Australians have a reputation as being a friendly lot. This article contains information on what to expect from Australians socially, including tips for the new immigrant on how to meet people and understand our humour along with an explanation of our crazy national sport and pub etiquette.
Australians have an international reputation as friendly, welcoming and happy-go-lucky people. That is, of course, a stereotype – not everyone you meet will necessarily have that “nothing is too much trouble” attitude we’re famous for. But, on the whole, Australians will apologise if they bump into you, won’t push-in in queues (nightclub queues can be an exception to this etiquette if someone “knows the owner” or is “friends with the bouncer”, much to the annoyance of those patiently queuing) and will give you directions willingly if you’re lost.
Australia is a multicultural country and the Australian Government has “a long standing and continuing commitment to a pluralist, diverse, democratic society based on freedom, equality of opportunity, tolerance and peace”. For an idea of where Australians come from, check out a Demographics of Australia table.
While new immigrants are free to live wherever they choose and engage with the wider community as much or as little as they want, you will often find enclaves of people from various ethnicities. These tend to be suburbs or areas where there is a larger population of immigrants from a particular country because there are shops, services, social groups and religious institutions relevant to them in the local area. If there is a mosque or synagogue in the local area you’re likely to find people of the appropriate faiths nearby, for instance.
Sport plays a major part in Australian life. Australia Rules Football, rugby and cricket are the main sports and you will find they often dominate conversation. If you come from a cricketing country, be prepared for endless teasing about how your country’s side is doing compared to ours (even if we’re not doing that well). More on this in the Sport section below.
Australians like to think we have a really good sense of humour. We’re certainly self-deprecating and enjoy a bit of well-humoured teasing. We can be very dry and have a taste for irony, too. The word generally used to describe Australian humour is “laconic”.
A lot of Aussies find a tremendous amount of humour in jokes that are politically incorrect (or “un-PC”). This can seem rather abrasive or insulting, until you get used to it. You need to be a bit robust to joke around with some Australians (not all, obviously). Perhaps the best evidence of this is the fact that the Australian Government has an official website to explain the Australian sense of humour to the rest of the world!
Perhaps the Australian attitude to life is best summarised by our favourite catchphrase, now exported to the world, “No worries”. While the stereotype of the laissez faire Australian might be an idealised myth to some extent, we really do tend to have a relaxed “she’ll be ‘right” attitude. After all, why stress about things when you have 3200 hours of sunshine a year, as Perth does?
Australians are a welcoming bunch. If you’re coming into Australia for work you are likely to quickly find friends amongst those you work with. Going for a drink after work is a weekly occurrence in many work places.
There are also plenty of sporting and social clubs you can join. If you play football in your home country, there will be local teams desperate to use your skills (by the way, we call it soccer in Australia, so make sure you’re signing up for the right sport). You’ll also find a lot of support groups and for people of various ethnicities and cultures.
You can also always try a visit to the pub or go online. If you already know someone who lives in Australia, they may help introduce you to their social circle. Here’s a tip on pub etiquette worth noting: If you’re at a bar with a group, the Australian convention is to buy “a round” – that is to buy a drink for everyone in the group. Everyone is expected to take their turn buying a round and it is considered really bad form if you leave before you’ve had your turn.
Entertainment and Culture
The Australian arts scene is well represented. Whether you love opera, ballet, theatre, musicals, literature, amateur dramatics, ancient artefacts, poetry, dancing, fine art, contemporary art or beat-boxing, there will be somewhere for you to indulge yourself. For an overview, check out the Department of Culture and the Arts website.
The good weather means we hold a lot of events outdoors. Throughout summer in most cities you’ll find outdoor theatre, cinema, dance and concert opportunities. You’ll also find a different music festival just about every weekend. The largest of these is The Big Day Out.
That good weather also means you’ll find spending afternoons in the sun at the beach, in parks or pubs all very popular ways to spend time with friends and family. Australia also has generally very good cuisine, with restaurants to cater for all tastes and budgets. (Another advantage of being so multicultural is you can get great food from all over the world).
All capital cities have State-run art galleries and museums, which are well worth a look. The national galleries and museums are located in Canberra.
For information about television and radio in Australia, see the Media post in our Daily Life section.
Sport is very important in Australian society and often dominates conversation. The most popular sports are Australian Rules Football, cricket and rugby. Both rugby league and rugby union are played. There is also a national soccer competition – where international stars like Harry Kewell got their start.
You might want to get your head around Australian Rules Football (AFL), affectionately referred to as ‘footy’. It is a strange but fast, spectacular and very athletic sport with historic links to Gaelic football. To give you an idea, the ball looks like a rugby ball, the field is a very large oval, there are four goal posts instead of two, and there are 36 players on the field at any one time. This video shows how we like to think it holds its own as a world sport. Or check out this video for an idea of what the game is like.
Aside from popular national team sports, other popular sports include tennis (Melbourne hosts a Grand Slam event, the Australian Open, each year) and swimming. We love an Olympics or Commonwealth Games as we feel we punch above our weight in the global sporting world.
Apart from all the above, popular participation sports also include netball, basketball and hockey.
Where Australians take holidays is influenced by two things: our wonderful weather and our relative isolation from the rest of the world.
Firstly, Australia is a very big place and there is a lot of it to see. When the weather down south is bad, it’s usually pretty good up north, so it’s always sunny somewhere if you want to holiday at home. Coastal holidays are very popular and whether you want to go camping or do it in style, there are options available. Camping is certainly popular with families.
There is also a phenomenon in Australia we call “the Grey Nomads”. Throughout remote and regional areas (the “outback”) you will find retired people driving around with their caravans to “see Australia”.
Many Australians like to holiday overseas. This might be because they have relatives abroad, or because they want to explore other parts of the world. One of the most popular holiday destinations is Bali, an Indonesian island just to the north of Australia, but there is no corner of the world to which our adventurous spirit will not take us.
Visit our Life in Australia section for more articles related to Daily Life in Australia.