Two Continents Separated by a Common Language

Cans connected by a string

As readers of this space may know, I’m up and moving from Atlanta, in the US, to somewhere near Melbourne, Australia.

My family and I arrive in Melbourne on February 3rd and I plan to sleep until my first meeting on the 7th.

Speaking of sleep, or the lack of it, I’ve been waking in the middle of the night a lot lately. Here’s a smattering of things that have swirled around my brain in the dark:

  • Better, get an Australian power cord for the Mac.
  • Wait, how am I getting the computer there? If we ship it with the furniture, it could take months!
  • Does the scanner work on 240 volts? Should I get a transformer or buy new gear?
  • We can’t bring ANY food over. We should cook more rice and noodles over the next few weeks.


A couple of nights ago, I got an email from Australia with an “s” instead of a “z” in the word “organization.” That fact percolated until about 4 a.m. when I woke up thinking:

Change the computer system to Australian!

Which I did.

So now when I add a date automatically, it puts the month first (today is 12-01-11). And Microsoft Word helpfully adds a “u” to every third thing I type (colour, favour, savour).

And I can’t help but wonder… what am I missing?

Once I get the spelling and dates right, what little cultural mistakes could I make in my documents? My wife is Australian, and I lived there for a year, but I still occasionally hear expressions from over there that I don’t understand.

And ironically, I think it’s especially difficult because the cultures are so similar. If I were moving to the inner Amazon, I would expect everything to be different, right? But in this case, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, what gets you are the things you don’t know that you don’t know.

Anyone else have experience with this kind of thing?


Australian Slang

2 Responses to “Two Continents Separated by a Common Language”

  1. January 20, 2011 at 5:02 pm #

    I wrote and edited First Alert and various private label smoke detector manuals for US, UK, Canadian (bilingual), Aussie, and Scandinavian distribution. The US had UL and Canada had CSA standards. The US had Fire Departments, the UK Fire Brigades and iron mongers (hardware stores). The Aussies had some things that matched the US, and some matched the UK. Lots of interesting discoveries for someone with a linguistics minor.

  2. January 20, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    Sounds like an obstacle course: A lot of fun when you’re in the mood, and kind of annoying when you’re not!

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