Get With the Lingo


July 13, 2015
By Emilia S., Environmental Studies, Australia & New Zealand

When you enter a new country, it's very cool to have an "in". Whether that is with knowing people, the town, the plants and animals, or who to call when there's an issue. All of which are important to learn, or observe while visiting a foreign country, however it's an even cooler "in" when you know their lingo.

To help you out, put this little list in your pocket before your travels. Trust me, the locals will be impressed and so will your instructors. Almost all of these words, or phrases, have been acquired into my language thanks to my instructors, and from speaking with locals. We live, we share knowledge, and we learn. If you want a head start, my list should be a good place.

But before you go around throwing these words around like a cool cat in New Zealand and Australia, you must note that some of these words and phrases are used dependent upon the geographic region you're in, the demographic segments you speak with, differing perhaps depending on the context.

New Zealand

  • "Kia Ora" = the equivalent to U.S. as a greeting, goodbye, praise, salutation, celebration, etc. has many uses & is always used in a positive context
  • "Curious" = the equivalent to U.S. expression "interesting" used in the same context
  • "Tiffin" = typically a small sit down for snack/meal complimented by tea or coffee mores in the morning or early afternoon, the equivalent to U.S. to going to have a coffee


  • "Good day" = the equivalent to U.S. as a greeting, such as "hello!"
  • "Thongs" = the equivalent to a U.S. flip-flop (considered casual only, too casual to be dressed up)
  • "Chips" = the equivalent to U.S. French fries
  • "Crisps" = the equivalent to U.S. chips
    * no such word for "chips" in AU
  • "Togs" / "Bathers" = the equivalent to U.S. bathing suit
  • "Good on ya" = good for you! (Proud of you/ impressed with your judgment)
  • "Rightey-O" = the equivalent of "right on" or "sounds good" or "okay!" expression used in the U.S.
  • "Cheeky" = used as the U.S. equivalent to "sassy" but more in a joking manner with proper context
  • "Overtaking" = passing via car (seen on road signs a lot)
  • "Traditional owners" = another term to deem the original aboriginals, who were the traditional and first owners of the Australian land

Used both in NZ & AU

  • "Tucker" = the equivalent to a U.S. meal, usually one hearty and filling, always has good excitement in the word as meal times are treasured
  • "The bush" = a magical and respected place, the equivalent to U.S. outdoors/wilderness or the place out in nature
  • "Bush tucker" = food from the bush/environment/wilderness, depending on context can also mean food to be prepared in "the bush" but not directly from the bush, the equivalent to U.S. to a picnic or outdoor meal in the wilderness

So, now that you've lined your vocabulary with all the latest and hip (or classic) words and phrases, you should feel quite comfortable around your new Aussie friends!

Emilia SmithEmilia Smith is a student at Providence College and is blogging from her summer abroad with the Environmental Studies program in Australia & New Zealand.