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Make sure you don’t make these business communication blunders when communicating with “foreigners”

Do you use confusing Australian expressions? Are you confused by Australian expressions?

Australian business people need to be careful when communicating with “non-Australians” – even other “English speakers” such as Americans.

Australian English is a very colourful and inventive language  – but it is often a mystery to non-Australian speakers and can even be insulting.

I always remember getting into trouble when I lived and studied in the US.

loved uni studying to be a journo and arvos watching the footy

I used the Australian expression “lucky bugger” – and an American colleague took great offence thinking I was calling him a “bugger” (in the strict sense of the word.)

For those who don’t know –  in “Australian”, “bugger” is often used as an intensifier – an expressive way of saying “person” – as in “silly bugger”, “lucky bugger”, “poor bugger” or even “bugger”  as an expression of annoyance when something goes wrong or doesn’t work or is “buggered”. And it’s not just the older generations using “bugger” – I hear school kids using it too as an expression of annoyance.

Also, later in my corporate life I saw an American businessman take great offence when someone asked him if he was “crook” (as in sick). He thought they were calling him “a crook”. You should have seen the look on his face!

helping businesses avoid cross-cultural misunderstanding – feeling a bit crook (maybe it’s Monday-itis!)

I also remember Americans getting cranky when they would ask me if I needed help and I’d say “I’m right” (as in alright). They took it as  an arrogant and offensive  “I’m right (correct) – you’re wrong!”


I work with businesses with multi-national workforces to help improve understanding and reduce communication problems.

I encourage Australian speakers to be aware of the quirks of our language  – such as our tendency to abbreviate works and end them with “Y” or “O”. Plus our tendency to run words together and not enunciate our words.

Gonnafooty s’arvo – Are you going to the football this afternoon?

I often run sessions where non-native Australian speakers  in businesses have a chance to ask me about any expressions that confuse them.

I remember some very serious Asian workers wanting to know about a sickness they kept hearing about and that they were worried about catching.


The  serious sickness? – Monday-itis.

I also hear amusing examples when I’m working in Asia with multi-national workforces.

Asian audiences were bewildered by an American executive who spoke about a “full court press” – so were Brits, Australians, and Irish workers.

I didn’t know what the expression meant either  – until I looked it up and found out that it is a basketball term that describes a defensive style that puts pressure on the whole length of the court. It must have been  a colourful  business metaphor for an aggressive move across a whole region – but many  in the audience didn’t have a clue about what the expression meant.

My tip for American business communicators: be careful of using sporting terms – not all the world understands basketball, baseball or American Gridiron. Similarly for Brits and Australians – not all the world understands cricket or our many codes of football.

So, be aware of  and avoid using confusing problem expressions you may take for granted. Don’t be a silly bugger!


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