Australian etiquette: The right way to behave at the other end of the world

Compared to many other countries, Australia is relatively relaxed – this applies to the general attitude of most locals as well as to the social interaction with each other. In contrast to Asia, tourists in Down Under rarely put their foot in their mouth. But just because everything is so "loose" there, it doesn't hurt to know where the limits of looseness are in Australia either. Because you don't want to out yourself as an uptight tourist. It also helps to know how to strike up a conversation with Australians or, for example, to enjoy a local specialty together during a business dinner. And despite all the looseness, there are also a few real taboos in Australia. The general Australia etiquette guide is intended as a helpful guide for German-speaking tourists and business travelers.

Communicate correctly

How to address and greet each other successfully

As a rule, strangers in Germany, Switzerland and Austria greet each other very formally. The form of address is "you" and with the last name of the other person. People shake hands or nod to each other. Only after a period of time in which people have been in contact with each other and have gotten to know each other does one party at some point offer the "you" – usually the one who is hierarchically higher in some way to the other participant in the conversation.

In Australia it looks different. Polite phrases and posed friendliness are a thorn in the side of Australians; most of them are friendly to strangers anyway. So why pretend? Instead, Australians usually introduce each other by their first names. If you are insecure and don't want to be too casual from the beginning, it is best to take your cue from the person you are talking to. Especially older people should not be addressed by their first names immediately.

There are no fixed rules for greetings in the Australian etiquette book. Although Australians also often shake hands, people often simply refrain from direct physical contact. In fact, it is not proper to get too close right away. When greeting and getting to know each other, a certain, natural distance should be kept. With a rhetorical "How are you?", a "Hi" or "Hello" even strangers can do no wrong. In Down Under people smile and nod or even wave briefly.

If the local addresses you as "mate" (mate, partner), there is no need to wonder. A "G'day mate!" (All right, buddy?) is not an uncommon greeting among Australians, where the value of brotherhood is deeply rooted. As a foreigner, however, you should be cautious with such phrases, if only to avoid giving the unwanted impression that you are trying to make fun of them.

By the way, good friends and family members often give each other ONE kiss on the cheek as a greeting (not two, resp. three kisses, like in our country).

Get into pleasant conversation

As relaxed and informal as most Australians are when they first meet, address and greet you, it's easy to strike up a nice conversation with them. While snootiness and arrogance are frowned upon, modesty is highly valued. Humor is always well received; Australians themselves often joke and tease each other in a friendly way during normal conversation.

Basically, almost all topics of conversation are possible, even if in private people do not like to talk about business topics. Discriminatory remarks against any person or nationality or group are taboo. Every human being is considered equal by the majority of Australians.

Aboriginal flag

The Aborigines, of all people, are an exception to this rule. The relationship between people of European descent and the native inhabitants of the country is characterized by prejudices, cliches and half- or even total ignorance. Ignorance characterizes. The conflict goes back to the old problem of land ownership, material goods, spirituality and tradition. The only important thing for foreigners is to avoid the topic if there is uncertainty in the relationship of the interlocutor to the Aborigines and to call the aborigines best with "Aboriginal people". The abbreviation "Abo", on the other hand, is a swear word, comparable to the word "Neger" or "Nigger" in German.

It is particularly awkward for foreigners when they ask about Australia's past as a former convict colony. The stigma that the country grew out of a colony of European convicts and criminals still weighs heavily on many locals, even after four centuries. Questions about family or origin can therefore also be problematic. Unless, of course, you have discovered that you are the descendant of a sailor or officer of the First Fleet – the fleet of ships that arrived on Australia's shores with the first British convicts.

Food and drink

In the restaurant

In restaurants in Australia, actually very little can go wrong. There are only three main points to note:

  • Unlike in this country, Australians put their hand in their lap when eating and not on the table.
  • Restaurants do not serve alcohol everywhere. In so-called BYO's (Bring your Owns) wine can be brought and consumed, as these restaurants do not have a license to serve alcohol.
  • German generosity according to the motto "The bill is on us/me" is not welcome in Australia and is sometimes misunderstood. Australians do not like to be invited and do not feel obliged to reciprocate after an invitation. An invitation would contradict the already mentioned feeling of equality of the Australians. Those who go out to eat in private groups usually split the bill equally.
  • Even on a date, the man is often not expected to pay for his female companion.

In the pub


A big feature in the whole country are the pubs. For many Australians they take quite an important place of their life. Most central pubs are therefore also often well attended, very sociable and ideal places to get into conversation with the locals. The per capita beer consumption of the Australians is quite high, which is why the atmosphere is so relaxed and relaxed. In contrast to the food in restaurants, it is usual for drinks – and especially for beer – that rounds are handed out to each other and one in turn buys the drinks for the others. If you shout "It's my Shout" you have to expect to buy a round for everyone present (including strangers). The reward is certainly a warm welcome to the pub and some new friendships.

Women were taboo in pubs in Down Under for a long time – this has of course long since changed. Especially in larger cities, you can always find single women who are available for a nice chat. Even as a single woman you don't have to be afraid in the pubs – as long as you participate in the rounds and drink with them, you are accepted as "one of us". Of course, the drinking should not be overdone; also to be able to still clearly show the limits to possibly pushy men.

Australian etiquette & tipping

For the tip there are, unlike with us, no fixed rules. It is not obligatory and in "normal" restaurants actually also not usual to give tip. Gladly it is taken naturally nevertheless. In better to very good and distinguished restaurants, on the other hand, the 10% rule can be followed – provided the service was good. In bars and pubs no tip is given.

Cab drivers can be tipped if you have the feeling that you have neither been ripped off nor that you have been fooled into thinking you are friendly.

To be invited


Who is invited in Australia privately to the meal, must count mostly on a "Barbie". This is not about eating a famous plastic doll, but a BBQ. To one such is to appear punctually. Australians attach great importance to punctuality, and not only in business.

In addition to alcohol, you are welcome to bring your own meat. By the way, this is grilled until it is done; medium fried or even bloody steaks are often only eaten by tourists. Who inquires before whether to the Barbie possibly also salads, Baguette or other are desired, makes already in advance a good impression. Help with preparations and clearing away is also appreciated.

Customs and traditions

Gifts and souvenirs

Of course, in Australia not only beer crates and wine bottles are brought and given away:

  • For "Barbies", but especially for normal dinners in a smaller group at the table, chocolates or flowers are also suitable as a hostess gift.
  • If craftsmen, such as plumbers or roofers, have worked well and were polite, it is customary to give them either a small tip, or as a thank you a six-pack of beer. A bottle of wine will do.
  • Close friends and family, as well as known neighbors, usually only give each other presents on birthdays and at Christmas. The gifts are then unpacked immediately after receipt and not put aside for later. Unlike in this country, this would be considered rude in Australia.
  • The gift of vouchers is rather unknown in Australia. Instead, other small things that also have a personal reference are gladly seen. So if a tourist brings a typical European gift or one from his own country, he is guaranteed to bring joy.

Important festivals in Australia


Down Under, there are eight national holidays that Australians love to celebrate extensively and in a big way. Easter, Christmas and New Year are in the forefront, just like here.

Also Australia Day, on 26.01. every year, is celebrated native. With the First Fleet, the first fleet of ships under Captain Arthur Phillips, already mentioned in the point "Getting into pleasant conversations", the colonization of the red continent began. Today on Australia Day, the faces of the revelers are painted red and different, and they are often well drunk and chanting slogans like "Aussie, Aussie Ausie, Oi, Oi, Oi" while waving Australian flags of any size and driving around with them.

Easter is celebrated in Australia on Good Friday and Easter Saturday. Unlike us, the Australians do not know the Easter bunny or the Easter fireworks. they no longer know it. Due to the plague of rabbits that the country has long had to contend with, these same rabbits are reluctantly revered as mascots or mythical creatures. For this reason, they have just found another animal – the Easter Bilby: a rabbit-nosed prey, which, equipped with its natural pouch, makes a perfect substitute for the Easter Bunny. In a global comparison, this is rather unusual, because even if Easter is celebrated differently everywhere, it is still the rabbit that brings the eggs.

Christmas in Australia differs even more from the local customs. The temperatures alone, usually over 30 degrees Celsius at Christmas time, contradict the drinking of warm mulled wine, visiting Christmas markets and sitting around the fireplace. Nevertheless, it is a tradition to light up the houses, put up green fir trees and let Santa Claus dolls climb up the walls. Otherwise, the festivities are very similar to those in Germany, Switzerland and Austria: people are in the best of shopping moods on the holidays and give each other all kinds of nice presents. The giving of presents usually takes place, just like in the USA and England, on the morning of the 25th day of the month.12. instead of.

New Year's Eve

On New Year's Day, resp. New Year's Eve is just as colorful and loud in Australia as it is in Germany. If you're lucky enough to live in Sydney or are currently touring the city, you can marvel at one of the most spectacular fireworks displays in the world: the spectacle at the striking Sydney Harbour Bridge in impressive Port Jackson. Since it is considered a monumental event and is elaborately organized and executed every year, it is usually even broadcast by news programs around the world.

By the way, the cultural offers on New Year's Eve are mostly free all over Australia. Many means of public transport also offer trips without tickets. However, on New Year's Eve no alcohol may be drunk in public; private fireworks are also strictly prohibited everywhere.

Tips for the business trip Down Under

The first contact with business partners


Basically, the rules of conduct mentioned so far are no different from those to be observed during a business trip. However, there are a few peculiarities that should be taken into account here.

From the very first contact, most business people, regardless of hierarchical level, address each other by their first names. Introduce yourself nevertheless with first name and surname.

Maintaining respectability

The seriousness of a foreign businessman also includes, despite all the looseness in dealing with business partners, above all the heeding of punctuality. Whereas it is rude to be late in private life, it is important to plan well for business in order to be on time for every meeting.

After work

Australians mix business and pleasure much more than most Europeans do. Invitations to a pub or a "barbie" (BBQ) after work are not uncommon. Out of politeness, these invitations should be accepted as far as possible.

As in private rounds, beer is bought for everyone in the pub. The colleagues will return the favor.

At the barbecues it is often multicultural. Often, however, the typical Australian dishes are served on the table, which should also be tasted. Australians are happy to try a crocodile filet or Vegemite, the legendary spread made from yeast extract.

Leave a generally good impression

A generally good impression in business contacts is also made by anyone who:

  • "Don't confuse "Australia" with "Austria
  • the quality feature "Made in Switzerland" or "Made in Germany" is not emphasized too much
  • not to be a know-it-all
  • accepts that Australians do not strictly adhere to all agenda items during negotiations