Australian Business Culture and What to Expect

01/09/17

When you are new to a country and perhaps there is a significant difference in culture, it can be hard to fit in and get to grips of the way to behave in this new environment especially in the corporate sector.

There are some things about Australian working and business culture that international workers say surprises them.

Many of these surprises are about the Aussie sense of humour or our use of language:

  • Aussies tend to start almost every conversation with “Hi, how’s it going?” but this is not really a question. It is a set phrase to which the answer is “Good thanks, how about you?”
  • Some Australian workers and employers may use swearing in the workplace. You don’t need to swear as well. You just need to not be offended if somebody around you uses a swear word. If you’re not sure about someone’s language, you can ask your supervisor, your boss, or the Human Resources Manager.
  • When there is an awkward situation, some Australians acknowledge this out loud and make a joke about it. This sense of humour can seem rude to international workers at first, but it is the Australian way to end an awkward situation more quickly and move on.
  • We use sporting analogies to talk about almost everything, like “we dropped the ball” if your team is late for a deadline (get to know some Australian workplace jargon). Talking about sport in general is important in Australia. You don’t have to like sport or watch it very much, but it helps if you know the names of the local sport teams.

There are also some surprises about how work or business happens in Australia:

  • Office wear is different from company to company, but you don’t usually have to wear a tie or suit jacket to work. Nobody wears shorts to work – but Aussies will still look at you funny if you show up wearing too many layers for a hot day.
  • Clients and other business people will be annoyed if you don’t call or text to let them know you’re running late.
  • Lunch meetings often involve some small talk, but other meetings usually get straight to the point. Australians are usually direct in their conversation at work, but conversations outside of the office can be more relaxed.
  • We generally don’t hold meetings on Friday afternoon. Except for Friday night drinks.
  • Socialising after work is not just for Friday night drinks, and you may be invited to join your co-workers for a meal after work on other days of the week. You do not have to accept, but it is a good way to make friends quickly with your co-workers.
  • People like talking about their family. If someone has photos on their office wall, feel free to ask about the people in the photos.
  • People tend to prefer to start work early in the morning than leave work late at night. More and more companies offer flexi-time which allows you to have the flexibility to choose start and end times for the working day.
  • Holidays: Australia falls in the middle when it comes to holidays as compared to other countries which can have as little as 5 days or as much as 6 weeks each year. Permanent full time employees in Australia typically get 4 weeks of annual leave every year.

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