General Views, Travel Tuesday, USA 2014

How to understand American 101

“What?  American’s speak English?”  Yes this I know, but what I found out in 2011 when Calvin and I where last over that side of the world, while it might be English there are some simple words that mean totally different things.  So I decided to post about some of them.


For example a simple biscuit – sounds simple right?  WRONG!  What I call a ‘Biscuit’ American’s call a ‘Cookie’, and what they call the ‘Biscuit’, I call a ‘Scone’.  SO a biscuit and gravy is TOTALLY GROSS, and sorry but so is a scone with gravy lol.   See what I mean the exact same word but two totally different things.  Right so you’re thinking no biggie, I can eat either one of them?  Well how about saying something that in New Zealand or Australia that is fine (the side of the world I am from) , but in America (the other side of the world) might not be and then you offend someone?  Arh now I have your interest.


This is exactly what I did in 2011, I asked a lady at the petrol station “where are the public toilets?”  NO BIGGIE?  WELLLLLLL she looked at me like I had just spat on her clean floor, over asking where the loo’s where!  Asking a dear American friend of mine later than evening, she explained to me that in the South it’s rude to ask for the toilet, it’s the bathroom or the restroom.  Well a bathroom to me is something in someone’s home and not open to the public :O.

Lets talk about some easy ones.  A boot.  EASY – something where you put your shopping in the car.  WRONG while yes, technically we do call a shoe a boot BUT we also call it a part of the car where you stuff everything into – American – trunk.  You know a big boxy thing that we once travelled with before there were airline weight limits!  Then if your cold grab for your jumper.  NOOOO there isn’t a person jumping off a building!  Which is what the first thing an American thinks of, than passing you over a Jersey to pop on to get yourself warm.


So lets run through a few that caught us out.

  • Parking Garage – Car Parking Building (trust me when you are lost looking for your car, and you ask someone where’s the parking building is, they have no idea)
  • Sandwich – (at any fast food place) a burger without red meat like chicken or fish
  • Burger – (again at fast food places) with red meat or what we call a patty (TRUST me more confusing when you are asking for a chicken burger and they ask if you want a sandwich and you say no a burger thinking the burger is the bun and not the patty arrhhhhh getting confused again!)
  • Fanny pack – OKKKKK this is one for the books in NZ, Australia, UK a fanny is, gee how does one say this?  Girly private parts in your pants!  YEP we call it a bum bag.
  • Lemonade – yeah when you ask for a lemonade and vodka, that’s what you get the yucky freshly made from lemons, lemonade.  Do yourself and your mouth a service – its 7up or sprite
  • Chips – chips are not fries and fries are not chips – they are crisps and French fries are just fries (or if you want to be PC freedom fries)
  • Sidewalk – not walking sideways your on the pavement or the footpath.
  • Beater – nope not something you would use to beat your egg, it’s a crappy or bomb of a car
  • Blacktop?  Yeah I don’t get this one?  It’s the road, go figure?
  • Jandals – yep the piece of Kiwi clothing that most can’t live without.  FLIPFLOPS also the Aussies call them these as well
  • Flat white – black coffee with creamer
  • Chilly bin – an easy one its a cooler
  • Creamer – its the milk they put in their coffee – oh and there is SO many different types; half n half, low fat, full tooooo many just say yes to the 1st one they say and handle it lol

Also as a note while we kiwis (from New Zealand) don’t mind being called Kiwi and an Aussie (Australian) doesn’t mind being called that, Americans DO NOT in the least like being called a Yank or Yankie!  So just don’t, why cause issues when you don’t need too!

Below is a little short video just in case you don’t know what a kiwi is.  A kiwi New Zealand’s national bird, much like the American Bald Eagle, other than it is flightless and only comes out at night lol but you get what I mean.

Poor Calvin has all sorts of issues while over there the last time, for some odd reason I don’t have as much as he does.  We talk a little faster and the looks you get from the poor Americans trying to keep up with what we were saying is very funny lol.

Three Months 2 go!  Looking forward to catching up with some of my mates on that side of the world again!

If you have any other words or saying write them in the comments we would love to know them



P.S Don’t forget to like the post and if your not already hit the link to add yourself to our little community 🙂


18 thoughts on “How to understand American 101”

  1. Great post! I think I would have a hard time down South of the border as well. English in Quebec is different than the rest of Canada as well because we are exposed to French so much our idioms are often translated. i.e. I am in the moon (meaning I am on cloud 9) is understood only in Quebec…my daughter whose nickname is MJ 😀 had to educate me on that one…”Mom outside of Quebec peeps don’t know that means.” Biscuit is the same as you in Canada though:)

    1. Have never heard of ‘I am in the moon’ before. But I do love it :). Say ‘Hello’ to your Daughter from another MJ on the other side of the world :]. I did read up on the whole biscuit/cookie/scone thing and from what I have read, once long ago Americans did called them biscuits as well. Changing it to cookie was just another way to remove themselves from their English/Red Coats past :(.

      1. Well, as an English Canadian I still hang on to many British words and the spelling as well…colour, neighbour even if Word and WordPress keep telling me I made a spelling mistake

  2. On the west coast of Canada it is quite common to ask for a washroom when you want a toilet. Don’t do this in the States. I was told on more than one occasion that the place did not have a washroom because people thought I was looking for a Laundromat or place to wash one’s clothes rather than a toilet. EEEKKK. You’re right – we may all speak English but oh the shades that lie therein.

  3. Based on your comments you have Canadian followers! As a Canadian we are very particular that we are not identified as being American. No offence to our lovely neighbours, it is just that we are a different country. However, if you were to hear me talk, you would have trouble identifying where I am from. I am often asked if I am from California when I am from Western Canada. As for the phrases, it is quite amazing how even though we speak the same language, our meanings are quite different. On another note, I took a river cruise in Europe a few years ago and it was so interesting that even though we all spoke English there were accents from all over the world including Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Canada, all over the States (which includes all kinds of accents). I loved it! ~Thea

  4. I love this post. I’m from Boston, Massachusetts and there are a couple of terms that are even different from up here. I’m inferring you were in the Southern states. For example, when you want a coffee with cream and sugar, we call that a regular. Usually that implies two scoops of sugar. We do call flip flops the same thing, flip flops. I never heard that other word. And yeah, we don’t like to be called yanks or Yankees. I’m assuming in the South it’s because of the Civil War, they’re the Confederates, and call Northerners the Yankees. However, being from Massachusetts, I’m a Red Sox fan, so I prefer not to be called a Yankee lol. I’ve never heard chilly bin, we call it cooler. No one ever wears fanny packs anymore, I hope. I know down in Texas they call a Laundromat a washateria, and around here, we call liquor stores, packies, short for package store. One bit of culture shock I got from travelling in my own country is the Southern Dunkin’ Donuts. Dunkin’ Donuts is huge in Massachusetts, more so than Starbuck’s. I went down South and ordered a regular and got a black coffee. I was dumbfounded, “you mean I have to put in my own cream and sugar??” Culture shock right there. I could go on and on. Awesome post. -Sage

  5. Loved it!
    There’s also “barbeque” which to us in the Southern US means meat (usually pork) cooked low and slow over wood coals plus or minus sauce—-and lots of difference in favorites there….but when I lived in Canada and was invited to a barbeque…it was salmon grilled outside.
    Then there’s “…helping your plate” and “bless his/her heart” ….well just come back next time you are here and we can discuss southern idioms over the drink of your choice….I’m sure they will get more interesting as the evening progresses!
    Thanks for the fun post.

    1. Hi Mary Louise,
      Yep we will cook better much anything on a BBQ over here – including sweetcorn and onions…
      And I agree next time we are over sounds like a plan to discuss over a drink or three lol 🙂
      M J

  6. Just saw this!!!! It was so much fun reading!! I often use the term “shoot I recon”. Has nothing to do with shooting anything!! Actually means “absolutely”, “all right”, ” right on”, “correct”. I’ll think of more later!!!!!
    Hope you get back over here in the near future!! Jean

  7. We, meaning “us in the South”, could NOT survive without the word Y’ALL!!!!! It’s sort of like an appendage or arm and leg to us!!! It’s mostly the ‘Yanks’ that still say “you all”. : ))

    1. Anyone that said it really. But I do like the southern states more than any of the others with the expectation of Texas. If I were to more anywhere in the US. Texas would be the place I go👍👍👍👍

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