Australian etiquette: it’s a tricky thing to master in a country where people tend to be self-deprecating, to the point where you don’t know if they’re joking or are suffering from some seriously low self-esteem. This slightly tongue-in-cheek post will aid you in looking like a local in Australia – you’ll blend right in!
Looking like a tourist seems to be a deep rooted fear for many travellers.
On a surface level, it’s a pretty easy thing to avoid. Don’t wear cargo pants, refrain from brandishing a selfie stick around and learn some basic cultural etiquette and in most cases you’ll be okay.
Yet, what if you want to go a little further, to seamlessly blend into whichever country you’re travelling to or even living in for a spell of time?
This is infinitely more harder to achieve.
If it happens to be Oz that you’re travelling to, with this being your deepest desire. Well, good news. I gotcha covered.
Australians are on the whole, pretty easy going – “no worries” is of course, our national mantra.
So, it takes a fair but to ruffle our feathers. However, not everyone is as nice as pie and sometimes, frustrations can occur (more and more commonly I’d say, but it seems to be a worldwide trend these days).
Here are a few tips on Australian etiquette, which will come in use on any trip down under.
Some are a bit tongue in cheek, because hey – I wanted to have fun with this post.
Australian etiquette: how to behave in Oz
1. Don’t try to imitate the Australian accent
The Australian accent is a confusing beast.
For one thing, there’s a belief that there is one accent that services the entire country. I think of it as the “Crocodile Dundee-Drawl”.
While the difference in accents is not as obvious as countries like England (where you move postcodes and encounter a different way of speaking), there are several to be found within Australia.
I find my friends from Perth have a specific way of speaking that sounds different to the tones that my New South Welshwoman ears are used to hearing.
Even my buddies who grew up in the countryside of my own state have a different way of talking to those of us who spent our childhoods in the city.
As an Aussie, I’ve seen strange behaviour when introducing myself to people who are from different countries and backgrounds.
Some will tell me I “don’t sound Australian” and ask if I’m South African/Kiwi/English/American(?!) instead.
Others will immediately try to imitate my accent, only to sound more British than anything else. Odd.
My advice? Just leave it alone.
Our accent is what it is and it’s not there for anyone to mock or make fun of (unless it’s us taking the piss out of it ourselves à la Kath and Kim style. Then it’s fair game).
2. Don’t ever say “G’day” or reference Crocodile Dundee
While ‘G’day’ is definitely part of the Australian lexicon, I wouldn’t say it’s a phrase commonly used among younger generations.
You also tend to hear it a lot more regionally, than in the big cities.
And that funny Crocodile Dundee joke you’re just dying to drop? Don’t bother. We’ve heard it before.
3. Do abbreviate absolutely everything you say
Got something to say? Well, the less syllables you use, the more Australian you’ll sound.
If a word can be shortened, then an Australian will do it.
Afternoon becomes “arvo”. Bottle-shop becomes “Bottle-o”. Derelict becomes “dero” (are you seeing a trend here?).
Names aren’t safe either.
Visit any sporting ground (male or female) on the weekend and you’ll hear cries of: “Shazza, pass me the ball! Damo, that was f–king pathetic! Fitzy! Fitzy! I’m open!”
We also have our own slang, very different to what is spoken in any other English-speaking countries. It can be baffling, if you’re not used to it.
It’ll help you grateful to learn a few Australian slang words and phrases before you head to Oz.
Luckily, I’ve got a guide to Australian slang that you can refer to.
4. And don’t be afraid to drop in a swear or five
We’re a crude bunch. In fact, where swearing is concerned, Australian etiquette takes it right out the window.
The “c-word” has pretty much become part of our vernacular and most young to middle-aged Aussies will say it without hesitation.
In fact, there’s a saying countrywide which states: “Call your mates c**** and c****, mate.”
So, if anyone calls you “mate” you may be in trouble.
Not everyone is sweary, however, so don’t automatically unleash your potty mouth once you get off the plane!
Just don’t be shocked if the language starts to get a bit more colourful.
5. Answer simple “yes” or “no” questions with “yeah, nah” or “nah, yeah”
This Australianism can truly confuse foreigners.
They’ll ask you a question, you’ll answer with a “yeah, nah” or “nah, yeah”.
Then they’ll respond with: “But… what is your actual answer?”
Here’s a trick – whichever word the phrase ends on, is usually the true answer.
We basically start answering the question while we’re still thinking about it (yeaaaaaaah) only to reach a final conclusion (nah).
Hope that helps clear up any lingering confusion on the subject.
6. Complain constantly about the weather
I think of this as a nod to our British ancestry, where we can get mighty fixated upon the weather.
However unlike Britain, we actually have weather and so maybe do reserve the right to complain about it (just kidding… dear British readers, I adore you and please don’t be alienated by that comment).
It’ll be stinking hot in the middle of summer, which sort of makes sense as Australia is traditionally a pretty warm country. And it will be all that anyone can talk about.
“How hot is it today?!” People will exclaim, squeezing their shirts and watching a deluge of sweat pour onto the floor.
“Bloody hot,” you’ll agree, using a mop to clean up the puddle of liquid that’s accumulated around your feet.
Even more amusing is when people get surprised about it being cold in the winter time.
“It’s freezing!” they’ll announce, as they pull on a light jumper and immediately start lamenting the fact that it isn’t summer yet, even though we get approximately nine months of the season a year (and generally all year round, if you live in the northern parts of the country).
Australian etiquette dictates that you just nod and back away slowly.
7. Ditch the shoes
This is a country where essentially every living thing – arachnids, snakes, even teeny tiny jellyfish – can and happily will kill you.
Yet, you’ll see plenty of Australians marching around, doing their business while their feet are completely naked and therefore open to any and all dangers.
It’s a strange aspect of Australian etiquette, but there you go.
Nor does it make much sense so I’m not advocating that you do this. I’m just trying to explain it.
Yet, this is a practice that is embraced countrywide – particularly if you do actually live in the regional areas.
You’ll see people walking around their local supermarkets without shoes and you’ll just wonder why (don’t worry, I’m with you on that one).
Some people will grudgingly accept that footwear is maybe a good idea and don a pair of thongs (rubber flip flops).
In most cases these are so pointless that you may as well ditch them and be free.
They’ll probably break in any case, so you’ll soon have no choice in the matter.
8. Leave the wildlife alone
Speaking of wildlife, Australia is teeming with it.
You’d be pretty unlucky to visit Oz and not see a kangaroo, along with hordes of insects and birds.
If you go out bush, you may even come face to face with a koala, emu or wombat in the wild. This would be a thrilling moment indeed.
If you do get to experience this exciting thing, enjoy it from a distance.
Don’t be the dickhead who races up to the animal with your camera, trying to stick it in its face.
You’ll startle it and endanger yourself in the process.
Those ripped roos? They can cause some serious damage, when provoked.
9. Choose a “team”, depending on which part of the country you’re in
Australians love their sport. Australian etiquette dictates that you should be able to tolerate it to some degree. For your own sake, more than anything.
Cricket and rugby union are popular across the country.
While it doesn’t receive the same fanfare as it does in Europe, there are plenty of loyal soccer fans bouncing about.
Every girl (and some boys) growing up will have spent at least some time playing on a netball team… sometimes against their own will, like in my case.
Even sports like ice hockey and baseball get a good representation here in Australia.
10. …Particularly a footy team
Yet when it comes down to “the footy”… well, it depends on where you’re from.
Five of our eight states and territories go absolutely mad for the game of Aussie Rules, with Melbourne (and by extension, the Melbourne Cricket Ground or MCG) being the central hub for the sport.
The Australian Football League (the AFL) is the most popular in the country, with the sport very much being treated like religion.
…Unless you live in NSW or Queensland, where the sport barely gets a mention.
These two states are all about the Rugby League, watching the sixteen clubs battle it out on the field from March to October every year.
The Australian Capital Territory has a league team and I’m assuming they fall into this category as well.
Pick a team by all means, but make sure it’s relevant to wherever you are at the time.
If someone in Sydney asks you who you support and you scream “THE BOMBERS!” – expect to receive blank stares in response.
11. Spend hours of your day eating brunch
It’s not just a meal… it’s an institution.
Australians love nothing more than to while the hours of the weekend (or weekday, we’re not picky) at their favourite café.
They’ll settle in with friends, family or dog, order a big brekky or smashed avo (avocado) on sourdough and sip their way through five coffees while they catch up on the goss, read some quality literature or simply watch the world go by around them.
It is my firm belief that every visitor to Australia needs to partake in Aussie brunch.
Just make sure you get to your chosen café early, lest you want to spend precious hours of your life waiting for a table to become free.
12. Constantly complain about how expensive everything is
You pay a price to live in paradise and it’s a large one indeed.
Australia is expensive to both visit and live in and everything seems to be going up and up in cost.
It’s certainly one of the more upsetting things about living in Australia.
From food, to accommodation, transport, to basic living expenses, you’ll pay out the nose for nearly everything in Oz.
So, feel free to complain passionately about this fact. Everyone else is, so you’ll fit in seamlessly.
13. Don’t hesitate to feast upon kangaroo
So… we eat our national animal. Actually, we eat both of them, but kangaroo gets consumed more commonly than emu.
Pretty strange, hey?
However, roos aren’t going extinct anytime soon, trust me.
Plus, it’s full of protein and is one of the more sustainable meats you can eat in Australia (as kangaroos aren’t farmed).
We have it as steak, on skewers and in sausages, known as “kanga bangas”.
Give it a whirl and see what you think.
14. Sit in the front seat of your cab
Australians love a yarn and it’s really difficult to have a proper conversation with your taxi or Uber driver from the backseat.
So, it’s pretty common practice to immediately jump in the front seat of your cab, around the country.
Drivers won’t bat an eyelid at all. Just another strange aspect of Australian etiquette that I’ve seen in very few other places in the world.
I didn’t actually think this was a weird thing to do, until I moved to Qatar for a few months and had to rely on taxis to get around the city.
Turns out that this is considered strange in other countries, but in Australia it is completely normal.
Of course, put your safety first and if it seems like a bad idea to sit in the front (especially as a woman travelling alone) – don’t do it.
15. Quietly hate on an opposing city or state to the one you’re actually in
Australian etiquette dictates that you should heavily dislike… just about everything!
Country folk hate city folk, city folk think country folk are backwards.
New South Wales doesn’t like Queensland and Victorians don’t have anything nice to say about NSW.
East coasters and west coasters argue over which coast is the best coast (it’s obviously the east coast, though “west” and “best” rhyme).
Melburnians dislike Sydneysiders… actually everyone hates Sydney, not that the city gives a single hoot about this fact.
I’d say it’s all mostly in good fun, except when sport is thrown into the equation. Then it’s very serious business indeed.
16. Constantly take the piss out of yourself
Australians like to make fun of everyone and everything, including themselves.
Nothing is sacred, trust me on this one.
Be aware that in 96.8% of cases, no offence is intended.
So loosen up and join in! Most Aussies can take back what they dish out and will appreciate a good and clever zinger.
I believe our ability to laugh at ourselves is one of our finest characteristics as a country.
So Australian etiquette dictates that you join right in!
17. Embrace your inner bogan
A bogan (an Australian version of a redneck) is probably the closest thing we have these days to an Aussie larrikan and it is almost considered a badge of pride, which many people will wear happily around their neighbourhood.
If you are Australian, there will inevitably be a little bit of bogan buried deep within you.
Want to get in touch with this hidden part of yourself? Copious amounts of alcohol will assist you in your endeavour.
If you’re not Australian, you too can embrace your inner bogan. Simply pick up your goon bag (goon is boxed wine, that comes in a bag within the box) and join in the fun.
How do you actually avoid looking like a tourist when visiting Australia? Do you understand Australian etiquette? Are there other things the locals do which you find baffling?