One of the challenges that my wife and I experienced when moving to Canada was the language barrier. You might be asking yourself “What language barrier?”, but you would be surprised at the differences in the English language depending on where in the world you are.

If I were to tell you that I found something to be “pretty average” you might think that it was acceptable if you are from Canada, but if you are from Australia you would know that I’m saying it’s actually useless garbage. If I was to say something was “out whup whup” in Canada you would probably think I was drunk, but in Australia I’d be saying something was a long way, kind of like saying something was “Out in the sticks”.

Those are just two of many sayings or terms that are different between Australia and Canada. There are too many subtle differences for me to write here, but another thing that you need to be aware of is differences in hand gestures…


While the “V” symbol with your hands can be used as either “victory” or “peace”, if you do it with your palm towards you in some countries, including Australia, you are basically flipping people off.

Subtle difference, but a huge difference in meaning.

As we travel into other nations we need to be aware of the differences in dialect within the English language. Just because it’s the same words doesn’t mean it’s the same meaning.

Below are a few more examples of the differences in meaning within the English language depending on who is saying it, and who is hearing it…


Note: Even though I am originally from Canada I am of no help in differentiating Canadian and the Australian terms as I have the dreaded “missionary” dialect of English, which is a complete mish-mash of terms from all over the world…


Source for UK Image: UK Missionaries in Europe: do they make sense?

More on Hand Gestures: Content Lobby – The Top 10 Hand Gestures You’d Better Get Right

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One Response to Cross Cultural Communication–Hard Even in the Same Language

  1. Australia has a LOT of slang as well which naturally does not translate the same here in Canada. I would be a rich woman if I was given a dollar for every raised eyebrow I receive when speaking to people here…even after 2 years.

    I will not give up my Aussie-isms, but it’s hard to swallow when people don’t quite understand what I am saying.

    “I’ll give you a ring” – I will call you on the phone

    “That looks pretty daggy” – That looks untidy/unclean/not fashionable

    “I’m keen for that”- I am eager/I wish for that

    “I like to pay you out” – I like to tease you (all in fun)

    “I’ll shout you to that” – I will treat you to that

    And “pee” and “bum” which are used here in Canada…are considered quite rude to use in Australia. Still having a hard time getting my mouth around those ones (as harmless as they seem to be) when speaking to the kids.

    I’ll write a book one day. 🙂

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