Welcome topics of conversation
Australians are very down-to-earth and matter-of-fact when it comes to talking business. They generally prefer direct eye contact and consider it as a sign of respect and indication that the person is listening.
Australians are relatively open to dealing with strangers without prevous connections and don’t need long introductions. When meeting for business, they focus on a task and like to talk business from the beginning. Business negotiations are shorter and to the point. It is common to do business communication and problem solving over the phone, fax or email.
Australians rely on written agreements when doing business as they like to prevent misunderstandings and potential problems.
Communication style is direct, frank and straight-forward. People usually mean what they say and say what they mean. Most Australians do not hesitate to say a straight but polite ‘no’.
Australians tend to be enthusiastic conversationalists and debaters. Acceptable communication topics are: the weather, sports (particularly Australian Football AFL in Victoria, and National Rugby League NRL in New South Wales and Queensland). Anything related in a positive way to Australia is an okay topic. Religion, politics and sex are usually not discussed unless your Australian counterpart brings it up. Be careful not to criticise the Australian way, as they can be quite sensitive about it.
Australians find arguments and opinionated conversation entertaining, so don't hesitate to express your views if they are sincere and informed. It is common for Australians to make provocative statements during conversation and it is expected that such provocation is responded to with humour.
Your Australian companions will be quick to let you know if you have introduced a subject that ‘crosses the line’. Topics which are currently controversial in Australia include migration and aboriginal issues. It is advisable for visitors to avoid these topics of conversation unless raised by your host. Even then do not express strong opinions or criticism unless you really know what you are talking about.
Australians like to joke about themselves, but they are not receptive to others doing the same. Australians try not to draw too much attention to their academic qualifications or any other personal achievement. Specific to Australian culture is the ‘tall poppy syndrome’, meaning that Australians avoid standing out from the group (being a ‘tall poppy’). Don't boast about yourself or your company's accomplishments. Instead, let them judge you and your competence through your actions.
Common Australian expressions
People new to Australia, particularly from non-English speaking backgrounds who have learned English at school, will probably be unfamiliar with some common Australian expressions or slang. Slang words originate from many different sources. Australians also use shortened versions of longer words.
It is always advisable to ask the person who said something you don’t understand to explain it. Australians are happy to explain:
- bring a plate – you may be asked to ‘bring a plate’ when you are invited to a less formal party. This means that you need to bring prepared food to share with your host and other guests. You can bring it in any type of dish, not just a plate. You can always check with your host on what to bring, as they’ll have an idea of what others are bringing, so the party doesn’t end up with lots of salads and no cakes. It’s always a good idea to bring something traditional to your country of origin, as it will get attention!
- BYO – means ‘bring your own drink’, and it is very common in Australia. This can be alcohol or non-alcohol, as long as you will drink it and will not drink other people’s drinks. Some restaurants are BYO, meaning that you can bring your own wine when coming to dinner or lunch. In most restaurants, you will be charged ‘corkage’ for providing and cleaning glasses. It is wise to bring your own wine to restaurants as bottled wines in restaurants could be quite expensive.
- arvo – means ‘afternoon’. ‘I’ll give it to you this arvo’ means ‘I will give it to you this afternoon’.
- fortnight – means two weeks. Many employees are paid fortnightly – every two weeks.
- barbeque, BBQ, barbie - outdoor grill cooking on a gas or coal hotplate. Usualy it is meat and sausages served with salads and bread rolls. Often guests will be asked to bring some meat for the bbq. These gatherings are often very informal and could occur at someone’s backyard or at a beach or picnic area.
- snag - sausages. Usually the raw type cooked at a BBQ. These can be made of pork, beef or chicken.
- chook - chicken.
- cuppa - a cup of tea or coffee. "Drop by this arvo for a cuppa" means ‘Come this afternoon for a cup of tea or coffee’.
- tea - could also mean dinner. Invitation to ‘Come for tea’ could mean ‘Come to dinner’, so you must check with the host, but time will be a good indication as well, i.e. invitation after 6.00pm will be dinner, not just a cup of tea.
- loo or dunny - toilet. As a guest in someone’s house for the first time it is polite to ask permission to use their toilet. "May I use your toilet please?" Some people ask "Where's the loo?". Dunny is very colloquial and you won’t hear it very often.
- fair dinkum - honest, the truth. It can also be used as a question "fair dinkum?" meaning "is it really true?".
- to be crook - to be sick or ill, ‘I was crook all weekend’ means ‘I was sick all weekend’.
- flat out - really busy.
- shout - to buy someone a drink. When a group of friends meet at a pub or a club it is common that each person will ‘shout a round’, meaning buy everyone a drink. Each person takes turn at ‘shouting a round’. If you do not drink alcohol you can say that you are a ‘teetotaler’, and you are not obliged to shout.
- bloke - a man. Sometimes if you ask for help, you may be told to ‘see a bloke over there'
- mate – a friend. Australian men often address each other as ‘mate’ in less formal situations, whether they know each other or not.
- How ya goin? - 'How are you going?' meaning ‘How are you?’, or ‘How do you do?’. It does not mean what form of trarnsport you are taking. Sometimes it can sound like ‘ow-ya-goin-mate.