English is the primary language used in Australia. Yet their colourful vocabulary, accent, phonetics system and slang ('Strine') can take a lot of getting used to. In 1788, there were about 250 separate Aboriginal languages spoken in Australia, plus dialects. Today, only two thirds of these languages survive and only 20 of them (eight per cent of the original 250) are still strong enough to have chance of surviving well into the next century. In addition to these there are also the languages of immigrants from Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Australian Society & Culture
Australians are very down to earth and always mindful of not giving the impression that they think they are better than anyone else.
They value authenticity, sincerity, and loathe pretentiousness.
Australians prefer people who are modest, humble, self- deprecating and with a sense of humour.
They do not draw attention to their academic or other achievements and tend to distrust people who do.
They often downplay their own success, which may make them appear not to be achievement-oriented.
Australians place a high value on relationships.
With a relatively small population, it is important to get along with everyone, since you never know when your paths may cross again.
This leads to a win-win negotiating style, since having everyone come away with positive feelings helps facilitate future business dealings.
A Multi-Cultural Society
The initial population of Australia was made up of Aborigines and people of British and Irish descent.
After World War II there was heavy migration from Europe, especially from Greece, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, and Turkey.
This was in response to the Australian policy of proactively trying to attract immigrants to boost the population and work force.
In the last thirty years, Australia has liberalised its immigration policy and opened its borders to South East Asia.
This has caused a real shift in self-perception as Aussies begin to re-define themselves as a multi-cultural and multi-faith society rather then the old homogenous, white, Anglo- Saxon, Protestant nation.
Australian Etiquette & Customs
Australians are not very formal so greetings are casual and relaxed.
A handshake and smile suffices.
While an Australian may say, 'G'day' or 'G'day, mate', this may sound patronizing from a foreigner.
Visitors should simply say, 'Hello' or 'Hello, how are you?'
Aussies prefer to use first names, even at the initial meeting
Gift Giving Etiquette
Small gifts are commonly exchanged with family members, close friends, and neighbours on birthdays and Christmas.
Trades people such as sanitation workers may be given a small amount of cash, or more likely, a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer!
If invited to someone's home for dinner, it is polite to bring a box of chocolates or flowers to the hostess. A good quality bottle of wine is always appreciated.
Gifts are opened when received.
Many invitations to an Aussies home will be for a 'barbie' (BBQ).
Guests to a barbeque typically bring wine or beer for their personal consumption. In some cases, very informal barbecues may suggest that you bring your own meat!
Arrive on time if invited to dinner; no more than 15 minutes late if invited to a barbeque or a large party.
Contact the hostess ahead of time to see if she would like you to bring a dish.
Offer to help the hostess with the preparation or clearing up after a meal is served.