Excerpted from the Australia Career Guide
Australia is both an island and the world's smallest continent, but it is still almost as large as the United States. Due to its geographical isolation, it is home to unique flora and fauna.More than 80 percent of Australians live within 100 kilometers of the coast, and 75 percent live in urban areas. Australia is composed of six states and two territories.
Since Australia is a multicultural and open society, it is important to be sensitive to different cultures and lifestyles when interacting with Australians. In general, Australians are a modest people and are not fond of pretension. The 'tall poppy syndrome' refers to Australians' tendency to avoid standing apart from the group (being the 'tall poppy'), and they tend to root for the underdog. They strive to present themselves as equal to everyone else. Boasting about one's education or other achievements is frowned upon.
Australian English differs from British and American English mainly in its many colorful slang phrases. Australian English (known as strine) uses many words from Aboriginal languages, such as kangaroo and boomerang, and other words that came from convicts and early settlers. The Australian idiom also makes use of 'rhyming slang,' or when one part of a phrase is replaced with a word that rhymes, e.g. 'have a Captain Cook' means to 'have a look.'In addition, Australians are prone to creating abbreviations of many words by taking the first syllable and adding “ie” or “o” to the end (e.g. brekkie, journo, brollie, etc).
If You Want to Act Like a Local...
In Australia, queuing (waiting in line) is expected and, in public spaces, it is customary to give up one's seat to pregnant, handicapped or elderly persons.
Table manners are Continental, meaning the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right. One should not switch the fork to the right hand. Elbows should be kept off the tables. To indicate one has finished eating, the fork and knife should lie horizontally with the handles facing right.
Australians are generally found to be friendly, approachable, easy to work with, reasonable, hard working and reliable. Although Australians have a strong work ethic, there is an increasing belief in Australia that quality of life is as important as the job. Australians are known to play hard and work hard, but with a casual, down-to-earth attitude.
Directness, pragmatism, flexibility and modesty are all considered positive work traits. Australians like to get straight down to business and are generally direct, informal and matter-of-fact in discussions. Among all individuals, regardless of rank, there is much direct and informal communication. The Australian management structure is a relatively flat one. While there are hierarchies in Australian business organizations, they exist mainly for clarity of decision making. Rank, in and of itself, has little importance. Managers must be very careful in their relationships with subordinates and professionals; rather than expecting their expertise to speak for itself, they should anticipate being questioned and challenged. Managers need to be fair, direct, honest and involved, although decisions may be theirs. Australians generally respond to incentives and respect from management.
Conducting a Meeting or Giving a Presentation
Business meetings should be booked approximately one month in advance, preferably between the months of March and November. Business dealings usually proceed in a fairly rapid manner, with a little small talk at the beginning and end of the meeting, and conversation focused on the business at hand. Business cards are routinely exchanged, but with no special ceremony, usually at the beginning of each meeting. While conducting a meeting or giving a presentation, facts, details, clear benefits and challenges should all be presented. Anything that has even a hint of trying to impress or assuming acceptance based on reputation or name will be challenged. Less is more in the Australian business community, and business presentations should be kept short and to the point. There should be ample time for questions.
Women in the Workplace
Women account for a large percentage of the Australian workforce and are employed in most fields. In public service, women account for 57 percent of the workforce. In the private sector, women hold only 12 percent of management positions and 9 percent of board directorships. It would be uncommon for a female to be excluded from after-work activities. Some find there is still a fair amount of male chauvinism in the Australian workplace. Bawdy banter is relatively common; however, it is not uncommon for Australian women to partake in these exchanges as much as the men.
This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the Australia Guide.