“When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” the famous saying goes.
All travelers must have the ability to recognize and respect the various nuances of culture, customs and habits of the places they will be visiting. This is the best way to immerse yourself in the spirit of a place – it makes you feel as if you’re part of its people, instead of just being a mere temporary tourist. Australia, due to its isolated location and multi-ethnic background, managed to develop some quirky traits and eccentricities of its own. If you’re planning on taking a trip to the Land Down Under, better do your research first. Take note of the things you should prepare beforehand such as domestic travel insurance, medication, maps, etc, and take a crash course on Aussie culture.
Don’t know where to start? Here are a few things you should know about Aussies:
“G’day Mate!” Learning the Lingo
Australia’s primary language is English, so the language barrier is practically non-existent. Be careful though, there are a lot of words and phrases in Australian English that will sound totally strange and maybe even offensive to native speakers of American or British English. Examples include:
“Mates” and “Sheilas” – generic terms for men and women respectively.
“Thongs” are flip-flops, not those skimpy undergarments.
Nouns are often shortened and appended with an “ie” or “o” at the end. Examples are “brekkie” (breakfast), “chokkie” (chocolate), and “vego” (vegetarian).
“Shouting” your friends means buying them another new round of drinks. You “skull” a drink by chugging it.
Expletives like “bastard,” which most people consider offensive, are usually considered by most Aussies as part of everyday speech. It acts like a filler; case in point: “How are ya, y’bastard?”
Australian Rules and Regulations
Australian roads are the same as the British – people drive on the left. Take note of this fact when you’re driving or crossing the road.
Legal drinking age is 18. The laws in Australia are quite strict about underage drinking.
The metric system is Australia’s official measurement system. Be prepared for grams and kilometers instead of ounces and miles.
Aussie Etiquette – Preventing Social Faux Pas
If you’re an American, always be on your best behavior. Some Aussies have negative stereotypes about Yanks, so don’t enforce these by acting loud and disagreeable.
Be respectful and friendly toward the Aborigines. They are an amiable people and you can easily make friends with them. A word of advice though, don’t look at them directly in the eye since they consider it rude.
Australians love sports. The best way to strike up a conversation with a local is to talk about sports, namely rugby or cricket. Keep yourself updated with the prominent players and teams in these games.
In restaurants, tipping is not expected since the hourly rates for employees are already higher compared to other countries. But still, if you want to show your appreciation for good service, a tip will be highly appreciated.
Aussies are a laid back bunch. This trait is reflected in the way they dress for work. Nothing too formal – just smart casual attire like trousers and dress shirts for men and skirts or slacks for women.