food everything, even finding something healthy to eat can be a challenge. Take this as an exaample:

“How much for that banarna?”
“That whaat?”
“The banarna.”
“Sir, that banaana is $2.00.”

While food is one thing, how about ordering something to drink?

“Can I have a glarse of worter?”
“Whaat sir?”
“Glarse of worter.”
“Mmm (long pause)…sir, sparkling or still waahter?”

So here’s a practical travel tip that should be listed on the Australian Embassy travel warning website: don’t get left without a huge bartle of waahter on your
next road drip to Vegas. You’ll dai before you convince someone to spare you even one precious drop.

It is almost a truism that the US — and perhaps California in particular — is one of the most car-centric places in the world. And with malls and outlets located remote from public transport, the huge size of the pahking facilities can be a little overwhelming for first time visitors.

So it may not be too unexpected you can get a bit lost in one of those facilities. Or if, say, you are hiking in a national paahk, you might soon find you need directions to get back to your vehicle. Some sage advice is this: avoid arsking for directions; find a map and persevere on your own instead.

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon, Nevada.
One of America’s famous natural wonders.

I cite some personal experience as a whaaning to others:

“Excuse me! Can you tell me where the cahr pahrk is?”
“Uh, whaat? You said, where’s the cow pak?”
“Yes, can you tell me where it is?”
“Sir, this is a national protected reserve, there ain’t no cows in this park….But the parking lart is just over there.”

Again the gesturing helps. Very soon you begin to feel a growing pressure to assimilate. It’s either you do it, or forever get that double-take reaction, followed by the “I couldn’t catch your charming/cute/strong/funny/interesting/totally incomprehensible ACCENT.”

The Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales. One of Australia’s natural

So you have to give some credit to the tenacity of our poor Hollywood-bound celebrities. Especially given the degree to which they must experience repressing their own cultural identity in order to succeed in this land of fantaastic parsibilities.

It carn’t be easy.

God save us Aahsies.


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