Australian culture 101

Trust us – the land down under (a common nickname for Australia) is unlike any other place you’ve ever been. That’s why we’ve prepared this useful guide to understanding Australian culture. Read on for a useful introduction on what makes Australia, Australia! And who knows, maybe the Aussie way of life is similar to the place that you call home.

We have mates (‘friends’) from everywhere

Australia, like most other Western nations, is extremely diverse. Around one quarter of Australia’s population and nearly half of Sydney residents are born overseas. That means you’ll have tons of opportunities to experience different cultures in one of the world’s most international cities.

Thanks to our multicultural society, all people in Australia are treated equally and respectfully regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, background or physical ability

 / 5

We’re super laid back (‘easy-going’)

One of the first things that may be quite obvious is the casual nature of Australian society. Social interactions often feel relaxed and carefree, which may seem very odd at first, especially if you are used to a very fast-paced culture. You’ll find that no matter where you are, “How are you going?” (meaning “How are you?”) is a typical Aussie greeting, and many Australians like to chat about how the day is going before getting down to business. This casualness even extends to the classroom, where it’s very common to call teachers by their first name.

In fact, you could say that in Australia, everyone’s your mate. Here, ‘mate’ means ‘friend’, but many Australians refer to acquaintances and even strangers as ‘mate’ when speaking to them directly. So, if someone calls you ‘mate’, take it as a friendly Aussie greeting.

We have a language all our own

Even native English-speakers may have trouble understanding the special slang popular among Aussies – sometimes including other Australians. Aussies use a lot of informal language in work, school and social settings. Not only that, the Australian accent is also distinctly different from that of other English-speaking countries and may be difficult to understand at times.

Australians usually know better than anyone that a lot of what they say can be lost in translation among non-Australians. If you’re ever stuck trying to understand an Aussie, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat themselves or clarify what they mean. They’ll most likely be very friendly and eager to help you understand.

How to handle social situations

Mind your manners

Even though most Australians approach everyday situations in a chilled (relaxed and easy-going), friendly manner, personal respect and good manners are still very important when interacting with others. Always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, and respect others by showing up to classes, meetings and dates on time.

Keep calm and keep left

When out and about, we drive on the left side of the road. The same rule applies when walking. Keep to the left side of footpaths and escalators and allow others to pass you on the right side. When using public transportation, it’s common courtesy to allow others to exit the train, tram, elevator or bus before entering.

Dining do’s and don’ts

When out on any kind of ‘date’ – be it a dinner or drinks with a good friend, colleague or potential romantic partner, there a no formal rules for who pays.It’s generally accepted that the person who suggested the outing should offer to pay. It is, however, quite common for the invitee to propose splitting the cost (especially for students), so don’t be alarmed if they want to chip in.

Australia does not have a tipping culture, so you are not expected to tip for any services you may receive. You are however free to tip for exceptional service as you see fit. A 10% tip will usually fit the bill.

How we stay busy

Shopping

Shops, restaurants, and other public areas may have very limited opening hours from what you’re used to at home, even in major metropolitan areas like Sydney. Most shops open at 9am and close at 5pm each day (shorter hours on weekends) but some areas may have ‘late-night’ opening hours where shops stay open later. Major stores, such as supermarkets and department stores, often stay open late each night and some are even open 24 hours a day. Restaurants and pubs typically stay open until 9pm or later each night. It’s always a good idea to do a quick Google search for store opening hours if you’re unsure.

Sports and exercise

Australians love sport, and you’ll soon find out that following the ‘footy’, or Australian Rules Football, Rugby League and Rugby Union, is practically a way of life here. Other sports, like soccer, cricket, basketball, and tennis are very popular among Australians from all walks of life.

Outside of keeping up with professional sports, you’ll find that Australians are a very active society and many enjoy playing recreational sports, swimming, jogging or gym training in their free time.

Nightlife

Australia has a very social drinking culture, and it is totally normal to be asked out for beers on a Friday night or after long day at work. You may find that people in Australia drink alcohol more regularly than in your home country, and bars, pubs and clubs are all popular places to spend time with friends, especially on the weekends. Drinking responsibly and in moderation is strongly advised.

Know that those who are under the age of 18 are not allowed to smoke, drink alcohol, or enter bars and pubs. 

Keep these tips in mind as you adjust to life down under and you’ll be enjoying the footy with your new mates in no time.