10 Common American Expressions that are now in my Expat Vocabulary

EXPAT LIFE IN AMERICA: As much as I have tried to avoid sounding American in my own parochial way, it’s almost impossible. After seven years, there are many routine words from the local’s vocabulary that have crept into my everyday speech. Here are a few examples of common American expressions that I say frequently:

  1. Candy

A very well-used word around Halloween and Easter, where candy reigns supreme even over chocolate. Candy is a recognizably American term. Locally it is used as a general expression that refers to all sweet confection. This includes anything chocolate based as well as other goodies. Reese’s and Hershey’s are both referred to as candy more often than chocolate it seems. Candy is a much harder sounding word than lollies. But you can start to use any word if you repeat it often enough. Lollies now sounds rather quaint…

  1. Fall

Autumn has always been an appealing word. I would argue that ‘Fall’ is far more evocative. In this particular season, beautiful foliage slowly changes from golden hues to brown and drops onto the ground. Fall is such a lovely time of the year. It gives us a break from summer humidity and delivers gorgeous vistas of color to make you ooh and aaah.


October Fall foliage in Madison NJ.

  1. Math

I am now so used to using the term ‘math’, it feels strange to actually say ‘maths’. Even mathematics sounds more familiar. This is another word I never expected to be saying due to its obvious American nature.

  1. Hosting

As it sounds akin to being the victim of a parasite, hosting isn’t a word  I took to readily. However, it is the American term used instead of saying ‘we’ll have you all over at our house’. Are you hosting?

  1. Reach out

Does this mean ‘reach out and touch someone’… like a line from the song? No, it is American for speak to someone; get in touch with or connect to someone for a purpose. It sounds a little flaky to me as an Australian but it is normal speak here.



  1. The Holidays

Another term I have just recently started to grasp which can refer technically to any holiday period. However, it really is used mostly to refer to two periods. These are Thanksgiving break (Thursday-Sunday: end of November) and Winter Recess (1 week between Christmas and New Year).

Americans do not say ‘Christmas break’ or ‘Christmas holidays,’ as this is politically incorrect. The Holidays celebrates three important observances in December. These include Hanukkah (Jewish); Christmas (Christian) and Kwanzaa (African-American). Although Hanukkah can vary when it is observed between November and December, it is recognized equally amongst Americans, many of whom practice the Jewish faith.home-for-the-holidays

  1. Vacation

This is the word used for summer holidays, more than any other time period. Spring break is the holiday week taken during April. Summer holidays are often the only time this is used, as the Holidays as above refers generally to two other periods.

  1. Folks

The US term for parents and sometimes it can be used to address a group generally. This is a fairly distinguishable American expression albeit some Aussies also use it..

  1. Goodwill

No, this does not refer to the quantifiable asset value of a business’ reputation and customer base. Although this is one meaning, Goodwill is a word Americans use for charity. Donations such as used clothing etc., are given to goodwill rather than charity.

10. Sassy

This refers to females who are considered likeably cheeky or sometimes rude. Giving cheek, back-answering or being a smart-a***, are some expressions that Australians might use to capture the same meaning.

What American words have you started using as an expat?

One thought on “10 Common American Expressions that are now in my Expat Vocabulary

  1. Hooray For NJ says:

    Interesting article! I never thought about a few of these. #9 Goodwill is an actual thrift shop. They accept donations, and resell the items received by donation. Some people consider Goodwill a charity, others do not — it’s political. Here’s the Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodwill_Industries Salvation Army is similar.

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