Viva La Difference!

2 March 2009

I was born English, I now have dual British/Australian citizenship and I live in Sydney. 

I’m often asked, both in Australia and in England, about the differences between the two countries.  Not the obvious ones like the climate, the currency, the accent,  but those little things that you notice when you spend time in another country. 

So over the next month I’m going to talk about some of those, in no order but just as I remember them.

The first is one that all British visitors here comment on.  In department stores in Australia, the area that sells bedding, tablecloths etc is called the Manchester department.  Makes for some interesting conversations:  “Do you sell pillow cases?”.  “Yes, you’ll find them in Manchester”.

I presume that this is because Manchester is the place that had all the cotton mills but now that area of the shop should perhaps more logically be called Shanghai.  You could call it the China Department, but that’s already taken.

In England, it was generally called Haberdashery, but that’s become more commonly used for the area that sells buttons, ribbon, needles etc.  If you went to a general shop called a Haberdashers (if you could find one nowadays), you’d find linen.  And just to confuse matters, in the USA haberdashery is something else  – men’s clothing, I think??

Divided by a common language?  You bet!




  1. Oh yeah/yup/yes!

    I remember compiling a list of the differences between NZ and Oz English [because I was in NZ at the time]. Jandals = thongs [the rubber kind not the ones frequently shown to all and sundry by women with too much to show!], judder bars = speed humps; chilly bins = Eskies; wish I could remember the rest!

    Then there was the time when I tried to tell the Japanese female students to turn the taps off tightly; the light dawned for them when I said ‘faucets’!!

  2. Oh, and speaking of rubber [which we were, kind of]; we were told in Teachers’ College in the seventies to call them erasers because the more common name has a different connotation in American English – I went to College in Australia!

  3. Just passing by.Btw, you website have great content!


  4. I have friends in New Zealand and Australia. There are times when I must ask for a translation. When I write them (from the U.S.) and use a term I think might be confusing, I try to define it for them.

    The funniest story was when I took a bus tour from Sydney to Canberra. When we stopped for lunch, I went into a fish and chips shop. Another woman from the tour was in there. She was from California. The counterman was Australian. He’d say something to her. She’d look at me and say, “What did he say?” I’d tell her. Then she’d answer his question and he’d look at me and say, “What did she say?” I got the biggest laugh from serving as the interpretor for the two of them … and we were all speaking English!

  5. My friend Freda throws things into the dustbin; I toss them into the garbage or the trash – they’re all in the same container. She gets “ladders in her hose;” I get runs (runners) in my stockings. We all know the sweater/jumper thing.

  6. Retired Englishwoman living in England and never been to the other side of the world.

    You could be getting a drapers shop and a haberdashers mixed up. Think about it.

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