12 Customs and Business Etiquette in Australia

Business Etiquette in Australia
Business culture in Australia is relaxed, informal, and direct. Australians are friendly and humorous, while remaining very straight forward in their communication. They will tell you exactly what they want, but will do so with good humor and a smile.

1. Be On Time

Punctuality is an essential value in Australian business. Despite their more laid-back style, Australians don’t like to be kept waiting. It’s always good practice to arrive 10-15 minutes before a scheduled appointment and update your business partners if there are any unexpected delays.

2. Dress Like a Professional

The general business dress code in Australia is formal. This means smart business suits in professional colors (black, blue, grey), well-ironed shirts, and sometimes ties (depending on the sector) for men. Women should wear pantsuits, formal skirts, or blouses.

Despite its reputation as a hot country, not everywhere in Australia is boiling all year round. The cities further south (such as Melbourne, Sydney, and the capital, Canberra) can get chilly in the winter, so be prepared with jumpers and coats.

However, the weather can get roasted and humid in tropical parts. In cities in Queensland and the Northern Territories, such as Brisbane, Cairns, and Darwin, dress codes can be slightly more relaxed. For example, men might be seen wearing bright bermuda shorts.

In social situations, dress codes are incredibly relaxed. Don’t be surprised to see men wearing tank tops and thongs (Australian slang for flip flops) out and about. Be comfy and express yourself, and you’ll fit right in!

3. Saying G’Day!

Australian business etiquette is relatively relaxed. There are no specific regulations you need to worry about following.

A nice firm handshake, eye contact, and a friendly smile will do you well no matter where in the country you find yourself.

Friendly handshake in office meeting setup
Friendly handshake in office meeting setup

Word of warning: Uour Australian counterparts may well greet you with the stereotypical ‘G’day.’ Though this is commonplace, it can sound patronizing when mimicked by a foreigner, so stick to a standard hello unless you’re on very good terms with your business partners!

4. Tips for Business Meetings

Business meetings will usually begin with a few minutes of small talk. Aussies are friendly, outgoing and have little interest in money-related business relationships.

Despite their casual atmosphere, business meetings tend to follow an itinerary. If this is your first meeting, it’s a good idea to share your itinerary with your Australian counterparts in advance so they know what to expect.

Australia is in the process of grappling with its problematic past concerning the treatment of its native aboriginal community. If you have an official meeting or one with any government representatives, expect the meeting to begin with an ‘acknowledgment of country’ – listen, and be respectful throughout this process.

5. Business Cards First

If business cards are exchanged, it is usually done at the start of the meeting. This is simply a practical exchange to ensure ease of contact; you do not need to worry about any formal protocols for exchanging business cards.

6. Humble Hierarchies

In Australian business, modesty is vital, just like Italian business culture. Aussies do not appreciate arrogance or snobbishness. Because of this, managers will act more like part of the team than an absolute authority.

Expect to see all team members of all rankings contributing to meetings and business decisions. It is also unlikely to see managers giving orders.

Try not to use your success, rank, or status as a leverage point. Rather than impressing them, they will more likely be put off by this behavior.

7. Straight Forward Negotiations

When negotiating, be prepared for directness and straight talking. Though Australians are gregarious and like to develop business friendships, they aren’t afraid to get straight to the point. Their first offer will likely be the best they can give – there is not as much haggling as in some countries.

Though negotiations are often fast, the decision-making process can take longer than expected. This is mainly due to the collaborative nature of their business structures. No one person gets to decide what’s best for the rest of the team.

8. Gender Equality in Business

The country was ranked 43rd in the Global Gender Gap Report, with the study saying that it has closed the gap by 73.8%. While this is better than roughly two thirds of countries worldwide, it still sees Australia well behind its closest neighbor, New Zealand.

This means that while it is a socially forward-thinking and equal country, some elements of the country such as STEM, politics, and wages – still have some way to go before equality is achieved.

9. Giving Gifts

Gift-giving is not required when coming to Australia for international business. If you would like to provide something at your initial meeting, a small gift connected to your company is a safe bet.

10. Tall Poppy Syndrome

Tall Poppy Syndrome refers to the attitude of undercutting somebody’s success or putting down somebody for their achievements. It is a common practice in Australia and New Zealand, where arrogance and ambition are favored far less than modesty and an egalitarian attitude.

11. Australian Communication

Business communication is much more casual and direct than in many countries. Expats might find themselves shocked by the amount of joking and humor employed in business conversations.

Australians also have a reputation for using very colorful language! Try not to be shocked if people you meet throw around swear words more frequently than you are used to. TGhey are not being rude; it is simply part of the culture.

Many words are shortened to slang terms. Typical examples are ‘arvo’ for the afternoon, ‘servo’ for service station, or brekkie for breakfast. Though it’s a good idea to learn some of these for your understanding, trying to use them will get you laughed at or come across as insulting.

Australian Work Culture

Australians like to be relaxed and informal. They don’t want the stress and want everyone to have a good time. However, don’t mistake this laid-back atmosphere for lack of caring; Australians are still very serious about doing a good job and getting the best outcome possible.

Working hours are shorter than in a lot of countries. Australians can work a maximum of 38 hours, usually 8 hours a day, Monday to Friday, though ‘reasonable overtime’ is allowed.

Corruption is not a big problem here. Australia ranks 13th in the Corruption Perceptions Index, scoring 75 out of 100.

Coffee is a big deal for Australians. Melbourne, in particular, with its laneways full of coffee shops, likes to position itself as the ‘coffee capital of the world.’ Australians take their coffee very seriously. A good way to ingratiate yourself with a business partner is to let them take you to their favorite coffee shop. Coffee is a morning drink for Aussies, with most cafes shutting at about 3 pm.

Faux Pas in Australian Business Culture

There are a few things to avoid while doing business in Australia if you want to make a good impression:

  • Don’t ask about somebody’s salary or boast about your own.
  • Try not to bring up a controversial topic such as immigration or Austalia’s relationship with its native people.
  • If you experience any aboriginal culture as part of your trip, treat it with the utmost respect and good manners.

Jack Fairey

Jack is a writer based in west London, England. He is a keen traveler, and has a particular interest in the fascinating differences in etiquette across the world. When not writing, he can be found dreaming up his next trip to far off places.

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