Biscuits aren’t biscuits

We’ve mentioned before that even though English is spoken in both the US and New Zealand, we often misunderstand. The same words mean different things. Here are a few new “finds” in the language department.

Liz mentioned she has a good scone recipe. She said you mix self-raising (US: self-rising) flour, cream and lemonade. The first two ingredients are easy, but I got a little worried about translating lemonade without help. Her response? Lemonade…like Sprite or 7-up. Uh-oh. That’s not lemonade in the US.

I gave the recipe more thought and decided to google it. Here’s a typical photo of a lemonade scone.


Houston, we have a problem. In the US, that is a biscuit.

A New Zealand biscuit? Cookies. Yep, like good old All American chocolate chip cookies.


Going to the grocery store is an adventure. 

We are learning but sometimes it feels like we are halfway around the world and upside down. Oh wait! We sort of are.

To learn more, Dan and I went to the New Coasters Kiwi Slang class. By the way, the New Coasters group is a fun way to get to know other people on the West Coast–and across New Zealand there are newcomers groups (all listed here).

Here are just a few of the differences that we are getting used to, slowly but surely:

  • A ute is a pick-up truck
  • An afghan is a type of cookie (oops, biscuit)–and a crocheted throw (Afghan in the US) is a rug.
  • Gummies are rain boots
  • Cocky is a cow farmer
  • Chooks are chickens
  • Yonks is a long time (“I haven’t seen her for yonks”)
  • A “Long Drop” is an outhouse (too much imagery for me!)
  • A smoko is when you take a brief rest from work (even when not smoking)
  • “Quite the dog’s breakfast” means something is messy
  •  Manchester is bedding (quilts, duvets, pillows), for example, “All manchester is on sale”
  • Dunny means a restroom or toilet (but they never use the term “john” for a toilet)
  • Wop-Wops is pretty comparable to boondocks or boonies (“I live way out in the woo-wops”)
  • Panel beaters–guess what those are. Collision repair folks.
  • A sweater is called a jumper or a jersey or a cardi.
  • A swimming suit is called “togs” (plural like pants I think)
  • If something is nicked, it has been stolen.
  • Drunk driving is called drink driving.
  • A garbage can on wheels is called a wheelie bin.
  • The trunk and hood of a car are called the boot and the bonnet.

And it is not only the language that is “the same but different.

  • Light switches are pushed down for on, up for off
  • Every electrical outlet has an off-on switch (one for each socket)
  • The voltage for electricity is very high compared to the US–it is like super juice for charging cell phones. I love it!
  • Central heating and air conditioning is simply not common. We heat with a “multiple fuel fire”–just called a “fire” here. It burns wood or coal and in the US would be called a “wood stove.” To transfer the heat around our house, we have a thermostat that turns on a fan system when the temperature goes about a certain temp.
  • Our “fire” has a “wet back”–which means it has water pipes that are heated by the fire as an alternative to the electricity for heating water. We haven’t turned on our hot water heater (called a “cylinder” here) since we have been here–and the water is boiling hot. That stuff would not be legal in the US!

Oh the list goes on.

We are having a lot of fun learning a culture that seems so similar on the surface. This adventure is exactly why we wanted to experience by moving to a different country.

Thank you to all of our kiwi friends for the daily adventures!


In NZ, the affirmation that you are listening or have heard what someone said in a conversation: single syllable “uh.”

In the US, the same response is typically a two syllable “uh-huh.”

In the Southern US, that sometimes is changed to many syllables “uhhh-huh, I am with you on that sweetheart!”


4 thoughts on “Biscuits aren’t biscuits

  1. It must be very hard to explain to your patients when the language is so different. Of course I guess they all understand the hearing Aid goes in the ear. And what do you do about hearing aid batteries?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s