3 Things you may not know about Bedtime in Australia

Grey bed made up with white linen and warm grey blanket.
3 Things you may not know about Bedtime in Australia

I love my bed.  It is my sanctuary from the world and indeed, during Melbourne lockdowns, it can be my sanctuary from the rest of the family.  But did you know that all is not what it seems when it comes to buying beds and bedding?  Here are 3 things you may not know about bedtime in Australia.

It’s a Doooooona Daaaaahling

If you go looking for a duvet in a shop, nobody under the age of about 50 knows what you’re talking about.  Now, back in the day in the UK, it used to be called the continental quilt.  Apparently, that used to be the case here in Australia until the 1980’s when a particular manufacturer adopted the word ‘doona’ as a brand name, which then became a nickname for the continental quilt, a bit like how we Brits use ‘Hoover’ for a vacuum cleaner. It eventually found its way into the Australian language as a ‘proper’ word (Aussies love a good nickname, usually created by shortening a word and sticking an ‘a’ or an ‘o’ on the end of it).

If we want to delve further back into the origins of the name, it is thought that doona comes from the Danish word ‘dyne’ which means ‘down feathers’; whereas duvet comes from an old Norse word ‘dunn’ which means, yes you’ve guessed it, ‘down feathers’.  So we are essentially talking about the same thing.  But if you want Aussies to understand you when you go shopping, ask for a doona, or a doona cover (unless of course, you’ve actually gone out to buy teabags).

Wooden bed and bedside table. Bed made up with white linen. Luxurious scene.
3 Things you may not know about Bedtime in Australia.

Size Does Matter

When my husband arrived in Australia ahead of the family, he was sent on a mission to buy some beds in my absence.  Not knowing the lie of the land, he took an ex-pat male friend with him and they hit the local homemaker centre (a strip of shops dedicated to everything you may need for the house and home).  After lots of wandering about and head-scratching, a kindly assistant spotted their plight and offered to help, only to be rather amused when one of them asked ‘how big is a Queen?’  

Be warned people, if you are from the UK, a Queen is not what you might think and a King is not a King!  And if we want to be really grand, a Superking is not a Superking.  Let’s not even think about Emperors. Confused?  You will be, especially when you find that all the UK bedding you brought over does not fit your new Australian King-sized bed.

Of course, if you want to keep your UK beds that you’ve paid a fortune to have transported over here, you may need to consider ordering your fitted sheets online from the UK (good old M&S comes up trumps every time for me) and replacing your UK duvet with an Aussie doona, so that you can buy nice covers to keep that sanctuary bright and fresh. Here’s a handy little chart to help you decipher the difference in sizes.

Brightly coloured textiles rolled up and piled on top of each other.
3 Things you may not know about Bedtime in Australia.

Manchester is not just a very nice city with two Football Teams

Manchester, everyone, is the name for bedding in Australia.  Wait, what?  Yes, you heard it, manchester is the universal name for all bedlinen, whether it be fitted sheets, doona covers, pillowcases, top sheets.  Whether it’s made of cotton (cool), linen (luxury but creasy), bamboo (sustainable), flannelette (yuck), polyester (double yuck) … it’s called manchester.  Apparently, anything else made of fabric such as table cloths, towels, tea towels, etc may also be referred to as manchester.  There is a shop in the local mall near my house, simply called ‘Manchester’.  Makes me feel a little bit homesick every time I see it.

Way back in time, well before Oasis, Coronation Street and Man Utd (no bias) were Manchester’s biggest exports, the city of Manchester in the UK was at the centre of the cotton industry.  Any cotton goods (mainly sheets and towels), were given the name ‘Manchester goods’ and then simply shortened to manchester.  Evidently, this was a well-used term in the UK back in the late 18th and 19th century but died out from the common language long ago.  It seems the early settlers in Australia brought that word with them (along with smallpox) and it has stuck.

So, next time you are in your local department store in Melbourne, and somebody asks you for directions to Manchester, there’s no need to dig out your roadmap of the M60.  Simply point to the escalator and say ‘doonas are on the third-floor mate’.

Sweet dreams everyone …

A sleeping toy lamb on a wool rug with a book and an alarm clock.
3 Things you may not know about Bedtime in Australia.

The Melbourne Mum

Thinking of emigrating to Australia? Already moved to Melbourne? Find out what it's really like to make the big move Down Under.

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8 Responses

  1. Keith Orchard says:

    Extremely useful information in the absence of any universal bed standards for size and accessories. Sweet dreams.

  2. Rusty says:

    I really do love your sense of humour, Melbourne Mum 🤣

  3. Ben Clarke says:

    I has no idea about Doonas and the use of the Manchester phrase is fascinating. Thanks for sharing ☺️

  4. Andy Davies says:

    I thought Manchester had just signed Ronaldo but how wrong I was ………………

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