Australian culture

Australia is a multicultural and diverse society. To help you adapt, here is some information on common social values and customs.

Addressing people

In formal situations, it is customary for people to shake hands when greeting each other.

People will usually introduce themselves to you by the name they prefer to be called. Australians usually prefer to be called by their first (given) name, including teachers and lecturers.

Australian laws

When you are in Australia, you must abide by Australian Federal and State laws. Specific laws apply against:

  • swearing or spitting in a public space
  • excessive noise in residential areas after 10pm and before 7am
  • smoking inside public venues and anywhere on an RMIT campus.

Bribery

Bribery is not part of the Australian culture—it is illegal in this country and is not accepted by society.

Conversation

When meeting someone for the first time, avoid topics about politics, relationships, sex, religion, or financial income as they can be sensitive. These are personal topics that a person may not want to share with a stranger.

Topics that are okay to raise with new people include sports, films, music, hobbies, the weather etc.

Discrimination

In Australia it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their race, sex, sexual preference, disability, social, political or religious beliefs.

Racial vilification (slandering or defaming someone on racial grounds) is also illegal.

Women in Australia are independent and may discuss a variety of issues openly. Women are equal in Australian culture and should be respected as such.

Jay walking

If there is a crosswalk or crossing lights use these to cross the road. Although it is uncommon, you can be fined for not crossing at the lights especially in the city.

Manners

It is polite to say 'excuse me' when trying to get someone's attention, exiting a conversation, or when trying to get past someone.

Don't forget to say 'please' when you're asking for something and 'thank you' when you receive something.

Punctuality

Being on time is important in Australia, so make sure you check meeting times and places. Contact the person that you are meeting if you are running late or unable to make an appointment.

If you are late for a doctor or dentist appointment, you may have to pay a fee.

Queuing

You must form queues and wait in line when waiting to purchase something, waiting to get in a bus, waiting at a bank etc.

It is considered impolite to push in front of someone who was waiting before you.

Australians value their personal space so you should not stand too close when waiting behind someone or talking to someone.

Rubbish

Place rubbish in rubbish bins. If there are no rubbish bins you should carry the rubbish until it can be put in a bin. You can be fined for throwing rubbish on the ground.

Saying 'no'

It is not rude to say 'no' to something you do not want. If you have been invited to go somewhere that you do not want to go or can not go, say 'Thank you for the invite but I won't be able to make it'.

Do not be pressured into drinking alcohol, taking drugs or having sex—it is your right to say no if you do not want to get involved.

Smoking

Smoking is prohibited on public transport and inside any public venues including restaurants, bars, cinemas etc and you can be fined for doing so. Smoking is also banned on all RMIT campuses.

If you are at someone's home, it is polite to excuse yourself and smoke outside.

Social gatherings

Social functions such as barbeques (BBQs), dinners or parties are common and can be held in private homes, parks and restaurants.

BYO means 'bring your own' drinks or your own meat for a BBQ and will be indicated with the invitation.

When dining with a group in a restaurant it is usual for the cost to be split equally between the group.

Tipping

Tipping is not compulsory or expected. Australians tip only when they feel that the service they have received has been particularly good.

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