Australian Culture

Culture and society

With Australia being a multicultural society, you will encounter a number of different cultures and lifestyles. Australia’s indigenous populations are the aboriginals, and have been living here for thousands of years. Etiquette and behaviours change from culture to culture and you may encounter problems in public. Here are a few helpful hints to help you in the future

  • Addressing people – Australians usually have a first or given name, and a second name or surname. When speaking to people you do not know, address them as Mister, Missers or Miss, and then their surname.
  • Greetings – when people first meet each other it is polite to greet each other with good morning, good afternoon, good evening. Informal greetings are hello or hi.
  • Please and thank you – when requesting something, say please and when receiving anything say thank you.
  • Personal space – in crowded situations such as trains, festivals, nightclubs and other crowded areas, try to keep an arms length distance away from each other.
  • Dress – casual clothes are widely acceptable, but you have complete freedom on what you wear. You are free to dress in whatever manner you feel is culturally appropriate to you.
  • Queuing – never push in front of someone in a queue when waiting in turn for something (taxi, shopping centre, bus etc.), it is considered rude. You must wait at the back of the queue for your turn.
  • Punctuality – Always be on time for appointments or invitations. If you are running late, you can call first to let them know beforehand.
  • Smoking – smoking is banned in government buildings, on public transport, airports, theatres and shopping centres.
  • Equality – the Australian constitution protect our social, legal, and political rights.
  • Spitting – Spitting is prohibited and can result in legal action.
  • Personal hygiene – good hygiene is a part of everyday living, and can prevent the spread of germs and diseases. Shower daily and use deodorant. Wash your hands before eating, using the bathroom and playing with animals. Use a handkerchief when you sneeze or if you have a cold.
  • Littering – littering is prohibited and can result in legal action.
  • Table manners – Australians cutlery is the knife, fork and spoon. You can eat with your fingers at events such as barbeques and picnics. At some Chinese restaurants you can request to use chopsticks.

Culture shock

Here are a few steps to help you settle into the Australian culture and way of life

  • Be Positive – don’t lose focus of your goals. Remember the reasons why you chose to study in Australia.
  • Stay occupied and keep active physically and mentally. You can spend your spare time playing sport, or taking up a hobby. Also you may meet some new friends.
  • Be flexible with your decisions.
  • Your international student advisor or counsellor at your institution can resolve any issues that you may have.

If you are unsure of anything and need to ask any questions, just ask someone. Australians are approachable people and generally will be happy to help you.

Making friends

Moving to another country you will meet new people everywhere you go. Having friends to support you with issues and troubles can help you immensely throughout your studies. The chances are that when you first start your studies, you will meet a lot of new friends your age. Being in the same classes with your new friends, you will have a lot of things in common, and these friends you meet now will become good business contacts in the future.

Where to find new friends

The best place to find new friends is in a club on campus, such as the drama clubs, sporting clubs, cultural clubs, book clubs, etc. Join any club that you might find interesting. Making friends with the local students will help you with speaking English, and you will learn more about Australia’s culture.

The community has a large range of clubs for offer, such as local sporting clubs, religious events, nightclubs or chat rooms online.

Australian laws

In Australia, we have freedom of choice to live wherever we want, say what we want and dress how we want. It’s this free lifestyle which attracts so many visitors to Australia.

It is important to obey the laws of the country at all times, to keep Australia the safe and carefree country that it is. International students and overseas visitors must obey these laws even those that are different to the laws in your home country.

Some common laws that you should be aware of are:

  • You must be over the age of 18 to but cigarettes or alcohol.
  • Smoking in many public places is illegal, including shopping centres, restaurants and public transport.
  • You cannot buy, sell, possess, or use illicit drugs, such as marijuana, amphetamines or opiates.
  • You cannot carry a weapon, including knives and guns.
  • You must wear a helmet when riding a motorbike, bicycle or scooter.
  • You must have a driver’s license to drive a car on the road. Be aware and obey the road rules.
  • Acts of violence against property, people or animals are prohibited. This includes family members.
  • It is illegal to offer or receive a bribe for services, including those provided by a government official.

If you are the victim of a crime or need to make a police report, then you should call the Police Assistance Line on 131 444, if you live in the ACT, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia or  Northern Territory. If you live in Victoria or Queensland, then you must contact you r local police station. All information is considered strictly confidential, so feel free to ask or tell any police officer anything.

Culture and Society

Etiquette varies from location to location, as well as values and what people consider appropriate or not.  It might take time to adjust or you can easily adjust quickly.

Australian respects everyone and treat everyone the same. Some tips that can help you in the transformation are:

  • Addressing people – Australians usually have a first name and last name, depending how comfortable you feel with the person and the relationship you have with them you will call them Mr. and Mrs. Or by their first name.
  • Greetings- good morning, good afternoon and good evening are formal, informal greeting are hello or hi.
  • Please and thank you – say please when requesting something and thank you.
  • Personal space – Australia is a big country with a small population, there’s enough room to spread out your arm and still have enough space, make sure not to get in the personal space of anyone else.
  • Dress – Australians dress casual.  If more formal dress is require you usually are told.  Feel comfortable to dress how you best feel, that is what everyone does here.
  • Queuing – People queue when they are waiting in turn for something (such as a taxi, bus, at a ticket counter, or for a cashier).  Never push ahead of other or jump ahead. It is not accepted.
  • Punctuality – If you can’t keep an appointment or invitation or are running late always call to explain before the event, don’t stand someone up.
  • Smoking – smoking is banned in government buildings, on public transport including domestic and many international flights, theatres, shopping centers and many indoor and outdoor public meeting places.  If you are going to smoke let it be in your own location.
  • Equality everyone’s right is protected by the constitution, everyone has a say.
  • Spitting – spitting in public is illegal and will not be accepted.
  • Personal hygiene – you need to shower, wear perfume, it is courtesy here in Australia to do that.
  • Littering – Australia is a clean location and littering is not permitted and you can be fined.
  • Table manners – Use your manners, learn about utensils, ask questions and eat with them, unless you can eat with your fingers at a more informal affair.

Australian Culture

A background on the Australia Culture

Australia is known as a home to people from different tongues and tribes. Originally, according to historical records Australia was a land little known to many. The inhabitants if this country 'down under' were the Aborigines. Different people only started infiltrating this land after it was discovered by James Cook leading to the major migration by the English people from Britain eighteen years later.

As Australia offered some great opportunities in farming and owning cheap land the place was soon abuzz with activities. The discovery of gold marked a big leap towards the increment of immigrants from all over the world. The Chinese for example started to migrate to Australia in their numbers to try their fortune in the newly found treasure.

When the English people came to Australia they claimed the land as their own. Apart from the native culture of the Aborigines the culture of the English started to spread and soon the "Anglo Celtic culture was the dominant culture of the land. However as the world has been changing so has the culture of the Australia which has become more and more American.

The great land of Australia prides itself in its lenience and variety being a home to more than 200 different nationalities. Founded on the base of uplifting all peoples, all citizens have a right to engage in their own culture as well as religion. The English language is the official language that enables intermingling of people from different backgrounds.

The Australian culture is guided by some simple principles.

  • Social Equity: Everyone is equal, race, sex, birth, culture and language not withstanding.
  • Cultural respect: This dictates that all the people are at liberty to practice their religion and culture
  • Productive Diversity: Everyone should uplift economic cultural and social values.
  • The most predominant aspect of the Australian culture is the 'Live life large' approach to life that the Australians have adopted. They go to great lengths to ensure the enjoy life the best they can.

The Society and culture

Australians can be said to be modest people. They have a down to earth attitude always mindful not to imply that they think themselves better than others. This being so, they always tend to down play their achievements making it seem as if they are non achievement oriented.

Authenticity and sincerity are widely appreciated values. Being humble and modest themselves, Australians are a bit wary of people who tend to brag of their own achievements and draw attention to themselves.

Another aspect that is common in the Australian society is their value for relationships. People often refer to each other as mates showing their commitment to peaceful co existence with one another.

Their easy going attitude makes them relate to each other in a manner that is informal. However this informal attitude does not in any way lead to an intrusion of others' privacy. The respect of other people's privacy in turn makes them keep away from engaging strangers in a talk easily preferring to be talked to first.

Likewise they are usually reluctant to asking questions that can be regarded as private or even offer unsolicited advice.

In social circles you are likely to find people making fun of each other not to insult but as a sign of friendship and humour. Just as it is in other countries most of the Australian humour is based on poking fun at those that think themselves better than others.

An egalitarian attitude is wide spread among citizens who strive to show social fairness. There is even an expression 'to give one a fair go' that is commonly used to show their egalitarian culture. Even though this is so the capitalistic nature of the society means that there still exist differences in economic, educational and social standings.

Australia: Natural and Cultural Experience

First-time visitors to Australia are often amazed by the spectacular array of natural and cultural sights and activities available, and you will be to!

Word of pristine white beaches, wild life parks boasting unique flora and fauna, rugged, adventure-ready Outback terrain – all of this and more await. Besides natural wonders, there are numerous historical landmarks worthy of visiting, including the moving Australian War Memorial and National Gallery of Australia, both located in the nation’s capital, Canberra, that attest to the country‘s colonial past and heritage.

More contemporary examples of Australia’s progress include such iconic and world famous sites as the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge in Sydney; the Opera House – designed by the architect Jørn Tuzon – is, for example, one of the best examples anywhere in the world of modern expressionist architecture.

And for every great natural landmark there are spectacular restaurants and cafés, pubs and clubs, shopping centres and malls for all your dining, entertainment and retailing needs. Each capital city boasts a great assortment of the above; but smaller towns are also not to be missed for culinary treats and ambience. A fine example of this lies in South Australia’s Barossa Valley.

Barossa Valley is wine lovers territory, and features a rich European history of home-made cooking and preserves, winemaking and crafts. A bastion of the Australian wine industry, you can expect to find over 80 wine makers here and some factories are open for visitors and tour groups seeking a closer glimpse. The valley is also ideal for nature lovers, with spectacular natural flora and fauna, plus generous walking/biking trails to soak up the atmosphere at your own pace.

There are 16 World Heritage Sites in Australia, some of which are amongst the most visited and admired attractions, including Kakadu National Park, Fraser Island, and Great Barrier Reef.

The Northern Territory is an exciting region that has both tropical and scorching hot environments and landscapes and is home to Kakadu National Park, some 250km from Darwin (covering 20,000 square kms, this park boasts native animals like dingos, crocodiles and exotic species of birds, as well as an impressive escarpment containing aboriginal rock art). Here you can also investigate the Olgas (part of the Kata Tjuta National Park), Katherine Gorge, and, perhaps most famously, Uluru, or Ayers Rock. About 450 km from Alice Springs in the heart of Central Australia, Uluru is a testament to Australia‘s indigenous people and origins, an awe-inspiring rock that changes colour depending on the time of day and which captivates thousands of visitors from all around the world each year.

Elsewhere in Australia, you will encounter such impressive sites (and sights!) as New South Wales’ Snowy Mountains and Blue Mountains and Sydney’s Bondi Beach, one of the most famous and visited beaches in Australia, popular amongst surfers and tourists from near and far. In Victoria horse riding enthusiasts can partake in Banjo Patterson’s ‘Man from Snowy River’ riding adventure in the High Mountains, whilst golf fans can play a round or two or spend a whole day on the splendid Mornington Peninsula, which has some of the world’s best natural golfing terrain.

On the other side of the country, Western Australia boasts such diverse attractions as the vast Kimberleys region; Purnululu National Park, home to the famous Bungle Bungle Range, which is spread over 45 000 hectares, and other delights like Monkey Mia, a great holiday resort retreat located midway up the WA coastline in the heart of the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, where visitors can view and feed dolphins and otherwise relax and unwind.

With so much to explore and take in, no wonder Australia is a ‘must-see’ for visitors all over the world. A rich indigenous, colonial and migrant culture, environments ranging from harsh and ‘untouched’ to scenic and cosmopolitan, Australia really has it all, and is ever changing and welcoming.

By: Leo Toh

Host Families

It's a great way to see the world but did you know you can stay in other places for nothing more than the cost of travelling here? Australia is a great country to see so do it today and then soon you will be able to get started!

Cultural variations in Australia

Personality and a positive attitude are integral components when looking for work in Australia. As far as your personal  presentation is concerned, you must try to adopt an Australian style.. 

It is important to understand that some Australian cultural standards may be different to what you are used to.

In certain cultures, such as the Maori culture and certain Asian cultures avoiding eye contact is being respectful. However at a job interview in Australia if you avoid looking at the interviewer you will look suspicious and most probably will not be selected for the job. 

When you go to Australia, you must be prepared to 'think Australian.'

The majority of Australians are not racist. But as in any situation if you approach Australians with a preconceived notion or attitude they will probably respond in kind.

You will find the old saying of ‘you only get back what you give out’ is very true in Australia.
 Australians are famous for good-natured jibes and they quite expect a good natured jibe in return. This is part of the national mindset that you have to ‘give as good as you get’.

This can be quite unnerving for new arrivals in Australia and can take quite a bit of getting used to.

Australians probably generally express themselves in a louder, blunter manner than what you may be used to. If this is going to be uncomfortable for you, then maybe a more reserved culture such as New Zealand- might be more suitable for you.