Laying the foundation to the start of a life in Australia can be exciting, but you may definitely feel like a stranger in a foreign land as you learn about the different customs and unwritten rules of etiquette. Having knowledge of Australian etiquette in business and social situations, however, is more than just about good manners; it will help you make connections in your new home with neighbours, colleagues and peers. You will appear confident and knowledgeable about norms in your new country, putting yourself and others at ease!
When integrating into Australia at the social, in addition to the business, level, you may find that there are many differences in how Australians interact as neighbours and friends compared to your home country.
Here are some basic points to note about social norms in Australia.
- In general, Australians are known to be polite, friendly and honest, but not too direct or blunt.
- Australians respect privacy and often promote individualism.
- People are more casual when it comes to interacting with others from different generations or professions that are often held in esteem.
- They accept their children to be more open in their thinking and with their interactions.
- Freedom of religion is important, but considered a private matter mostly.
- People are not afraid to speak publicly on controversial issues. Topics such as religion, sex, finances and politics are often avoided, however.
- Personal space is about an arm’s length.
- Shaking hands is done rather firmly when meeting someone.
- Eye contact is important to show respect, sincerity, attention and focus.
- There is gender equality in social settings and business.
- People don’t normally barter or bargain at stores. Negotiating price for big-ticket purchases like a car is more common, however.
- Acceptable formalities for eating in public include using cutlery properly, and no burping, loud chewing or slurping.
- We are on time for appointments as the appointed time is not a suggestion.
- As in any country, there are many expressions or idioms specific to Australia and even to each state. When uncertain as to how the turn of a phrase or use of a word fits into what was said or written, don’t be shy to ask for an explanation.