A warm hello to you,
when I first arrived in Australia from Germany in the 80’s I brought along three main things: first, the love for my husband to be, second a suitcase full of clothes that were too warm and third a vocabulary of limited highschool English that had received a sort of a polish in the months I stayed in London prior to heading downunder. Australian, I soon discovered, had neither been taught at my school nor was it remotely similar to the Cockney spoken in the Southeast of London. It seemed like the spoken word was always in a rush, perhaps busy trying to catch up the hours lost travelling from there to here. I was told that the words were hard to understand because people preferred to keep opening their mouths only minimally to reduce the risk of swallowing a fly. It all made sense.
One little word, I noticed, was liberally sprinkled through most conversations: ‘mate’. I soon learnt that ‘mate’ had many and significant meanings beyond ‘friend’. Depending on the pronunciation, the word mate could mean ‘Hello, it’s really good to see you’. ‘I’m sorry’, ‘you are a bit of a duffer’, ‘what did you do that for?’ and “I know you’ve been through a rough time and I feel for you’. ‘Mate’ is also an extremely helpful word when you bump into someone whose name you have forgotten but feel to shy to ask. Back then it was mostly men that were mates but that, thankfully, has changed. I love catching up with my mates.
The prolific use of the word ‘mate’ told me something about Australians; it told me that friendship means something, that helping each other out is important and that sticking together a must. Having and being a mate probably significantly supported the surviving and thriving of the traditional owners of this land for many thousands of years, gave settles the strength to find their feet and let modern Australia grow into what it is today.
Hope to hear from you
PS: Qantas currently has a Global Sale that finishes on the 31st of January. I bought my return ticket yesterday from Sydney for $662.