Australia is predominantly an English speaking country, with a population of approximately 21 million people. Australians enjoy one of the world's highest standards of living, and is home to people from over 190 countries. Our diverse cultural identity is one of Australia's greatest strengths, with at least one in five Australians born overseas.
The Australian Federal Government is based in Australia's capital Canberra, which is home to Parliament House. Parliament is headed by the Prime Minister. There are three levels of government in Australia: Federal, State and Territory Governments, and local government or councils.
In Australia it is illegal to buy and consume cigarettes and alcohol if you are under the age of 18. As an international student in Australia, you will be subject to all State, Territory and Federal laws, so remember if you break the law you risk having your visa cancelled and being deported.
Public areas are patrolled by either marked or unmarked police patrols. Police patrols can be in the form car patrols, on foot, bicycle or even sometimes horseback. Our police are approachable and helpful, and there to offer you assistance. You are encouraged to report any crime committed against you or that you witness to your local police station.
Australia uses a dollar and cents system of decimal currency with 100 cents in a dollar. We use both notes and coins, and Australian currency is the only legal tender in Australia. Australian bank notes include $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Coins used are silver 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins, while our gold coin currency consists of $1 and $2 coins.
Money from other countries can be easily changed at exchange facilities located at international airports, banks and major hotels.
Australia uses the metric system of weights and measures:
- Speed: Kilometres (km)
- Weight: kilograms (kg) and litres (L)
- Temperature: degrees celsius (c)
There is no such thing as a 'typical Australian,' and during your time here you will come across a wide range of social customs, habits and perspectives of life that may be very different from your own culture. Here are a few tips to help you adjust:
As a student it is socially accepted to greet fellow students or people the same age or younger than you by their first names. It is common in Australia for people to have nicknames, which are used amongst friends. If you are addressing people senior to you, call them by their surname with their title of Mr, Mrs or Ms, until you know them well enough to call them by their first name.
Australia is generally a relaxed informal society, so you might hear fellow students and friends greet each other with; 'Hello,' 'Hi' or 'Hey, how's it going?' If you find yourself in a more formal environment it is customary to shake the hand of those you meet, and greet them with the formal greeting of good morning, good afternoon or good evening. However, if this is culturally unacceptable for you, let the person you are meeting know and they will generally be happy to accommodate your need. Use this as an opportunity to share your culture with the local community.
In an informal setting it is ok to simply say: 'See you later,' or 'See you around.' In a more formal setting or the first time you meet someone you might like to say: 'It was a pleasure to meet you,' or 'It was nice to meet you.'
Please and Thank you
When you would like something, it is customary to say please. Once you receive something or when something is provided say thank you. Australians are very big users of please and thank you.
Australians insert slang into daily conversation, and it is done almost unconsciously. Don't panic! Here are a few examples:
- G'day: Good day/ hello
- See ya Later: See you later/ Goodbye
- You Right?: Do you need assistance?
- D'you reckon?: Do you think so?
- Good on ya!: Well done!
- It's my shout!: It is my turn to buy you a meal or a drink. If someone shouts you something it is customary to return the gesture.
- Tute: tutorial
It is customary to engage in direct eye contact with those who are talking to you, and when you are talking to them. This is not disrespectful, but a sign of interest and sincerity. Australians will make direct eye contact with everyone they come into contact with.
Australians like their personal space. This doesn't mean that Australians are unapproachable, but we do like our freedom. When talking to someone, be mindful of your position. Generally an arms length is a good distance to converse with someone, any closer both you and the person may feel uncomfortable.
Australians are known for a 'dry' or 'laconic' sense of humour, involving light hearted banter which is commonly referred to as 'stirring'. Don't panic if you don't understand Australian humour straight away, as your knowledge about the country grows, you to will be joining in on the laughs!
If you receive a verbal or written invitation to an event, it is customary to RSVP to the host to inform them of your acceptance or decline of the invite. If you are asked to 'join' or 'go with' a group to a social outing you are expected to pay for own expenses.
If you are invited to a friends house for a meal, it is customary to ask if you could contribute to the meal. This just might be something simple, like a bottle of drink or a platter of food. Some parties maybe BYO, which means bring your own food or drink. Invitations may include 'bring a plate,' meaning bring a plate of food to share with other guests.
DressDress in Australia tends to be casual with jeans and t-shirts. Some work places require business attire, while occasions marked as 'formal,' will include the type of dress required.
If you are waiting for a taxi, bus, a ticket, service, or a cashier, it is customary to wait your turn and not to push. Pushing and not waiting for your turn will not be tolerated.
While Australian society is relaxed, it is customary to keep your appointments and turn up on time. If you are running late for an appointment or occasion, always call to explain before the event.
Australians believe that everyone is equal, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity or social standing. Australians enjoy equal social, legal and political rights, which are protected by the Australian Constitution.
It is illegal to smoke in government buildings, on public transport including domestic and international flights, theatres, shopping centres, pubs, and restaurants, and in indoor and outdoor public meeting places. Always ask permission to smoke.
It is illegal to spit in public places, and is an offensive act.
If you litter you may be fined, as it is illegal in Australia to do so.
Australians mainly use cutlery for meals at home or in restaurants. If you are eating at a guest's house or staying in Homestay it is polite to help clear the table after the meal is finished, and offer help to clean up.
If you need to contact general businesses in Australia, do not ring before 9am. General office hours are between 9am and 5pm. If you would like to call one of your Australian friends it is best to do so before 9.30pm.
If you would like more information on Australian culture and customs, visit DIAC: http://www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/a-diverse-australia/index.htm.