Work culture in Australia
Are Australians hard to understand? Maybe, but we can help you enjoy your time here by explaining some of Australian working culture. Here’s what to do and what not to do while working in Australia.
What is Australian culture like? What will you need to know to do or not do while you’re here? We can tell you the basics.
What is Australian culture like?
Australian culture is fairly laid-back but we speak our mind openly and directly. You might think Aussies all live in the outback riding kangaroos to school, but actually more than 3 in 4 of us live in a big city along the coast.
The Department of Immigration has listed the main values of Australia that international students should know in their free e-book, Life In Australia:
- Freedom of speech, freedom to say what you feel like saying
- Freedom to choose your religion
- Democratic government, and the right for every person to vote to choose their political leaders
- Freedom to choose who you associate with (spend time with)
- Respect for the equal worth, dignity and freedom of the individual
- Equality of opportunity no matter what gender, marital status, religion, nationality, disability, or sexual preference you have
- Peacefulness, not starting fights
- Tolerance, mutual respect and compassion for those in need
Generally, Australians like people who are willing to laugh at their own mistakes and have a sense of humour. Most Aussies try to be humble and don’t like to draw attention to their academic or work achievements, so they don’t trust people who do talk a lot about their own achievements.
What cultural things are good to do when working in Australia
There are some things that you will usually be expected to do while you are in Australia:
- Try to give people “personal space” when talking with them. Shake hands when you meet someone, but otherwise you should not touch your co-workers. Do not stand very close to people when you are speaking with them. Many Australians, especially older Australians, usually do not touch people unless they are very close friends.
- Be on time for meetings and appointments, and even social occasions. Australians do not always arrive on time for a party, but they do try to arrive on time for other appointments and social times with friends.
- Ask questions if you don’t understand something. This is different to other cultures, where the boss or employer is viewed as a person of authority who has more wisdom than their employees, and employees must show respect by not bothering the boss. Australian employers want to help you learn and understand so that you can do a good job.
- Try to do the work you are given. When someone asks an Australian to do an extra task at work, they will usually take on the extra work and not say they are too busy to do it. If you say that you are too busy, your co-workers or boss will assume that you cannot handle the workload.
- Keep meetings short whenever you can. Some surveys say workplaces do not want their meetings to be longer than 1 hour. But this varies for different companies, so ask your boss what is normal for their company.
- Feel free to disagree with someone or to “rock the boat”. Australians like people to have their own opinions and not be afraid to talk about them. Many other cultures prefer that only senior managers and the boss speak in meetings, and workers do not speak very much in meetings, but Australia is not like this.
- Get good value when you choose your working visa health insurance, and go to the doctor if you get sick, so that you can get well soon and not make your co-workers sick as well.