The dangers of using Australian vernacular in customer service situations with overseas tourists and with people for whom Australian is a second language is a regular topic in our training sessions. This brings out some classic examples from participants, particularly in sessions attended by regional tourism operators and visitor centre staff.
On a recent assignment in the Western Australian Pilbara I heard visitor centre staff giving directions to some grey nomads:
“When you get to such and such, hang a right. Then hang a left when you come to…”
By the way, for our readers from outside Australia, a ‘grey nomad’ is someone who is over 50, usually retired and touring around Australia in a mobile home. So, these Aussies would have no trouble understanding, “hang a right.”
However, I used this as an example of being aware of the words you use when talking with people from outside Australia.
“I can top that”, said one lady. It turns out she had been giving directions to an Italian tourist and said, “There’s no turn for about 40 kilometres after that. If you come across… it means you’ve gone too far. So, chuck a u-ey…”
Sounds like Asian cuisine, doesn’t it?
She explained and apologised. “No, no” he said. “I like this ‘chuck a u-ey”. Then he kept interjecting with, “And if I miss the turn I ‘chuck a u-ey’ yes?”, as she gave further directions.
I think it may have become one of the more memorable moments of his trip!