The Siberian American: Expat Word Confusion

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Expat Word Confusion

Hello, friends! Today, I have Kristen from See You In a Porridge sharing some differences between Australian English and American English. I loved Kristen's blog instantly because not only could I easily relate to her, but she's so funny! If you haven't visited her blog before, I couldn't recommend it enough. In fact, you should go visit it now (after reading this hilarious post, of course!).

Hello to The Siberian American readers! I'm Kristen, and I blog about books, cats, stuff and life over at See You In A Porridge (unrelated to Golidlocks). First off, wanted to say thank you to Olya for having me over at her place while she is off holiday-ing. I just love her blog (obviously you do too) because we have tons in common - the biggest thing being that we are both expats. Expats are like runners - you can have nothing else in common but you become instant besties because no-one understands expats like fellow expats.

Sometimes I don't feel like a real expat because most of the (blogging) expats I know are Americans living elsewhere- Iceland, Australia, France, England.. and I live in America. Most expats have to learn another language, and I thought I would have it easy because I was going from an English speaking country to another English speaking country. Should be easy as pie, right?


Technically, Americans and Australians speak the same language. But we all have our own words and slang. I thought I had a pretty good grasp of American words thanks to reading tons of American books growing up. I knew bangs meant fringe, crib meant cot, pacifier meant dummy and diaper meant nappy. I live in Kentucky, so some of these might not apply to you and you might be as clueless as me - I was born in Victoria, but lived in Sydney and some of the things Victorians say were just as foreign to me as the ones I am about to share.


A bunch of people from work were supposed to do a race the other weekend, but everyone said they were bailing because of the weather, and I bailed as well because I didn't want to do it alone. My boss ended up doing the race, and my other boss sent me a text saying 'what a sandbagger!' and I had to google it before responding. My mind went to tea bagging, so I was obviously quite confused and freaked out.

40 acres and a mule

I learned this playing Cards Against Humanity. Everybody laughed at me, but really - how am I supposed to know what this meant? I thought it was slang for a unit of measurement until everyone stopped laughing and my husband explained it. I don't even know what an acre or a mule is, let alone together.

For the win

Yep, never heard this before and my husband sent me a text one day saying 'FTW' and I was like.. feeling this way? So confused. A lot of the time, he thinks I am trying to be funny but I think he forgets I didn't grow up here so I really don't know or understand things. He explained it meant for the win, but I was still confused - what is for the win? What does that mean? You won something? You are doing this to win something? So confused. I eventually said 'ok, I understand' but I still don't really.


I am still not over this. I learned this pretty quickly but it still annoys me. What you call peppers, we call capsicums. Sometimes we will have 'hot peppers' which I think are chili pepperss, but I wouldn't know because I don't do spicy. Pepper to me is the black stuff that I hate, and it is so confusing when a name means 2 things. A menu says 'pepper' and I'm like hot, spicy pepper or red and green peppers that go in a salad? Why are they called peppers? It makes no sense to me!


At home we say 'al-u-min-i-um'. You say 'aloom-i-num'. I am so confused, I just say 'foil'.


Again, I learned this pretty quickly but to me, lemonade is sprite. To you, lemonade is real stuff made with lemons. I almost vomited the first time I made that mistake.


I thought I knew what this meant - just hard candy. But it's all called candy, right? Skittles, jelly beans, sour worms etc. We call them all lollies. Want a lolly? Kiss a dolly.

Silverware / Flatware even when it's not silver or flat

No matter how I ask for it, someone is confused. We call it cutlery but if I ask for that at a restaurant, I get blank stares. Silverware, flatware, I give up. I say 'can I please have a knife and fork?'


Ahem. The first time I saw this I was so confused. It was in a bathroom and you could get a tampon for 25 cents, or 25 cents for a napkin. I thought maybe it meant like a face wipe or something. My friend soon set me straight.


The first time my husband asked me where his toboggan was I looked at him like he had 2 heads. It snows here but we have never gone sledding. It doesn't snow where I am from, but we go sand tobogganing. Either way, I was like wtf dude I have no idea. He found his beanie right in front of me and thought I was being a jerk. I still can't comprehend toboggan meaning beanie IT MAKES NO SENSE.


I thought this meant all Americans. Apparently not, but it's not my fault! Blame the media and stuff. I bet you pronounce Aussie 'oh-see' so we're even. Just kidding.


No, not that one. The one that you put at the end of a sentence. To me, that is a full stop. It's what I learned in school and that's what it's called. Period.. why with the one word two meanings? 

Pound sign

We call it hash like 'press hash for more options'. So I guess that means hashtag was invented by an Aussie or a Brit? I don't understand where the pound comes from.


I only just learned that this stood for Pretty Hot And Tempting. I'm not kidding. I thought it was just a different spelling for fat, like we used to spell 'cool' like kewl. Kewl.


Ok, I knew this one but I still don't understand why it's called mail and not post, especially because it's called the post office. Ok, now I'm just being silly.

I hope you enjoyed my confusion - I have been here for a few years and it still happens! Did you know all of these things?


  1. thanks so much for having me Olya!! Hope you're having the best time :) Can't wait to hear all about it.

  2. Haha I've never heard toboggan be used to mean a beanie either lol A toboggan is a sled to me. Of course in Canada we call hats/beanies 'toques' so we're just as weird ha! I can totally relate to this having moved to England for a year. I was like, "Great, no language barrier!" but boy was I wrong. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised because even just across Canada there are so many words and slang used only in certain areas. English is a complicated language!

  3. Born and raised in the US and I don't know what "sandbagger" is and I've NEVER heard toboggan in reference to a hat of any kind. It took me until college to learn that Canadians call then toques.

    1. haha Breenah maybe it's a Kentucky thing calling a beanie a toboggan.. blows my mind!!

  4. This cracked me up - I didn't realize there were so many differences! Peppers, lemonade, candy...I'm having brunch with my Aussie friends in a couple of weeks and will try to drop as many of these words in conversation as possible, haha.

  5. Haha some of these I didn't even know and I was born and raised here! You're not alone ;)

  6. THESE are amazing! Never thought about what some of these might mean to someone else. Great post, lady1

  7. A full stop?!?!?! You're not driving a car, you're reading! Hahahaha! That one is just goofy. The others I can kinda see since they're slang...But even the Brits say it's a period so a period it is!

    And pepper is pepper - I don't even know how to pronounce the word you say it is ;)

    1. Paige I will hold my ground, it's a full stop! Lol. I don't know what the Brits say, I'll take your word for it!

    2. Brit here and I say full stop. I've always said full stop. I was taught full stop in school!! When I hear period, I ALWAYS think of the other kind first.

  8. I was the same way!! And when someone called me a yank for the first time here in the UK I was like, um excuse me?! Haha!! Cards against humanity is an excellent way to learn things lol...we play with our Brit friends all the time and my stomach hurts so bad from laughing the next day :)

  9. Hahahaha... I love this. Never thought about it but we do have some weird slang! If it makes you feel better I grew up in Michigan where a toboggan is a sled and a hat is a hat! I don't get that one either!

  10. Haha "full stop" makes me think of a telegraph. Do they still communicate via telegraph in Australia? ;)

    Never in my life heard of the term "sandbagger." Even after reading your explanation I'm still confused!!

  11. haha thoroughly enjoyed this, in particular the lizzie McGuire aaron cater gif. those foil pants!! some of this may be Kentucky slang cause I've never heard of the 40 acres and a mule thing and never in my life have I heard a beanie called a toboggan. Either that or your husband is playing jokes on you....

    1. I think it's definitely a kentucky thing, Shelly!! I have heard other people use that word for beanie, though it still doesn't make a lot of sense!

  12. I'm with you on every one of these except the peppers. Those are peppers in theUK as well (bell peppers... the hot ones are chillies). A toboggan is a beanie? As in a hat?? My brain cannot comprehend this!!

    Aluminimum/aluminum always trips me up. I sometimes have to translate into American English and we have customers who make stuff with aluminium and I ALWAYS spell it the British way first then have to correct myself.

  13. I dont know what 40 acres and a mule means? Haha! And Ummm FTW means something way different to me than for the win. Haha!

  14. I don't understand the majority of these but maybe its because I'm Canadian? I had no clue they called beanies toboggans... we call them toques!

  15. I've always wanted to visit Australia so this was cool to read but the GIFs made it so funny!!

  16. The crazy thing is that there's so much regional difference within the US too. I've never heard sandbagger used like that, I had to google "40 acres and a mule." We've got tons of different peppers I suppose—chiles and jalepenos and banana and poblano peppers (hot), bell peppers (the big red, green, orange, yellow ones in salad or with dip), cubanelles, and then there's ground pepper, cracked black pepper, red pepper flakes.. okay I didn't realize until just now how confusing peppers can be. Also, strange that people don't know "cutlery" for silverware; where I am they're interchangeable. And WHAT? A toboggan where I live is like a sled thing, like you referenced. And I'm a Yankee who just learned that PHAT was actually an acronym. Okay seriously you blew my mind with this whole post.

  17. Full stop?! The difference amazes me! I don't know that I've ever heard of sand bagging or 40 acres and a mule. I'll have to look those up!

  18. Sandbagger is one of my favorites! My dad used to use it all the time when we were lifting weights, or if we had to skip a workout. But Yankee was new to me. I mean, I knew Northerners were "Yankees" during the civil war but until I visited Alabama a couple years ago, I had no idea they still used that phrase! And I didn't know if I should feel insulted or what. Still not entirely sure.

  19. Haha! I didn't know a bunch of these.

    It was always so awkward saying period in school, lol.

  20. I have never hear "40 acres and a mule" - I just googled it and still feel sort of clueless about it.

  21. This is crazy! I never would've imagined things to be so different in the same over arching language. I guess thats what slang does to different cultures. I think the two that surprised me the most were lemonade and period! It was so strange to me and it must've been absolutely bonkers to you.

  22. This is hilarious, and as you are well aware, happens to me all the time too (but opposite). The first time I went to the store to buy cilantro, I stood at the herbs and said to myself "this stuff labeled coriander looks like cilantro, smells like cilantro...let me taste...yep, cilantro."

    And, how about the time that my step-son who is seven asked me for a rubber....

    I don't know the "40 acres and a mule" one.

  23. Oh, and believe me...anyone who calls me a "Yank" is corrected. Politely, of course. After all, I've got that Southern charm thang happenin'.

  24. Lemonade means Sprite?! Oh boy, that would be a surprise. I have never heard Toboggan meaning a beanie. We use beanie for hat, toboggan means a snow sled.

  25. Im not an expat but you can imagine that I had a hard time understanding half of these a while back as well. I swear FTW took me like a year to figure out no joke! The only one that's odd to me is lemonade being sprite. haha

  26. I read this a while back but just getting to comment now. Thanks for sharing - it was very enlightening!


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