Australia is thousands of miles away from the United States, both geographically speaking and in terms of culture. Though they are two English-speaking countries who share a friendly relationship and intertwined history, landing Down Under can be a huge culture shock to Americans, and it’s not just because they’re recovering from the 18-hour flight.
Laid-back, sunny, and friendly, Australia is a place where everyone is welcome and most people don't take themselves too seriously. Still, there are certain etiquette tips you can follow to ensure you have the very best time in Australia and make friends with lots of Aussies. Check them out below!
10 Don’t Leave Your Rubbish Behind
Australia is a country brimming with stunning and unique natural landscape, so it makes sense that most Aussies are fiercely protective of their beautiful country. That means that any littering won’t be well received. If you get caught littering, you could be in for a fine. At best, you’ll be frowned upon by locals.
This tip is pretty easy—just take your rubbish with you when you leave a place or throw it in a trash can. In Australia, these are called bins, and like many other countries, there are different colors to help with recycling efforts.
9 You Don’t Have To Tip
Tipping is commonplace in many places, but Australia is not one of them. Wages are generally a lot higher, so hotel staff, cab drivers, and those in the service industry don’t tend to rely on tips. If there’s a tip jar, you can throw your spare change in there, but otherwise, it’s not something you need to worry about.
If you really feel the need to give a tip for excellent service, be aware that your server might not be used to it. In more touristy destinations or in upscale restaurants, it’s a little more common.
8 Get Familiar With The Local Language
English is the most common language spoken in Australia, but Aussie English is quite different from American English or British English. At times, the words and phrases will seem so foreign to you that you’ll feel like you’re hearing another language altogether.
It’s not absolutely necessary to get up to date with Australian lingo before heading Down Under, but you will find it easier if you know a few words. And locals will probably be impressed that you know to ask for prawns instead of shrimp and tomato sauce instead of ketchup.
7 Don’t Be Caught Pushing In
The overall vibe in Australia is relaxed and easy-going. That said, you can’t break the rules and expect not to ruffle up some feathers. One thing that Australians really do take seriously is lining up, or queuing. It’s considered polite to line up for just about everything, whether you’re waiting to be served at a bar or going into the fitting room in a store.
In Australia, cutting in line is known as pushing in, and it won’t leave the best impression on locals. Nine times out of ten, someone will confront you and tell you to head to the back of the line.
6 Stick To The Left
If you’re going to drive in Australia, you’ll need to know the difference between Aussie roads and American roads. Like the Brits, Australians drive on the left-hand side of the road, on the left-hand side of the car. Generally, on the roads, the left lane is known as the "slow" lane, while the right lane is where you go to overtake someone. And it’s the same with pedestrians.
When walking around, try to stick to your left so those who want to overtake you can do so on your right. This is especially true when using escalators.
5 Be Respectful Of Indigenous Communities
While visiting Australia, it’s definitely a good idea to learn more about the culture of Indigenous Australians. You may get the opportunity to spend time among Aboriginal people, and if so, it’s a good idea to remember that Aboriginal customs tend to be a little different from other Aussie customs.
In many Aboriginal communities, for example, it’s considered impolite to make direct eye contact with people. As Indigenous people are the original custodians of the land, it is important to show respect for their culture and traditions.
4 Remember That Most People Are Easy-Going
Although there are some customs to follow in Australia, many Aussies are ultimately easy-going. People are generally less stressed and in less of a rush than other locals in other countries, even when they’re going about their day-to-day lives.
Due to this informality, don’t be surprised or offended if locals refer to you by your first name, even if they don’t know you very well. Most people don’t use the words Sir or Ma’am at all. If you make friends with some locals, you’ll probably even receive your own shortened nickname!
3 Try Not To Crowd People
While Australia is only home to a handful of major cities in comparison to the United States, it’s nearly the same size in terms of landmass. With only 24.6 million people living in such a huge country, Aussies are used to having their own personal space. Many won’t appreciate being crowded.
In general, don’t invade anyone’s personal space unless you absolutely have to. That means leaving spare seats between you on public transport. If a train carriage is only carrying one other passenger and you sit directly next to them, they’re likely to feel uncomfortable.
2 Try Not To Give Into Stereotypes
After years of seeing representations of Aussies in the media, you may not be able to get the Australian stereotype out of your head. When you arrive in Australia, you’ll find out that not everyone walks around with bare feet and spends their weekend surfing. Few people find kangaroos in their backyard. Not everyone likes prawns on the barbecue.
There’s no need to say G’day when you greet people and you don’t have to call anyone mate. Many Aussies hardly ever use terms like that, and if you do, they might think you’re taking the piss (making fun of them).
1 Respect Egalitarian Values
In theory, Australia has egalitarian values. While the country suffers from its own social, cultural, and political issues, the Aussie mantra is that everyone deserves a fair go and many locals try to put this into practice.
Generally, it’s expected that you treat everyone equally, whether they own a mansion overlooking Sydney Harbour or are serving you dinner. In most cases, being rude to wait staff, retail workers, or anyone else you might view as being a lower class won’t stand in Australia.