When visiting any new country, it’s wise to accustom yourself with the local customs. Australians are very laid-back and casual. But there are still a few little pieces of “Aussie etiquette” you should know when you visit Australia
Australian’s enjoy a fairly casual lifestyle, with very few strict social rules. We like to give everyone a “fair go” treating everyone equally and with respect. However there are a few unspoken rules of etiquette that may seem strange to visitors. Most of these stem from simply being mindful of those around you and treating them with respect. After all, we are all here to have a good time
Basic Aussie etiquette
1. Shouting drinks
This doesn’t mean yelling loudly at your friends across the table. Shouting is the customary way in which we buy rounds of drinks in Australia. When we are out with a group of mates, one person in turn will go to the bar to buy the drinks for everyone.
Don’t join a shout if you are in a large group and only drinking soft drink, or not planning to drink that number of schooners of beer. It would be polite to say “I’m right thanks mate”, at the beginning of the “shout.” It’s considered very rude to leave before your “shout” and also to order expensive spirits when everyone else is drinking beer or wine.
Most Australian social events, especially barbies will be BYO, which means Bring Your Own drink of choice. It’s bad form to turn up empty handed. As is bringing a six-pack of beer and then drinking someone else’s expensive wine. If invited for dinner, it’s common to bring a bottle of wine for the hostess.
3. Bill splitting
When out with a group of friends for dinner, we usually “split the bill.” So if you are out with a group of say six people and the bill comes to $120, everyone will pay $20 each. We don’t tend to sit there tallying up what we spent individually as they do in some cultures. So it’s also a good idea not to order the $60 lobster dish when everyone else is having the $20 burger special.
Unlike many overseas countries, tipping is not expected in Australia. In restaurants and hotels in the city areas, you may be given the opportunity to leave a tip on the bill. However tipping is not something that is generally practiced elsewhere.
Australians are fortunate to have a much higher wage structure than countries overseas. So staff don’t rely on the tips to make up their income. In fact at the club at which I work,any tips go into a communal jar to be used towards the Christmas party. I’m sure this would be pretty standard in many hospitality venues.
5. Be polite to staff
In Australia we have a very egalitarian society, where we try to treat everyone equally. Whether you are a wealthy professional or a toilet cleaner, you are treated with equal respect. This is the basis of Australian etiquette. For this reason, it is considered the height of rudeness to click your fingers or yell out at hospitality staff to get their attention. Where some cultures tend to treat lowly paid wait staff and cleaners with disdain, it isn’t acceptable in Australia. A simple wave to attract attention, or making eye contact is seen as much more polite.
6. Queue jumping
In Australia, we are used to taking our turn and absolutely hate queue-jumpers. If you are standing at a shop counter or bar waiting to be served, do take note of who was before you, as the queue may not be obvious. You’ll often be asked “who was next” and it’s expected that you will point out who was ahead of you.
On the other hand, if you are at the grocery checkout with a full trolley, it is considered good Aussie etiquette to let the person behind you with just a carton of milk and a loaf of bread through first.
7. Greeting Australians
We are very informal in Australia, so it is perfectly OK to call someone by their first name when introduced. Don’t be alarmed if they have an unusual “nickname”, you’ll probably be given one too.
A handshake and“G’day” is the preferred means of greeting when introduced for the first time for both males and females. While in European countries it may be the norm to kiss a female on each cheek, most Australian women will be very uncomfortable with this until you are more familiar.
8. Personal space
Australians tend to like their personal space, probably because we are a much less densely populated country. We don’t like to be crowded or having strangers too close to us. When queuing, on public transport or in public spaces, keep a respectful distance from strangers. It’s considered quite “odd” to sit right up close to someone when there is another seat available a little further away.
9. Talking loudly
Australians do have a fairly raucous reputation and you will certainly hear plenty of yelling and shouting during the televised footy matches at the pub. But in general, talking too loudly in public places, or yelling a conversation at your friends across a couple of rows of seats on the bus will be considered plain rude.
10. Keep left
On public transport and in busy city areas, the general rule is to “keep left”, letting the pedestrian traffic to pass you. Standing bang in the middle of a busy thoroughfare to take a photo or talk on your phone is a sure fire way to annoy the locals.
11. Taking Photos
Be respectful when taking photos, particularly around indigenous communities. Our indigenous people can be very sensitive about having photographs taken either of themselves or of their sacred sites. Under traditional aboriginal culture, it is forbidden to name or view photos of deceased relatives, so for this reason some may be unwilling to have photos taken by strangers.
Also be respectful when taking photos at war memorials, churches and other shrines, which may cause offence to the locals.
12. Swimwear do’s and don’ts.
Australians are usually depicted in tourist brochures lounging around in our swimwear. On the beach. Unless you are in a resort, it’s considered good manners to cover up before you leave the beach and venture to a restaurant, cafe or shop.
On the note of swimwear is the subject of “speedos”, “budgie smugglers” or tight fitting, brief male swimwear. Look around on the beach and you will notice that every Australian male over the age of around 10 years will be wearing board shorts over their speedos. When in Rome……
13. Australian Beach etiquette
There’s nothing as Australian as a day on the beach and their are a couple of unspoken rules that make sure everyone has a great day. Our famous beaches, such as Bondi and Manly can be very crowded, so a little common sense and courtesy will make sure everyone can enjoy the beach.
- We all love the beach, but the sand can be a real nuisance. So there are two small pieces of beach etiquette to observe to avoid annoying your fellow beach goers. Take your thongs (flip flops to the rest of the world) off at the edge of the sand or you will flick sand on people as you walk past. When you are leaving, either fold your sandy towel and shake it out on the grass, or shake it down wind for the same reason.
- Most of us are here to enjoy the sound of the waves and the serenity, not your boom box. Keep the music to a minimum.
- Take your rubbish, including any cigarette butts with you when you leave
- A game of cricket or footy on the beach is a great Aussie pastime. Just make sure the playing field is well away from fellow beach goers.
While Australians don’t have a large “etiquette handbook”, most of our social rules are based on treating everyone with the courtesy and respect with which they welcome you to our wonderful “land downunder”