Local Lingo - Understanding your Kiwi Colleagues

Having recently returned to Edinburgh from a 4 month sabbatical in New Zealand, I find myself surrounded by quizzical looks as I try to explain the lingo I appear to have comfortably adopted from my time down under.  Before you think, hold on, 4 months and she is talking like a Kiwi! I am a Kiwi, but I’m a Kiwi who has been living in the UK for 5 years and during that time I have been taught the ‘correct’ word is crisps (not chips), flip flops (not jandals) and pants (not undies).  Yes, the last one has got me into trouble a few times - think ‘let me change my pants before we head out’ in the wrong context and people won’t want to take you up on that offer of a coffee!

So whilst I re-learn British (or in my case, Scottish) slang, I feel it is only appropriate that I share the Kiwi colloquialisms that any of you thinking of moving in the opposite direction may have to contend with:

1. Sweet As

This has many uses, simply meaning ‘okay’ in response to a statement from another

I’m just off to lunch”

“Sweet as” 

Or, used to describe things instead of just saying ‘cool’ or ‘awesome’

“That meal was sweet as”

For me, personally I tend to use ‘sweet as’ interchangeably with ‘no worries’ (or ‘nae bother’ in Scotland). But in essence it is a Kiwi’s way of acknowledging someone or emphasising how great something is.  We just like to do it in a way that leaves you hanging… sweet as!

2. Yeah-nah

This is just a verbal expression of our tendency to be non-committal, particularly where we may disagree with someone

​"The English Netball Team are pretty good"


It is similar to ‘I agree but disagree’ in that whilst you acknowledge the other persons opinion you just don’t necessary agree with it - we just like to be coy about our disagreement!

3. Lollies

Being such a sweet tooth, this one gets me a lot! To me a lolly is more than a lollipop and this is something that will take some time to learn in the UK. But for those of you who may know an Antipodean or happen to be best mates with them, I am sure you can forgive them when they say “Yay, lollies!” as you open your bag of ‘sweets.’ 

4. Dairy

This one can cause major confusion.

“I am just heading to the Dairy, you want anything?”

This has stumped my workmates a lot, especially given that we work in an office in the centre of the city. I can see the looks of confusion followed by realisation as they eventually understand what I am meaning. You can even see the train of thought go – Dairy? There’s no farm in the city; what does she want from a dairy that she can’t get from shop….oh she means shop! 

Yes, that’s right, when I say ‘Dairy’ I actually mean the ‘shop’, you know the local Sainsbury’s, Scotmid or Tesco Metro – that’s what I mean!

So next time you meet a Kiwi, whether newly arrived in your country and clinging to the patriotism that we subconsciously adopt when we travel abroad, or as friends and colleagues in your new job down under, I hope that you can refer to this brief guide to overcome the minor but potentially awkward language barriers that come from living on opposite sides of the globe! 

Jen (Jennifer Fergusson) is one of the international contingent at Head Medical, joining us in 2010 when she relocated from Christchurch, New Zealand. As a Registration Consultant, Jen supports Doctors with their registration, immigration & relocation to positions down under.

You can search all of the Consultant and GP positions we currently have available in New Zealand on our Jobs page.

For further information on this fantastic location check out our blog or New Zealand homepage.

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