Australia: Communication Styles
Australia is a multicultural, amicable society, so it is important to be sensitive to different cultures and lifestyles when interacting with locals who may come from a wide range of traditions.
In general, Australians feel they are an unpretentious people, and are proud of this. An example of this is illustrated by what has been known as the ‘tall poppy syndrome,’ which refers to Australians' tendency to dislike people who self-aggrandize and act in an arrogant or aloof manner (being the ‘tall poppy’ that stands out above the others). Australians tend to support the underdog, and boasting about one’s education or other achievements is frowned upon. This does not mean that people do not talk about their successes, but when applying for jobs it is important that you include evidence to support claims of skills and achievements.
Australians generally are known for being direct, pragmatic and candid in business situations, usually saying exactly what they mean, though this is not true in all cases. They value professional behavior in the workplace, so straightforward speaking should not be interpreted as license to be overly familiar, rude or personal. There are many protections and a degree of formality in the workplace, and you must be very conscious of acceptable, non-discriminatory conversation.
Though the Australians’ communication style tends to be straightforward, it can vary from state to state. People in in the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales, in particular, are stereotyped as being very direct. Many Australians are fond of dry, straight humor, which can sometimes lead to misunderstandings. If you find you are the object of a humorous comment, you should not necessarily take it as an insult. If you feel offended or do not understand, it is acceptable to politely question statements. Humor is a great way to break the ice with Australians, but do not make light of things they hold dear, such as sport or even their politicians. Be careful not to be offensive. An Australian may mock a national institution, but this should not be taken by a newcomer as an invitation to do so as well.
Conversation taboos that generally are recognized worldwide — such as those relating to personal relationships, religion, money, politics and ethnicity — are adhered to in Australia. In addition, in Australia, discrimination on the basis of someone’s race, gender, sexuality, disability or any other personal characteristic (e.g., attractiveness or weight) is very much frowned upon. This includes any jokes that make reference to these characteristics; such comments should be avoided.