Australia isn’t called the lucky country for nothing.
With enviable beaches stretching along the coast, to vast mountainous regions, and on to natural wonders within the red centre, Australia is one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Australians pride themselves for their work / life balance (so much so, that Sydney was 8th in the world for 2022), great coffee, and relaxed attitude. It’s all about ‘no worries’ and ‘she’ll be right’ (it will be okay); ━ proof that they don’t take themselves too seriously and loathe it when others do.
Australia is underpinned by an egalitarian culture, which can be quite different to what you are used to. Egalitarian culture is all about considering each other equal. For example, it’s very common in Australia for those taking a taxi to sit in the front with the driver.
If you’re considering coming to Australia or taking on a client from Australia, you may want to learn more about the land Down Under, and how they do business.
1. Tall Poppy Syndrome
You can’t talk about Australia without mentioning the elephant (or rather, poppy) in the room. Tall poppy syndrome stems from egalitarianism, which is essentially the idea that everyone is equal and no one is ‘above’ the other.
Tall poppy syndrome, refers to the act of disparaging or discrediting those who are successful. This has led to a modest way of speaking of one’s achievements and as such, bragging about your achievements in Australia won’t do you any favours.
Australians therefore typically downplay their own success and would side eye those that do not. This can be hard to get your head around; however, this is arguably the most important part of Australian culture. It underpins the way Australians act and conduct themselves – it is essential to understand in order to build good relations, and to not do so will give off the perception of arrogance. Additionally, of all the points presented, Tall Poppy Syndrome is the most widespread, and one you will most likely experience regardless of industry or company.
Known for its laid-back culture, it might come as a surprise to hear that punctuality is very important in Australia. Being on-time to meetings is essential to keeping good relations; arriving late is viewed as wasting the other’s time.
Keeping to the schedule is also seen as good practice.I.e. if the meeting is scheduled for an hour, it should finish in an hour. Australians have fixed schedules and like it that way, which is why you should try to avoid changing it.
In meetings, the tone and conversation can come across as quite casual, however, it is serious business. It’s also important to know that generally, everyone has a voice in meetings. Regardless of age or rank, you’re welcome (and usually encouraged) to give your opinion.
Australia has a relaxed and friendly culture; therefore business communication between colleagues is typically informal. Social conversation is also commonplace in meetings. When it comes to team bonding, it’s common to have informal get-togethers; whether it’s Friday afternoon (or rather, arvo) drinks, team lunches or birthday celebrations.
It can also get quite chatty in the office. However, don’t get it misconstrued, Australians are hard workers. This social nature goes beyond colleague relations, it is just as important for business relationships. Having a good business relationship is highly regarded in corporate Australia, and can be a deciding factor in collaborating with one another.
4. Office Hierarchy
As an egalitarian society, there is less value placed on hierarchy in Australian workplaces. Everyone is addressed by their first name, and many bosses have open-door policies, and are easily accessible by their subordinates.
This egalitarian view gives employees a voice in the workplace, which means there is a more relaxed management and communication style in place.
Also, decisions made by managers are typically made in consultation with their team. This stems from the egalitarian concept of ‘mateship’. ‘Mateship’ refers to friendship, loyalty, and equality and is an intrinsic part of Australian culture.
While ‘mateship’ typically applies to friends, these values usually seep into employee-leader relationships, resulting in a more collaborative and relaxed working style.
Dress is a bit tricky to pin down. It can vary depending on the industry, company and area in which you work. However, smart casual attire is always a safebet. Although casual attire is becoming more commonplace, so don’t be too shocked if you see workers in subtropical Brisbane wearing bermuda shorts and shirts to work. Usually, you’ll be provided with a code of conduct on how to dress for your respective company.
Coffee is serious business in Australia. Australians pride themselves on their good quality coffee, and is also the third-cheapest coffee in the world. So it’s no surprise that 1.3 million cups of coffee are sold daily in Australia!
Besides being one of Australia’s popular drinks, it’s also a popular business pastime. Forget business lunch meetings; a catch-up or quick meeting over a coffee at a local cafe is more commonplace in Australia.
Coffee in Australia is viewed as a more social thing, rather than just a means of getting energy. However, it should be noted that just because you meet with someone over a coffee, and have a great chat and time, you may not end up doing business together. This can confuse non-Australians, but it’s just the way it is.
7. Early Risers
Australia is a morning country. Being a hot region that experiences some of the highest levels of UV radiation in the world, Australians are typically out and about quite early. In fact, you’d be more likely to see Australians going for a jog at 6 to 7 am than you would at 6 to 7pm. With an early culture, our working hours reflect that.
In Australia, the average start time is 8:30, half an hour earlier than the global average. Some companies even start at 8, and if you’re a tradesperson – 7am! However, that is not to say Australians finish early. In fact, Australians work long hours, ranking fifth in highest number of hours worked for OECD countries.
8. Aussie Speak
Australians are straight shooters, they don’t mince their words. Communication is direct and may to outsiders come across as blunt or rude, but it’s usually not intended to be so. With less emphasis on an office hierarchy, employees freely speak their mind, even to their superiors. Tall Poppy Syndrome lends to their modest nature and self-deprecating humour.
Colourful language is also part of Australia’s workplace lexicon. However, err on the side of caution, this is never to be assumed and will be indicated to you after a few days working in or with the company.
Slang is abundant and prevalent in Australian workplace conversation. The friendly, relaxed workstyle means that slang is used at all levels within the office. It can be very difficult as a non-Australian to understand the slang (which is used for pretty much anything), that’s why we’ve listed below some slang you might come across with the Aussies:
‘Pull/Chuck a sickie’ = to take a sick day (although, saying this indicates you aren’t actually sick)
‘Mate’ = Friend / Colleague
‘Legend’ = For those that help you out
‘Arvo’ = afternoon
‘Choccy’ = chocolate
‘Bickie’ = biscuit
‘Raincheck’ = leave for another day
‘Yeah, nah’= No
‘Nah, yeah’= Yes
‘No worries’ = It’s not a problem
‘Presso’ = Presentation
‘She’ll be right’ = It will be okay
There are many Australian cultural quirks that shape the way business is conducted in Australia. It can, like trying to understand any culture different from your own, be hard to get your head around, initially.
However, with an open mind and willingness to embrace the Aussie way (especially by learning and using slang), you’ll be welcomed with open arms.
We hope these tips help you understand the Australian workplace culture and remember, ‘she’ll be right’.