AE 259 – Interview with Matt: Bogan Australians, slang, working as a geologist and making friends Down Under

Learn Australian English this interview episode with Matt who talks about bogans, slang, working as a geologist and making friends Down Under.

AE 259 – Interview with Matt: Bogan Australians, slang, working as a geologist and making friends Down Under.

G’day guys! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English.

I’m here with my mate Matt and we were out today having coffee and Matt brought up the fact that he reckons he has a bit of a bogan accent.

So I was like alright… I inherited one you know.

I thought it’d be a good idea opportunity to get him on the cast so that we can have a chat about things. And Matt’s done quite a few interesting things, like, I guess we just start and see where it goes, but where did we meet?

We met in like Marine Zoology in Queenscliff in third year biology. Yeah. Yeah at the start of it. Yeah. So January February. So would have been about eight years ago.

Yeah. 2009. Far out, that’s a long time. Yeah.

So since then I went on I did a masters after that. And you took some time off right and went and did.

I worked for three years in mining and then I was a geologist I didn’t do any mining and I didn’t do much geology either really.

So, we differed, I guess, I did like straight biology but your undergrad was both, wasn’t it? Geology and.

…and zoology. Yeah.

Yeah. So what was that like? What made you do both? Why were you interested in both rocks and animals.

So, I wasn’t interested in rocks. So I did science degree because of zoology.

So I originally want to do that and then I… we did a as zoology at school and I thought, “Nah, behaviour’s pretty cool.”

I’d like to get into conservation, and then first year uni I had to see the Earth Science building for anyone be interested in reading… learning about rocks? It just sounded like the weirdest thing ever.

But then I heard the truck drivers got about 100 K a year first year out. So, I thought I could do this half my HEX and I just to one subject so I get a bit of an idea, and then I thought “Well, I’ll just double major,” ’cause at that time…

So it’s 2007. The mining boom was going crazy and geologists were getting plucked out of uni before they’d even finished degrees.

Ah, I remember that as well.

So, I was just like, well, I don’t mind getting treated as royalty for a few years to look at a couple of rocks. But then in 2008 everything went to crap, and things go that’s usually a first. But, yeah, it picked up then I think I threw in the towel off a few years and when I went travelling.

Yeah. What was that like? So you finish your undergrad you’ve done geology and you did get plucked or you got, you know, you applied for a job and got given a job. This was up in NSW.

So I got a job off Facebook. Really?

I applied for all these places like BHP and Rio and.

And what are all those companies?

They’re some of the biggest resource companies in the world, certainly Australia so…

And because there wasn’t a lot of jobs going one of the top blokes in our sort of class in terms of light and grades wise, he got an enviro job for about 50K. And I thought well if he’s getting that well then I’m in big trouble, because I didn’t attend very regularly even with zoology which I really enjoyed. I wasn’t always in class. I was at home doing nothing. Anyway, I applied for this job on Facebook and it was in coal seam gas and I was to discover how bad that is.

And it’s it’s weird spending three years in an industry that you despise, and I hated it even at the time so it was a weird but very three years, but I met some pretty interesting people during that time.

So tell us about that. What was it like? You left obviously… you got a job on Facebook then, and then what did they just fly straight up there. You were in the thick of it. You were just thrown in the deep end.

Yeah. So, I was 21, and I was a supervisor on mine sites trying to tell people that are old enough to be my grandfather what to do, and when you get like a 60 year old driller who’s been doing it for more than half his life you just need to be as… You don’t… you want to just keep out of their hair.

And I think that the geology and the industry is more… your ability, not that not so much about what you know about rocks, but more your ability to keep away from the drillers when they’re in a bad mood.

And I was good at doing that, so like, they tend to like me because I always had lots of movies on my hard drive. So this before people… we all streamed everything. So you know I’d give them, you know, like a thousand movies, you know, I was their best mate, and if anything went bad well I’d just not report it, and then no one would get in trouble when they’d just get on with it. So I… and at the end of the day I didn’t care about the industry at all so as long as we’re all having fun and we’re all getting paid.

It’s absolute cow… it’s such a cowboy industry.

I’ve heard stories about like a decade, two decades beforehand, and it’s a lot better than then but, like, me compared to like any 9-5 city job mining’s.

So what’s it like going to that? So what are these drillers… Tell us what they do, and then what were some of the stories you heard, what was it like in the past compared to what it’s like today?

I mean you can’t drink on site anymore.

Anymore?!

No no. So I think back in the day I think in the 80s, I mean like I sort of heard stories of, you know, stories that sort of thing, like they’d drink a slab or a carton.

Well this is actually the stuff you want, isn’t it? So, a slab or carton or whatever you want to call it.

Which is what, 24 beers?

24 beers, so like smashing one of them while at work.

One dude? Yeah. Yeah.

And then hitting the pub that night and then smashing another slab, and then calling that a day. And then I’ve heard worse stories than that. I heard like some of the drillers smoke like three cartons, like, you know two cartons.

So not like a deck, a carton!

How much is a carton, how many cigarettes? I’ve heard like 10 (packs) or something. So that number doesn’t make sense.

So that’s like 20 decks. But apparently there was this one guy and he’s…I don’t know what the condition is, is it jaundice? I know jauntice when your eyes go like yellowy. But like his skin.

Just from so much smoking?

From like liver failure as well I think that your skin can go that yellowy colour and this… you just get some units out there.

And there’s also some of the old school guys there. I remember there was a guy there from, I think it was, QBC… QGC.

What does that stand for?

I think it was QGC, Queensland Gas Company. I think it was something like that. And he had about three teeth in his mouth, covered in moles, morbidly morbidly obese, but then he kind of had a really like refined sort of accent.

But he was just… you could… he just he looked like a human equivalent of Jabadahut. He was disgusting. And.

So, this is where you would go to see a lot of the real rough Australians are in this industry.

You do. This is exploration. So when I worked on a mine site it was less so. But yeah, you still had some…you still had a bit of that.

Also don’t say too much as well, ’cause if it goes on Facebook, and like somebody saying a few years, but I still like them as well, and they’ve got jobs so.

You don’t have to go into the specifics. I’m just interested. What are the characters like, yeah? And so what accent like?

It’s like… you could imagine. I’ll just say too, well, this actually refers to the accent a bit. So if you’ve got 300 guys in one spot together you get a bit of a alpha thing going where… and it’s almost like who can be the biggest dickhead. The worst person you are the more celebrated to a point. So you know, like, the F word it’s replaced by the C word and it’s literally used for everything. So…

This is what happens when women are taken out of the equation.

We are animals.

And… but then also to the awareness of that actually makes it a whole lot more fun. So you know when you’re literally just sitting there and you know it’d be 7 in the morning I’d rock up and they’re like oh… You’re literally picking each other apart. I mean it’s who can be the cruelest to each other, and then who can handle it the best.

And ah yeah.

So it’s tricky because like I… I don’t know like repeat a lot of it.

You don’t have to.

But then it’s sort of like in terms of the accent element I know some sayings which I wasn’t used to is like in New South Wales they say like “hey.”

[00:09:15] Yep. At the end of sentences?

…like “Ey” and “Hey”, like Queensland a lot they’ll go “Ey?” like “Oh, I feel like dinner, ey?” or something like that. That’s a really pronounced thing but, like, it doesn’t seem to happen that much in Victoria and that caught on. I started doing it a bit, and I think sometimes I still do it a bit now. “E-h” “Eh?”

What’s the other one.

Oh “Heaps”, “Heaps good” something’s “Heaps good.

But that’s not even really slang. That’s… Well I guess it is, but it’s like almost bad grammar. “It’s really good? Nah It’s heaps good!”. And I was… There’s actually a song. I can’t remember the song in the song, but they go, “It was heaps good”. I’m like… “Uh!”.

But then after a while you hear it a lot, and then you start using it yourself. I’m like “No!”.

You adapt.

Yeah.

So was it hard for you at first? ‘Cause that’s what a lot of my listeners and a lot of people watching this are going to be thinking, you know, when we come to Australia is going to be difficult talking with Australians, and I guess I wanted to show that even for other Australians it can be difficult, right?

Yeah. Well, I…

When you first go out there, not just necessarily that you don’t understand the accent, but they start using slang terms or expressions you don’t understand and even you as a native speaker have to learn those things and then become part of the.

Well it’s almost like, well, you would’ve… you’ve heard of them all, you know, some stuff like “Bonzer”.

Yeah there was that ad campaign or whatever years ago that that “Bonzer” like look that was of. Can you with that at all?

I remember vaguely.

I didn’t know it was an actual real thing and then I heard one of the guys say, “Oh yeah, nah, I picked up this girl last night. Yeah, she was a real bonzer chick.” I’m like, “Wait, is that a thing?” like, people actually say “Bonzer”? Stuff like that. “Old mate” actually. I didn’t know “Old mate.” meant. That was probably the only thing that I didn’t understand. So when they’d be like “Oh, I’m going to go get “Old mate”, and I’m like “Well, who’s old mate? like, someone that you’ve known for ages?”. And they’d use it on strangers and I’d say “Oh, yeah, old mate did this.” And I’m like, “Oh, yeah, where’d you meet him?”. “Oh I just met him.” like “I was with you. What do you mean?.” “But you call him “old mate”?”

It’s like, what are you talking about? And, like, I think that’s.

It’s just become like a slang term for someone, right?

For someone, yeah, for anyone. And…

I just went got this dude, this make, this guy. Old mate.

Anyone. And “Old love”. That’s not very commonly, but sometimes for the girls it’s “Old love”, but I heard that a handful of times, but “Old mate’s” infectious. So, it’s… it gets thrown around so much that you start using it all the time. Like, “Old mate will get it!”. Yeah…

It’s funny how words and expressions catch on like that, because I remember hearing that for the first time I think after high school one of my friends kept saying it, and I was like, he was from the country out in Shepparton, so northern Victoria, and I remember being like, “What the hell does this mean?”, and he explained it to me and I was like, it kind of has this ring to it, like this… it sounds cool, and be like, “Yeah, I was hanging out with old mate.

It’s inclusive. You’re part of this group.

Yeah, so it’s funny how things like that catch on, and then… but, yeah it is like, those kinds of expressions and terms are only really used by Australians with other Australians because it is just so confusing. And I think too because it’s not absorbed by everyone who speaks English in Australia it’s only used by those groups that it’s hard to use holistically because it’s just not common until you go into those areas.

But you do see, like, in terms… especially the Geologists you get a lot of people on 457s (visas), a lot of people from the UK, they soak it up real quick. I think they loved it. But, some of the Indian people I worked with, it was pretty funny. Hearing the Indian accent. Well I’m sure there’s more than one, but like, but you know, people from India who’d spent, you know, less than six months in Australia, you know, saying “Old mate”, and “How are ya?”, and just, you know, all the slang you just incorporating it in, and it’s just hilarious just seeing like the cut off in their own accents when they’re trying to emulate it. And, but also too, like, we loved it when that happened as well.

So what advice would you have if you were someone who’s recently come to Australia and is going to be working with these kinds of guys, and… or, you know, people in general, it doesn’t just have to be men, but what is the kind of advice you would have for someone becoming friends with these people, working with these people, learning to understand the accent and these terms?

I think that just ask them directly what it means. I mean it could be hard though if… some of the real country country guys, so, you know, if you know, like Longreach Central Queensland where some of the guys are just country… very country.

As rough.

Rough as. You literally can’t pull them up everything, on every single point, because they… it’s just slang with everything. So I think you just have to listen and eventually you will hear sentences in context and you pick up on it. But if you hear a repeating element that’s repeated a lot like “Old mate” is, pull them up on that, and then I think all the other terms will fall into place in time. But I think that that would be the biggest one.

‘Cause that’s one of those things.

It’s tricky ’cause it’s still English, and it’s still Aussie English, still obvious, the same country. I still understood them. But that’s really the only term I sort of struggled with that I can remember. But a lot of it was the sentence structure and grammar. It was a bit different. And anything you just worked that out after a while I think.

It’s just exposure.

So, it was surprising actually. You think ’cause Australia’s quite young we don’t have the same variation in accents sort of… even language. In other countries, say like Europe where, you know, you drive an hour and it’s a different language in certain parts. But we do have quite a bit of variation between the states and even within states if you’re really listening for it.

And I’d… They knew that I was from Melbourne just for how I said Melbourne, which I don’t think a lot of Victorians realise. We say “Melbourne” different than… Yeah.

So, what’s the difference? Can you say it?

Well, “Melbourne”?

That’s how we would say it, but.

I don’t know. For me I don’t understand what I’m saying. They’re just like, “Oh, they way you say “Melbourne”, say it again!” I’m like, “Well, what do you mean?”. It’s not either like “Melbourne” (American accent), like, they just say it seemingly the same as me but.

They can hear the difference.

They call us Mexicans because we’re south of the (Qld) border.

So I guess too, one of the points that I wanted to get at, was how do you penetrate that kind of culture too, because a lot of foreigners have trouble when they come here. A lot of the guys that listen and chat to me tell me how hard it is when they are working as tradies or in groups with guys who are really rough, use lot of slang, and just… I guess that culturally not bogan Australian, but those kind of… those small guy groups that are really hard to penetrate and become friends with. And they feel like they work there for a year, for two years, and even then they’re not really in the group. What sort of advice would you have, ’cause it can be hard for you and me, right? If we go to these kinds of places a lot of the time we’re treated the same in that we aren’t originally from there, we don’t speak like them, we don’t use the same language as them, and we get treated as a bit like outsiders, and it takes us a little bit of time to get into the groove.

I think the biggest thing is not taking what they say seriously and being able to take a joke. I saw some people that couldn’t. I literally saw one guy on a drill rig, scrubbing a drill rig with a toothbrush. Like, that stuff still can happen. And it was a guy that didn’t know when to shut up, and didn’t know how to take a joke. He liked to give, but couldn’t take them. And he got himself in a situation that he sort of created for himself. But I think if you can take a joke, if you can at least try to be… like make some jokes as well, you know, like, even just talking to them, like, generally even a lot of the ones that are more confronting or sort of intimidating looking a very laid back and quite friendly. Even the ones that seem to be really grouchy some of them are the friendliest blokes and they’re there, they’re grouchiness, or apparent hostilities, it’s all show.

And it’s when they’re on the job and they’re stressed out, but then afterwards.

Yeah, if they’re swearing and carrying on after a while you hear it enough, and you’re just like “Ah, he’s alright. He’s just having a sook.” But I think the biggest thing too is that if you are going to… I think a lot of those crew groups that they really are respected if you you pay out on them but then you can take a joke in turn. But you got to be careful doing it. You’ve got to really read the situation.

Yeah, so maybe don’t start with walking up and dropping the C-bomb and being like “Hey you C*&^!” like.

No. No… and, you know, if they’re angry and then you call them a bunch of sooks, well, that won’t work very well. You know you’ll find your ute on bricks. But in saying that even like after work a lot of these guys go to the bar and that sort of thing, and I’m not saying that, like, in order to fit in with Aussie culture sort of in rural areas you have to be a raging alcoholic, but, you know, even just spending the time even if it’s an hour or two a couple of days of the week, if they do end up going to somewhere just joining in and just getting chatting with… people are going to start loosening up after a work and it’s… that’s a good time to really sort of, like, edge your way in. People are a lot more open than they like to let on.

It’s funny because it feels so much like high school. Like we… I don’t know, it’s.

Guys are… we mature in our own little way, but at the end it’s all a big boy… You get a bunch of guys together and they’re kids, like, you know…

And you kind of have to be able to turn it on and off, right? Like in these situations, and that’s part of the, I don’t know, the delicacy. When you get in here it’s… I think… and it’s not just an English speaking… what do I want to say? It’s not just foreigners that suffer from this. When Americans come to Australia and English people come to Australia…

Well, I mean, they’re foreigners.

But English language learners.

It’s not just ESL learners who have this problem. It’s Americans British people, you know, they come to Australia and they suffer the same thing where they go to places like this, they have jobs working with other Aussies, and they don’t get the Aussie humour and the Aussie culture of teasing one another as a way of showing that you like someone. And if you can’t take a joke and you can’t show that you can be teased and then brush it off and tease back you’re… that’s when people get uncomfortable and almost don’t like you because they don’t… they know they can’t joke with you. And that’s… I feel like that’s… I’ve had a lot of listeners to the podcast, say “We just, like, they seem mean. These people they say things to me. I don’t understand and.

They’re just testing water with you a lot, and I notice that…

Exactly. And part of it is you just have to get used to ignoring what people say and not taking it literally, right? Especially, this is for Americans, for British people too, ’cause they get really offended when they’re not used to the Australian humour.

Because like Americans.

I find people from the UK tend to be pretty good at it. They tend to be better, but yeah, the Americans can be quite literal. I suppose it depends what area you’re in as well. But, some Americans that I’ve met can be quite literal and I think that you’re openly offending them.

And the problem with that is it causes a kind of ripple effect there, because then Aussies find that hilarious in itself, so they’ll keep doing it.

Yeah, it’s almost like you find the chink in the armour, or that the weak spot, right? And then you just keep picking at it and picking at it. So you almost have to practice tolerance and having a thick skin.

That’s it.

When it comes to how these people may treat you, you know, I mean within reason. Obviously, there is a lie, and that’s what you have to get used to, because there can be bullying and nastiness of course.

Yeah, of course.

But at the same time as someone is joking around with you and says something like “Hey dickhead! How’s it going mate.” You know, that’s… they’re not calling you a “dickhead” as in “Oh, we hate you and we think you blah blah blah.” It’s just Australians seem to be a lot more loose with their… the way that they’ll refer to someone.

With their abuse. Loose with abuse.

Yeah, I mean, and it is…I guess my advice would be just don’t take everything personally straightaway, and try and read the situation and get used to it, and see how they treat other people that they’ve obviously friends with, ’cause if they’re treating you the same way and they’re treating their friends that way, then it’s not a sign that… (they don’t like you.

And in a very weird way if they’re as abusive say to you as they are to their own friends then you need to start to think “Well, is it really abuse or is this just how he is.

Exactly.

And, in a weird sort of way is this actually a good thing? If he’s talking me the same way as his friends well maybe he might actually like me.

I remember having… When I started jujitsu and going to the gym, I remember this one guy that was always poking fun at me. And I was just like, even as an Australian, I was just like, “What is up with this? Does he just not like me?”. And I remember talking to him one day, and he’s like, “Man if I didn’t like you I just wouldn’t talk to you. I just wouldn’t say anything. I’d ignore you.” And that is what probably one of those things to take into account is in these sorts of situations. If someone’s teasing you and still, you know, to an extent, but, if they’re not ignoring you and they’re still laughing and they’re kind of friendly by using some of these words that may confuse you. Don’t have your automatic reaction of being offended, because that will probably lead to them going further with that.

Yeah, or they’ll start to feel a bit awkward and then they might not do it again for a while, and then it can just make it… the whole situation can feel a bit weird. Yeah.

Anyway, we’ve gone off on a bit of a tangent, but the side note’s get a thick skin and be able to handle insults a little bit within reason and get used to it.

That’s it.

And get used to it. Probably expect it too. If you’re working with a lot of guys.

Expect it. And it could be a lot of fun. Friendly insulting can be fun. I find that hard. Not everyone does it. It’s hard to explain to people that aren’t into it, but yeah.

Awesome. Maybe we can finish up man.

I sort of don’t even know what we talked about. We tried to keep it to something relevant to Aussie English, but it sort of went a bit everywhere.

I wanted them to get exposure to your accent, and, man, I think we use so many slang terms in there. I was just thinking some of the times you drop these things and I’m like.

I don’t know you think I did.

I was like I hope when I go back over this I’m going to be able to remember what he said, ’cause I don’t use that, and sometimes when you listen over things and try and transcribe you’re like, “What?”.

Yeah I remember when I was even in South America I… one thing I liked is yeah you speak slower and you pronounce your words properly, and I thought this is good it’s like sort of correcting my accent or whatever, and ’cause, you know, Aussies can slur a bit as well. I don’t think a lot of Aussies realise that, but we can… we slur through our sentences sometimes, and… but then as soon as… So, I was like alright this is getting a bit better I’m pronouncing words correctly, that sort of thing, but then you see one Aussie it just all goes, and it’s just it’s a battle.

It’s funny how that happens, ’cause I remember doing that too where I went to Queensland and used to do research on turtles, and we would go up there and be in a group, and it would just come out. You’d have, you know, you wouldn’t realise you sound… like I remember being asked, “Are you English?” … I’m like “What’re you talking about I’m just from Melbourne.

But that’s weird too because then.

And then my accent came out after a month I come back to Melbourne and everyone’s like, “Jesus man. You’re full bogan!”.

But when I was in Central America I had a few people who thought I was English. And this is really weird because one guy said… he said, “Are you sure you’re not English, your parents are? Your language isn’t as vulgar as all of Australians.” I’m like, “It’s the opposite man!”. I told people at home just ’cause I knew they’d find that hilarious. But I got quite a lot of people thinking, you know, I was English, and I don’t really understand that at all.

I think it’s difficult though, right?

Even if I’m in a group of other Aussies they keep me out of thinking that I had spent time in England, and I don’t really… I don’t get that.

I think that’s just that… I don’t want to sound, you know… I think it’s the education thing. The longer you believe in education going to high school, going through university, the longer you stay around those organisations, I think one because you’re around people who are more educated and speak with a more clear accent, and you’re in so many foreigners so that you have to speak with a more clear accent. I think that’s part of the reason, at least personally, I have a more neutral Australian accent then I would have if I had left high school and gone to become a tradie or something Werribee or in the middle of Australia, and then had that, you know, instead of saying “Australia” I would say “Astralya”, like, you’d just start getting the…

Well, I mean, in year 7 I used to call a “Toilet” “Tawlet”. I got rid of that pretty quick. I thought that was normal, I was like, “Oh, tawlet” and then the class was laughing at me. I’m like, “Damn!”.

Oh God. “Tawlet”.

We should probably end up here, man. Thank you so much for the interview. See you guys.

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