How to Speak Proper Australian

5 min readFeb 19, 2022
Speaking Australian in Sydney

You might think that because you were taught to speak English at school or at work, you’ll be fine, and, truth be told, you will probably get by. This is because unlike their British counterparts, the Aussies are not very fussed about how things must be said. Here are a few tricks that will go a long way towards helping you gain a better understanding of what you should say (or not say) and in which circumstances. That said, fear not. Aussies will not judge you too much for your accent. Unless you are French of course. Because obviously some things never change, and French accent is oh so sexy, and this will make it that little bit more difficult to be taken seriously. Just be prepared for the usual jokes, nod, smile, change the conversation and you should be fine.

Oh, and before I forget, here is a piece of advice for my fellow French countrymen: just ban the word ‘bank’ from your vocabulary. The way we say it, apparently, sounds like ‘bonk’. Which has a slightly different meaning. Say ‘financial institution’ instead. You can thank me later. But I digress. So, here is what you need to know to get by:

Keep it short please

Some Australian slang words are simply shortened and made to rhyme with “see.” Here are a few basics that you need to master:

Barbie — Barbeque

Bickies — Biscuits. Be careful with this one, because it’s all about context: it costs big bickies means ‘It’s expensive’. Do not confuse with beckies of course (ecstasy pills).

Brekkie — Breakfast

Choccy — Chocolate
Mozzie — Mosquito

Pressie — Present
Sunnies — Sunglasses

Sickie- Sick day (chucking in a sickie is what you do when you feel under the weather and can’t go to work. In most instances all you need is a paper from your pharmacist. Yep, you read that right)

Tradie- Tradesman

Undies- Underwears

Obviously there are exceptions to this rule, and sometimes you need to add an O to the word before shortening it. It depends. Keep up please.

Just to be more exhaustive, here is a more comprehensive glossary with all the basics:

Arvo- Afternoon
Bogan- Redneck, an uncultured person
Chockers- Very full, congested
Esky- Cooler, insulated food and drink container (Must-have. Every Australian household I know has at least a couple of them).
Fair Dinkum- true, real, genuine
Pash- French kiss

Ripper- Really great
Root- Sexual intercourse. Don’t say “I root for him/her/them.” Just don’t. I know that it’s perfectly acceptable to say it elsewhere, bur not in Australia.
She’ll be right! — Everything will be OK in the end. Use as much as possible.

Slab- 24-pack of beer. You’ll hear this one all the time.
Spit the dummy — Have a sudden tantrum
Stoked — Excited
Ta — Thank you
Ute — A utility vehicle
Whinge- to whine

Are you winning?

I bumped into a colleague on a lift when I started working Down Under. He asked me ‘Are you winning?’.

I remember thinking:” what the heck is he talking about?” You see, I hadn’t played the lottery. What on earth was I supposed to have won? I wondered. Had I missed anything? I was baffled.

As it turned out, he just wanted to know how I was. It meant ‘How is it going?’. I didn’t know. Once again, I looked stupid. What can I say? You’ve got to learn at all ages…

The impossible art of mastering Australian expressions

A few roos loose in the top paddock…

I’ll confess it: I am still learning. You can simply never know which expression you will hear next in Australia.

Over the last few years, I finally understood that John Dory is not a man but a fish. And when people want to know what’s going on, or they’re requesting the “goss” (gossip), they ask what the John Dory is. Go figure.

In a different vein, instead of saying: ‘She’s crazy’, you can say ‘she has a few roos loose in the top paddock’. Much less hurtful, right? And so very Aussie…

And remember that “roo”, “a roo” or “roos” the plural, many roos, is a slang term, it’s the shortened abbreviation version of the word “kangaroo”.

Finally, in Australia, you don’t make a U-turn. You chuck a uey instead.

Don’t take Australian expressions too literally

When you get told to ‘put a sock in it’, it just means that you need to shut up. Not sure I like this one…

As for hitting the frog and toad, it’s different to “having a frog in your throat,” which means having a sore throat. But anyway: there is no need to hit the poor frog. Hitting the frog and toad is when you hit the road. You know, when you get out there, on a road trip.

Writing in Australian

It all started when I received an email from a colleague. The final line was:

‘ Whaddayareckon?.

Let me make it simple for you. The only acceptable answer was ‘Goodonya mate’ .

Forget about finishing your emails with ‘Kind regards’, ‘Yours sincerely’ or anything like this. Just say ‘Whaddayathink?’ or something equivalent and you will sound like a local.



What does it mean if someone says ‘You’re a skip now’.


1. ‘You’re as skinny as a rope’ (You wish!)

2. ‘You forgot to take the bin out. A skip, you see, is a large industrial bin.’ (Maybe you did, but that’s not what they mean.)

3. ‘you are such a lovely boy/girl.’ (You’re getting there. In fact, they are telling you that you are Aussie now)


You’re told to ‘put some snags on the barbie’. What do you do?


1. You run away as fast as you can because the sentence doesn’t mean anything (rookie mistake)

2. You give a dead tree branch to the lady sitting next to you.’(A barbie isn’t a sheila, so wrong response)

3. This a statement you’ll hear way more often than “Put a shrimp on the barbie”, simply because snags ( or sausages), exist, whereas in Australia shrimps don’t… they are called prawns! In short, you just get cooking (Well done!)




I am a French woman who used to live in London and has now moved to Sydney. Engineer by background. Turned lawyer. Turned writer. Wife, mum, friend, ultrarunner