Being carried away with the excitement of visiting Australia or ‘going down under’ as it is popularly known is very easy. Form the fantastic human-made landmarks to the natural beauty to the world-class restaurants serving sumptuous meals; you are bound to get excited, especially if it is your first time visiting Australia. Are you seeking kangaroos, swimming in pristine waters not forgetting soaking up the summer sun, there are plenty of things to do while in Australia?
However, before going there, it is essential that you familiarize yourself with the customs of the Australians. It will help you avoid the embarrassment and confusion that you might experience if you do not know the Australian culture before-hand. Read on to familiarize yourself with 5 Australian customs that you need to know.
It is essential that you learn the Australian language before going there. The official language of Australia is Australian English. It is different from the mainstream English. It differs from the other forms of English in vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling, accent, and grammar.
The English spoken by Australians is not the standard English. The Australians have their slang. Most of the words are pronounced with an ‘o’ at the end. Even though English is the main language, Australia is both culturally and linguistically diverse. There are over 160 languages that are spoken in this country. Apart from English, the biggest non-English dialect is Mandarin. Only a few of the aboriginal languages have managed to stay up to date. It is because the early European settlers tried to abolish the local dialect that was used at the time when they came. Nevertheless, the use of slang is not the same in all the states. Every state has its own slang.
The Australian English is also made up of many words that have an aboriginal descent, and It is common to find misspellings such as labor/ labor because people have not made up their minds on the English to use. Furthermore, there are some English words which used by other English speaking countries that have an entirely different meaning to the Australians. For instance a word like shout which means raising ones voice in the standard English, in Australia it means a round of drinks. Some words have an additional vowel o or eat the end such as instead of saying ‘refugee’ they say ‘reffo’ while others have the suffix, i.e. such as Aussie to mean Australia.
When visiting Australia, casual wear is what you should opt for. You can even visit the Sydney Opera House in jeans and no one will care. However, this does not imply that everyone will be dressed in jeans. Some activities inspire people to dress up. Unless it is an extraordinary occasion, the long formal gown or the tuxedo is not necessary here. Here, comfort is a rule of thumb. Being comfortable in what you are wearing is what most Australians consider being significant. In most instances, your staple wardrobe is your jeans. Depending on where you are heading, you can either dress them down or dress them up. If you are planning to visit the city restaurants such as Quay, then you may pack some non-denim wear, but you will not need the dressy clothes.
That said, there are places in Australia that have dress restrictions. Some clubs require the revelers to adhere to their dress rules. For instance, in the Returned Services League Clubs, jeans, rubber shoes and thongs are not allowed to enter the formal dining room of the club. Remember to dress according to the weather as Australia is a big country hence the weather tends to be diverse from one area to another.
Here, business clothing is conservative with darker colors as the order of the day.
3) Keep Left
Australians always keep left as they drive and this custom does not end here. As you walk up the stairs or stop on an elevator, remember always to keep left. Also, remember not to block the people passing by making sure that you rest your arm on the railing that‘s on the right side. Likewise, as you walk on the sidewalk, try to keep to the left side as much as possible. It helps in avoiding bumping over the on-coming people. As you walk on bike-paths, keep left to be polite and also ensure your safety at the same time.
5) Personal space
Australia is among the least densely populated countries in the world. If you are on the beach you will see people sitting on beach chairs miles apart. Here people love their own area such that brushing against another person is considered rude unless it is necessary, for instance, in a crowded place such as public transport. Wherever there is space, you are expected to stay an arm’s length away from other people. In case you have to invade this personal space, it is appropriate to say ‘sorry’ or ‘excuse me.’ Whenever you go to the theater, and you find yourself next to a stranger, it is advisable that you leave a couple of empty seats between you and them. However, this can be avoided if there are assigned seats or if the theater is full.
Also, ‘Pushing in’ in any situation is not allowed especially in queues. Doing this in a queue is considered the height of rudeness. In Australia queues are sacred.
Australians are very much aware of how much the term ‘mate’ can be overused in the greeting especially when it is coming from a stranger. So you don’t have to say ‘mate’, just a simple ‘hello’ while making a good eye contact will do. If meeting someone that you are expecting to be in an on-going relationship with like a colleague at your workplace, then shaking hands will be appropriate.
Australians prefer using the first name even in a formal situation. Referring to the other person as Miss, Mr., Ma’am or Sir has the tendency of sounding stiff. In a business set-up such as business meetings, handshakes are the appropriate form of greeting both females and males.
A visit to Australia will give you the chance to experience their culture first hand. You will also get to enjoy their meals which mostly consist of meat because Australia is an agricultural country. However, vegetarian dishes are also available for vegetarians. Just remember, that the English word you know may have a different meaning here, keep left and always give people their personal space.