Why you need to be aware of dangerous language and cultural differences between Americans and Australians

If you are an American communicating with Australians or an Australian communicating with Americans – you need to be aware of potentially embarrassing and even dangerous language and cultural differences between the two countries.

WARNING: This post and the video contain “colourful” language – but it can help you avoid embarrassing mistakes.

Chris Adams is an American now living in Australia and he likes to warn his American and his Australian friends about the communication dangers and differences between the two countries.

And it’s not just word confusion – there are important “cultural” differences too.

Chris is a former Facebook and Hollywood exec who is married to an Australian and who now lives in Brisbane.

I’m an Aussie who now  lives in Brisbane –  and I learned a lot from studying and living in the US  – and most recently from working with lots of American execs.

In this video – Chris shares many of his embarrassing stories – like how his Aussie mates would ask him HOW TO GET SOMEWHERE because they wanted to hear him say a word (route) that sounds the same as an Australian word  (root) that has a rude meaning.

TIP: for Americans – Say something like “the best WAY to get there is…..”



A tip for Canadians too – if you wear a ROOTS t-shirt –  that can get undue attention and ridicule in Australia!

As a communication consultant, I often help American, Asian, European and even British executives prepare for important presentations. I often listen to the presentations to check if the words used have a different meaning in Australia.

I helped a senior British female executive whose presentation was filled with the Route word. So we changed it. I also helped an Asian executive whose speech nad many moments where she encouraged people to CRAP. Once again we caught this potential problem  – and changed the word to APPLAUD.

When I lived and worked in America – I had similar language challenges. In Australia we often use the word BUGGER – for when things go wrong or to describe a person – a lucky bugger, a silly bugger etc.

In the US, bugger has its more serious literal meaning – and it’s not a polite word to use. I offended people until I became aware of this different attitude towards the word BUGGER and I stopped using it.

Also for Australians reading this post – be aware that our cultural habit to “taking the piss” (making fun of)  with people we actually like – can be taken as an insult in other countries. This habit that can be seen as endearing Australia – can cost you business when dealing with countries not familiar with our style.

Chris has a similar experience having to get used to “taking the piss”  when he first met with Australians.

I hope you enjoy and benefit from this post and that it helps you avoid some of the embarrassing and potentially damaging language problems with the differences between Australians and Americans.

If you are new to this blog

Who is writing this?

I’m Tony Biancotti – an Australian  journalist turned communication consultant and I learn lots from former Hollywood exec and Facebook exec Chris Adams (who now lives in Brisbane). Chris and I catch up every month or so and I capture his views (on business, presenting, pitching etc) on camera. I write the text (my opinion)  in these posts and Chris gives his opinion in the video.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s