Excerpted from the Australia Career Guide
Australia is both an island and the world's smallest continent, and it is almost as large as the United States. It is composed of six states and two territories.
The basis of what is considered traditional Australian food has its roots in the European settlement of the continent, and is particularly founded in British and Irish foods that would keep well in hot weather. There are not now many restaurants where you can order an old-fashioned Australian meal, such as lamb chops, corned beef and steaks, but new traditional foods, such as chicken parmigiana, meat pies, Pho noodles and sushi, have become abundantly available in dining establishments in the large metropolitan areas.
Australians are fond of sports and the outdoors. According to a recent survey, about 65 percent of Australians aged 15 and older enjoy some sort of physical activity or sport.
Australia is a time-controlled society. Timelines, agendas and deadlines are considered extremely important to the success of any project, and are strictly adhered to.
Australia is a multicultural, amicable society, and 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.
Australian English differs from British or American English mainly in its use of accent, intonation and colorful slang phrases, though in business practice Australian slang is not commonly used. Australian English uses many words from Indigenous languages, such as kangaroo and boomerang, and other words that came from convicts and early settlers.
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.
- Dinner — rarely, but sometimes, known as tea — is the main evening meal, served between 6 pm and 8 pm, while supper is a late night snack or light meal. Brunch is a very common meal, particularly on weekends, eaten between 9 am and 1 pm, and is more like breakfast than lunch. Brunch is not a meal that a family would normally have in their house on their own unless for a special occasion — it is usually a meal to share with friends on the weekends, very often in a café.
- When meeting for the first time, people normally shake hands, firmly but not too hard. Personal space requirements should be observed, usually staying arm’s length from the other person. Australians value eye contact, but this should be not be constant or intense, as you may look like you are staring (which is rude in Australia) or may be taken as an effort to intimidate. Some Australians may touch others when speaking to emphasize points, but this can be
Conversation in the workplace is generally focused on the business at hand, with some small talk at the beginning and end of any meeting or workday interaction. Such small talk usually is about happenings on the weekend, if it is Monday or Friday. Australian sports always are appropriate topics of conversation, as are the weather and significant news events. When there is some familiarity within the group, discussing weekend or evening activities and upcoming holidays also are appropriate. Religion, money and politics are not usually discussed unless the relationship is a close one. Australians generally are very proud of their country and history, and they usually appreciate the opportunity to educate a visitor or newcomer about the country’s history and customs.
Directness, pragmatism, flexibility and modesty are considered positive work traits. Australians like to get straight down to business and generally are direct, informal and matter-of-fact in discussions. Among all individuals, regardless of rank, there is much direct and informal communication, although being aware of the lines of management is important. That is, while the Australian management structure can be relatively flat, with managers engaging junior staff in conversation, in most instances it would not be appropriate for a junior staffer to ignore his or her supervisor and go directly to a senior staff member. While there are hierarchies in Australian business organizations, they can seem to exist mainly for clarity in making decisions, but this is an illusion — hierarchy actually matters a great deal.
Business dealings usually proceed in a fairly rapid manner, with small talk at the beginning and end of the meeting and the main conversation focused on the business at hand. Business cards are routinely exchanged, but with no special ceremony, and usually at the beginning of each meeting. While conducting a meeting or giving a presentation, facts, details, clear benefits and challenges all should be presented. 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, and a clear procedure for following up afterward if it is a sales presentation — Australians often like some time to think about their dealings, and aren’t keen on the hard sell.
This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the Australia Guide.